Sitting here in my little study looking out onto a mass of identical new build homes on a drizzly Sunday morning has me thinking back to a week ago when the view from my hotel window in Paris was oh so different. The sun was shining, and in place of my neighbours semis, I was watching the odd car rumble over the cobbles of a grand boulevard on it's way to dice with death around the scariest roundabout ever that is Etoile, otherwise known as the road the circles around the glorious Arc de Triomphe.
In Swindon we have....
I can never have too much of Paris. As soon as I step out of the Eurostar in the Gare du Nord I feel that joie de vivre feeling kicking in and an excitement spreading from the tips of my fingers down to my toes. If it weren't for the fact that I'm lugging a far too heavy suitcase, I would be skipping down the platform, probably much to the bemusement of my fellow travellers!
The city is beautiful, no arguement there. From the splendour of amazing palaces, boulevards,The Seine and grand churches, down to the characteristic road signs and house numbers to the beautiful art nouveau metro station entrances.Look up and even the roof tops are something to behold. Paris isn't just about the stuff of glossy guidebooks.Walk down the little back streets and experience everyday Paris. I love watching the locals lingering over a cafe in a small neighbourhood cafe, catching up with each other's news whilst queuing in the boulongerie, meticulously picking out the best produce in the greengrocers, just going about their everyday life and trying to ignore the silly anglaise woman who keeps on staring at them with a silly gormless grin on her face.
So what does Paris mean to me.....
I have to say that everytime I visit I feel just a little envious of how chic and stylish your average Parisian, male or female,young or old seems to be. They could throw on a sack and still look good. What do they do that sets them leagues above the rest of us us...namely me....in the world of style and chicness? I gaze longingly in the windows of the boutiques wondering if a snazzy little jupe or blouson might give me a certain little je ne sais pas in the style stakes, but looking at the prices kept me firlmly in the realms of frumpyness and an obvious devotee to the world of M&S!
Everyone knows that the french love their food from the humblest baguette to a full blown gourmet feast a la Alain Ducasse. Nobody I imagine goes to Paris expecting to live off the odd MacDonald and Starbuck's frappucino, unless of course you really, really are on a very limited budget or if like my mother many moons ago was very worried about asking for anything in her non existant french and lived off of picnic food bought in the Paris branch of M&S, which sadly for her, is no more! The only trouble with Paris that it's just sooo expensive. Don't even think about ordering a cafe au lait on the Champs Elysees without taking out a second mortgage first. Even if you order one off the beaten track you will have to hand over several euros.If the coffee looks cheap it's because it's un cafe. In other words the french equivelent of an expresso. One gulp and it's gone! If you want to experience a meal out, which of course you do, make it a dejeuner rather than a diner and choose from le menu and not la carte. It's much cheaper. We ate out every evening on our holiday and easily spent 100 euros for the two of us and that was in little out of the way bistros. A word of advice. Steer clear of the cafes around the touristy areas if you want to eat. You'll spend a bomb on mediocre food. Best to use them for a leisurely drink and watch the world and his wife stroll by. I'm really disappointed that we never got to Laduree this year. I was so looking forward to one of their ,oh so pretty, macarons and a cup of the most delicious hot chocolate. Oh well, another time.
If we had eaten breakfast in our hotel, it would have set us back 15 euros each. That's roughly £24 a day. Just for breakfast!! No way were we going to cough up that much for a continental breakfast, so we discovered a little sandwich bar on the next boulevard to ours. Think a cross between Starbucks and Subway, but much much better and, of course french.We ate baguettes freshly made to order stuffed with the yummiest goodies.Drank great coffee and looked longingly at the pastries, whilst sitting alfresco at little bistro tables .Service was always with a smile and I have never seen a place kept spotless to within an inch of it's life as that little sandwich bar. Just goes to show that you don't always have to stick with the traditional cafes.
Sadly my trip to Paris was marred by a nasty case of blisters due to walking too much on the first day. This put a dampner on the rest of the week as every footstep was painful. So, we didn't do half the things that we wanted to. But do you know what that must mean? Of course...we really must go again....soon!
And finally, this just has to be our favourite holiday photo. Where else would you find the coolest policeman just checking his texts on his iphone ?