I am still alive! And hoping to add some new thoughts over the next week and in the year ahead. I thought 2012 might be a little easier… but apparently not 🙂 And November through February always the scary part of my work year where extracurricular fun like writing gets punted in favour of client needs.
But it’s Christmas Eve so I get a couple of days off. First, we will journey back to Paris as the tale was never completed. The great thing with Paris is that everything is a bit larger than life so the memories stay in one’s imagination.
Where Paris really excels is in all matters related to art – that word applied in a very broad way. And, in Paris, food is art. I caught the end of some BBC or CNN program while I was in Germany and learned that apparently cheesecake is all the rage in Paris. Unfortunately details were sketchy because the program was essentially over – but I was intrigued by the shop in the television images…
So did quite a bit of googling to see if I could figure out where I was supposed to go once I got to Paris… I wasn’t sure if I had it right but once I arrived I knew I had hit pay dirt. And it was well worth the effort. The bakery is called She’s Cake and is run by a charming woman named Sephora. I had the fleur d’oranger – amande. It was delicious and it felt like you had stumbled upon a special neighbourhood secret.
I also discovered I had come during the annual Paris Photo exhibition (mid November). It required some waiting in line in the cold – but was worth the wait. It is a show for galleries and collectors that is also open to the public so it is a little overwhelming but a great way to get an overview of world photography in a couple of hours and discover some new talent and be inspired.
Next door there was a fascinating exhibit called Bohemes at the Grand Palais. The concept of Bohemia, gypsies and their role in art and European history. Romantic, tragic, dramatic…
Normally the airport is not part of the story. But the French have a flair for the dramatic… and a crazy love for bureaucracy. And my Scottish genes make me cheap…
There is a wonderful VAT (value added tax) recovery scheme all over Europe called “tax-free”. It’s not really true but you do get a decent amount of tax back so it’s hard to pass up. When I got to Charles de Gaulle, I thought I was really clever popping into the first VAT-recovery station I found with my stack of forms, all completed and signed, my passport ready for a quick stamping procedure and on to my gate.
But NO… every gate has its own VAT-recovery station apparently. Seriously, France, do you think this might be why your economy is in the toilet?
At that moment I didn’t realize I had been condemned to hell by some random French customs officials. I found the station that matched to my gate… but I also found a gigantic snaking line of beautiful young Asian girls clutching tax-free forms and giggling. There was no choice but to succumb.
I was in line for a long time so was determined to figure out what the hell was going down. I have never been in such a ridiculous line so my curiosity was peaked. With enough time and careful peeking at passports, I discovered they were Japanese. Apparently the Japanese still travel in packs. I don’t know the connection between all the girls – other than a devotion to expensive shopping 🙂 – but they obviously had a handler and were all going through customs as the equivalent of a gigantic tax-free-form-stamping boa constrictor… better to stay on the sidelines than get eaten by it 🙂
And there was a small reward… when I finally got to the end of the line the customs officials were very happy to see me – mostly because I represented the end of the line – so they just grinned and stamped all my forms as quickly as they could 🙂
Travel is always full of new experiences and adventures. An open mind, a sense of curiosity – and lots of patience – will make any travel experience an entertaining memory 🙂