Sunday 22nd August, Paris, France.

Maria and me at the Sacre Couer Basillica

My train arrived into Paris' Gare de Lyon right on time, and I hurried to the adjoining Metro station. There was no need to consult the large wall mounted Metro map; I'd already rehearsed the Metro ride in my head- I needed to travel east on the yellow line, two stops to Nation. There I'd transfer to the blue line and travel thirteen stops to Anvers. Somewhere in Montmartre, just a short walk from Anvers Metro station, Maria would be waiting for me at our hotel. She flew into Paris a couple of hours earlier. As each of the thirteen Metro stations arrived, and the train doors opened and abruptly closed, I restarted the countdown to Anvers. I couldn't belive I was in Paris, and that Maria was waiting for me just seven stations away. No, six. Five. Four. Three. Two. One. Anvers station.

Sacre Couer Basillica..Acr de Triomphe.

Our plan for the weekend was to have absolutely no plan. We had both been to Paris before, myself twelve years ago, Maria more recently. She hadn't been overly impressed with the city at the time. That was about to change, I promised her. We started with a stroll to the spectacular Sacre Couer Basillica, which was only two blocks from our hotel. On a clear day, the gardens of Sacre Couer offers panoramic views across greater Paris. Sadly Friday was far from clear. Our short stroll somehow evolved into a cross capital exploration, from Montmartre to the Arc de Triomphe, down the Champs Elyses and across the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Phew! That would be a long enough walk for most people, but after a rest on the grass in the shadow of the 320 metre (900 feet) high tower we strode on ... to Place de la Concord, past the Louvre and across to Notre Dame Cathedral. By that time, it was well after dark. I explained to Maria the subtle difference between the words 'strolling' and 'traipsing'. I was worried that we were about to cross the line between the former and the latter, so we caught the Metro back to Montmartre and sat down to relax in a funky little bar right smack in the middle of the red light district, surrounded by sex shops, peep shows and porn cinemas. It had already been a memorable weekend, and Saturday was only a couple of hours old.

Artist, Montmartre..Artist, Montmartre.

Over the course of the weekend, our meanderings were to take us back to most of the famous landmarks at least twice, if not more like three or four times. Saturday got off to a rainy start. In fact it was so cool that I returned to the hotel to grab my sweatshirt. Still, it didn't stop us from revisiting Sacre Couer. Again there was little in the way of a view, but neither of us seemed to care. I was more interested to revisit the artist market behind Sacre Couer, a little area that I'd been most impressed with on my visit to Paris in 1992. We found the small square, flanked by restaurants and cafes, and packed with artists, displaying their work and hawking portraits and caricatures. In the corner I spotted a wonderful looking grey bearded character, sitting on a stool, smoking a long pipe. Sheltering from the drizzle under his umbrella was a perfect self portrait of the old man. Rather than try to sneak a quick photo of him like I usually do, I decided to ask permission. Initially he declined, on the grounds that the constant flash of cameras was no good for his old eyes. After convincing him that I was sufficiently master of my own camera that I could guarantee him there would be no blinding flash, he gestured me to go ahead and snap away. When I moved to the side for a second photo, my subject smiled and informed me that the first photo is always free, but a second pic would cost me a cup of coffee. I told him it was well worth a coffee, and after I got the shot I wanted, Maria and I set off in search of three takeaway coffees. The old artist was obviously surprised to see me return. I was sad that he expected me to not be true to my word. He came from former Yugoslavia, and in fluent Spanish introduced himself to Maria as Esteban. To me he was Stevan, and he was excited to hear that I had the same name. He thanked us several times for the coffee, and when we left him, I felt like it had already been a great day.

Gargoyle, Sacre Couer..Gargoyle, Sacre Couer.

