I had been prowling around endless nooks and crannies in central London, sniffing out the territory for possible office space re John’s new venture, VOLANS, when, without so much as a ‘gardez-loo’, one of those unpredictable and vicious April showers targeted me, threatening to leave me like a drowned rat, upended with the entrails of my pink rose umbrella, in the gutter. And initiating a ‘bad hair’ day to boot…rah…

I ran for cover, bounding through the back door of Stanford’s travel bookshop in Floral Street, where there is a small and welcome café and a feast of travel literature on the shelves beyond. I had a day or so to make up my mind as to where we could go for a week at short notice.

Istanbul appealed. I had never been but one of our daughters had had a fabulous time there at this time last year. I even had the name of the hotel she had stayed in, in my bag. At the same time I was aware that John had had to cancel a board meeting with a company he liked a lot in Paris. They were working on sustainable supply chains and were keen to have his input. I picked out a book from the shelves by Sandra Gustafson called Big Sleeps (probably because I was feeling exhausted, not just because of pounding the streets looking at estate agents’ boards but also because I was weighed down by John’s workload, forever bursting at the seams). Additionally, he wanted to take on an enormously problematic project on energy, which was in its infancy, so it was very possible that a number of sleepless nights and an equivalent to ‘the terrible twos’ would be in the pipeline. This project did not appeal to me except for the fact that retirement on the Riviera was fading as an option, given the increasingly desperate state of the planet.

I am by nature pleasure seeking and romantic but have probably survived this far because of a seam of pragmatism and common sense, which is shot through the glamour of soft velvet and pearls like a scouring cloth – a gift from my Scottish aunts, no doubt. Give me glamour every time but I’m stuck with the rest whether I like it or not.

Anyway, this book was about places to stay in Paris and my brain started to put two and two together. We could go by Eurostar, John could meet with Pierre-François one morning and the rest could be holiday… probably with Wi-fi, broadband or whatever, as the third person sharing our hotel room. That was fine by me, as I would have the chance to do some exploring on my own.

To have a whole week in Paris would be such a treat … the title of this piece has the extra ‘the’ because I remember as a child reading some magazine which put words down in triangular ‘puzzle’ diagrams, so that the eye would miss the repetition of ‘the’ – and I remember thinking – when I was just ten – that Paris in the springtime sounded very desirable. The word ‘desirable’ wasn’t at that point part of my vocabulary and I actually didn’t make it to Paris until I was sixteen, when my mother sent me to a summer language course at a lycée. At that time, you went to London and got the boat-train at Victoria, which was unbearably exciting. I didn’t find my group at the station but got on the train anyway and found them later on the ferry. It turned out that we weren’t well supervised and after classes we could spend evenings running wild around the city as long as we got back before the gates closed at 11 pm. Paris lived up to all my expectations – and more.

Sandra Gustafson’s book is well laid out, written in her very informative and idiosyncratic style and I got very caught up with reading her personal descriptions of recommended hotels. It wasn’t until later that I came upon various apartment lettings towards the back. This was how we ended up renting our first apartment in Paris, a stone’s throw from the Place des Vosges.

I chose this apartment for several reasons. I liked the sound of the two men who ran the company, the prices seemed reasonable, the website was very easy to use and well laid out with plenty of photographs. And the ‘Marais’, as a location, appealed. In the early seventies, John had been invited by the son of a close friend of his grandmother to stay in Paris for a few days. The man’s name was Gavin Young and he was a foreign correspondent on The Observer. John stayed with him in a vast apartment in the Place des Vosges, which belonged to a branch of the Rothschild family. I thought he would like this trip down memory lane!

As it turned out, he couldn’t remember exactly in which part of the square the apartment was. But the Place des Vosges is very beautiful and the Marais is a treasure trove of narrow streets, spilling over with interesting shops, many delicatessens, cafés, restaurants and art galleries. There are also some delicious green, hidden courtyards behind massive wooden doors. Doors which make you feel you are just six inches high and the knocker is far out of reach. Alice in Wonderland, bien sûr. They are private and hard to penetrate…but I like these sorts of challenges…

It was all arranged (by me) in a flash. We left London on a cold, wet, grey morning and found ourselves two and a half hours later at the Gare du Nord, bathed in sunshine. All augured well and my spirits were on the ‘up’.

