Thursday, December 11, 2008

Goodbye London, Hello Paris

As the traveler who has once been from home is wiser than he who has never left his own doorstep, so a knowledge of one other culture should sharpen our ability to scrutinize more steadily, to appreciate more lovingly, our own.
Margaret Mead

I haven't posted in two days because I came down with the mother of all colds. I actually ended up coming back to the London flat yesterday and considered returning to the US a bit early. The high costs of changing the flight convinced me otherwise. It has been a lesson in and of itself to be sick in an other country. It made me long for home, Bella and familiar comforts.

So I bordered the Eurostar to Paris in late afternoon and I must still have looked miserable (the explosive sneezing/coughing might have added to the effect) as a motherly naturalized American took charge of me till I got to my hotel. And the experience I had with her adds yet one more reason to why I travel. She insisted on buying me tea, sharing a cab to my hotel and didn't let me alone till I was checked in despite my assurances I had done this before. Turns out Allison is an international finance writer who speaks French and English and travels between London, Brussels, New York and Paris frequently. So I told her that someday I would help a traveler the way she was kind to me.

Despite the cold, my sojourn in London still allowed time to see Oedipus with Ralph Fiennes which I found phenomenal (some critics liked it, others thought it wasn't that great). The staging was done very simply and the Greek chorus looked like a bunch of middle aged finance geeks. Ralph Fiennes showed a range of emotions from brute arrogance to a dejected/rejected penitent. His scream when he found out that his wife was his mother and he had killed his father... well I still have chills on my spine from that one. The play is supposed to travel internationally so I don't know if that means an eventual Broadway run, but if it does go see it.

The interesting thing is I could have seen Hamlet last night if I hadn't fallen ill. Turns out the star of the show, David Tennant had a prolapsed disc that pulled him from the role on Monday and has him out indefinitely. Fans of the Dr. Who TV show started returning tickets, so they were available. Apparently the understudy did a fantastic job and showed why the RSC is an ensemble company. But it stirred up the star power debate as the tickets pre-star injury had been sold up to hundreds of pounds, i.e. should a show be based just on the power of a star. I would be less then honest if I said I haven't seen performances due to a well known name being in it. But I have also seen performances with unknowns and enjoyed it just as much, so I think it's just about what you like and want to see in the end. Saw some more photo exhibits including Annie Leibovitz's at the National Portrait Gallery. Sorry not impressed. It's not that it's bad, but there is a certain overdone quality to her work at times. I found I enjoyed the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize more. But variety is the spice of life. It would be boring if we all liked the same things.

This vacation has been so different. Instead of big sweeping tourist sights, I've found myself poking into nooks and crannies. I've enjoyed it. It's not what I expected this vacation to be, but it's teaching me and I'll be reflecting on the lessons for weeks to come.

So here I am in Paris in the Latin Quarter staying at a smaller hotel I found that came fairly recommended. I'll be back in California Sunday night. So I'm going to walk, then photograph what captures my eye and try to share more until then.

The Beatles, "Hello Goodbye":

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