I had one week of vacation left and I got it right this time – I didn’t give any lectures, I didn’t answer work email, but instead I packed my bag, met up with a friend in the airport and flew to Paris. Paris, I think, is always a right choice. Or a right answer.

I had never been to Paris before so I walked around the city for four days with my eyes and heart wide open. And I liked what I saw. Of course, there are always bizarre things about a foreign place, things you’re not used to. So also in Paris. The streets over there can be quite dirty, the traffic chaotic (well, European chaotic, not Bangladeshi chaotic), the Parisians wouldn’t want to speak to you in English even if their dear life depended on it, and they served us breakfast in the hotel that only consisted of sweet pastries and jam. I returned home with a serious sugar shock and renewed love for rye bread and morning porridge. But the rest was wonderful. We walked some 45 km over these days, deciding on a whim each morning where we would want to go. We saw the Notre-Dame, Montmartre, the Latin quarter, Orsay museum, Louvre, Hotel des Invalides (the man who created these last two places, namely Louis XIV, was very clearly suffering from megalomania), Champs Elysees, Luxembourg garden, Pantheon (again, traces of imperialistic megalomania – if Londoners have got their St Paul’s cathedral and Romans their St Peter’s basilica, we can certainly build a bigger cathedral just for the sake of having a bigger building), Sorbonne university, Shakespeare and Co bookshop, and miles and miles of smaller and larger boulevards, early in the morning, late at night, with the weather as warm as summer. My feet were tired and my heart was very happy.

I had to admit to myself with a surprise (feeling like a traitor) that I liked Paris a lot better than London.

But the most wonderful thing about the trip was art. We went to three different art museums and drank so much from the cup of art that I could go on for the next year, not visiting any exhibitions. One of these places was Picasso’s museum which was some 15 minutes away from our hotel. The next day after visiting Picasso I insisted on going to Musee d’Orsay, mainly for the sake of the French impressionists. But they also had there a large special exhibition on Picasso which meant that we saw some 500 pieces of Picasso’s work over two days. I had only known one face of Picasso, from his late period, with all the cubism and strange figures and stuff. But I was very surprised to find a completely different Picasso there. It seemed to me that there's not one a style he hadn’t given a try during his long life. One of my personal favourites was this simple drawing from a 21 year old Picasso: Christ on the cross. I refrain from taking photos in art museums but this picture I really needed to have.   

Now I’m back home and very happy with the fact that I don’t have to take another trip until mid February (I’ll be preaching at Newbold’s Week of Spiritual Emphasis then). I like being put and quietly busying myself with my everyday business. I like doing my homework, I like going to concerts and singing classes, even long meeting days with the Conference leadership team are pleasant.

As to books and concerts (which deserve a separate post), I have almost reached this year’s goal. Last week I went to the 30th concert of 2018 – The King’s Singers was a good choice to celebrate my milestone while they celebrated their own milestone, their 50th anniversary. They sing as well as ever and look as dapper as ever. And I’m in the middle of my 30th book right now (I need some Eugene Peterson in my life every now and then). So the next concerts and books are just pure bonus and bliss.

And it smells of snow! I am impatiently waiting for the first snow to arrive!