Un Week-end à Paris

Nothing quite beats a weekend in Paris, and it is for that reason that I challenge anyone to say their weekend was more perfect than mine.

It all began, as most weekends do, on a Saturday morning. Within a few hours of leaving my flat I was in Paris. Now, if you are a Londoner you will understand why this small and somewhat trivial detail about the speed and efficiency of my journey is so extraordinary and deserved of such applause. From Paddington a journey to Cornwall (which doesn’t require underwater tunnels and national borders) can be described as nothing other than long-haul, and anyone who has experienced a South West Trains strike/delay/signal-failure/staff-shortage/malfunction (or in some cases, all of the above simultaneously, groan) will understand the lack of faith in public transport that has settled in the grumbly tummies of clammy commuters. So a train journey that was zippy, comfortable, on time and international was understandably incredibly exciting. What better way to start a weekend in Paris!

Journey aside, let’s talk about Paris. Beautiful, tasty, chic and sexy. Catnip for anyone with a nose for culture, great food, architecture, fashion and hot men (and even hotter women), Paris’s appeal and allure is unparalleled. As the French would say, it’s the crème de la crème.

Hopping off the metro at Odeon we headed for our hotel. The latin district is known for its bohemian and eclectic heritage – a place which is now full of beautiful bookshops selling leather-bound tomes and interesting boutiques crammed full with antiques, line drawings, prints and even the odd life-size giraffe sculpture (quite extraordinary!). You can easily imagine the chicest Parisians clad in heirloom vintage Chanel spending their mornings perusing the narrow streets for beautiful pieces to fill their even more beautiful apartments, each just as much a guaranteed conversation starter as it is a cause for a price hike on the contents insurance.

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Orientation and exploration of the area began and could easily have been mistaken for a cafe hunt. The streets were lined with tables and chairs offering a masterclass in al fresco dining. Oysters sat on mountains of ice in concentric circles framing mounds of coral lobster and prawns. Every diner held a glass on wine (and more often than not, a cigarette too) and the wry smile of someone who knows their Saturday is riding high in the fun stakes. Très bon indeed. Eager to cash in on the opportunity to join the smug club we grabbed a table (at Huguette), racked our brains for some GCSE vocabulary (maybe Monsieur Wilson was onto something when he told us out tattered phrase books should be laminated to ensure life-long use) and emulated our fellow diners by ordering an enormous bucket load of moules-frites and an Apreol for good measure.

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With satisfied tummies we headed to the Seine – its banks lined with leafy trees and old buildings, their beauty amplified by the sunshine.

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Just across the river you will find the Louvre Museum. Set in middle of the Louvre Palace, which has existed in its current state since the 16th century, is the iconic glass pyramid. I’m sure architecture boffs would have much to tell you about this great bit of juxtaposition, the old and new, but unfortunately intellectual analysis on my part is somewhat lacking. However, one thing I can tell you with complete conviction, is that in the stunning October sun, it was dazzling. The soft honey yellow glow of centuries old stone muddled together with the prism’s glistening laser beam reflections. …a real feast for the eyes (gaze for too long and you’ll be left begging your retinas for forgiveness).

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Something I love about Paris is the nonchalant attitude. Just take a look at the public park seating. Unlike London where you’re giving the choice of iron benches nailed to the ground or the odd summertime deck chair (expect to cough up some coins within seconds of your bum touching the stripy and dewy canvas), in Paris the chairs aren’t just scattered around as a free for all but rather they are in a constant state of laid-back recline. Did I mention my legs were tired? No? Well they are, so just excuse me whilst I sit in one of these glorious chairs for just a moment…or an hour..or until the sun goes down. Un moment s’il vous plait. Merci.

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Ooo la la…

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The Eiffel Tower. The thing of legend, rom-coms, snow globes and selfie-stick fails; fascination of this big wrought-iron monstrosity is quite frankly a global pandemic. And, I’m not surprised. Even though it is, in theory, not particularly beautiful and even though up close and personal you are left wondering whether it is being held together with Meccano you can’t help but gasp (in a very black and white silent movie kind of way) at how striking it is. Maybe it’s in part thanks to the countless one-leg Hollywood kiss photographs being taken in its (rather scruffy) vicinity, or the number of times it’s been referenced in films, on cards and on Strictly (I’m looking at your Kevin and Louise), but either way it does unleash a few butterflies and make you feel a tad giddy.

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The rest of Paris is just as magical. A bunch of heavy-duty locks suddenly become symbols of abounding eternal love rather than conjuring up images of bike theft and even the interspersed ‘dodgy’ streets just act as palette cleansers in preparation for an onslaught of yet more beauty, architecture, fashion and sunshine on the next street along.

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Afternoons were spent in Le Marais – the buzziest shopping district in Paris. Time spent in Le Marais is always time well spent. Buskers bring such vibrancy and buoyancy to the streets that people feel enough at ease to grab the nearest person and dance along (although, unfortunately I would require a different kind of spirit to facilitate such extrovert behaviour in public) and the mood was nothing short of jolly! The shops are all on the Sandro wavelength (cool, expensive and incredibly tempting) and cafes are hives of energy, chatter and laughter….the perfect antidote to a gloomy disposition.

Return to Le Marais after dark and you will be sure to find that the ambience has shown no signs of relenting. On Saturday night we dined at Le Comptoir de la Gastronomie (think heavy Bordeaux red velvet drapes, wine crates to the ceiling and duck served in dark glossy sauce – very French indeed!) and headed afterwards to Le Mary Celeste where the night appeared, for most in Le Marais, to still be very young. The crowd was a wonderful mix – suits, bow ties, skinny jeans, leathers – anyone and everyone had surrendered to the magnetic pull of jazzy cocktails and yet more oysters (no wonder it’s the city of love if these wobbly aphrodisiacs are being consumed at all hours of the day). We managed to squeeze through the door (a feat because it was very busy, not because we had widened extensively) and ordered our cocktails as the waitress whizzed passed (good luck trying to actually get close to the bar!). Delicious and bloody strong…enough said.

As for weekends, this one was top drawer. Get yourself on the Eurostar and see for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a weekend of drinking, eating, romance, shopping, art, culture or relaxing…Paris has it all (and much much more)!

NB: Beret not essential.

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