La Ville d’Amour: Euro Tour Update #3

“Five days in Paris.” Even the sentence sounds romantic. Say it in French and my knees get weak. I have passed through the cloud of romantic illusion and I am typing this from the (ironically misty, but) comparatively clear and clean-cut realm of the Netherlands. Right now I am sitting in a poche library in the small town of Nijmegen, which took me several tries to pronounce properly and now I sound like a local. The white walls, lime-green chairs and pine-coloured plastic tables are occupied by students who politely leave a chair unoccupied between each work station to provide for personal space. I have followed suit. On my right (after an empty chair) is a young woman writing out hexagonal, honeycomb-style chemistry tables. To my left (after an empty chair) is another young woman highlighting a photocopied booklet in Dutch with a bright orange highlighter pen.

Tonight is my first Holland show, but first I have lots to catch you up on.


I arrived in Paris on the 1st of November after the guitar dramas of London with much optimism and a refreshed attitude. My first day in Paris was the day of my show and my little lime green hotel room was a perfect 5-minute walk to the venue well-situated in the gritty Belleville area in the “11e arrondissement,” also known as “Chinatown Belleville.” How nice it was to wander into a little Chinese grocery store and purchase a few beloved Asian snacks to tide me over until dinnertime.

Officially: my Chinese is better than my French.


The gig was okay. The venue (L’Étage) isn’t the best for what I do, I must admit. The few chairs in front were sparsely occupied but the tables with their large plush chairs against the walls were filled with diners and the place was chatty. I had to berate them to pay attention and they did, for the most part—seems Parisians don’t mind being pushed around a bit—and afterwards I did the count and discovered that a total of 13 of the attendees that night had come to see me. Double digits for a first-time-in-the-territory show makes me proud. Two of the attendees were connected to my Canadian community, but the rest had some link to Beijing and China in general. How far-reaching the world is! I’d say 13 is a lucky start, no? (And there were two other bands that night so the place was pretty full.) The venue owner told me to contact him anytime I return to Paris. At least I know I’d have another gig…


The rest of my time in Paris was a sloppy romantic swirl of aspiration and inspiration. Yes, of course, I spent a day being a tourist and then I also went to see live music, discovered the joys of Parisian flea markets, made random friends in bars and cafés, walked endlessly, and slipped deeper and deeper into the romance of the city until a song was born and I was already living in Paris in my mind, with each of my kids walking beside me, their little hands in mine, me flipping a scarf over my shoulder after I’ve whisked them off to school, then spending my mornings sipping a café crème, writing, disappearing to a quiet sunlit salon to strum my guitar and tickle the belly of invention (发明者), and then enjoying “une verre” on a terrace in the afternoon to celebrate creation…


Okay, it was someone else’s life, but I lived it entirely in 5 days. I lived it with “une joie de vie” that filled me up. I lived it large.

When I boarded the train for Amsterdam on Monday morning, I felt an emptiness akin to a balloon draining of air. Dreams were left behind in Paris on that EuroStar train platform. Perhaps to be rediscovered on a future trip? But as Amsterdam loomed into focus, it brought me sharp lines and brilliant colours reflected in the mirrors of downtown canals.


The Netherlands will sober me up.

Apparently clarity is decidedly Dutch.

~ es


Holland Hoi! : Euro Tour Update #4
Lost in London: Euro Tour Update #2

©2024 Ember Swift. All Rights Reserved.
Design by Janine Stoll Media.