In Memoriam In Paris

Travel obviously takes you far away from home, those you love and those who love you. It's kind of what the concept means, and in a lot of ways it's also the point. We rightfully embrace the positive aspects of this, but on the morning of our first full day in Paris, we experienced the pain of the negative: a call from home to say a friend had passed away. 

While I like to keep this blog as close to the mainly-photos-and-sassy-captions mantra as possible, it's also a journal of happenings, and what fucking happened today is that my friend was killed and if that is not reflected in how I record my travels then I would by lying to everyone, including myself. 

We all process death differently, so allow me to indulge mine here.

The news brought swift silence, shock, and a complete loss of appetite. I was sitting in our beautiful old Parisian apartment with the sounds of a busy Paris morning coming from all sides, but the world seemed to have reduced to the little rectangle of the phone that had just finished reminding me how truly horrific the world can be. 

Livvy turned very quiet this day, but I won't profess to know what was going through her mind. She was maybe the closest out of all of us. 

After a while, Gale and Lizzie went out and brought us back pastries. 

Really, the only logical thing to do was to go back to sleep and cry, but someone very wise once taught me to not let life pass us by, so out we went. 

At times like this you hear phrases being thrown around like, 'my heart is heavy' and 'it is with a heavy heart...' and I'm not one for clichés but hell does it get heavy.

Footfalls feel...heavy and so does breathing, and I'm not quite sure what that even means but I know you know what I mean, and if you don't then I'm sorry to say you will at some stage. 

And this day it wasn't just my friend, as death was everywhere...the world was freshly reeling from the Charlie Hebdo attacks the previous day (Paris felt heavy), decidedly not reeling from over two thousand dead in Nigeria (my mind felt heavy), and now this. 

What does one even do on a day like today? Mine involved visiting the Notre Dame and the Louvre. 

Maybe a bit jarring - but also maybe not. 

Because our apartment is in such a fantastic location at La Place des Victoires, we actually have to walk through the Louvre to get to anywhere.

Notre Dame is just across the Seine - I always forget it's on the island in the middle of the river. 

Long time no see, lovely lady. 

Nerves, grief and tension were not helped by an obvious yet huge police presence around - cops everywhere, dozens of police cars lining the streets, groups of actual army soldiers just wandering around. 

Why is one standing on a man instead of a pedestal? Questions for Our Lady...

Our visit was not jarring, as it turns out the peace of one of the world's oldest and most beautiful cathedrals is a pretty great place to lead one's heavy footfalls. 

I am not religious, but I understand. 

There was a large glass box which invited you to write a "Message of Peace". I obliged, because that's sure as hell something we need right now. 

Gale did too. 

It was a bit of a grizzly day with the sun relatively unsuccessfully trying to get through - maybe a bit of a metaphor.  

It was so lovely to be walking around, and I was certainly loving being here, but. I felt a bit outside of myself, detached. Death gives you perspective - or it was just my shock talking. 

Paris is beautiful.
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

How wonderful are these streets and buildings?
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

Oooh look the sun is coming out!
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

It's so nice to be able to speak French again.
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

Look, you can have a croque madame for lunch!
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

This was built nearly a thousand years ago! Amazing!
Yeah, but my friend is dead.

One thing I've learned is that my thoughts turn really morbid when faced with death. Just my thing, I guess.

Actually I'm sure that's bullshit, as if everyone doesn't allow their minds to wander to the darkest parts in the darkest times.

Coming back to the Louvre was like coming home. I adore this place. Could spend weeks in here. It's just magnificent. I can't really even tell you why. 

But in a similar way, it was exactly where I wanted to be that day - quiet, peaceful, full of reflection. 

If an institution built to archive the beauty and transcendence of the human experience across thousands of years and hundreds of cultures doesn't put a heavy heart to rest a little, nothing will. 

It's okay. Here's a sausage dog. 

This here is actually an art installation...better when dark. 

I paid a bit extra for an audioguide....phenomenal. Most places have little walkie talkies, some fancy ones (like London's St Paul's Cathedral) have iPods...the Louvre has a fleet of Nintendo 3DSs. 

They had interactive maps with GPS in them so you'd just walk into a new section and a voice would start talking in your ear introducing you to the collection without you having to press anything. At key artworks there were detailed commentaries about its history, composition, merit, could press anywhere on the map and it would give you directions...just amazing. 

Medieval foundations of the original Louvre castle that defended Paris from those pesky poms. 

Another wing as yet undiscovered...

Got pulled aside by a security guard at one of the doors (uh oh), but had a nice conversation (in French!):

Him: Hello!
Me: Hi!
Him: Where are you from?
Me: Australia.
Him: Australia! Everyone here is from Australia! So many Australians! 
Me: I know, it's so come all this way and still have us all here!
Him: But why? Is it your holidays or something?
Me: Yes, it's our summer holidays and so a lot of people take their leave around Christmas and have one long holiday.
Him: Oh I see! Well, you're the most beautiful Australian I've seen so far. Have a good evening!

Nothing like a bit of flattery to keep you going, I guess. 

Key section: Greek and Roman statues. 
-happy sigh- 

Beautiful Aphrodite. 

These sculptures are kind of like don't do anything to capture their presence. 

Hola, Milo.

Listened to a very long commentary on her...very interesting. For example, in trying to work out where her arms would have originally been, they know that her left arm would have been raised holding something or her arm around someone...and when you look closely at the joint socket you can see it too. 

Just a stairwell. 

That plaque there explains how the palace became a museum by decree of the actual legislative assembly that started the French Revolution. 

Apollo's hall which depicts the movement over the sun over a day as you walk through. The middle painting is by Delacroix himself. 

This photo does of my favourite things in here. 

Then there's the Red Rooms... -forever happy sigh-

The Red Rooms are the world's largest collection of French paintings, a lot of which I studied and it's so freaking cool.

If you can at all help it, make sure you get your kids to study art. Firstly because it's really, really important, and secondly because there's no feeling like discussing and dissecting works and then seeing them in the flesh. 

-keening noises-
-keening noises intensify- 

This was the first nude to ever be presented at a French Salon without it being in a mythical context. As you can probably tell, she has too many vertebrae in her spine - it's like the 19th century version of photoshopping to achieve 'ideal beauty', Ingres you creepy bastard. 


Thank you Paris for getting me through an awful day. I can't imagine what I would have been doing if it weren't for you...well I can, that's why I'm thanking you. 

There's little one can say when faced with the reality of the fact you'll never see your friend's face again. Today I found a video of her and I watched it, which was a terrible idea because my keypad is doing the thing where nothing is clicking 'cos it's too slippery to work properly. 

She was doing something so silly. Drawing a pig. Singing a song. Just generally being one of those stupidly wonderful people who so obviously took such joy out of making others happy, and whose inner beauty just kind of radiates out even from a pixelated screen.

I can't believe that from now on a pixelated screen is the only place I'll be able to see it.

Lost too soon to the horrors of the world, I'll think of you each time I see the sun.

Until next time, I'll live every moment. 

There are some charities that were very important to my friend, and remain so for us - 

If you feel you may be having issues with anxiety or depression, or are worried about someone around you, BeyondBlue is a great place to start.

Join White Ribbon Australia to join the fight against domestic violence.

Lastly, Shakti Australia is a fantastic organisation that offers support and advocacy in issues facing immigrant women of colour. Go check them out. 

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