I’ve been to Paris many times but not for quite a few years so when British Airways ‘suggested’ I visit, I agreed and booked my flights.
I chose to wander the Paris streets. For the most part I’d visited many of the ‘destinations’ so figured that a good walk and wander turning left and right would lead me to places I’d not yet discovered.
I’m remembering another time in Paris. Probably about my fourth visit here… with a man. I’m still not sure if he intended it to be a romantic break.. I’m rubbish at these things… so let me explain what happened – do try not to laugh (at me!).
He (let’s call him P) invited me to Paris for the weekend. He premised it by saying that he had managed to score first class Eurostar tickets really really cheaply and would I like to join him. Well I didn’t give it another thought. First class Eurostar tickets, cheaply and to Paris.. well you would, wouldn’t you? I didn’t question anything else. He said he’d organise everything. So we went after work on the Friday. Eurostar had only just started operating then and I didn’t know anyone who had been on it. We had a first class dinner on board with some lovely wine and great attention from the staff. Arriving in Paris in good time and heading to the hotel that P had arranged. Even when we got to our room it hadn’t occurred to me that this was anything other than two mates going away on a cheap ticket to Paris. When I questioned the double bed and asked if there had been a mistake, P looked a little crestfallen. Oh dear. He sorted out a twin room and nothing more was said about it. I still don’t know if I read it wrong. I still don’t know if it had been a genuine mistake. I still don’t know if his intentions had been different. I need more of a clue than that.. in fact I need Fred Flintstone bashing me over the head to let me know what the gig is… But that’s all I remember of Paris on that occasion… I know we must have done things, seen things, met up with people etc but all I remember is being mortified that I had messed up big time and worried about our friendship. I wonder….
On a completely separate occasion/tangent a man (N) flew from London to Sydney (where I was living at the time) to take me for dinner…. it didn’t occur to me that it was Valentines day… nor that he would be doing it for any other reason than he was to be in Sydney for 24hrs. Again it wasn’t until afterward when a friend virtually slapped me and gave me a look as to question my sanity, that I wondered if the intention had been anything other than dinner with a friend in Sydney. Doh! He was quite delicious too… messed it up again?
On this trip to Paris, I noticed very strongly that the French are still smokers. By that I mean that nothing appears to have changed. It has in the rest of the world. Most countries now you can’t smoke where food is being served. Here every table is set up with an ashtray and most tables are occupied by smokers. My hotel room has an ashtray and there was never any question about a smoking or non-smoking room. On most streets, people are wandering along with a cigarette on the go. It’s all ages and both sexes. I’m amazed that nothing has changed and so openly you can buy and smoke wherever whenever and with whomever. Is that a bad thing? I guess it’s just something that we’ve got used to in Australia, England and the USA… I’m sure in other countries too but it does seem at odds with a world I know now, to see people smoking so openly. I don’t miss it smoking one bit though.
Another observation from this trip is the amount of small dogs there are. They’re everywhere. Ladies carrying them in their handbags, on their laps, under their arms and taking them into every store, shop, restaurant or bar. I understand pets. I grew up with a cat, a dog, rabbits and lambs but our pets were able to walk themselves! I don’t get it. I really don’t.
There’s something I find wrong about going into a good dress shop and finding a small dog at my ankles sniffing the hem of a dress. Or in a restaurant, looking over and seeing them occupying a seat at a table.. or on the metro, a small dog taking up a seat whilst someone stands up. Surely that’s not right… is it?
OK I’m on the Eurostar back to London. I have to say I’m looking forward to returning home. Even typing that feels strange for someone that is always looking for somewhere new to explore. I wonder if that is why it feels so right… I’ve explored Paris before and it held nothing new to me… in fact I think it disappointed me. It felt overcrowded, dirty, frenetic, uncaring and ‘difficult’. Gosh that sounds scathing and I hate myself for saying it as I’m sure that many places that I love and have loved could be described in a similar way to other people. For the sceptics out there I’d like to also add that I did go off the beaten track, I walked around areas that weren’t on the tourist map, I did my left or right thing often and I went to the end of the metro line on more than one occasion to see if there was more ‘local’ kindness than in the centre. All I found was people being busy, a rudeness that I’d not experienced in France before and an unwillingness to be friendly. Such a shame that they’re obviously so busy with their own lives to consider that ‘the foreigner’ may be of interest to them or find something about them interesting!
So home time.