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The longest is the shortest

I took this picture Sunday afternoon in Boulevard St Germain

I made it. On Saturday, after missing my early morning London-Paris Eurostar train, I got to Gare du Nord, Paris, at 18.02 after a fantastic eight hour trip from London to Paris passing by Dover and Calais. At the end, it was easier than I thought, and much cheaper than any of the other options, i.e. Eurostar or bus. I spent £27.50 + €41.50, that is a total of €75, when the bus was €124 and the Eurostar €196!

It was as interesting and entertaining as I foresaw when I wrote my previous post on the train from Charing Cross (London) to Dover. This first leg of the journey started with my first encounter of the day while I was waiting for the 10 am train to Dover before the gates to the platforms. To kill time, I asked to a member of the staff (a Revenue Protection Inspector) in which platform he thought it was going be. This question gave place to a nice little chat in which this guy, who had the job of checking the tickets and fine people if necessary, confessed that he doesn’t like to fine but to help people while on duty. He just had helped a couple who bought a 1st class ticket to get £20 each back, for on the train there is no first class, so they needed to downgrade their tickets. Then I told him about my trip to Paris, and he told me that he was leaving for Las Vegas with his family in the afternoon. His dream had always been to visit the Grand Canyon and fly over it on helicopter. Now he was going to realise this dream he had had since he saw the Grand Canyon in a movie (unfortunately I don’t remember the title).

Being Saturday in the morning, the train was nearly empty. I had a 4-seat place for myself, so I turned on my recently-purchased iPad, and while surfing the Internet, listening to music and eating a cheese sandwich with a mango smoothie, I wrote the post on how far Paris was.

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Paris is farer than it seems

I lost the train. This morning, for unfortunate circumstances I lost the 6.22 am Eurostar from London to Paris. A friend of mine was waiting for me on the train with a full breakfast (croissants, pain chocolate, fruit, juices…). And I missed it!

This trip has been planned for more than 10 years. All comes back to a night in Paris in 1999. Walking back home with a friend near La Bastille, we started to talk about the girl he was going out with. In the conversation I told him that my intuition told me that he was not going to be with her in six months time.

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The Will of Freedom

“The secret of happiness is freedom. The secret of freedom is courage.” – Thucydides

On a recent post I distinguished between the speed and freedom of a life alone and the depth and fulfilment of a life together. Yet I was somehow wrong in this differentiation, for we are not necessarily more free when we are alone. We may have much more liberty by being with the person we feel connected to.

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“I don’t believe in coincidences”

“What is coincidence? I don’t believe in coincidences”. This is what Hendrik van der Zee (“from the sea” in Dutch), aka the Flying Dutchman, says to Pandora Reynolds when she sees her face on the painting he is making the first time they meet in the film “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman“. He’s painting Pandora, the first woman in Greek mythology (watch video of the scene at the end of this post).

The film is about the legend of the Flying Dutchman, a XVII-century man who, after killing his wife for jealousy, is doomed to wander over the seas until he finds a woman who is ready to die for him. It is set in the 1930s in the Spanish port of Esperanza, where a group of wealthy British and American friends, including Pandora Reynolds from Indianapolis, live. The arrival of a boat with Hendrik van der Zee, changes everything.

This film has been with me from the beginning of my life, because it was filmed where my mother and her family spent her summers as a child and a teenager, Tossa de Mar, in those times a paradise (the movie starts with a dialogue between fishermen in Catalan). In fact, my mother, who was 8, was filmed with her dog, though the scene was cut from the final version. She remembered very well all about it, and she has told us the story many times, including how Ava Gardner revolted the whole town! I always wanted to see the film, but never did. Yesterday, I did it by “coincidence”, in the last minute I went to the BFI to see a movie, and there it was the only one showing at that time, a restored version of “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman”. I didn’t realise it was the same movie my mother talked to me about some many times – she always used the Spanish title of the movie – until I heard the fishermen talking.

I’ve taken very long to do it, but it seems that fate wanted me to see it now, not before. From the beginning to the end, the whole movie is full of references to things that cover my life today.


