Thursday, 28 January 2010
fear of flying
I’ve just returned from Paris, where I was visiting my daughter Anna. I took the scenic route – on the Newhaven ferry to Dieppe and then by train to Paris. Including a leisurely lunch in Dieppe with a fellow passenger, the trip took about 10 hours, during which I worked on my permaculture diploma and read a good novel. And for £70 return door to door, it probably cost less than any other public transport.
There’s so much to be said in favour of slow travel, and I needed to get away from Lewes and my own head and heart, feeling deeply upset this month about so many of my caring, intelligent friends flying long-distance despite everything we know about the real cost of flying. I despair for our future if we can’t let go of such things. Anyway, going away helped me get away from this great shadow and get some perspective and physical ease.
I love Paris. The sound of the French talking, the smell of rubber in the metro, the fuggy bistros, the awesomely beautiful architecture. Perhaps because I was born there and lived there the first year of my life, I feel completely at home in a visceral sort of way. Anna and I figured out how to work the fantastic Velib system, a bicycle hire with banks of cycles on every other block. You just swipe your card over the dock and the bike is released; the bikes are free for the first half hour. We whizzed around Paris, which is pretty compact, down the dedicated cycle lanes and weaving through the traffic jams. On Sunday, a crazy bookshop on the Left Bank where Anna hangs out, called Shakespeare and Company, has open teas in an upstairs room crowded with books and people. Our 70-year-old poet hostess, PanMella, poured us cups of china tea with ‘a dose of love’ while the resident Brit and Yank writers read their latest stories and poems.
There’s a daily fruit and veg market round the corner from Anna’s tiny apartment, which comes with her au pair job. We visited the organic stall in the market daily, then did the round of the flea market. Not that she can afford to shop; she’s living on 20 Euros a week, about £18. But, she told me, ‘I’d rather be poor in Paris than rich anywhere else in the world.’