Our apartment was on Rue de Turenne. It was warm, spacious, light and comfortable. In a word, divine. Often, places you see advertised are a disappointment but this was the opposite. Below, was a delicious ‘boulangerie’ on the corner. I felt adopted by our surroundings immediately. We suited one another and I fell asleep, happy and content.


I awoke early in the morning to the smell of baking and ran downstairs to buy fresh croissants, a jar of blood orange marmalade and other delights for breakfast. Along the road, there was a little G20 supermarket, which supplied yoghourt, juice, coffee and a large bunch of grapes. I noticed that there were a lot of young men around, dressed in a ‘bon chic, bon genre’ – civilized sort of way, most of them accompanied by well groomed little dogs.

Meanwhile, back at ‘home’, John had plugged his computer into broadband. This last thing was so important because it meant our holiday was stress free as long as he was in communication with the wider world.

We were about ten minutes walk from Place de la Bastille and after ‘le petit déjeuner’ we decided to go and look for Le Chemin Vert or La Promenade Plantée, which is a former railway ‘en haut’, which used to run round Paris and is now a green path planted with flowers, shrubs and trees on either side and takes you all the way to the Bois de Vincennes. On the way we dropped in at a bookshop, La Belle Lurette, on the Rue St. Antoine. John bought a book on ‘cerfs-volants’ – spectacularly wondrous kites, which appealed to his sense of line and design and reminded him of kite flying in Nicosia in the 1950’s.

Sentier behind La Bastille

Sentier behind La Bastille

As we climbed up the steps to Le Chemin Vert, the air was full of dampness after a showery morning, but there was a faint scent of witch hazel on the breeze and the box hedges were very green and fragrant after the rain … it was quite warm, too, and we enjoyed strolling under the arches of clematis. Lots of graffiti here and there, but John made good use of their lurid offerings and got some rather amazing photos to show on his blog. I didn’t take any pictures of the graffiti.

View from Le Chemin Vert

View from Le Chemin Vert

We didn’t get as far as the Bois de Vincennes because pangs of hunger took over and I remembered that the brasserie, ‘Bofinger’, was just by the Bastille, off the Rue de Tournelles. We were soon fabulously ensconced under the amazing ‘coupole’ of coloured glass inside. There is wisteria in the glass pattern while fronds of real blue and white wisteria fell down around it. The restaurant was humming with people all enjoying their Sunday lunch, surrounded by wood panelled, mirrored walls, paintings, and gleaming brass rails and lamps. It all adds up to a terrific ambience and it was such a pleasure to be able to walk in and not be turned away for three months ahead. We were made to feel very welcome as soon as we walked through the door – and that, for me, makes a huge difference.

First, we had a dozen ‘huitres clairs’ between us, which came on ice with lemon and tiny squares of very dark brown bread with delicious salted, Isigny butter, accompanied by half a bottle of Chablis. I followed these with a bowl of rich onion soup with a topping of grilled cheese while John had salmon and vegetables steamed ‘en feuillete’.
My eyes were too large for my stomach, which was by now ‘heavy’ and so we shared a delicious dessert of ‘Agrumes avec Beaumes de Venise’. Blood oranges with a ‘citron vert’ sorbet in sweet wine. After this, I needed a little rest before a MOKA coffee, which turned out to be a good ‘digestif’. We decided it would be a good idea to walk home.

