12 April 2007

It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times


No doubt you’ve all been desperately wondering how my exams in Paris went and have been sitting on tenterhooks this whole time, straining with burstant anticipation — but I’ll make you read to the end to find out. There’s no easy shortcuts for loyal WTTMB readers I'm afraid.

The trip started off with a highly unglamorous Air Canada night flight to London, featuring frayed upholstery seats and haggard battleaxe flight attendants asking “chicken or beef?”, “chicken or beef?”, “chicken or beef?” — Hey Air Canada; I’ve been answering that same bloody question since I was seven! Why not try something different for a change; curry or fish?, stir-fry or lamb? Christ, anything really! I know that decent airline food is within the realm of the possible, as I had it on Lufthansa in November. Would it kill you to actually make an effort (even though you're a monopoly and can do as you please), couldn't you at least pretend to care about the customer experience a little?

I landed in Londinium all bleary-eyed for a weekend of limey English fun with Madame Sly and The Boys (BranTom, and the rare and elusive David). I also met Sly’s manfriend and I must say that I thumbsupingly approve with wholeheartitude.

I rode some giant slides and saw the Gilbert & George exhibit (which was a tad repetitive) at the Tate Modern, and saw Harry Potter’s magic wand in Equus (which was excellent). I also partook in some shopping, but rather little buying except socks and underpants at Topshop, the underpants of which were sadly rather lacklustre.

Also rather lacking in lustre was the fact that a single “tube” ride now costs 4£!! Absolutely ridiculous! And in keeping in the expensive transport vein, it was soon time to hop on the pricey Eurostar for a quick jaunt through the Chunnel. Annoyingly, some dippy airhead blonde from an American tour group interrupted my fervent studying while the train was waiting to pull out of Waterloo Station: “Uuuh, you’re like, in my seat.” “No. I’m not.” —But actually I was! Whether the fault of the travel agent or my own, I was booked on the train departing half hour previous to the train I was on! After some freaky-deaky panicking and running around in the five minutes before the train left, I managed to track down a conductor who said I could take any empty seat. Thank god.

Arrival in Paris; lovely, coupled with some massive high-grade anxiety vis-à-vis Monday’s do-or-die French language test. Said test written Monday afternoon. Outcome: not horrible, but not great. The answer to one question was clearly “choquer” (to be shocked), but I was convinced that this was a French-Canadian anglicism and didn’t want to loose points for a wrong answer so I answered nothing. (For inquiring minds, choquer, origin English, is a world used in France French). Glad I know that tidbit now.

The next few days were characterised by lots of wandering and walking. Paris is so almost impossibly lovely that it feels like a Disney version of what Paris should look like rather than the real deal, which it actually is. I kept having to remind myself that people actually live in these buildings, and soon I could too. Exciting. Louvre: Mona Lisa (bigger than I thought, since everyone goes on about how small it is – I was expecting a postage stamp); famous statues (didn’t really get what made them more famous than the hundreds of other similar-looking classical statues); fat American tourists (overheard in the Oriental antiquities section: “Oh Herb, look, this is for them Orien-tails”).

Moment of reckoning; checked first stage test results on the internet: I passed to stage two. Yeay moi! That means I got to spend five hours on beautiful, sunny Good Friday writing stage two of the entrance exam, hurray! Second part of the exam, consisting of translations, went pretty well I felt. Only snafu was an inability to translate the word ‘compelling,’ but otherwise good. Results will be posted in mid-May. Doits croisés!

Madame Sly, with manfriend in tow, came to the City of Light subsequent to exams so that we could celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ together. Because of Easter and various crossed wires, we had quite the time trying to secure accommodation and ended up having numerous hijinx sorting everything out (part of which involved a night squished onto the narrowest beds in the world, and considerable bleeding from the head after cracking my noggin on a window-frame attempting to gain access to a hotel balcony. Hours of Parisian head-bleeding fun for the whole family!).

We had some fun shopping adventures and got fat on delicious food, floating along in a kir royale haze. I noticed a penchant for excess on the manfriend’s part (he ordered a drink that came in a fishbowl and a steak that was bigger than his head), so clearly he’s a perfect match for Sly.

