Today at work I looked at the date and realised that it was the tenth anniversary of 6/6/6 which was, incidentally, when The Omen remake came out. Suddenly I found myself taking a stroll down memory lane (which can be hazardous in my line of work) and remembered that ten years ago I was in Europe. I would have to wait until I got home to look at my photos and find out exactly where.
I was staying in London with some friends for five weeks, after having visited Chile, Peru and Argentina, and I wanted to do a couple of side trips in that time. One of my friends found some cheap flights and accommodation, and on the sixth of June, 2006 we caught the tube to Luton Airport and boarded our EasyJet flight to Paris, France.
We arrived as the sun was setting but would not reach our hotel until night, as there was still a train trip to consider before being in Paris proper. Once settled into our Tintin themed hotel room we made our way to the Champs-Élysées, a surreal experience in itself, passing the Arc de Triomphe and going into a nightclub on the famous avenue. My drink was served with a lid on it and I remember naively thinking What a great idea! I can dance without spilling a drop!
The next day we climbed the Eiffel Tower. There was a Post Office half way up where you could purchase and send your friends mementos, and as we reached the top we received a random text from a friend back home in Australia. She had passed a petrol station that had been the setting of another story and had prompted her text, but we laughed at the absurdity of the whole situation, and replied to her, letting her know where on Earth we were at that moment.
There were a few people queueing to catch the elevators back down to Earth, and I guess we were full of a youthful energy (oh, to be 22 again!) so we decided to run down the Eiffel Tower’s steps. We stopped occasionally, my friend licking the structure during one of the stops. I gave it a warm hug.
We ran all over Paris that day, posing (triumphantly in front of the Arc de Triomphe, ‘touching’ the pinnacle of the Obelisk, mimicking the poses of the statues at Rodin’s Garden and The Louvre) and taking photos. We visited the Moulin Rouge although we didn’t go to a show. The woes of a budget trip!
The next day my throat was hurting me, so we walked to a nearby chemist and I got my handy phrasebook out. “Mal de gorge” I said. The chemist looked at me with a blank look on her face. I repeated the phrase. Nothing. Am I really saying it that badly? Is it even that difficult to say? My friend stepped in. “English?” he asked. “A little.” He told her I had a sore throat and she sold me a packet of Strepsils. I may as well have thrown my phrasebook into the closest bin.
We visited Notre-Dame cathedral on the second day which was also really impressive. We went to an internet cafe and I sent a few messages to my family but I ran into so many problems. This was the first time I’d ever had to endure the abomination that is the AZERTY keyboard. Nobody should ever have to change from QWERTY to AZERTY, it’s cruel. I felt like such a novice, scanning the keyboard for letters, occasionally forgetting myself and typing lines of gibberish before realising my mistake.
I don’t remember that day being nearly as jam-packed as the first, and my photos reflect this. It was a really nice getaway, and on the third day we made our way back to the airport and back to London for my last week.
One poignant moment from this trip actually occurred for me after I had left Paris. I was looking back at my photos I had taken on our first day and realised that one of them was of the Flamme de la Liberté, which became an unofficial memorial for Princess Diana after her death in 1997.
It was strange to have been at the site of her death, and to have actually taken such a photo without realising its symbolic significance. I wonder how many other photos of mine hide such a secret.