Everyone's in Germany this month for the World Cup, making my life horribly crowded and uncomfortable, so I decided to go to Paris. Actually the main reason I went was as tour guide for my mother-in-law who has never been. Her husband and my husband got to stay home and mind the small people and we got two and half days of freedom. Great.
So, after in-depth research, here are my main impressions of the lovely city:
- Parisians have got fatter and less chic (this is reported on objectively and with no sense of schadenfreude whatsoever. I read 'Why French Women Don't Get Fat' and was in no way affected by its smugness.)
- Clothes are now no better than in Germany (ditto)
- They still make the best croissants in the whole world
- Coffee is served in mean proportions (I am the Starbucks poster child)
- Breakfast is intolerably expensive but taxis are good value
- It's still the most beautiful and accessible city I have ever been to
I am a deep, deep Paris fan. I get to inflict my schoolgirl French on people, and they don't noticeably wince, even when I fling in a German word for good luck. The boulevards and the monumental design remain breathtaking even on a fourth, or is it fifth, visit. You can indulge in retail therapy while simultaneously taking in a great church (across the road from the shop). There are vistas. There is accessible art. There is that stonking great river bang in the middle of everything, with bridges to dangle over. There are still French people cycling, roller-blading, kissing, smoking and carrying baguettes and bunches of flowers.
There was only one slightly off moment in a whole fabulous weekend. I made my poor mother-in-law walk from Musee D'Orsay to the Eiffel Tower, which, considering she's one or two years past getting her bus pass, was quite an achievement on her behalf. In my defence, I had no idea it would take us two hours, I mean you can see the Tower so you presume it's round the corner. We kept getting round the corner, and the Tower would be looming near but still not be there.
Anyway, practically expiring from heat and exhaustion we collapsed into a trendy brasserie on Rue de la Universite, where Mrs O Senior ducked off to use the facilities. The clientele were the types who needed to wear sunglasses indoors at lunchtime, you know, the Donatella Versace orange tans and white jeans look. Rumpled and persipiring faintly, perhaps we two did not fit in, but we were prepared to pay the ridiculous €7 they charged for water. While I waited, I decided not to call the waiter but indulged in an experiment to see if he would deign to acknowledge me. He didn't and so we walked out waterless but having scored the facilities for free and a moral victory over Snobisme. His huffy sniffs accompanied us around the corner to the Tower, where my mother-in-law got to fulfil her dream of standing underneath it. Then we had a large ice-cream and got on a batobus to recover from the experience.
There is one memento I always love to leave Paris with and I have them again. The last time I had them it was because my mother – a virulent tourist – made me do every room of the Louvre and the Musee D'Orsay in one day. This time they are my fault, because I didn't take the Metro or a taxi or a batobus to get to the bloody Tower. I am proud to say that through extreme walking, and commitment to seeing it all and soaking up the atmosphere, I have gained my traditional Paris badge of honour: blisters on the SOLES of my feet.