To put it mildly, I’ve been enjoying France a lot. After my eleven year absence, Orlean largely feels, and smells, the same as when I was here as a 14 year old. No, that’s wrong, it’s even better – it now has a tramline, many of its downtown streets are reserved for pedestrians, and there is generally more “life” to be found. And even better, I haven’t forgotten my French – I’m surprised at how easily I remember it all, although my mouth sometimes refuses to move quickly or correctly enough to get the correct sounds and words out as I would like.
I’ve been staying with my friend Vincent, who spent two summers with my family during high school, and I spent a month in France with his. The month I spent in France made a significant impression on me, and he’s told me that his visits to B.C. were some of his best childhood memories. Dinner at his family’s on friday was very enjoyable – nostalgic, but present at the same time. His family is simply made up of smart, enjoyable and friendly people – en francais on dirait “sympathique”.
Yesterday Vincent and I spent the day in Paris. Photos here. We visited the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, Pierre Lachaise cemetary, and spent time in Montmartre and Ile de la Cite. We spent a significant amount of the day with my friend Marina from Catalonia, who I met in Co-op in 2008-9. It was excellent to see Marina again – I originally hoped to visit her in Spain, but train times, financial and time limits cut that part of my european tour. (Perhaps next year if I attend TAPSS again I will be able to visit Barcelona properly.) We spent a very long time looking for a restaurant for dinner – but this worked out well, both because we found an excellent little place, and because we got a good sense of the life to which Paris comes in the evenings.
Paris is not, in effect, an intimidating city. It’s big, there are lots of people, and it’s very expensive to get a drink. But food is not particularly expensive, there is lots of room, and there people everywhere, at least when you get away from the crowds of mid-day tourists, who are laid back and enjoying themselves.
Today I went with Vincent to an Airsoft match. Airsoft is a burgeoning sport in which people dress up as militaries and, in teams, shoot at each other in the woods. While some take it very seriously, and act as if they are paramilitaries-in-training, the group Vincent plays with are very light hearted – they laugh a lot, and don’t take it too seriously. They don’t even spend much time on strategy, and there are no arguments about the rules or infractions. Since the game is based on the principle of honesty (you are “out” when you are shot, but it’s up to you to say you are out and it’s rarely externally verifiable), it encourages an atmosphere of fair play. It stings to be shot, but if you are properly protected it doesn’t cause injury – and players are apologetic if they accidentally hit another in the head. There didn’t seem to be any desire to cause pain, although if it didn’t hurt to be shot it would probably be harder to take the game seriously.
I’ll be staying with Vincent for one more day here in Orlean, and then I’m headed to Le-Creusot with Guillaume (from co-op), although probably only for one day as I must get back Zurich by friday for my flight back to Canada.