memory's sacred domain

moments mundane and magical

Archive for May 2013

The Eiffel Tower from a distance

leave a comment »

In Spring 2010, I  was a guest of the French Foreign Ministry the week an Icelandic volcano impossibly named Eyjafjallajokull erupted, disrupting air travel for much of continental Europe.  But I did not realize its full impact until much later in the week, when the possibility of being stranded for a long time in one of the world’s most expensive cities seemed all too real. To say I was scared by that prospect would be an understatement. I found old diary entries from that period while cleaning my room the other night. Two entries were about my first view of the Eiffel Tower from up in the air on the night I landed in Paris, and a visit to it the next night, after a long day of meetings with various French functionaries.  Some excerpts, which remind me of a promise I have yet to fulfill:

April 11

eiffel

Schiphol now has full-body x-ray scanners, installed after an incident a few months ago, when a Nigerian man took a flight from here bound for the US, apparently intending to blow the plane up as soon as it reached American soil. He packed chemicals and strapped them to his body. He tried to trigger an explosion in mid-flight but fellow passengers subdued  him before he could harm anyone.  The new scanners were installed to prevent  a similar incident from happening again.

Amsterdam to Paris is just an hour an 20 minutes. I don’t any more need to go through immigration control, which is good. The one at Schiphol is enough.

The Dutch girl beside me is on her way to an internship in Hongkong. I later chat with her as we get ready to land.

…..

…..

From up in the air at 10 pm Paris is indeed a City of Lights. “There’s the Eiffel Tower,” the Dutch girl beside me says, a finger pointing out the plane’s window. Later the chauffeur sent by the Foreign Ministry to pick me up at the Charles De Gaulle drives  me right by the tower. From the banks of the River Seine, it glittered like a tree of brilliant diamonds, but up close, it was a tower of blazing gold.

The chauffeur takes me to the Travellex office. There he presents my passport to the teller, who then hands him 360 euros: my allowance for 7 days.

….Hotel Cayre  — a four storey setup — is strategically located, on the Left Bank, near the chic  and historic St. Germaine- De-Pres  on the 6th arrondissement.   Hemingway’s old haunts are here, and the cafes that the great existentialist philosophers — Sartre etc — frequented in the old days. Sorbonne! My room’s mighty expensive , at 460 euros a night!  What can I say, the  French Foreign Ministry  certainly knows how to entertain its guests.

……..

April 13

What a long day. Took a walk to the Eiffel Tower and back  tonight. It’s strange to say “tonight” here, because it’s spring and the sun set at close to 9 pm. My feet are sore from all the walking. To get my bearings right, I made it a point to follow the length of the River Seine from the Musee d’ Orsay. At the Eiffel — even at night it is swarming with tourists.I just took lots of pictures. I decided not to do what most tourists would want to do, which is take the elevator up the tower. I promise to do that on the next visit to Paris. For now, it is enough for me to be here.

………

But call it traveling in style:  I’m accompanied in my visits by an interpreter,  a Scott named J.R., who worked on a PhD in philosophy and went on many adventures before he found himself  doing an interpreter’s work (he has quite a story to tell of his adventures!). We drive around in a Voiture Citroen C5 with a friendly chauffeur who knows his period American films very well!

xxxxxx

Written by Romel

May 17, 2013 at 5:08 pm

Posted in beauty, Filipino OFWs, Paris, travels

Tagged with , , ,

An invitation

leave a comment »

agatha

Written by Romel

May 8, 2013 at 3:12 am

Posted in balak, beauty, love, poetry, tula

%d bloggers like this: