At this time of the year, for personal reasons, I usually spend a weekend in Paris. I love Paris. It is the most refreshing city I have ever visited. I love the tourist attractions, the grands boulevards, the cafés, the markets. The nooks, the crannies. The usual. The unusual. It is my favourite city in the world. When I am sad, Paris makes me happy.
Unfortunately, I didn't get to spend my weekend there this year. So, I made Paris come to me. A very dear friend gave me a book called Paris Tales. A modest collection of short writings based in different parts of the city at different times by very different people. Writers include Georges Perec, Emile Zola and Honoré de Balzac. And many others I've never heard of.
They each take you briefly, often only fleetingly, through areas such as Notre Dame, the 20th Arrondissement, Montmartre cemetery - and particularly the flora and fauna, would you believe; Gare Saint-Lazare, the Bois de Boulogne, et al.
A map of the city shows where the tales take place. The metro map is thrown in for good measure. And each tale is separated by black and white photographs of the city. Mediocre photographs in my humble opinion, only hinting at the magnificence of the city. Still, the whole serves its purpose.
Thus with black coffee to hand, rain pouring down outside, and Roland Garros on screen if on hold from the weather, I felt as near to the city as I could get without leaving home.
It was light, atmospheric reading for the most part. Nothing particularly spectacular. But enough to transport me there. I was walking those cobbled streets, feeling the rush of people around me, hearing the noise. Smelling the metro. And sharing the love the authors were sharing of this city of such great renown.
Sometimes when things don't turn out as you would have wished, all is not lost. Someone somewhere has been there and written it down to save your day. Or in my case, the weekend...