One night a year on a Saturday, Paris stays awake for “La Nuit Blanche”. In English this translates as “sleepless night”, which inevitably makes me think of Sleepless in Seattle. And there’s something to be said about Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan meeting at the Empire State Building too. I thought it would be fitting to re-enact this moment, but instead of mocking up an Empire State Building in Paris, what better place to meet than directly under the Eiffel Tower before marching off into the night? So that’s exactly what I did.
There are probably easier places to meet than under the Eiffel Tower however. Number one, it’s a bit clichéd so everyone does it, which leads to number two which is that it gets a little crowded so you see a lot of lost faces searching intently for friends, lovers and online targets. Made worse by it being night-time (hello darkness), which comes in at number three. This wasn’t helped by the fact that it was also raining, which didn’t exactly enrich my vision and meant every Sam, Bill and Harry was either holding an umbrella or wearing a rain coat. Chameleon city. But eventually I found my friends and after complaining nonstop about the weather, the cold, the puddles and the fact that I was tired, we went on our merry way. I notice I’m being very cynical. Never underestimate meeting someone under the Eiffel Tower. It's a pretty breath-taking affair.
I have a feeling we then wondered over a bridge somewhere, excitedly pointed at a boat which was all lit up, politely declined an invitation to hop on a moving party bus (I lie, we weren’t actually invited), and played an intriguing game called “spot the puddle” which usually ended with someone getting wet feet before the puddle was spotted. That was until we got an event plan for the evening, received a free bag full of “goodies” (aka fliers), and hopped on the tube. Since 2 out of the 3 of us enjoy flocking regularly to the theatre, we decided to go Le Theatre du Rond-Point to satisfy our inner thespian. Turns out that it was actually “psychoanalysis night”. Oh, Freud would be proud. So I essentially waited in a queue for half an hour to speak to a woman in a 60s wig and a royal blue woollen suit (I say 60s, but I’m pretty much guessing the decade). A woman who then gave me a black stain on a piece of paper and told me to speak, as if this stain would stir my very own Oedipus complex. Speaking French is hard enough already, but having to stare at an unrecognisable mark for five whole minutes and comment on it in French so that a woman can go all Freudian on you is another matter altogether. It went something like “Je vois le visage d’un bull”. “And what’s this bull like?” she would ask. As much as I wanted to say “it’s the same bull you’re looking at, so why don’t you tell me?”, I responded with “err…aggresif, violent, grand”. She nodded annoyingly, as if she were trying to determine my inner being; as if she had me all figured. As I peered deeper into the image I started seeing floating rabbits, gory faces, gloomy caves and deserted islands. I do think it’s dangerous to stare at something for too long. Especially when you’re told that you’re actually looking at a picture of your mother. Her last words to me? “Reflect on this”. Well that’s useful. Aren’t you the one who’s supposed to do the reflecting for me? Don’t make me do your job!
The night ensued and queues for all the worthwhile galleries and museums were snaking round the city. Next stop was a nightclub turned old-fashioned projection room with random, unrelated images which were flashing up on a concrete wall. It was trying ever so hard to be artsy, but all it succeeded in giving me was a headache. Projectors aside, this looked like no nightclub I’d ever been in before. No alcohol stains or sticky sofas; no bar area or flashing spotlights. Just a semi-underground concrete block. Hello prison!
The next part of the night was a little too exciting. Imagine going to Disneyland for the first time. Triple that. This was the extent of my excitement. Bubbles. Whatever legend says, bubbles are not just for kids. And whenever I think of bubbles I can’t help but be reminded of the scene in Finding Nemo in the fish tank. And anything that reminds me of Finding Nemo has the thumbs up from me. Blowing bubbles is definitely an underrated activity. But having a bubble machine that lights up and produces bubbles faster than I can say the word “bubbles”, made this little “occasion” in a league of its own. Physics bored me in school. But these were rainbow coloured bubbles. I then realised that it was the refraction of light and ROYGBIV suddenly all made sense to me.
I then went to the most amazing ice-cream shop known to man, courtesy of a friend who is all too aware of my sweet tooth. They even make your ice-cream in the shape of rose petals. Unnecessary, but oh so pwetty. They didn’t have my beloved mint choc chip which would usually infuriate me, but I decided that since I was in one of Paris’s most revered ice-cream parlours, it would be rude not to try one of their many gourmet flavours. Thankfully my friend was a connoisseur so pointed me in the right direction. Anything that looks and tastes mildly like nutella has always got my vote. Secondly, Speculoos. This name makes me laugh because it’s just, well, funny. But the flavour was sensational. Tasted almost like a mild ginger nut biscuit within an ice-cream, with caramelised sugar cane, cinnamon and nutmeg (apparently). Unfortunately my taste-buds aren’t that refined. But whatever they put in it was darn tasty! After feeling rather chuffed with myself as I held my ice-cream in one hand and my umbrella in the other, I licked the ice-cream like there was no stopping me. Talk about guilty pleasures.
I was tucked up in bed by 3am because I had work the next morning (on a Sunday, yes). But even though I wasn’t Sleepless in Paris, I was still Dreaming of Paris.
Watch this space.