next day we headed towards the center of Paris in search of le Louvre.
After pondering over some maps I said loudly, “Where the ass is le
Louvre,” which proved to be a source of constant amusement to Ira’
can’t tell you when the idea took root. It
must have happened somewhere on one of the hot days (any one so much like
another) driving around the one-mile circuit which consists of my life: a
little fishbowl of home, work, gym, grocery, Pelican, bank, kids, schools,
family and friends. The daydream was this: I would spend three days in the
Louvre among its sculptures, Egyptian relics, Italian masters, 13th and
14th century frescoes on the ceiling, and endless Madonnas and bambinos,
breaking only for coffee in the courtyard below. A series of triggers took
me there. One: Princess Diana died, and she was just three years older
than me. Two: I briefly lost vision in my right eye and was convinced I
had a tumour. Three: I sent an e-mail to the Wilde Chile. She is 21, Trini,
a bright law student who doesn’t mince her words or her gait, grasps
life by its horns, and has a heart made of the softest chocolate.
Wilde Chile (September 1997):
I woke up to the sound of my daughter screaming for her mikkie (milk),
stuffed food in my son’s mouth while quizzing him over spelling, changed
my daughter’s clothes three times because I was afraid that if I
didn’t respond to her commands she would permanently damage herself by
flinging herself on to the floor like a drama queen.
I went to the gym. On my way home I scoffed two doughnuts from Vie de
France. Then I went to the grocery. Then I went to work. Then I got the
results to my cat scan (no tumour). Then I bought vegetables. Then I came
home. Then I shouted at my son for watching TV. Then I fed the children.
Then I argued and made up with my husband. Then I argued and made up with
my children, fed them, bathed them, read to them, said their prayers for
I went to bed.
Ira (September 1997):
good to hear that your brain is still intact!
I’m going to the doctor tomorrow, so I’ll let you know if my
one brain cell is still flourishing! I think it’s dead, though, after
all the alcohol I’ve consumed in the past few weeks!
I’m going out with a whole crew of friends, all guys in their final year
and postgrad, etc, to the pub for a pub quiz!
they always win, and the reward is eight pints. How that’s going to go
around 20 people I don’t know! I’ll
try to get my flatmates to come down and go in competition with them! Can
you imagine if they won!
stay neutral so that I get a drink either way!
days later Wilde Chile and I were in the Channel Tunnel travelling at the
speed of 300 km per hour to Paris. We each kept a journal for three days.
Chile’s journal, September 1997.
all started on Friday night. I’d just arrived from Manchester
(three-hour journey), there was no food on the table (thanks to my
brother) and Ira was late, which was such a surprise, really! We compared
luggage sizes. Ira had a little handbag-like object packed to the max and
she adopted her French attitudes of poohing and paahing at my rather large
bag (nb explanation for the large bag is that it is actually my laundry
bag, and I couldn’t find a smaller one). We went to bed at 3 am.
left to our body clocks Ira and I would never wake up in time so we set
the rather obsolete alarm clock. I made a joke to Ira saying I didn’t
think the alarm would go off and thus she spent the whole night awake! I
had a great sleep, however, and was not amused when I was awoken at 5.30
am to catch our train at Waterloo station!
arrival it became apparent that half the world had decided to come to
Paris that weekend! After lining up in front of the Tourist Information
Officer in Gard du Nord for over two hours (well Ira did anyway, while I
walked around seeking a room in a hotel) we finally got a room at the
“One Star Plus” hotel!
ended up getting lost and confused while looking for this hotel situated
in the suburbs of Paris. Ira had a sad smile etched on her face as slowly
all hope escaped her sorrowful eyes. I laughed at her as I figured
everything would work out except:
Some French snobs ignored our requests for directions.
Our hotel was situated in the ghettos of Paris.
settled, we went in search of food. The end result was a baguette, cheese,
pate and chili peppers. Ira, who was chronic for a cup of tea, then
ordered some from our hotel. What we got was something resembling
dishwater, which was cold and frankly quite disgusting.
called the waiter/receptionist/manager (this one man held all the
positions) and asked him to reheat our tea. He never actually boiled the
water but just filled the teapot with tap water, and yet he seemed
surprised to find that our tea was cold!
next day we headed towards the centre of Paris in search of le Louvre.
After pondering over some maps I said loudly, “Where the ass is le
Louvre,” which proved to be a source of constant amusement to Ira for
the entire trip.
the end we got to le Louvre and wandered around in awe of all the
beautiful works of art. We then proceeded to the courtyard to eat the rest
of our baguette cheese and chili from the previous day with the new
additions of jam taken from our hotel.
journal, September 1997 (continues account of trip).
the Wilde Chile made cutting remarks over my Trini chilis she asked if she
could have one (anything was a relief after the baguette). She pronounced
that Leonardo da Vinci had produced better work than the “Mona Lisa”.
I agreed humbly.
crossed the river to the church of Notre Dame which was heavenly - with
the voices of choir boys singing in Latin, stained glass, magnificent
baroque interior. We each lit a candle and sat alone quietly for a few
minutes to soak it in.
then began a circuitous trek to the Musee Picasso. The plan was that we
would sit around for a leisurely coffee first. However, soon we were
running through the charming winding streets and through outdoor cafes
because we wanted to get there before it closed. It was closed.
Wilde Chile pleaded, “Five minutes, please,” and they said OK.
first we ran past Picasso’s paintings, paraphernalia and ceramics, then
slowed down knowing they would never find us. We both loved the
“Portrait de Dora Maar”, the only woman who was not entirely mutilated
by the Master.
then rushed for the obligatory visit to La Tour Eiffel in an awful dirty
metro but suddenly the train came up above ground and there was an
unforgettable view of the river and the Eiffel Tower.
route an artist wanted to do a comic version of me for free. Refused on
account of my nose. Stood in a long line for 30 minutes. We got bored of
watching the lift go up and down and walked back to the river. Sat on a
bench and ate jam. I ate nearly all mine since I needed a sugar high but
the Wilde Chile threw hers away, disgusted.
next day we had plans to go to the Musee des Arts Modernes, the Rodin
Museum and Versailles but ended up trying on clothes for an hour.
we drank overpriced bitter coffee and walked: from the courtyard of le
Louvre, crunched through the sanded l’Avenue des Champs Elysees with its
gaping wide boulevards and neatly laid out gardens, and through l’Arc de
Triomphe. A cool sun glowed through autumn leaves and fountains, and cast
shadows over balconies.
was almost time for our train back so we made our way to the train station
by bus, but hopes of lingering in a coffeeshop were dashed because the
Wilde Chile felt for McDonald’s where she had a double burger with extra
police with dogs roamed the crowded station at Paris Nord. We showed our
passports, slipped our tickets through the barrier, and got on the train
in five minutes. It was not until we were halfway to London that we
remembered the pate which we had left on our hotel window sill to stay
cool for the night. We collapsed in fits as we thought of a chambermaid
sniffing the room with rotting pate (it was a hot day).
man sitting opposite us writing what looked like an academic paper in a
tiny hand (of which the only recognisable word was Voltaire) stared at us
coldly - especially me, because I should know better, being older.”
of Ira’s journal.
one level this trip was about “playing student” and the euphoria that
comes with it but on another about thinking laterally, stretching the
limits of your life, reviving curiosity in a space where inertia and
routine is the biggest disease. And about adventure, the heightened
excitement of being alive, your biggest goal and reward. In other words, I
relearned the importance of being Wilde. Thanks to the Chile.