Over the last few days, David and I somehow managed to utter tearful goodbyes to the people we love in Abu Dhabi, get on a flight with non-metaphoric excess baggage, and fly 7.5 hours over troubled territory to Paris. Thankfully, our flight actually seemed short — at least in relation to the 15-hour non-stop trip from AUH to JFK which is HELL en plein air. We’ve done that trip twice. We are now residents of the Residence des Arts in the Latin Quarter — a tiny, eclectic boutique hotel near the Siene and St. Sulpice, and about 1k from the Louvre. To say this is surreal is to call Salvador Dali an Impressionaist. (Does that even make sense?) For context, we haven’t been in a so-called “Western” country since January 2.
Suffice it to say, we could not have chosen a destination more diametrically opposed to the UAE, or India, or Jordan, or Oman, or Egypt. At least the Seychelles had a language in common with France, but a poor island nation off the coast of East Africa bears no resemblance to this Renaissance metropolis. In the words of Karl Pilkington, aka ‘An Idiot Abroad,’ our eyes don’t know where to look.
The air! The temp here is half of what it was in Abu Dhabi. We went from 120 to 60. My hair isn’t frizzy. I don’t feel like my skin is burning. There is greenery all around, including things called trees. You can sit outside to eat, drink and be merry. The revelry! We left Abu Dhabi on the eve of the country’s most pious occasion — Ramadan. You could feel the citizenry beginning to go inwards for reflection, and soon enough they will mostly be inside fasting during the day. Here in Paris, the cafes are filled with music and spirits at all hours of the day. Our hotel overlooks an Irish pub where the joie de vivre is nonstop. I rather enjoyed listening to the merriment last night, with our window wide open to let in the cool air, but I am finding it challenging to see people enjoying their vino at lunch, and every minute thereafter, in all the open-air cafes. I struggle to remind myself that, unlike most Parisians, I am unable to just have one. So, I am pounding the coffee with reckless abandon. It was easier to not drink in a country that eschews alcohol. The getting from point A to point B! Pairisan drivers, who are notoriously crazy, get a bad rap in my opinion because they are puppies compared to folks behind the wheel on the Arabian Peninsula. (That is if puppies could drive. Besides, most folks here seem more like cat people.) We aren’t actually driving ourselves or even riding in cars. We’re just enjoying the fact that cars stop for us, and each other. David and I walked six miles today and never once had to jump back on the curb. The walking in this city is superb, although I’m not in good condition for this activity after barely being able to walk two steps in the sweltering UAE heat. This morning, I regrettably opted to walk like
an Egyptian a Parisian and wear high heels on our first outing. I will never speak of this error again. The food! Pork galore. Ham on salad. Bacon on burgers. ESCARGOT! Yes, I am aware the escargot is not pork. Last night I had cheese fondu. David had crepes for breakfast. This is a huge change from the heapings of hummus and biriyani we’ve enjoyed for months. In fact, I’m going to stop writing for a moment and go get some sausages for dinner. I normally eat very little meat but I’m craving pigs and snails…I’m back after opting for ham on a fresh baguette. David had pizza with real pepperoni. The cafes were full of people enjoying dinner and drinks. It’s 8:24 pm and still very light outside. I’d be tucked into bed by now in Abu Dhabi. Instead, I’m laying in bed listening to the Queen song, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” blast from the pub. It’s really weird to hear the Arabic word “bismillah” in this context. The fashion! It is also very strange not to see women in abaya and men in kandoora. There are, of course, many Arabs in France, and lots of them have their heads covered. What I love is the personal style of people in this town. I’ve already purchased a new purse in an attempt to keep up with the Joneses, oops I mean to be more like me. Who am I? I think my style fell by the wayside in Abu Dhabi where weather and decorum dictate dress. David meanwhile has found his look with a tres chic chapeau. The art! Let it be known that the Louvre, where we arrived at 9 am, is closed on Tueday! No matter, we enjoyed the exterior and the architecture. Then, we headed for the D’Orsay, where the line was around the block. We decided to postpone our visit until later and returned at 5 pm to find it closed. Honestly, we couldn’t have cared less because we enjoyed small galleries and street art, like graffiti. There is no graffiti in Abu Dhabi! I do adore Islamic Art, and Indian Art but I am excited to revisit the best of the West. Inshallah, We will make our assault on the big museums tomorrow with Allan in tow! The end. So that concludes my early observations after our first full day away from our Abu Dhabi home. All last week, I told my weepy self that this departure would mark the end of my goodbyes. I can’t take the pain of leaving anymore. My good pal Simi, however, pointed out that goodbye means a hello is in the works. And I love HELLOS!
On the flight, I watched “The Second Best Marogold Hotel,” which concludes with Maggie Smith’s character saying, “There are no endings, you simply step out of the story.”
Burlington, I’m exited to say hello on Friday, and to rejoining your story — knowing full well that it’s not where I left off.