My third Paris trip for the year was rather bittersweet. It happened three weeks after the November attacks, and it felt very much like adéjà vu. I wish I could say that we had an amazing time, but we didn’t, although we did try. Paris was different, subdued, and every sparkling Christmas decoration looked out of place. Yet, the city was still beautiful, the food still incredible, and the cappuccino still the best. Here are a few Paris moments:
• Flowers and candles for Paris.
2. The Blue Carpet
I’d never refuse to go to a film premiere, especially when it’s for Ron Howard’s latest film, and Chris Hemsworth is expected to be in town. Everything was very last minute (the best surprises usually are), and there I was, on the blue carpet, still wearing my work clothes (I didn’t even have time to put my makeup on), thankfully enjoying a complete anonymity. I really wanted to love In The Heart of the Sea but I didn’t. I blame Rush and A Beautiful Mind for that, as they're not only two of my favourite Ron Howard's films but two of my favourite films ever. The man just knows how to tell a story on the big screen.
Similarly, In The Heart of the Sea deals with a few difficult subjects – the controversial whale oil trade, corruption, survival at sea – yet, for some reason, the script didn’t have the depth (ha!) it needed to make this a great film. But walking the blue carpet was a lot of fun, all the X-factor stars were there, enjoying their moment in the limelight, and yes, seeing Chris Hemsworth in real life for a second time was definitely worth it.
Running errands and shopping for presents in December can be a bit of a nightmare. It really gets that crazy, and all the little details of London's festive transformation are often completely lost. But if you tried to leave the house, pretending you're doing it without a purpose, it could be a whole other experience.
If you tried to forget about the crowds and the traffic and the queues, the city would seem charming and welcoming, the window displays so much more vibrant, the Christmas lights so much more cheerful; you'd actually stop to buy roasted chestnuts and silly Santa hats and quirky stocking fillers, and you'd definitely stop to listen to the buskers.
4. The Force is Finally Awake
Weeks and weeks ago, we purchased our tickets for the Saturday screening at the IMAX cinema: film start time – four o’clock in the morning. But then, on the Wednesday, we had to go to the ballet, and this just happened to be the night of the European premiere of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. And it was the BIGGEST, LOUDEST, MOST SECURITY-CRAZED film premiers I’ve ever seen!I know, I'm a fan, but witnessing Darth Vader marching down the red carpet, flanked by his army of stormtroopers, was definitely one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments.
5. The Nutcracker Season
It's on TV, in cinemas and in every ballet hall. Your school may be staging it, even your local church might have decided to give it a go. This year, I decided to watch The Nutcracker on the big screen, courtesy of Pathé Live. This famous Bolshoi production was with the 1966 libretto and choreography by Yuri Grigorovich, and Denis Rodkin and Anna Nikulina in the principle roles.
6. Christmas Cooking
Proper Bulgarian Christmas means a lot of cooking. A lot a lot! And if you wanted to make everything from scratch, you'd have to start in September: marinating cabbage in salty water, air-drying red peppers on string on your balcony or in your pantry, scouting around for the best quality beans and rice and walnuts and flour and the finest filo sheets for the baklava. This takes time and expertise, research and local wisdom. My daily conversations with my mum often revolved around her latest precious acquisition and cabbage update, so when I arrived in Sofia on the 23 December, all I had to do was start cooking.
8. Kerouac’s Original Scroll
I first read On the Road in Bulgarian. I was in my early twenties, and although I enjoyed the book, I didn’t know then enough about the writing process, to appreciate fully the significance of Kerouac’s work. Twenty years and several rereads later, I recently purchased a copy of the original scroll (in a book form) from the little Parisian bookstore Shakespeare and Company. Here’s a snippet from Kerouac’s original breakneck, urgent prose:
Here are a few interesting facts about the scroll:
• It’s 120-foot long (that's about 36 metres);
• The narrative is one long paragraph, single-spaced, written on tracing paper sheets;
• Kerouac uses his friends’ real names, so if you’ve already bonded with Sal Paradise, Dean Moriarty and Carlo Marx, it does take a bit getting used to;
• Film rights were bought by Coppola in the 1980s for $95,000;
• The price of the original scroll in 2001 – $2.43 million;
• And here’s the amazing part – it took Kerouac only three weeks to write it.
9. December Moments
• Enjoying a few treats in Paris;
• And a few more things:
I wanted to end this post on a positive note, and I think I got it. Over the last 12 months, I managed to catch up on a lot of films, concerts and documentaries thanks to Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Prime. But every time I needed some cheering up (let’s face it, we all have those moments), I trusted only one person to do it – Michael McIntyre. So, it only makes sense to round off all the festivities with two of my favourite sketches.
And some more Michael McIntyre.