Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vacation Diary - Day 13

We left our airport hotel room a little earlier than we should have needed to, because we hadn’t been able to sit together on the flight out and wanted to minimize the chances of that happening again. This time there was no problem, and then the flight was delayed by close to an hour, so we had lots of time. The in-flight video system wasn’t operating, which I’m sure frustrates lots of people. I always bring my own movies though, so as long as I can plug in the laptop – which I could – I’m happy. I'd already finished Helas pour moi but I watched Harry Kumel’s Malpertuis and Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai (I honestly don’t bring my entire DVD library on vacation – I just had one more movie left) and wrote a bit of work-related stuff (maybe this sounds like a terrible sign of real life instantly creeping back in, but it’s not that tough for me to switch it on and off). I also started reading Thomas Friedman’s Hot, Flat and Crowded, but God knows if I’ll ever finish that once normal life resumes. Ally slept much more than I did and also tore through the first 200 pages of Dragon Tattoo.

The trip accomplished exactly what we hoped for: to take us back to Paris and sharpen our faded sense of it, and then to open up a new country providing a bit of a contrast. We enjoyed every single day and had no significant problems at any step. All our hotels were in perfect locations, which is never guaranteed, and they were at least fine in all other respects too. As always when we head home, our heads overflowed with memories and impressions.

To the extent we can rely on our memories, Paris really hadn’t changed that much. Of course everyone is on their cell phone now, and so I suppose you have the same escalating divide between inner and outer lives. But the outer life sure is solid – you can go for blocks without seeing anything resembling a new building. That could be a sort of paralysis if it wasn’t all so constantly alluring and vibrant (except, of course, when it’s being alluring and sophisticated instead). There’s a lot of angst, it seems, about whether France is doing enough to look forward as effectively as it looks back. Even on the short train journey to the airport, you pass through some pretty grim looking areas, and others that seem merely unassuming, and it’s pretty obvious life there has little to do with romantic visions of the Seine. But then, every city has its ups and downs. The difference, I guess, is that (for instance) Toronto's highs don't matter to much more than Torontonians; Paris's highs hypnotize the world.

It’s somehow not surprising that Sweden , although part of the European Union, stood aside on the Euro and continues to use the Kroner. There’s a sense of stubbornness to the country; the necessary reticence built on knowing it doesn’t quite have a Paris, or an empire, and has to take care of itself. That could be an ugly trait, and some say they see that in Swedish society, but we saw very little ugliness (visual, metaphysical, or otherwise). We liked the relative lack of crowds and the surprising feeling of light and space – Stockholm is surely undervalued as a scenic destination. The side-trip to Gotland added a little to our sense of the country’s inner rhythms. And at the end of the day, you appreciate a lot of things (some of them important, some of them perhaps not) a little better than you did.

We were back home by mid-afternoon (oh boy I thought Paris was hot) and all unpacked and settled in within an hour. I discovered I lost two pounds, which must be a relatively rare vacation feat (Ally has not weighed herself and even if she had, I expect the information would be censored). I always used to end my annual diary with the true resumption of normal life: we’d go and pick up Pasolini and bring him home, and then we’d know we were really back. Pasolini died in March though. In September our new dog Ozu will be coming to live with us, and we’ve contemplated maybe staying in Canada next year and just spending our vacations with him, because we regret not doing that more when Paso was young (and it’s not as if we’ve even scratched the surface of our own continent). A year from now though, when Paris and Sweden are a year in the past, the motivations may seem different. And of course I have no illusions Ozu’s first year won’t largely consist of him being a pain in the ass (so maybe, much as I know we'll love him, we'll feel like a break). But for now, since we’re safely home, I’ll end as things should have been, if only our brave wonderful friend Paso could have been a little luckier.

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