I came to Paris in need of good food and good company, along with a decent dash of energising solitude. The weekend kicked off with the former and ended happily with the latter. Tick box, as Anna would say.
Nessie and I consumed our morning coffee and pains au chocolat in a little local square, getting ourselves physically and emotionally prepared to be tourists. And off we went: Eiffel Tower, followed by a ridiculously long walk along the Seine to Notre Dame, punctuated by lunch and more coffee, then rounded off with a whimsical glimpse of the British Embassy’s new grass tennis court and a post-work vin blanc with Lins. Paris is one of those iconically familiar places which gives you the illusion of having been there at least a billion times already. That doesn’t make it less nice but does create a perpetual sense of deja vu which adds to the timelessness of a welcome break from routine.
Sitting in the sunshine on Montmartre the following day, we ate our olives, bread and cheese before queuing our way into Sacre Coeur, one of the few places we actually visited. Inside the cool church, we were dwarfed by the vast concave painting of Jesus over the altar whose huge outstretched arms seemed to embrace the city, before eventually exiting past various shrines to consumerism and machines which sold embossed souvenir coins for a mere two (rapidly-devaluing) Euros. Not sure what the real Jesus would say to that.
At Nessie’s insistence – it is, after all, Paris – we put on our dresses for a night out, which kicked off with the perfectly-timed ‘night of museums’ during which galleries and museums stay open late for free. Brilliant. Musee d’Orsay here we come. It was a time of reconnection with the original loveliness of overly-replicated impressionist works, which are so frequently degraded as cheap prints, mouse mats and key rings that you forget why anyone considered them to be beautiful in the first place.
We were then whisked off to Stephane’s restaurant where pink champagne was a fitting start to what Harriet described as her best meal since 2007. Melt-in-the-mouth fois gras. Perfectly pink lamb. A candle-topped dessert which ended Ness’s birthday meal with the necessary sparkle to make her feel special. Stephane tried to bond cross-culturally with John by standing together at the bar and swirling ice-cubes round glasses to chill them for post-dinner drinks, little knowing that this is not a classic male-bonding activity in the UK. Ah well. Perfect evening which was everything you’d expect a cliched Paris to deliver.
The dress and heels must have worked because I got myself the offer of a date on Tuesday night. Had he been ten years older and a little bit more into some of the same things as me, it might have been a feasible/fun evening. Ho hum. That a 23 year old wants to take me out for dinner at least mitigates the fact that I’m addressed as ‘Madame’ by everyone else I meet. When did we stop being mademoiselles, that’s what I’d like to know?
After some more touristy meanderings all together, it got to Sunday night and I found myself alone, walking back to the flat for an evening in. But it seemed a waste to stay inside and not appreciate the warm deep sunshine which was illuminating Parisian buildings against an ominous sky. So off I wandered. At the Arc de Triomphe the ominous sky unleashed the inevitable storm. But who cares. With no agenda or umbrella, but with all the time in the world, I wandered home down the wrong street and ended up hopelessly sort-of lost. But I like the cafe-clinking sounds and the moped and flower smells of European cities, even more so, perhaps, when the rain enhances their depth and sharpness and makes the whole experience that little bit more intoxicating.
Some people walk in the rain, others just get wet. I was walking in the rain and loving every minute of it. Ready for the next two days of me and Paris.
J’avance sur ma route, car elle n’existe que par ma marche…