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23 March 2008

Paris in the the Spring

Despite staying in London on Friday night, it was still a bit of a mission getting up in time for the 7.30 Eurostar, not least because I hadn’t had the most comfortable night’s sleep ever, curled cat-like on the sofa. St Pancras was bustling but there wasn’t time to sample its new delights (champagne bar, etc.) and we went through light passport control where the rest of my family had some breakfast but I couldn’t face anything more than a third espresso. I also rightly guessed that although the Eurostar provided papers, it wouldn’t include the Grauniad. I slept half the journey sleeping and in no time, we were at the Gare du Nord.

It was raining when we emerged from the metro at Odéon but the hotel wasn’t too far away and I walked past some old favourite shops and restaus on the way. The hotel itself was really quite nice – with small rooms (quite big, I suppose, for Paris) but attractively decked out and with a view of the peaceful central courtyard.

We stayed just long enough to drop off the stuff before heading out for rue de Rennes for Longchamps and Le Bon Marché (Paris’s best department store). We had a quick bite of déjeuner at a café-bar; I was starved, having not eaten since dinner the night before and I relived my veggie days with an omelette nature (“Avec quoi?” / “Avec ouef” / “Et avec ca?” / “Et de la beurre?”).

I spent the rest of the day shopping while I still could (it’s unlikely that much will be open in France on Easter Sunday or Monday). The weather was typically spring-like – sunny one moment and then cold, windy and sleeting. Luckily, I was wrapped up against the elements, although I still needed to duck into the Café de la Mairie and the studenty News Café for coffee and for shelter. It always surprises me every time I remember how dire French coffee really is – not quite as bad as in the US but still pretty crap. Still, News Café looks out onto the Jardins des Luxembourg and the atmosphere makes up for the coffee.

All of my memories of Paris seem to involve the rain – this is probably because it was always spring or autumn when we went. I never really mind though; I’ve definitely romanticised it and if it makes my hair go curly then so be it. Maybe all of this is because of the scene from The Dreamers where Michael Pitt and Eva Green run through the streets in the rain.

Back at the hotel, where the gorgeous cloistered spa is in the basement. It was a pretty nice way to chill out after a long day of shopping and café hopping. Very relaxing indeed - oh, and a great shower.

We went for an aperitif at Café Laurent (the caipirinha didn’t have its ice crushed enough for my tastes but it was at least French – i.e. strong). We then headed down the street to the Rôtisserie d’en Face where I had the most deliciously juicy roast chicken I’ve had in years, followed by a flaky vanilla mille feuille for which I really didn’t have room.

After dinner, we went to Café de Flore – yes, it’s clichéd, yes, it’s massively overpriced and yes, there are a lot of other better cafes, but it does do great, thick, rich hot chocolate and – for once – there weren’t any Americans there. Once we’d ditched the parents, though, the brother and I went to Les Editeurs, which is one of my favourite bars in town. It does really good cocktails and the whole café is in a literary theme, so the menu looks just like the old cover of a great work of literature. The walls are covered in books too – books and a huge clock, anyway…

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