Currently (finally!) settled in Saint Exupéry Gardens in Nice sipping tea and relishing the cool breeze on my sunburn. We left Paris before dawn this morning to catch our train to Nice after four full days of taking in the sights of La Ville-Lumière. I’m quite sure that between Brian, Ashley, Madeleine, Genevieve and myself we must have walked a hundred miles, and we have the sunburns and blisters to prove it!

The magic of Paris is particularly felt at night.

I didn’t fall in love with Paris right away as I expected to–I soon learned a committed relationship with this city takes time (more than four days), but by last night I was quite smitten. The sheer scale and sights of Paris were overwhelming, and the scent of exhaust and cigarette smoke was ever present. But just when my feet were tired or I began to wonder why Paris has become such a travel must, I’d catch a glimpse of the la Tour Eiffel or Arc de Triomphe and need to pinch myself to be convinced they were, in fact, real.

Oh, macaroons!

We likely were too ambitious in all we fit in (ice cream cones at the Eiffel Tower, walking through the Louvre ( I still don’t understand the hype surrounding the Mona Lisa), exploring the Latin Quarter and Montmarte, window-shopping along the Champs-Elysees, marveling at the stained glass windows of Notre Dame, the love-locks at Ponte Bridge, a box of my first ever macaroons from Ladurée, people watching at the Tuileries, taking in the pomp of Versailles (it simply puts Windsor Castle to shame), and finally, savoring one or two Nutella crepes (!) and a glass or two of rosé et sauvignon), but since I just don’t know when or if I’ll be back, the blisters are worth it.

Nonetheless, I often felt out of place by my lonesome in a city with so many couples (attractive ones at that, too). Paris is certainly a place for lovers and the romance of it all felt a bit out of reach strolling through the sights without Brady.

Ah, and now to get ready to explore Old Town, Nice…running late as usual!

E.

P.S. Joyeux Anniversaire to Brian & Ashley!:) You two would share a birthday.;)

 

The Orchard on Fire

Just finished Shena Mackay’s “The Orchard on Fire,” a bittersweet and beautifully-writ account of two little girls growing up in 1950s England. Had I not been living in England myself, I wouldn’t have understood half of the English references, but I did, and it’s somehow a funny sensation. Almost as though I know too much now, and there’s no going back. After finishing my MA, I’ll return to the States and Minnesota culture and will no longer be surrounded by West Country accents, Georgian architecture, tea shoppes and pubs. Thankfully, I’ll have pictures and memories and maybe a couple future visits to look forward to, but this experience will have largely stopped. For all my trying I can’t recreate it and that will be that. Hmmm…Mackay has me feeling all melancholy! I guess the only remedy is to make the most of the remaining months. Press it all into memory like a bouquet of pressed flowers.

Yesterday I attended the day-long “Penguin Poetry & The 1960s” conference at the stunning Wills Memorial. Can’t say I knew much of modern poetry before going, or that I suddenly understand poetry after shaking the hand of A. Alvarez (such a lovely man!), but it has me interested and honestly excited to try and “get it.” Listening to Alvarez, a poetry giant for those of you unfamiliar, talk of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath by their first names and relating stories of his friendship with the couple was, for lack of a better word, surreal.  Even someone who has never read a poem by Plath knows who she is. Plath has become a part of our cultural psyche, and it’s easy to forget she was a breathing, living person.

Alvarez said the difference between prose and poetry is that “a poem has to be perfect.” If it’s not, you know it. You can’t stop rearranging, crossing out and crumbling words till it’s right. Whole. Exact. And I think he is absolutely right. Finding the exact words in a world of speed and convenience and finite time takes a discipline most of us don’t have. Or don’t try to have.  Hmmm…just something I’ve been thinking about.

I’ve also been feeling a bit guilty about leaving Bristol for three weeks on Thursday for a bit of traveling (Paris-Nice-Monaco-Venice-Florence-Pisa-Goteborg). Surely this should be someone else’s life! I don’t know why God has been so good to me.

Alright! Back to studying up on T. Hardy.

E.

 

Springtime in Bristol

The grass is somehow greener, the cherry blossoms are out, and the days are becoming deliciously longer; an English spring has arrived and I couldn’t be more ready. As you might tell from my lapse of posts, this term has been a manic one, but the end is in sight.  ‘Spring break’ begins in less than two weeks, and with it, two weeks of travel (Paris-Nice-Monaco-Venice-Florence-Goteborg-Finland(?)). Though 12,000 words are due at the end of the break, surely two weeks of new sights, tastes and sounds will invigorate my lately tired mind.  At least I’m hoping!

I sometimes wonder where all my time goes here in Bristol, and then look up at my bookshelf and quickly remember. The past month has slipped away reading: Mansfield Park, The Woodlanders, Rural Rides, Frankenstein, The Confessions, The Italian, Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, Silas Marner, Cousin Phillis, Wuthering Heights, Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life (written by none other than my professor Ralph Pite!), and a smattering of Coleridge, Byron, Wordsworth, Dickens, Eliot, and James. I still derive some small sense of accomplishment from reading that blessed last page, but somehow, that feeling diminishes when I think of how many first pages I’ve still yet to open…

The idyllic cottage of Anne Hathaway

And really, that has been my life these last few weeks–save a day trip to Stratford-on-Avon which promptly caused me to fall in love with England all over again. That places like Anne Hathaway’s cottage really exist is enough to keep going I suppose. And fortunately, several of the above mentioned books I’ve read before. And it’s been funny to realize that as much as my tastes have changed in other areas, my taste in books has remained about the same. Rediscovering my love of Hardy has been the biggest treat, and when I’m not reading for class, I’ve started researching Impressionism for an upcoming essay…

I have much to be grateful for indeed.

Cheers, Em

 

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