Sunday, January 11, 2009

new year in paris

Sam and Laura live just south of Montmartre, on Paris's most dogshit-strewn road. It doesn't sound like a glamorous address, put like that, but they have a lovely flat, just off Barbès-Rochechouart (the site where the first shot of the armed French resistance was fired), not least because Paris is such a walkable city and their location puts them right in the middle of things. We spent much of the period over New Year circling the nearby streets, admiring expensive produce in Patisserie windows, or, as often as not, walking off a hangover.

New Year, is, of course, the purpose for being there in the first place. It is shortly before midnight, and Ant and I have sealed off the lounge for our own private disco (noting that the Crass mix of 'Yeah' by LCD Soundystem is just the best dancing song EVER). The rest of the flat throbs with conversation, and at some point a decision is made that we should clamber up to the top of Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre's beautiful Catholic basilica, to watch the fireworks exploding over the city, launched in one year and landing in the next. The basilica is one of the most beautiful landmarks in Paris, so it feels like a real privilege to have the option of heading there. Interestingly, Sacré-Cœur is made of travertine stone, which constantly exudes calcite, apparently, which ensures that the basilica remains white even with weathering and pollution. True to form tonight it is hauntingly pale against the black sky, like an undimmed apparition seeing in the new year.

We pile out of the flat and begin climbing into Montmartre, although we don't really need to do much climbing at all as most of us board the Funicular up the hill, which tonight, like the Metro, is free, and enjoy watching Dan Chequers and Ant run up the stairs to beat us to the top. They succeed, impressively, for we find them at the top smiling and scanning their eyes excitedly round the vista, something we swiftly join them in. We're at the roof of Paris, and although it's shockingly cold, the collective good spirits of the huge crowd of people cheering and yelling seem to warm us through. It's a crowd which seems to be comprised of hundreds of small groups, so there is a constant multi-lingual chorus of voices calling out to people who have been separated in the throng.

We find a suitable vantage point, Sam happily taking on the role of group leader, pounding through the crowd with one arm raised. We glance at each other, amused. It appears he wants us to follow him. We do. Finally settled, we encounter a slight problem. It's hard to ascertain exactly when 2009 actually arrives. There is no collective countdown, no organised display and countless contrasting times on our mobile phones.

We wait a while, confused, before Sam finally shouts "Right, I've had enough of this", and ejects the cork from his bottle of champagne. Hooray, we shout, and cheer and kiss and swig from the bottle, and over the next few minutes pockets of friends scattered over the hill do exactly the same thing. Some fireworks are loosed, zinging over Montmartre at precarious angles, and at some unspecified point, to our delight, the new year begins. Kier has brought a tray of Ferrero Rocher which he begins dispensing to the crowd; I glance at Dan, who is visibly wincing every time Kier manages to miss a chance to give one to a pretty girl. He reminds me of the football fan whose foot moves involuntarily in the stands, playing every kick.

Afterwards we wind through Montmartre's narrow streets and end up in Sam and Laura's local, where it's many hours before, shattered, we return to the flat and, sobered by the walk, pick up the drinking again.


Milly said...

I want to live in Montmartre! This sounds a good New Year.

Anonymous said...

why is there no mention of dan's skin tight sports jacket?
please amend this oversight.

jonathan said...

You know what? I don't have a good photo of Dan's figure-hugging lycra vest. Can anyone help?