> 14/9/02 - James,
Didn't know that you are on some long tour of the continent. Are
you coming pass London sometime? Or even Paris in during the last
weekend of this month? Cheers, Kevin Kuek.
And the following emails
give a good introduction to the story ...
> 16/9/02 - Hi Kev,
I was in London for less than a day last month, and I was in Paris
just long enough to change trains 2 weeks ago ... But I'd still
like to see Paris if possible. The only reason I didn't stay in
Paris was because I didn't have anyone to see it with. ... So if
you'd like, we can meet in Paris on the last weekend of this month,
September 28-29. Let me know if this is OK and we'll make some definite
plans for a one or two day get-together. Good to hear from you Kev.
> 18/9/02 - James,
Would love to catch up ... BUT don't change your travel plans for
this. It will only be perhaps for lunch (and some touristy things)
OR dinner on the Sat/Sun. I'm 50/50 at the moment .... cos I'm going
thru moving places. Should be done this weekend .... but you never
know. Will let you know early next week. But would be great to catch
up on the other side of the world! ;) Cheers. Kev
> 18/9/02 - Hi Kev,
I'll settle for a 50/50 chance at this stage. But I'm really hoping
to see a bit of Paris and get some photos in front of the Eiffel
Tower. � so meeting you in Paris would actually improve my trip
rather than hinder it. And did I understand you correctly about
getting a Mohegan haircut??? I'm currently growing a beard (just
for the heck of it), so it'll be good to have some photos taken
together. I'm sure the guys back at Alfred Toastmasters would love
to see them. Looking forward to seeing if the odds of us meeting
in Paris improve over the next few days. James Taris
> 24/9/02 - James,
I will be in Paris this weekend .... arriving late on fri and plan
to leave either late sun or early mon morning. What's your plan
....... and remember don't stress out changing your schedule. Hopefully
we can catch up either Sat or Sun sometime. Let me know either way.
> 24/9/02 - Hi Kev,
That's great news. You may not know it, but Collingwood (carn the
pies!) will be playing Brisbane in the Grand Final this weekend.
So I'll be on the internet Saturday morning from 6.30-9.10am. Therefore
my preference would be to either meet for dinner on Saturday night
or lunch on Sunday. But I'll confirm that once I've checked the
train schedule. ... I'll get back to you soon. James Taris
> 24/9/02 - yes
- definitely know .... trying to find if there are any oz pubs in
paris telecasting the match ...
> 24/9/02 - Hi Kev,
What a great idea! Watching the game (live or delayed telecast)
would be much better than just following the scores on the internet.
But at 6.30am? Maybe in the UK, but probably a long-shot in Paris.
But don't let me put you off trying! Let me know if you have any
success and I'll certainly be there. It'd make a great story! James
Many other emails followed,
but we did manage to find an Aussie pub in Paris which was telecasting
the greatest game in the world � LIVE!
So on at 9.10pm Friday night,
September 17 (Grand Final Eve), I arrived in Paris by train. I had
been warned that the Australian Pub, Caf� Oz, was in rue Saint Denis
(ie. St.Denis Street) � heart of the Paris "red light district". And
Kevin suggested I'd probably prefer to stay overnight in some other
area. So soon after arriving in the capital of France, I managed to
find a cheap hotel, Modern's Hotel (definitely a misnomer!), near
the main train station. At 36 euros for the night, it was significantly
cheaper than the 60-78 euros demanded by neighbouring hotels.
Unfortunately I was given
a room on the 3rd floor, and there was no lift! When I told the hotel
manager (or should I say "scruffy guy wearing dirty shorts and t-shirt
behind the counter") that I wouldn't be able to carry my luggage up
3 flights of stairs, he promptly lifted my 30kg suitcase onto his
shoulder and started running up the narrow staircase with it, and
me in hot pursuit. Mind you, he wasn't running by the time he got
to my floor, in fact, I almost overtook him before we got there. And
by then he was panting quite desperately, and most probably regretting
he'd ever picked up my suitcase in the first place.
It was at that moment that
I realised that carrying my luggage back downstairs again was definitely
going to be my job. But at least it was all downhill.
The room was very basic
('primitive' would probably be a more descriptive word) with a wash
basin and bidet, but without a shower or a toilet. Communal toilets
were tucked away just off the staircase, half way between each floor.
And the shower was a small and dirty room, all the way down on the
first floor. Needless to say, I didn't use the shower. But I must
confess that I never realised how efficient a wash basin and bidet
could be. Sometimes you just need a little creative thinking!
The Grand Final satellite
telecast was due to start at 6am the next morning, so I made sure
I didn't stay up too late. At 10.30pm I managed to ring Kev (as promised)
and he still hadn't reached his uncle's place who was expecting him
for dinner much earlier that night. In fact, when I talked to him,
he was walking along the Avenue des Champs Elysees, telling me he
was lost, though he knew his uncle lived around there somewhere. Maybe
he should call him!
Anyway, by 11pm I was in
bed and fast asleep.
The alarm clock woke me
up at 4.30am, and by 5.45am I was waiting outside Caf� Oz while they
cleaned the premises in preparation for an early onslaught of footy-starved
Aussie travellers. When the doors opened at 5.57am, Kevin still hadn't
arrived, so I had breakfast (2 pots of Fosters Lager!) without him.
To cut a long story short
� Collingwood lost by 9 points. But they fought valiantly all day
long, in the most thrilling Grand Final since 1989, when Geelong lost
to Hawthorn by only 5 points.
Kevin was late getting to
the pub. He'd managed to get lost again, and had to walk a couple
of kilometres along rue Saint Denis, dodging "ladies of the night"
every 10 metres or so. He assured me that he'd refused all advances,
and I believed him (though thousands wouldn't). So he finally got
to the pub around 6.25am, just as the first quarter of football was
coming to an end.
After the game, we decided
to have photos taken outside the pub. I set up the shot so we could
be photographed with the pub's name in the background. But just before
we took the photo, this scruffy middle-aged lady carrying a large,
clear plastic bag of plastic bottles and cans, came and stood directly
behind us. And no matter how politely we asked, she refused to budge!
Eventually, out of total
frustration, I said, "Do you want money?"
"If you like," she shrugged.
"Then move all the way over
here," I indicated, pointing to a spot safely out of camera shot.
And even though she was
slow to move, she finally dragged herself there, as I dangled the
money "carrot" in front of her. And what did it cost me? Half a euro
did the trick (about one Aussie dollar).
But I can't help but think
she'd done this hundreds of times before. Because as we walked away,
I curiously glanced over my shoulder only to see her crossing the
street away from the pub. Obviously no reason to be standing there
any more. And maybe a better vantage point as she waited for her next