Saturday, 20 April 2013
Springtime in Paris
I love train travel. It feels so much more civilized than flying. As the Eurostar pulled away from St Pancras I gave my teach-yourself-french book one more pass, hoping that I wasn't about to spend five days feeling completely baffled. I reasssured myself that if all else failed I was still the current charades champion in my family.
Although the previous weekend in England had marked the end of the epically long and hard winter, I was somewhat astonished to exit the Gard du Nord and find that Paris had decided to skip spring and go straight to summer. I threw my scarf and coat into my hotel room and set off on a wander.
Having only been to Paris once before when I was sixteen, which mainly consisted of my sister and I giggling our way up the Eiffel Tower, I didn't really know what to expect. But I confess, I wasn't expecting the architecture to be quite so grand, and the city centre quite so pretty. Last week a tourist sat next to me on a bus and told me he thought London was a beautiful city, which I vigorously disagreed with - London may be many things, but it's not beautiful. Paris is.
I hit some of the usual tourist spots, but with only one afternoon at my disposal I didn't really feel like wading through too many crowds. I made an exception to go into Notre Dame, on the grounds that it was astonishingly huge and gothic. How anyone could dare to conceive of such a thing is incredible to me.
I strolled down the Seine with an ice cream, looked at clothes I couldn't afford in Galeries Lafayette, and had dinner near Republique at an outdoor restaurant that offered three of my favourite things: beer on tap, steak tartare, and a table from which I could watch the world go by. Oh, and a waiter who was more amused than offended by my imperfect French.
As tempting as it was to stay out late in town, I was conscious that the next few days were likely to be pretty full-on, so I headed back to my hotel at a fairly reasonable hour to do a bit of prep work in advance of DevOps Days and Music Hack Days. And to practise a bit more of my language skills by watching some trashy French telly. I'm sure that counts.