Friday, April 30, 2010
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Saturday, April 24, 2010
the Walt Disney castle in the Prague Old Town square
Friday, April 23, 2010
Thursday, April 22, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Anna and I just had a final talk and came to the same conclusion: it makes no sense for her to jump hurdles to get to Europe right now, at the most chaotic time ever for world aviation. Even if she made it to Paris, and there's still no guarantee of that with this fresh explosion of volcanic ash, she might not make it back out; that's not something to have hanging over you on vacation. She can apparently get the fare refunded minus $200, so she is going to ask for that, and leave a place free for someone who wants to get home. I nearly wept today, missing her so much, seeing everything I want so deeply to share with her; this will be tough for us both. But it's too dangerous. They have no idea what's going on up there, what that dust means to planes, what the volcano is doing, where the winds will go next.
So I am feeling sad today, but I'll get over it. It's just that we gave up last night, then had our hopes restored this morning, then had to give up again. This morning I bought food at the market for us to eat together and now will eat it alone. But ... I'll eat it. It will be eaten. We both feel strongly that this is the right decision. I miss her with every fibre in my body. But it's just a cancelled trip. We're all healthy. It's really not a big deal.Went to Café Rostand this afternoon for a coffee with my new friend, an hour in the sun across from the Luxembourg gardens, commiserating about our worries for our children and our parents, and for her, her granddaughter too. But enough. Now it's clear - I am here alone for ten more days (I hope only ten, since I have to get home too), and will make the best of it. I will get some work done and somehow, just somehow, enjoy Paris too.My beloved girlie, how I wish you were here. I promise to bring back a great deal of cheese. Today, near Luxembourg, I passed the Air France offices - the line-up was out along the street, with staff patrolling to keep order. Look, right now, there's something in the sky - not a bird, not Superman, it's an airplane, heading east. Haven't seen one of those for awhile. But it's the only one.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Last night, suddenly, I saw the modem box on the floor in the apartment begin to twinkle again, tried the Internet, and there it was. No idea how it came, all of a sudden, to work; it just decided to stop being mean to me, I guess. This morning, fearing it was a momentary blip, I turned on my machine with trepidation – yes! Connected to the planet. Another act of God.
I went back to the kind tabac man down the street to get my transit pass renewed and buy an “International Herald Tribune,” to find out what’s going on with travel. Anna and I will talk later today, but it’s pretty sure she will not be on a flight to Paris tonight. She may come later in the week, or we’ll have to rebook … for next year, I guess. Nothing to be done about acts of God. An article in the “Tribune” said that stranded businesspeople are actually being forced to relax, visit galleries and read books. An upside to all this. Another article pointed out that the last time this volcano erupted, in the 1700's, it caused a famine which probably led to the French revolution. I wonder what will be the long-term results of this worldwide upheaval.
I have written to my bosses at U of T and Ryerson to make sure they have up-to-date phone numbers of everyone registered for my classes. I leave here May 1 and start teaching May 3. I’m sure all will be well by then, but just in case ...
So nothing to do now, like the international businesspeople, but relax and enjoy the day. For me, it’s an enormous pleasure and relief to feel so at home, to do a load of laundry and hang it in the sunny window to dry, to go outside without my thick vest and GoreTex jacket for the first time since leaving Toronto.
Warning – the tedious groans of pleasure have begun. Yesterday’s – my first pain au chocolat, first chevre on fresh bread, first glass of Crozes-Hermitage, and then the big slab of tarte tatin for dessert – many groans. Not to mention Paris in spring, the trees, the flower beds thick with colour, the air sweet through the traffic.
As I wandered around the little Latin Quarter streets yesterday, I came upon a sign: “Here in 1921 James Joyce wrote Ulysses.” A thrill ran through me. A thrill also ran through me on my first visit to Monoprix, with its wonderful fashions, cosmetics and household products. Me voila, the shallow and the deep. Today, I walked down to the Jardin des Plantes, one of my favourite places, to find that incredible pink tree even more spectacular than last year – enormous and laden. Had my lunch on a bench there – yes, you knew it, a ham sandwich and dark chocolate. Walking through and out the other side, I discovered something new that I’ve been meaning to visit – a sculpture garden along the banks of the Seine. Another of today’s groans: strolling in the hot sun by the river, looking at modern sculpture, most of which, unfortunately, has been covered with graffiti, but it’s still a great place - with, just up ahead, the spires of the grand lady herself, Notre Dame. People were picnicking and reading, and the clichés are true – there were young couples passionately kissing, everywhere. Well, it is spring. It is Paris. Yesterday the Jardin du Luxembourg was so crowded on a hot Sunday afternoon that I could barely move. A park more crowded than Grand Central Station – that’s some park. The sculpture park today, unbelievably, has free wifi provided by the city. Oh, and a big sculpture by Sorel Etrog, who moved to Canada and created the Genie award statuette.
