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An Evening In Paris
Apleasantly nippy October day unfolded into an enchanting evening perfectly suited to a river cruise. "Oui, oui, it is the best madam," says the taxi driver as he reads 'Bateaux Parisiens' pencilled by the concierge on a piece of hotel stationery. There it is, across the road from the Eiffel Tower. A number of boats rock gently on the water, dressed with red and white trimmings. As people step aboard, the boats, disturbed by the footfall, try to regain their balance. "Welcome aboard. For English commentary please use the earphones," says a sweet voice. The hostess is a pretty French girl. The English voice on the earphone is male, husky and deep. As the boat leaves the banks behind, cutting an unhurried trajectory down the river Seine, history and literature become fellow cruisers. The Romanesque Church of Notre Dame passes by and an imaginary outline of Victor Hugo's Hunchback seems to emerge from the long evening shadows. The Louvre goes by, as does the University of Sorbonne from where Goethe studied poetry by a correspondence course. And there is the infamous guillotine where, along with the aristocracy and many plebs, the King of France, Louis XVI, was executed during the French revolution of the 18th century. Liberty, Equality and Fraternity—the words echo from nowhere and everywhere. Everything in Paris, as seen from the Seine, is frozen in time. The romance of the city comes from the stories in stone. Every pillar, every architectural detail, every statue—gold, black or in stone—has a link to the past. You cannot not fall in love with Paris. The kissing couples on the banks would agree. As will that lone guitarist in an orange sweatshirt or the painter in military cargos who whistles as she works on her easel. The Eiffel Tower is now bedecked with glittering lights as the colours of dusk deepen the horizon. Wow! so this is Paris, I say loudly. But the English voice on the earphone doesn't pay any heed. "Paris is the city of light, fashion and fine food," he says by rote. "A moveable feast," as Hemingway once said.