where am I?


I have fond memories of this place. I came here for the first time on a school trip. at fifteen or sixteen years old. I remember nothing of substance, of course. it’s just a feeling. a notion that I liked it here. that it would be great to come back. to visit again. I think it’s where I tried escargots for the first time. or it was somewhere else. I’m equally uncertain about acquiring a fondness for Roman ruins on that same trip. it may have happened years later. or is a preference I was born with.

it’s tiny. after years of living in bigger and bigger cities, it feels… I want to say charmingly quiet and contained… but I’m afraid it only feels small. part German trying to look French, part French trying to look German, it’s a patchwork of old and the kind of new one doesn’t necessarily like but can’t get away without. the postcards depicting the duke and duchess lack irony. people prefer to speak French but dress German. there is H&M, The Kooples, LadurĂ©e, McDo and stores selling expensive and rare oriental rugs and furniture made by people whose families haven’t had to work for a living in centuries. it’s conservative. proudly conventional. picturesque and quaint. it’s also cold.

I woke up to sever weather warnings, wondering when we lost our ability to figure out how to dress appropriately without help. common sense. I think it still exists in places that are conventional. conservative.

I have four full days to spend here. but instead of getting a guide book or sieving through travel blogs, I trust that I will see whatever I need to, and that there will be a chance to come back for the things I miss or that are closed in winter. the hotel is comfortable but nondescript. there are free hot drinks in the lobby. self-service. paper cups. it’s decidedly unglamorous. functional. all one needs. the rooms are warm, clean and modern. the carpet in the hallways spots an elaborate pattern that reminds me of sperm. and even though I can think of plenty of witty captions, it won’t feature on Instagram.

I sent a photo of last night’s dinner, home-cooked, delicious, and served with the attention to detail of a blind fish, to a friend in Asia who will appreciate it. but in an attempt to stay warm, and in the absence of sun or greenery to ease the grey misery, I take no other pictures. it’s winter. I’m not inspired. the pope says good Catholics don’t have to breed like rabbits. he also says he would punch a friend if that friend insulted his mother. the POPE. America says it had started infiltrating North Korea’s cyberspace months before the attack on Sony. they say this months after the attack on Sony. I say nothing. think of all the conspiracy theorists out there. and how I start to understand where they are coming from. aliens built the pyramids in South America. people sue five-year olds for not attending birthday parties. in Russia, a cat saves a baby.

there is this restaurant you should really eat at. authentic. the way it used to be. good location. great food. full of locals. the old ones who remember how things used to be. the museum a few minutes away from it is worth a visit too. and there is that other place, down, to the right before you cross the bridge. you should eat there too. it's good. it really is.