The Bateaubus leaves from there, a waterbus which plows up and down the Seine stopping at various sites – I’ll take it one day, what an inexpensive and extremely picturesque way to get around the city. There’s also a sign advertising free “sport nature” every Sunday from 9 to 12, led by professionals: “Gymnastique d’entretien” – maintenance gymnastics - and “footing.” Might have to miss that. I will be too busy eating. Last groan before coming home - couldn't stop myself going in to the bakery RIGHT NEXT DOOR to this place, buying a little slice of Provencal pizza covered with fresh tomato and olives, which he heated up for me. Ate sitting by my open window. It's so quiet in here. I am one happy and grateful woman.
Now 4.30 p.m., the sun pouring in, jeans hung over the window rail to dry, birds singing. I want to introduce this city to my daughter, but perhaps it won't happen this week, this year. In any case, Paris and I will continue to make friends.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Friday, April 16, 2010
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Prague is jammed with tourists from everywhere, even in rainy April, and no wonder – it really is a historical wonderland, a city of incredible beauty, mile after mile of graceful buildings painted ice cream colours – lots of pale pink, cream and yellow - and loaded with pretty details. So much gold paint and gold leaf, so many nooks and crannies, turrets, porticos, carvings, wonderful doors, Juliette balconies; there’s Art Nouveau everywhere except when you’re looking at the Middle Ages or the Baroque 17th Century, not to mention parks and gardens and the wide fast-moving river. Every street is still cobbled. Apparently, Prague, so well located at the centre of the continent, was once bigger than Paris or London – and it’s now a UNESCO protected heritage site.
Before setting out today, I finalized my travel arrangements, which were worrying me so. This may be mad, but instead of entrusting myself to the stress of an unreliable cheap flight, I am taking the overnight student bus from Prague to Paris, which leaves here at midnight and arrives at 2 p.m. the next day. Unfortunately there was no bus leaving Saturday night to get me in on Sunday, which is when I move into my Paris place, so I am leaving at midnight Friday, will arrive Saturday afternoon and spend one night in a miniscule room at the hotel I was in a few weeks ago, bus and hotel the same price as a flight. Believe me, a great deal of agonising went into this decision, and I think, for various reasons, it’s the right one. Ask me again after a 14-hour bus ride.
So, out into the day; it was cold, and the sky, like yesterday, was heavy and dark. I’m starting to know my way around. The good citizens of Prague, especially the store-keepers in the heart of the tourist district, are obviously heartily sick of being asked directions, but it is a very confusing place, with a tangled maze of old streets and signs only in Czech. But I’m getting my bearings. Went first to the box office for local music – every church in Prague is offering concerts, but I wanted to see the old theatres, so for a very reasonable price, I am seeing Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” at the State Theatre – which is where it premiered in 1787, directed by Mozart himself! The theatre is featured in “Amadeus,” as is this whole town – I want to watch the film again at home, to see how it showcases the city. And at the National Theater, which apparently is truly splendiferous, I’m seeing “Aida.” Wow.
I followed an itinerary Helen had given me, which included seeing the spectacular Art Nouveau Municipal Hall where her parents met, and stopping at her recommended Italian place for a pizza and salad lunch, with a view over an old square. A huge amount of food for $20, with a Pilsner Urquell, of course. Continued meandering in wonder, finally found the famous Charles Bridge, crawling with tourists and touts, wandered over and around the Mala Strana, the Little Quarter, which is one of the oldest parts of this very old place. Stunningly beautiful, little medieval squares with the loveliest houses, bridges over streams, water wheels, the magnolia trees all about to burst into bloom, in colours to match the walls behind.
The grand Wallenstein Palace is only open on the weekend, for some reason, but I was able to walk in the extensive gardens and admire the pure white peacock. Explored the vast Baroque church of St. Nicholas – hard to imagine more marble statues and gold leaf anywhere. I noticed that the statuary and art in this church was mostly of men, huge saints murdering evil with their staffs, as opposed to the gentle suffering Marys we encounter in France.
Exhausted by now, time for the slow uphill walk home. Only had to ask directions once. I have next to explore Kafka’s feared castle, always visible high above the city, and the old Jewish quarter. But now, I have my feet up and am looking out Helen’s windows at the pouring rain, which very kindly waited to start, today, until I got home.
I note that Prague in all its great beauty has a few small flaws: cigarette smoking is allowed inside everywhere, which is strange to see and smell now that I’m so used to it being outlawed. And dogs, even huge dogs, are also allowed in restaurants and everywhere, though in public the big ones seem to have to be muzzled. But picking up after your dog, though the city has put hopeful signs and bags around, has not filtered into local consciousness yet. So that, besides the very rough cobbles on sidewalks and streets, means being very careful as you walk. Particularly as you tend to walk looking up at the high facades of the magnificent buildings.