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Only music could describe such ecstacy.

FRANCE | Wednesday, 18 February 2015 | Views [424]

Only the cars stopped me from thinking I had gone back in time.

Only the cars stopped me from thinking I had gone back in time.

To be in Paris, the city of Love, on Valentines Day is the sort of smaltz that Hallmark wish they could encapsulate in some consumable way. I imagine a significant amount of romancing happens on your average day for the city to have such an appelation, so I couldn't tell if all the couples smooching and touts selling roses was out of the ordinary or not.

When you are single, you tend to notice these things more anyway, but my first impressions wandering around felt like being the only eunuch at a city wide orgy. I may have well been a ghost because everyones eyes were on their lovers beside them. That worked to my advantage as I could take in this beautiful city as a wide-eyed first timer without being hassled to buy crap, except for roses.

As positive as my first impressions of Paris were, my overwhelming sentiment was of sadness at Laura's absence. To anyone who knows her, or puts any credence in prayer, please direct them her way as her father struggles in hospital with stomach cancer. This was supposed to be our first catch up since The cold winds of change in April 2010. Checking in to the hotel room she had booked for us, part of me hoped beyond hope that she would be waiting there for me.

 Awwwwww, what an angel!

It wasn't to be, and I was left to wade my way through the ocean of PDA's the Parisians were putting on like some Broadway show. I'm more than happy with my own company, which is lucky because that is the way it has been for most of my life. Most of the time I don't even give it another thought. When it feels like you're back at your high school dance, your date has deserted you and everyone else thinks your personal space is the best spot to make out, you can't help but question whether being 39 and single is tantamount to social leprocy.

Turning 40 is a big milestone, one with which I hope that all of Hobart will know about at the end of May, and I have given a lot of thought to a lifetime of bachelorhood. While being single means there is one less person you have to make compromises for, a lot of experiences, particularly traveling, can be more entertaining with another. With no romantic or intimate connection to Laura, I thought the date and location may be noted at some point, jokingly lamented as we both are single. But alas, like Istanbul, the city was mine and mine alone.

We had an amazing night planned and paid for so I was going to do it regardless. A shameless plea on Tinder yielded as many results as my other attempts to use it, ie, none, and it was probably for the best that everyone I passed was paired up or I might have been tempted to show them the spare concert ticket I kept in the inside pocket of my long overcoat, with nothing on underneath it.

After another day subsisting solely on airport food, my wandering starting with the intention of finding food. My hotel was almost underneath the Eiffel Tower and the sheer number of lovers lolling around meant someone must have been selling food. And they were. Crepes, crepes, crepes, more crepes and some hot dogs. Is that all the French eat? How can 10 crepe stands right next to each other all stay in business? A couple of enterprising places bucked the trend and sold baguettes as well, but with the only vegetarian option being a white bread a cheese extravaganza, I thought it best to go hungry rather than eat more colon concrete.

The buildings that line the Parisan streets all reach a similar height and are packed together so tightly as to feel like you are walking along a 6 storey deep trench. The banks of the River Seine offered more open air and twilight saw the tower light up like a homing beacon for crepe lovers. From the Place de la Concorde with its ferris wheel, the view back towards the tower was something to behold. Some places just ooze beauty and I was so mesmermised I felt like grabbing the nearest passer by and getting some pash on.

 The crepe lovers light house.

The hypnotic wonder of the city reached another level again upon stepping inside the Leglise de la Madeleine. Epic, ornate, humbling and all other superlatives except for ones that suggest the place had a toilet. Having just pointed at word underneath the listing of 'vino' over dinner, I was delighted and dismayed to receive a 375ml bottle of white wine. It was delicious but I didn't want the performance interrupted by a bursting bladder. Back I ran to the restaurant restrooms and lost the ticket along the way. Had my new hero not been running after me just as fast and shouting in a language I quickly grasped the urgency of, if not the meaning, my quick glimpse inside the church would have been the only one.

Restraining the urge to get my pash on with my saviour, I returned to the Legalise de la Madeleine and was treated to one of the most impressive concerts of my life. The 5 piece orchestra was lead by the violinist instead of a conductor, and his bow was sawing away like he was trying desparately to cut his violin in half. The result was a more up-tempo rendition of Vivaldi's Four Seasons than I am used to and combined with Franz Schubert's Ave Maria, the one and a half hour concert was over in the blink of an eye.

Upon finishing, it felt like waking from a dream to find yourself still dreaming. One cannot describe the sublime nature of classical music to anyone who does or doesn't appreciate it. Like poetry, ballet, or exquisite fine wine to name a few, the beauty is in it's depth, and the more you be absorbed by it, the more it moves you. And to experience that in such an incredibly sacred spot like Legalise de la Madeleine is a blessing beyond words.

I sat glued to my seat long after most people had left and dwelt internally in an almost post orgasmic appreciation of my surroundings and my amazing good fortune to be there. I would have benn speechless for a very long time, even if Laura had have been there to talk to. Like Gallipoli, but in a vastly different way, I feel my shortcomings as a writer become increasingly apparent as I fail utterly to even come close to describing my experience.

 I have no words so just look and wonder.

So, I'll go back to talking about toilets again, but not in a gross way at all so please keep reading. Paris has public booth like toilets where you press a button and are granted entrance to a sterile little room fit to accommodate men, women, the mobility challenged and junkies. Upon entering, I pressed the red handle assuming it locked the door, but instead it opened it. I waited for it to close again, then turned around to work on my aim. The door decided to open on its own accord and looking over my shoulder I saw two young ladies giggling as they strolled past.

Fortunately I wasn't seated or my embarrassment would have been doubled, as would my misfortune, because before finishing, a mechanical French voice said something and the toilet started to retract into the wall. I hadn't finished with the half bottle of wine, but the toilet had finished with me so I was left to pee on the floor where the toilet had once been. It was inside the wall cavity getting a gerney clean that was spraying my pants with a soapy mist.

The chill of the Parisian night was mild compared to Istanbul, but my wet pants from the knee down forced me to return home with more haste than what I would have wanted. I did manage to find a supermarket that sold me a 6-pack of Belgium Leffe beer and 3 of them found a new home as I reflected upon the night. The more profound I realise the experience was, the more I lamented Lauras absence. And the more my heart breaks for the reason of her absence.

I may have been alone on Valentines Day in a city full of so many lovers that le a'mour filled the atmosphere like a delicate perfume. But, I have come to realise that I am never alone with so many dear friends and family so close to my heart. Their physical absence never stops me from feeling their presence, and tonight I could feel Laura, and my classical music loving Father living vicariously through me. I am alone in Paris, and as an almost 40 year old, but I will never, ever feel lonely.

Tags: classical music, crepes, eiffel tower, france, friends, paris

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