The tale of the Sun and the Moon

It is said that when the Earth was created, the Sun and the Moon were made of the same stone coming from a faraway place of the universe. The Sun was given the power of light and the Moon the power of beauty. During the day the Sun would illuminate the Earth, giving strength and energy to its creatures and plants. During the night the Moon would break the darkness with its soft silver light, inspiring the hearts of animals and humans. Every day and every night, the Sun would come and go when the Moon would go and come. For only very short moments the Sun and the Moon would vaguely see each other from the extreme sides of the earth. Because of its strong light, the Sun would not see the beauty of the Moon, and the Moon would not dare to look at the sun for fear of being burn. They were for each other a mere moment of every day and every night.

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We went far, we’ll go farer (I)

Before I left Moscow on Monday afternoon, I went to Saint Petersburg for a short weekend trip with a friend of mine. We left Moscow for Saint Petersburg at 6.40 am on Saturday 22 May. We arrived back to Moscow at 10.50 am on Monday 24 May. We slept a total of 6 hours during the whole trip. It was a total success (except for the tiny detail that I lost my iphone on Saturday night 🙁 ).

On my previous post I wrote that it was always a pleasure to travel with David Luff, my companion in this trip to the imperial city, for

We both love to walk in cities to explore those corners out of the tourist trail that hide its real essence.

How truthful this is. We’ve enjoyed like “des fous”. The weather couldn’t have been better, the city is beautiful and the people are very open and smiley (the sun might have helped). Among many experiences we had in just two days (it looked like a week), I’d like to mention three, divided in three different posts. The first concerns two very special religious ceremonies.

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Walking together to St Petersburg

Faithful to my words, I am travelling this weekend to Saint Petersburg with a very good friend of mine who also teaches at the MGIMO, David Luff. We understand each other very well. It is always a pleasure to talk to him about all types of topics – our lives, history, philosophy, work, travels, food, new ideas, female nature. He is a great company for travelling. We both love to walk in cities to explore those corners out of the tourist trail that hide its real essence.

We are right now on the speed train from Moscow. It takes a bit less than 4 hours for an 800 km journey. It is hyper-comfortable. Far better than the Eurostar. Now we travel fast, let’s see how far we get.

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If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far, walk together.

Since quite young, I’ve travelled alone to different parts in Europe, and then to the Middle East, Russia, United States, Mexico. There are advantages in travelling alone. Most and foremost, liberty. Liberty to decide where and how to go at any moment. Also when travelling alone you meet new people more easily, for you are more keen to talk with strangers, and strangers are more keen to talk to you. Yet, I’ve got the most pleasure in travelling, and I’ve got the furthest when travelling with someone that understands me and I understand. Travelling together brings new opportunities to the trip I wouldn’t even consider alone. It brings new views, perspectives and interpretations to my experiences that can push me to places and adventures I would have never thought by myself. This is the same for the trip of life.

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A walk in Victory

“One cannot stay at home with a day like this”, this is what I said to myself today at noon. I had tons of work, but outside the sun was calling my name. So I took my camera and headed towards Victory Park in Poklonnaya Hill, around 40 minutes walk from my flat (map below). I know my work should have been a priority, but one is not every day in Moscow. I don’t regret it even a bit! I took a few good pictures (click on them for bigger version).

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Digression on the dying disciplining tie

I’ve never liked ties. Now, like it happened with the hat, we are witnessing the last hours of it as a necessary garment at work and certain social events. More and more, I see how some men wear it and others don’t. The first are the ones who accept the powers that be, the establishment, those who want to play by the rules established by the top: the city (finance world loves it!), the civil servants, the consultants. And nearly anybody over 50 who works in an office. So the tie is becoming a symbol of old power in front of changing times that are empowering the individual.

The tie represents the disciplining of the person to make it fit within the necessary standards that bureaucratic structures need to function. Basically the tie says: “leave yourself out, we want someone that looks and acts like us, for we need uniformity to perform uniform tasks for the sake of efficacy”. But the new world needs the opposite, it needs creativity, innovation and personalisation. It needs the individual to be him/herself to get the maximum of his/her individuality. It needs diversity. This, the tie, at least when it is an “obligatory” piece of garment, and its disciplining effects cannot and won’t provide.