You know those t-shirts/hats/mugs/etc. worn by classy types that say 'London-Paris-New York'? Lived it. Yep. Amsterdam to Paris, baby, and watch us go.
I've always liked Amsterdam; it's a pleasant city, and I didn't even know there was a Red Light District the first two times I went. (I was 8 and 13, but still.) A girlfriend from university lives there with her husband and 10-month-old baby in the Jordaan, a leafy, brick and stone suburb about twenty minutes from Dam Square and the train station. Our first day was spent on their boat, weaving around the canals in the sunshine. It's the best way to see Amsterdam, from a boat with friends. We spent the rest of the week meandering around the town, shopping and stopping for coffee and wine in the sunshine. Perhaps I've become too accustomed to Italy, but I was shocked at the cleanliness of Amsterdam's streets. Few cigarette butts, and people actually use the rubbish and recycling bins. And the Dutch are very house-proud; flowers were still in bloom on verandas and porches, and even the more crumbling properties were tidy. Yet the tidiness wasn't intrusive; it didn't feel forced, or pretentious. And the air quality is fantastic. The dependence on bicycles shows when you can be out all day and not worry about treading through smog. Unlike in Paris, the next stop on the miniscule-Euro Tour.
I have a prodigious fear of Paris. Not that I've been treated poorly there, or have some inherent loathing of all things French; on the contrary. My last visits to Paris were thrillingly spent on various literati tours attempting to re-live A Moveable Feast. I've sang songs beneath a moonlit Eiffel Tower and dealt with transportation strikes (each time, by the way). And gained tons of weight in lovely restaurants. It's more to do with my absolute lack of French language skills. I can't even fake a merci without sounding like an asshole. This is difficult for me. And Paris is an intimidating city. It's lots of big, important, fancy buildings and has such a rich history that I know absolutely nothing about. It's my ignorance that makes me fear Paris.
(That's a pile of books at Shakespeare & Co.) I am lucky enough to have friends in Paris and a boyfriend who speaks enough French to flirt with waitresses, so this fear has now subsided, a bit. There is something quite fabulous about meeting up with friends at the Louvre for an afternoon of wandering and drinking among some of the most famously photographed places in the world. Sigh.
And the ruggers. All day Saturday we saw people in bright-blue France tops. We started the day in Montmartre, as I'd never been, where we happened upon a food and wine festival beneath the Sacré-Cœur. Matt was getting all sorts of love, thanks to a kilt and keen purchasing of both a bright blue beret and numerous flags to attach to his bagpipes (see above photo. He's the one on the right.). Then we moved on to the Seine, where we wandered most of the afternoon before hopping the RER to Stade de France. The atmosphere before the match was amazing. Somehow Matt learned La Marseillaise on the bagpipes and the crowd was magnificent, following him and singing at the top of their lungs. Shame about the rugby, but at least the pre-game was fun.
And now it's the end of our two-week soiree from Shetlandia. Back in Aboyne at Matt's mum's place, after three packed days of house-hunting in Inverness. Matt just put an offer in on a fabulous place on the river; we'll see what happens. It's not fun, this house-hunting madness. I've always fallen into my accommodation, so this is new to me, and it's tiring. But I'm excited about the move, and about Inverness.
Writing. The book is salvageable. I am actually happy with the state of it. I think my subconscious learned some lessons after the drama of the first book and the flow of the story is more consistent. I like the characters. I like the story. I actually forgot I wrote some of it, and found myself trying to remember where and when I put that sentence together. I wonder if all writers find themselves surprised by their own stream-of-consciousness, especially when it actually works out. I'm looking forward to being back in the routine of Shetland, of waking up and making tea and turning on Sven and typing the hours away.
"Traveling is like flirting with life. It's like saying, 'I would stay and love you, but I have to go; this is my station.'" - Lisa St. Aubin de Teran