We wanted to check out a bookshop over in the Latin Quarter, across the bridge from Notre Dame. (Our sudden interest in bookshops will be explained later.) So, weaving a different route through the city, we ended up at the Pompidou Centre. It must have been after three o'clock by then, and the loud rumbling from our stomachs was beginning to startle fellow pedestrians. Lunch was in order, and as it happens we were just a hundred metres from a restaurant that had been recommended to me by a friend who had lived in Paris. I whipped out my Paris notes, and read aloud "Dame Tartine's in the gardens of the Pompidou Centre". Around the next corner, we came across a courtyard full of all manner of bizzare and surreal fountains, spraying water this way and that. My favourite was the colourful statue of a reclining woman, rotating slowly on an axis at her hip, all the time spraying water generously from one nipple. Across the courtyard was a sign that read "Dame Tartine's". I was so hungry I could have eaten warm roadkill, but I didn't have to. I ordered the chicken in a cream sauce with cinnamon and almonds on a bed of wild rice, and a carafe of cider. All of it was delicious. Maria ordered the vegetable lasagne and a beer, and said that she wished she'd ordered the chicken.

Dining at Dame Tartine's in the gardens of the Pompidou Centre..Picnic in the Jardins des Tulleries.

The events of the two and a half days in Paris seem to have blended into each other so that now, only two days later, I find it near impossible to recall which things happened on which days. Luckily, it's totaly unimportant. What I do remember is that on the Saturday night we took a boat cruise up and down the Seine, passing underneath some impressive number of Paris' famous bridges. There was a commentary in alternatively French, Spanish and English, but as bridge after bridge came and went, and the illuminated Eiffel Tower grew more and more enormous as we approached, I was lost in the moment and can honestly say I didn't hear a word of the commentary. After the cruise, Maria and I walked to the nearest bar and waited over a cold beer for the Eiffel Tower to put on its midnight show. Every hour, on the hour, the lighting on the tower is transformed for a few minutes from a dull but striking yellowish glow to a shower of bright white flasing brilliance. I ran out to the footpath at midnight to get a few shots of the tower in all its glory, but as with so many of my photos from the weekend, the pictures came so far from capturing the moment that I have deleted them off my laptop.

Eiffel Tower..Eiffel Tower.

I remember that it was on the last day, Sunday that we finally found a clear view from the gardens of Sacre Couer Basillica- we had visited the grounds every day. In spite of her blisters from the inordinate amount of walking we'd been doing, Maria was keen to tackle the hundreds of narrow, winding steps that lead to the top of the Basillica. The view from the top was just the thing to top off a wonderful weekend in this, the most romantic of cities. In the distance, the Eiffel Tower stuck itself into the sky as if in indignation. Maria relayed to me the story of the tower, that it was built in 1889 for the World's Fair, held to commemorate the revolution. It was only intended to be a temporary structure, which I find unfathomable. In 1909, its imminent destruction was delayed on the grounds that it provided an excellent platform for the newfangled transmitting antannae. It is now the most visited monument in Europe. Imagine being the numbnuts that wanted to pull the thing down; your children and grandchildren would never let you live it down. "Look at the Eiffel Tower, soaring above Paris, attracting millions of tourists and probably billions of dollars to the country... and you wanted to tear it down for scrap!" I felt more and more moved by the enormity and the strange beauty of that tower every time I saw it, which during the weekend was every time I turned my head. It seems that wherever you are in Paris, the Eiffel Tower is there with you.

The newest addition to my 'wishlist'..Ferris wheel in the Jardins des Tulleries.

So there you have it. We strolled the gardens of the Palais Royal, we picnicked in the Jardins des Tulleries. We sipped coffee on the Champs Elysees. On Sunday when our hours together were dwindling, we queued for over half an hour to buy an ice cream from a streetside kiosk near Notre Dame, apparently the best ice cream in Paris. Then we lay down on the grass on the western end of the Ile St Louis, and waved to the passing boats, just as others had waved to us the previous evening. In the glow of the afternoon sun, we both fell asleep, and by the time we woke, our weekend was over. All that was left was to return to the hotel and collect our luggage from storage, then sit silently over one last cup of coffee in a sidewalk cafe. Maria left for the airport and I retreated to the familiarity of an internet cafe, pondering this life that I've carved for myself. This life of goodbyes.