Moments I’m sitting in the café at the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. On the table before me are an espresso and pain du chocolate, and they are all I can smell. Around me people are talking in a din of different languages. A Japanese girl is sat at a table almost but not quite opposite to me. She has brought an espresso as well. We smile at each other, and we share a few words: ‘You alright’ Yes.’ ‘Japanese?’ ‘English?’ But its obvious that is the limit of my Japanese and her English so we sit in silence. I'm reading the English version of the guide book; hers is all in Japanese. Different versions of the same book. I put my copy down and start to eat the pain. I can tell she is intrigued by it, so I pull off a chunk, making sure there is some chocolate and offer it to her. The girl takes it gladly and smiles giddily after eating. She tries to say thank you but can’t, so I just tell her she’s welcome. When she’s finished that piece I give her some more. We sit in silence just looking at each other, until our coffees are gone. We shake hands and go our own ways.

Like all big cities, Paris can be one of the loneliest places in the world. I’m a paradoxical human being. I like going to places alone, because it means I can see everything at my own pace and only see the things I want to see. But I also want to be able to share the experience. When I was in Paris, having these amazing experiences, I sometimes did feel like I was in an alien place were no one understood who I was. After the first day, whenever I heard an British accent I almost ran to it, just to discourse, a kind of relief in the ability to communicate meaningfully even for a few brief moments.

This moment wasn’t about language, but it was about interaction. For such a romantic city, there were a lot of single people touring alone. In a way it felt like we were some kind of cultural subgroup. The trouble was we couldn’t talk to each other, either through fear or because of language. When the Japanese girl sat opposite I knew I wanted to talk to her, tell her about all the amazing things which had happened to me that day, about bumping into Whistler’s Mother, about the Mona Lisa. But I was able to tell her about this one small thing by sharing it with her. I fantasize that she’s writing about all this as well on her weblog (‘…and I tasted his sweet …’), but I don’t think she is. For a time it was nice just to live in a moment with someone and it not be about service or money …

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