Despite gonging of the church-bells that went on most of Easter Sunday morning, people all seemed bemused when I wished them a ‘Joyeuses Pâques.’ A surprising amount of stuff was also open as we wandered around Montmartre . Silly secular French heathens.

Sarah and manfriend trotted off back to Jolly Ol’ Sunday evening and I headed out to Charles de Gaulle airport the next morning. Prettiness aside, the airport was terribly designed and I was constantly worried about slabs of roof falling off on my head.

All in all, I would give this trip four bowler hat-wearing poodles out of five (minus points for exam stress and severe damage to the cranium). Paris is just so beautiful it’s ridiculous. What could be better than a city where you can buy pastries on every streetcorner and expect a bottle of wine with lunch? Nuthin', that's what. So fingers crossed cause gay Paree here I come! —Oh, and in all honesty, I haven't the slightest clue where all this rude Frenchmen business comes from. For the most part, I found people almost unfailingly cheerful and terribly nice. Every transaction was a little exchange, a joke or a building of rapport. I found people on the whole entierly charming. (The real rude people were the American tourists). Bleeding heads and tourists aside, I had a fantastic time.

Did you actually skip all the way to the end, just to find out how I did? Aww, that's sweet of you. I genuinely appreciate your interest in my well-being. Now get back to paragraph two where you're supposed to be.


Praxis Theatre said...

hey dan,

this the best blog post you've ever written.

nice job.


tokyo tintin said...

Awww, gee thanks.

What makes you say so?

Miss Ash said...

Fingers are crossed for purely selfish reasons, I too adore Paris and would love to visit mon ami whilst sipping wine along the Seine.

Which manfriend does Sly have now??? There were a few on the go when I was there :)

Praxis Theatre said...

what makes me say so:

- the tone is optimistic and inspired, not bitchy. bitchy rants are really hard to pull off. a sense of optimism wins the loyalty of your readers.

- the humour is restrained and spread throughout a mix of one-liners ("Harry Potter’s magic wand")and more sophisticated, long-form jokes.

- it's not overwritten. when you find something that works (like "manfriend") you work it, rather than trying to reinvent it for every sentence. it shows confidence.

- a good use of detail (nouns) and a sparring use of empty descriptors (adjectives). For example, we get this picture of excess: "he ordered a drink that came in a fishbowl and a steak that was bigger than his head."

- your punctuation and grammar are clean, which keeps the reader from giving up, since it's rather a long post, as blogs go.

- good use of typography where appropriate: 4£

- "compelling" is a garbage word, a near-dead cliche. i'm glad you didn't know how to translate it.

- sentences are short. sentences should be short.

- i was smiling when I came to the end.

That's why.


sly said...

Darling, it was so good spending quality time with you, rocking the European scene! My fingers are crossed that we will be drinking Kir Royals by the Seine in the fall!

[Ash: do you remember the Boy George concert? Do you remember me showing you the text he sent the next morning? That guy.]

jolie-chan said...

o dan-chan it sounds like it was one adventure after the other~ i hope your head is okay and cant wait to see you this weekend !!

davidcarey said...

couldn't agree more re: good airline food. it IS possible, just not on air canada. i was actually lucky enough to get upgraded to first class for my osaka-vancouver flight - and even though i ordered from a menu and got fancy food, it was still not great at all. i've had ok food on continental i think.

any permanent brain damage or sexy scars we should know about?

Anonymous said...



Jennifer said...

I met a rude Frenchman, in Vegas. After I got back from Paris, I thought the same thing, I expected rudeness and got nothing but unending hospitality and friendliness, people leaving their shops to show us how to get where we were going, impromptu French lessons from people who clearly thought it was adorable that I was asking how to say things in French.
But then in Vegas, I met this guy who was both rude and critical. I even asked him where in France he was from on the off chance that there is a rude region in France that I could avoid, but he was from Paris. So I'm working on the theory that either the rude people where deported, or they get rude because everywhere else sucks in comparison.

tokyo tintin said...

jenni, i would be a jerk too if i came from this amazingly beautiful city and wound up stuck in las vegas surrounded by swarms of drunk americans assholes.

Jennifer said...

Well unless he was deported nothing was stopping him from going right back there.