Yesterday we did our laundry, packed paid our bill (less than I had feared) and said goodbye to Paris, a difficult goodbye as I realized what a different city it was, even in this brass age, designed for living. We took the Eurostar to London, very fast and comfortable. Disembarking we saw Catherine Deneuve standing on the platform as her trunks were unloaded from the car in front of ours. S. was like a girl who had seen Santa Claus, simply delighted.
The hotel is nice but a step down from the Hotel Relais St.-Jacques. The streets are closed, the cafés, the few there are, second rate; a thick, bland place, like the people. We ate, or tried to, in a “traditional British pub” in Knightsbridge High Street. It was like eating in a mental institution – awful beef covered in thin, cold gravy, served with vegetables, all of which had been cooked to mush except for the one that might have benefited from that treatment – the potatoes, which were raw.
We found an (Italian? Armenian?) café run by some young guys that was pretty good, but it was still second-rate. Nearly every café in Paris – and there are thousands — serve good, home-made food that stands in a long tradition, a reasonable one, but allows for invention. Everything was homey, or agreeable somehow.
Paris felt like a collection of villages. London feels like a wet, cold Houston.
If there’s a conclusion I could draw from our time in Europe, it is this: the notion of a European Union is only a political one, and that of doubtful utility. Another conclusion, related to the first, is one I came to earlier: as an ideal, Europe is dead. But now I would add this: France, as an ideal, as a way of living, for all its limitations, Is not dead. It, like the rest of us, may be living in a an Iron Age, but live it does. Vive la France. (And I’m not even being sarcastic.)
Latvia and Buchenwald were the point of the trip, as it were, but, as Oscar Wilde said, “All good Americans go to Paris when they die.” I believe that in the scheme of things S. and I have been good Americans.