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E-Mailing Through Europe >> Paris, France 2001

Ah, Paris

Date: Thu, 2 Aug 2001 08:04:46 -0700 (PDT)
From: k p
Subject: Youth Hostels, My Mother and Norman Bates' Mother

Paris begins when I made it to 3 Ducks Youth Hostel, the same place I stayed three years ago on my last European trip. (check that out at:

The place is exactly the same, which is a good thing. It costs US $18. Essentially it's a bar and social place to meet other English-speaking travellers and maybe get some sleep if you're lucky, or something else if you're single and really lucky.

It's a young person's place, and I got to enjoy being young and stupid again for one night. I had arrived at 6 pm. The courtyard stays open until 10:30 and the attached bar until 2 am. I spent the entire 8 hours chatting with English speakers from all over the US, Canada, and the colonies of HRH. This was particularly nice after the isolation from being on my own for a week in French and German speaking countries. During those social hours, I enjoyed an eight course meal; each of the courses was a Heinekin.

Among the many people I met that night was Ben, a bright-eyed, 18-year-old from a small Canadian town outside Toronto. (Everyone that night came from the 51st state, it seems. It's fun to make fun of Canada in front of Canadians. They pretend to be upset, but you know they won't actually do anything about it. They are so ... nice. Like midwesterners, but without the whole crazy second amendment thing.) After chatting for a while and impressing young Ben with my worldly wisdom, he and I had this snippet of conversation:

Ben: "So how old are you?"

Ken: "Very old."

Ben: "Twenty five?"

Ken: "Older."

Ben: (eyes expanding) "Twenty seven?"

Ken: "Thirty one."

Ben: Silence

Ben: Silence

Ben: "Wow. That's old."

Finally, the room began to get fuzzy, the curfew bell rang, and I retired to my mattress, which was on the floor of room 10. That's a good thing, as it turns out. The four bunk beds enjoyed by my roomates were high up, and thus very hot. It was cool inches above the floor and the beer smoothed out any lumps I might have otherwise felt.

The next morning I woke, sipped coffee and juice (this "breakfast" is included in the $18 fee) then put on my pack to go find mother. After a week of walking around with my pack, I barely notice it. I walked for well over an hour, and it almost never occured to me that I had the pack on. Very different from a week before in Grenoble, when each step after 15 minutes seemed like walking through water.

I got lost and found on the Paris streets, then waited in front of 11 Rue d'Assline for Mama to arrive with the keys to the apartment we'd be staying in through Saturday. After that it's back to real life and New York City. I'm not ready to begin real life again. I've truly enjoyed these 4-plus weeks. The first 3 with Eva and my cousins English and French were perfect, and the last week kept getting better as I adjusted to the solo traveller life. I could get used to this, and plan to explore opportuntities to do travel writing when I get back. Can you imagine getting paid to do this? C'est parfait.

Mama finally arrived, and she was a bit slow from the red-eye flight. We settled into the apartment and showered (much more sanitary than the youth hostel) and then walked all over Paris, including the Catacombs and the Pompedeu museum, which has an exhibit of L'art de Hitchcock.

This exhibit is way more creepy than the catacombs, which house thousands upon thousands of human bones and skulls that were dug up from Parisian cemeteries in the 19th century and stacked methododically in huge caves 20 meters below Paris. I think the reason the catacombs were not more compelling is because of history more modern than when these bones were stacked high and deep underground. Its a bit out of context, but each pile of bones and skulls somehow reminded me and mom both of the holocaust, so it was more sad than anything else. Good place for a halloween party, though.

Hitchcock, on the other hand, was fantastically creepy. The exhibit focused on the art that influenced the movie producer, the art that germinated from his genuis and a lots of objects, pictures and film clips from his many movies. Rebecca's notebook; Jimmy Stewart's camera from The Bedroom Window; the broken 1960s eyeglasses from the The Birds. So cool!

The exhibit paid homage to the cleverness of all things Hitch, as well as to his influences and contemporaries such as Edgar Alan Poe, Max Ernst, Magritte, Dali and Munch, among others. It all was cleverly mixed in with clips or photos from Hitch's films. Some included french subtitles, but all were in their original English.

They even had the disembodied skeletal head of Norman Bates' mother ("la tete de Madame Bates") and recreated the hotel room where poor Ms. Leigh met her demise. Just next to the Bates Motel room, they posted this quote from Hitch:

"With the help of television, murder should be brought into the home, where it rightly belongs. Some of our most exquisite murders have been domestic; performed with tenderness in simple settings like the kitchen table or bathtub."

Finally, there were movie posters for his films. Such stars he worked with! Sean Connery in Marnie, Laurence Olivier in Rebeccca, and of course Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in Notorious. Well, renting these films is something to look forward to back in NYC.

Tonight we hope to go on a bike tour of Paris if the thunderstorms pass over, and tomorrow is the Louvre. Then Saturday I fly home and Mom is off to paint in Brittany.

Au reviour. I'll try and write once more before I leave; if not, a final note from New York will have to do.


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