Having completed the novel and being on a break from writing, it was time to relax. I am just about to return from the City of Lights, where I was whisked away on a beautiful long weekend.
I have been to Paris several times, and it never gets boring. The beauty of the place just keeps hitting me at every corner; the bench in the sun in the Jardins du Luxembourg, the view at the top of the Sacré Coeur, the sweeping walks along the Seine where buildings of majesty and beauty are casually littered along the right and left banks as if such aspirations were perfectly normal. My travelling companion and I walked for miles, doing a loop of the canal St-Martin to the Bassin de la Villette and then to Montmartre, around by the Louvre and back to Bastille. And there was the obligatory stop at the ice cream shop near Notre-Dame.
My last visit was in August of last year, when bruised and exhausted at the corruption, pettiness and raw chill of this country, I more or less fled for a long weekend and met a few writers and drank mojitos during an open mic at a bar off the Place de la République, people spilling onto the footpaths, rowdy and cheerful in the heat outside even late into the night. I remember nobody appeared to care about anything political other than Valerie Trierweiler, the mistress of President Hollande, who still couldn’t manage to make him look interesting.
When here, I always drop into Shakespeare and Company, the bookshop founded by Joyce’s champion, Sylvia Beach and re-opened by George Whitman in 1951. I love its old-style windows, its narrow passageways – with apologies to wheelchair users – and piled-high rows of books. On the first floor, there are nooks aplenty to rest in, a piano, and at the front a library where every Saturday a drop-in writer’s workshop is held and which is free the rest of the time.
And on that topic, a writing-related event – Shakespeare & Co were involved in the Paris Literary Prize in which my novella, A Trifle, was long-listed. To my great regret, I did not make the final seven on the shortlist. The lady behind the counter reassured me that there were many hundreds of entrants – up to 600 – so getting on the longlist was impressive. Still, missing out on that massive prize, argh! That would have been lovely.
Anyway, home tomorrow. I’ll spare you the obligatory “me outside the Eiffel tower” pic 🙂