I'd been in Paris for two months and winter was fast approaching. So last week it was good to land back in Sydney, where summer is in the air.
It's the season for catching up with family and friends. I tend to do that in small measure, so it's always a pleasure. Yesterday I enjoyed a visit from my niece, who was up from Melbourne, and there are a couple of friends I hope to see before Christmas.
One is Catherine Marshall, a former colleague from Eureka Street's publisher Jesuit Communications. She left the security of institutional employment about the same time as me, to become a freelance travel writer. She's had notable success at that, having recently been named the Australian Society of Travel Writers' Travel Writer of the Year, for the second year in a row.
I don't get excited by most of the travel writing I read in Fairfax and The Australian newspapers. That's because because economic reality ensures that it is heavy on either promotion or click-bait. But Catherine has a knack of doing the obligatory product placement in a way that does not interfere with the integrity of her observations and life musings.
I was particularly interested in her latest piece on a recent visit to Paris and how she felt she'd aged in the 25 years since her previous visit.
She writes of having returned to Paris with her best friend and original travelling companion. Both were 'wide-eyed young women visiting Europe for the first time'.
As it happens, their first visit to Paris would have been in 1993 - the year of my first visit. My subsequent visit was also not until many years later (2011).
Catherine describes her first visit as a 'fleeting, whirlwind blitz' that contrasts with their 2018 desire to 'discover the city at an unhurried pace'.
I think that my 1993 visit would have been even more fleeting than theirs.
Mine lasted a mere four hours. I was a 33 year old mature age backpacker on my first trip to Europe. I'd not had the opportunity to travel before, so I wanted to cram as much as possible into the short time available. So Paris was part of the 'five countries in five days' itinerary I'd planned for myself.
I recall finding my way to the Sacré-Coeur basilica at Monmartre, feeling judged on the Metro for being so unkempt, and being served 'two' (deux) espresso coffees when I thought I was asking for 'some' coffee (du café). Then it was time to board the train for Barcelona.
The unhurried pace of Catherine's return visit involved slowly gliding along the Seine in a glass-roofed Batobus tourist barge (the subject of her product placement). The unhurried pace of my present-day return visiting is about giving the city two months - instead of four hours - of my time, in the hope of a far greater return on my investment.
Link: Catherine's article