Engaging With Capitalism #1

I spent Monday in France with Regular Readers Max and Chris and their respective other halves, Kate and Emma. I am sure I have mentioned this in a previous blog, because there is no way I would pass up the opportunity to  gloat about £2 return flights to another country.

Sure, the flights were with Ryanair – which meant getting a taxi to  Prestwick from Glasgow (£45, shared between three of us), a return bus to Paris from Beauvais airport (€26 – which, with the terrible exchange rate, essentially cost £26), then a taxi back to my house from Prestwick (£60, again shared between three of us) – but I think getting to Paris for under £70 is really good value! 

I also had to buy a passport for this trip – since I don’t usually go anywhere and had let my port-passing privileges slip – but that was not a big problem, and it arrived sharpish. Chris, on the other hand, had left his passport with a friend in Edinburgh and recieved it three hours before we left. He had also checked himself in under the name Chris – as opposed to Christopher on his passport – which confused the French boarding-pass-and-whatever-collecting lady.

“This is not possible!”

“Aye it is.”

We all slept on the bus to Paris, considering none of us had had more than three hours’ sleep before our 5.30am flights. I woke up just as we were entering the city, listening to Herbie Hancock and reading all the graffiti which covers every tunnel and bridge. I had visited Paris a few years previously and that was one thing I remember from driving into the city, so it was a nice familiar welcome. The whole city itself felt oddly familiar, from the sites I had seem before either in my previous trip to the city or from pictures – at times I couldn’t decide which recollection was true – as well as the language, which I was becoming fluent in by about 4th year of high school, but stopped caring about soon after when I was going through a low period and grades were no longer important to me. I really regret only knowing how to ask for a gin and tonic and to demand someone else to light my cigarette.

Those phrases should have got us through the whole day – the original plan was to get very drunk and smoke A LOT. That never really panned out. Instead we spent most of the day wandering the city, ogling shops and tourist sites.

When we arrived in Paris, we decided to use the Metro system – which I had never used before, and was very impressed compared to Glasgow’s Clockwork Orange. We visited the Champs Elysee first – again, not sure of whether I had seen it with my own two eyes, or if pictures of Hitler’s troops marching the length of the road had affected my memory.

The Place Charles de Gaulle featured more than the Arc d’Triomphe – there, we witnessed the most laid back car crash I have ever seen. A van plowed into a car – not surprising considering the four-lane road has no markings, and French drivers appear to have a huge, collective death wish – and both drivers got out and chatted away as if it was nothing. Every second car had, on its bumper or hood, a dent that would send any English speaking driver into a mad frenzy. Maybe that’s another side-effect of the French Paradox.

Next we went to the Eiffel Tower. The lack of sleep and views of graffiti’d bridges on entering the city must have got to me, because – by my hand – written in ballpoint pen on the second floor of the tower, facing the Sacre Coeur, reads:

Hayley Cook fucked the Eiffel Tower and it didn’t touch the sides

Needless to say, she wasn’t impressed when she found out.

The last tourist site we visited was the Notre Dame Cathedral which is intensely beautiful, yet corrupted by capitalism. Something seems wrong to me about having so much money generated in a holy place – didn’t Jesus say something against that very notion? I won’t get into religious discussion, since I had to ask whether the cathedral was Roman Catholic or otherwise. Apparently, Protestants don’t do cathedrals. It was interesting to note that the cathedral was once dedicated to the Cult of Rationalism at one point in its history. I donated a couple of euros and lit a candle for various issues – an umbrella prayer, essentially.

The streets of Paris were just beautiful and we visited a couple of patisseries to buy tiny, tiny, beautiful cakes; as well as bastardise the French language, expressing thoughts and orders though a series of points, grunts and abstract English phrases. Higher language qualifications evidently mean nothing.  

We managed to scramble our way into getting a table in a nice restaurant. The waiter was subjected to the five second rule after we had a look at the extortionate wine list – keep in mind the exchange rate – so we ran out, unannounced, into the restaurant across the road. While everyone else ate beautifully bloodied steak, I had a milanese chicken. One does not expect much from chicken dishes, but I had obviously forgotten that the French virtually invented the idea of having standards when it comes to food. I swear to God, it was the best chicken I have ever witnessed.

Our exit from the restaurant was akin to Top Gear – we had 40 minutes to get to the bus before it left us stranded. That would essentially mean paying £140 for a taxi to the airport. Again, consider the exchange rate!!

Max had inexplicably memorised the entire Paris Metro system after staring at the map for all of three minutes – including, even more inexplicably, which tunnels we had to run through to change trains. That last detail was not even included on the map. The running scene which ensued must looked like an episode of Scooby Doo to the Parisiennes – or, at the very least, a group of fucking idiot tourists.

The only downside to the whole trip was the taxi back through Glasgow, which is an intensely ugly city by comparison. By extension, this makes me an ugly person with an ugly soul. Hopefully that candle I lit in Notre Dame will bring me the cosmetic surgery and gastric band I prayed for so deeply. Or, at the very least, more of that chicken.

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3 responses to “Engaging With Capitalism #1

  1. Take your exchange rate and go to hell! I feel no sympathy for you paying almost 1 to 1. If I was paying 1 to 1 on the Euro I would be thrilled. When the pound was down to $1.40 it looked cheap to go to the UK.
    However, I will have you know that gas is down to ~$1.44 a gallon (that would be less than a pound for you) so I could drive to Canada for about $25 one way and then gloat over my $.80 exchange rate.
    The traffic in Paris terrified me when I was there. I’ve never seen so few road markings for so many vehicles at such speeds. “Collective deathwish” is how I remember it as well.

  2. The 1 to 1 Euro exchange rate was really a blessing in disguise – I absolutely hate numbers, so not having to calculate anything was worth paying the equivalent of four pounds for a small pastry!

  3. “bastardise the French language”

    If one phrase in that post sums up the day, that’s it.

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