It is a matter of getting used to long-hauls. In a month's time, I was back in Europe arriving in London on a cold and rainy Summer evening reminding me that this is the place where all four seasons take place in a day. The next morning and setting all business aside, I hied off to Wimbledon where the annual tennis tournament was teeing off the following day. Hey, the All England Lawn Tennis Club is not anywhere around the centre of town. For those interested in visiting, a tube or train trip from London will take one to Wimbledon and a taxi ride from the train station is the best transport to the tennis courts which are a huge and complex affair. Very impressive and worthy of consideration as host of one of the world's grandslam tennis events.
Entrance to the All-England Lawn Tennis Club
Despite being in London for a week, I could not watch any of the matches as business meetings in London did not allow. I knew however that tickets have long been sold out through internet bookings which were raffled off to lucky buyers [I believe this is the same procedure for next year's Olympics - in London too]. It would have been my pleasure sitting in the stands along with famous celebs like Rory McIlroy. I could have stayed another couple of days or even a week just to watch a match or two and perhaps chance on any of the world's top four. Now, why did I not plan for that [But I already knew as early as January that I was visiting London!].
At the end of seven days, I left the moody London weather and took an early flight from Healthrow to Charles de Gaulle. I had enough of meetings. As usual, my mood completely changed soon as I set foot on the most chaotic airport of Europe. The sun was bright and the weather was hot [not just warm]. Why did I not take the Eurostar? I had wanted to really if only for the reason that I would be disembarking right in the centre of the City and could take one metro ride to my hotel. But the Eurostar's price had for the last couple of years been prohibitive compared to flying. I even got an award-flight out of frequent flyer miles. Now you know that this leg of my trip was not company-paid.
The brightest spot of this trip was witnessing the Paris Gay Pride march held last June 25. As early as 2pm, Boulevard Montparnasse teemed with marchers in street clothes and costumed, balloons, 'pride' flags, ten-wheeled trucks, and media fotogs and satellite dishes. Dance music blared from the trucks representing various associations joining the march. The composition of marchers was multi-faceted: political [e.g.,Youth of the Socialist Party, ActUp, Amnesty International], religious [e.g., Jews and Catholics], labour [e.g., police and fire men], social [e.g., parents of lesbians and gays, owners of bars], etc.
That day was significant because New York's state legislature had coincidentally approved the proposed legislation on same-sex marriage. On the other hand and as a major blow to the country's human rights record, the Assemblee National of France disapproved the same proposal in early June. Predictably, all Socialists voted in its favour but assemblymen from Nicolas Sarkozy's conservative party which held the majority in parliament thumbed it down. The theme of this year's march was therefore a warning to all politicians that next year's presidential elections would be a referendum on a candidate's public position in regard to this issue.
Hundreds of thousands attended the march which went all the way to the Bastille, their symbol of 'liberte, egalite, fratenite". While it was partying all over the bars and restos in the Marais, Chatelet, and around Hotel de Ville in the evening, the conversation was highly political converging on ways of attaining victory for their cause next year.