It strikes you how homely such a large city is. I have been three times with my family, and I loved it all and never seemed to get bored. We didn’t do much tourist stuff, the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, etcetera, but we saw the city for what it really is, the Place des Vosges, the authentic shops and overpriced, delicious restaurants, the old buildings like the grand town hall and the Louvre, La Defence, posh independent stores, the marvellous side of the city, the side it ought to be known as.
The incredible diversity of the city can be unsettling. I remember walking down a street one crisp, cold night, full of classy, cultural, cream buildings with black embellished balconies, with lavish flats from the first floor, where you can make out the grand chandeliers through the extravagant windows. Chanel and Chloe boutiques on street level, with stunning garments in the window, ready to celebrate the New Year. Just around the corner lay a desperate world, as the homeless attempt to stay warm on yet another bitter night. It really sinks in when you see such a variation of wealth in the space of two streets. Also I remember on the last day of our winter trip, we were up early to catch the train home, and in the metro station were at least 8 homeless people sleeping on the waiting seats.
I loved the sense of randomness in Paris. I remember in the Place des Vosges, we ate our ‘packed lunch’ (egg mayo and watercress on French bread-delicious) and went round the art galleries filled with delightful statues: couples, children and families, sitting, reading, dancing, and playing on one long shelf, all looking lovely together. We carried on walking where we discovered an amazing chocolate shop, with incredible life size roast dinners and chickens made entirely of chocolate, and the chicken was highlighted on the top with edible gold leaf. We stared at it for about half an hour, just amazed by what we saw. That for me was better than any trip to Disneyland, or any tour bus commentary. It’s these sort of things that I love the most on holiday, like when we went to the park in Paris one summer and we saw a girl walking in front of us. She was sporting a pair of jeans with some grass in the back pocket. We all thought she was mad, but she turned around a corner, and we could see she was holding a guinea pig! Walking the streets of Paris with a guinea pig! She must have been to the park to let it run around, as lots of flats in Paris don’t have gardens. Also, as we were walking along the river, near the Louvre, we came across a small crowd. They were gathered around a young man singing whilst playing a battered piano. The crowd were of all ages, and many were holding the lyrics in their hand, and were singing along merrily to the French song. Where in England would you find something so wonderful and unexpected?
The city always changed things around to suit the seasons. In summer there was crazy golf and amazing abstract wooden chairs outside the town hall, all free, courtesy of the mayor, and winter saw them transform into an ice rink and slides – which were again free. They shut one of the big roads that ran along the Seine in the summer and covered half with sand to make a ‘beach’. They also had an outside gym, huge hammock chairs under the trees that were kept out all summer, never vandalised, rain machines that sprayed out water to cool everyone down, and water fountains.
There was of course the more commercial, designer side - with the huge department stores selling dreadfully overpriced designer clothing, and money is not always taste, as some of the 2000 euro garments were simply horrendous. I saw a lovely pair of Givenchy black wet look jeans for 500 Euros, but I have an identical pair from H&M that were £15. Stupid really.
We slept loads in Paris. When we tell friends this they say we are mad wasting half the day sleeping. However, sleeping in France is better than sleeping anywhere in England. Also, it didn’t seem to just be us, as the residents all acted similarly, everyone was out from noon. I remember walking to the metro extremely early in morning to go home (8.30) and no one was out- all shops were shut apart from Paul’s café and the supermarket.
Croissants and bread are only wonderful in France –my French teacher says it’s because they use a different flour- I disagree as I think its because your on holiday- but I don’t want the croissants to be as good in England because it spoils them being so lovely in France. The only thing that made us get down the 98 steps from our flat was the worry that Paul’s café might run out of pastries. There was no escalator - that would be too un-French and normal.
© 2010 anon.