Bitter crosswinds swept up the Seine all last week and clashed at the Quai des Fleurs, the footbridge that links Notre Dame’s Île de la Cité with her little brother, the Île de St Louis - one of my favourite spots in the whole of Paris. Bypassing the tourist hell around Notre Dame, I’d brave the crosswinds to make my own pilgrimage to the smaller, colder island for a cupful of heaven, the perfect soul food for chills - hot chocolate spiced with ginger and cardamom.
Damp mists clung around the Seine mornings and evenings, blurring the edges of the days. At home, drab weather makes everything dull but Paris turns ethereal, bleaching to an old sepia print and the cold glare of sun behind the clouds turns the mist milky, like ice in Pastis. The City of Light is beautiful in any light.
At last yesterday, the sun sparked on Cleopatra’s Needle and blazed across the Tuileries Gardens, after what felt like a very long wait (though we’d only been here a week). So we walked and walked, all through the maze of the Marais then across the bridges where the sky and the Seine were a great splash of rosé wine and were struck by how this city feels anchored to its river more than others, with the parks and public spaces arranged all around the Seine like rooms off a great hallway, and the people, like the river, move in a neverending, restless flux...
... like the Bladerunners. Today I saw one suited businessman with briefcase rollerblading through the crowds on the Rue du Rivoli, two rollercops almost waltzing together on the Pont Neuf, a couple of teenagers racing motorbikes along the Seine and one baguette-eating girl, weaving dreamily through lunchtime traffic on the Rive Gauche. They remind me of the young zappers in my book EXODUS, who powerblade through the sky tunnels of their futuristic city on zapeedos.
So far I haven’t caught one on camera - yet.
I did take one very bad snap of a mysterious kilted (Scots?) man standing across the street photographing the gates of our courtyard first thing this morning as I went to fetch bread.
But I was laughing too much to snap the girl who’d wheeled an upright piano all the way onto the footbridge of the Quai des Fleurs to serenade the cafe crowds in the sun then trundled off in a huff after being upstaged by gigantic bubbles.
And then there was a scene of inexplicable strangeness, just a few feet from my coffee table in the Tuileries Gardens, where I’d gone to write in the sun. One hunched, very old man was photographing a beautiful teenage girl dressed in running gear, under the trees by the cafe. It was all very public and they appeared so happy and relaxed in each other’s company I’d have assumed he was her grandfather - had it not been for the unnerving intensity of his camera focussed entirely on the girl's bottom and other intimate (lycra-clad) parts. She wasn’t quite young enough for me to call the gendarmes, even if I’d had the French to do so. What would I have said? What did I just see there? I really don’t know and it bothered me all day.