Just dessert

Just dessert

North up the Rue de Tournelles and then, after a while, turning left towards the Rue du Foin. I’m fitting more and more pieces of my jigsaw of the city into place. One of my ongoing problems is orienteering, as I often walk up a street the wrong way unless I have landmarks remembered from the time before. ‘Merde’, etc…

Anyway, ‘Bofinger’ was much enjoyed. We shall definitely return on our next visit to Paris. No supper needed. I just sipped hot water (does wonders for the middle-aged system), and after fantasising a bit greedily about the bars of chocolate in the fridge – dark chocolate with a ‘fourrure’ of caramel inside – I dozed off. John played music and wrestled somewhat with his project, I think.


Woke to the soft, comforting smell of bread and patisserie warming the apartment. I lay and looked at the intricate white cornices of the ceiling, which reminded me of thick cream as the sun lit up the soft apricot bloom of the curtains. I felt very domesticated and made a delicious breakfast with yoghourt, fruit and the ‘sac à chien’ rolls, which were left over from yesterday’s lunch. I had put them in my bag, much to John’s disapproval. Have also worked out how to use the coffee machine. John wrote and tussled with the energy crisis while I planned the day ahead. Lots of things are shut on a Monday.
But first of all, there was John’s meeting at EcoVadis and we made our way by métro to the Rue de Varenne. Musée Rodin is nearby. The road is always full of ‘gendarmes’ as a lot of government officials live and work here. It was great to meet everybody – three charming men – and I was happily included in the lunch plans. We were taken to ‘Le Bon Marché’ department store for a special rooftop view lunch. After fond farewells, John bought a shirt downstairs. He’s bought one here before of the same make. I like them because they iron easily, besides looking nice of course.

Meanwhile, I needed to find the loo. It’s in an obscure corner on the next floor, hidden by designer dresses. It turned out to be rather grand with huge mirrors and old fashioned, rather lovely washbasins but I think the space could be better used in installing more loos, as there was quite a queue.

We bought a bottle of Château d’Arcines red wine from Nicolas on our way to the Musée Maillol, our next stop. Maillol’s muse, Dina, was statuesque (and could have been called Thunder Thighs, I thought). However, she did have glorious breasts and a ripe cherry bottom and she obviously appealed enormously to him, as there are countless sculptures, drawings and paintings of her naked, in many positions. The upside was it made me feel quite slim. And John took some stunning photos of a spiral staircase.
Then on to the Boulevard St. Germain, past Sonia Rykiel and down the Rue St. Benoit, which is the small street between ‘Café Flore’ and ‘Les Deux Magots’. ‘Brasserie Lipp’, on the opposite side of the boulevard, makes up the famous old triumvirate. Lots of ‘flâneurs’ were sitting outside, looking stylish, some wearing berets – definitely arty ‘philosophes’ taking the air alongside the inevitable tourists.

But John and I slipped down the Rue St. Benoit, peering in at a restaurant where I’d once had a very delicious, traditional dinner with an idiosyncratic waiter in attendance. It looked just the same with the red and white check tablecloths and tables placed convivially close to one another. I was trying to track down the ‘atelier’ of Eugène Delacroix but it was closed when we got there. This was the fourth time I’d come with no luck. No wonder I then went AWOL and found we had managed to walk down the Rue de Seine the wrong way and ended up at the Luxembourg Gardens, instead of the Seine.
On the way we passed a man’s clothes shop, where John got some summer cotton trousers. The button came off immediately. “They are Italian”, said the proprietor, who buzzed around us like a bluebottle. Then he buzzed off up the street and came back with the button fixed.

The Rue de Seine fiasco had a happy ending as we went into the Luxembourg Gardens, which were very tranquil in the evening light – people walking through the trees and dogs bounding about. Very Seurat – ‘La Grande Jatte’. I love that painting. We sat ourselves down at a little café (where once, in the past, we had had a huge quarrel, which I won’t go into here, but where I realised that one way of getting John out of a sulk was to feed him immediately). Our waiter was cheerful and charming and we ended up with two cups of hot chocolate and slices of prune tart. And Monsieur got a large tip.
Getting back to the Marais from here is not straightforward but I wanted to walk awhile to get my bearings. We ended up trekking along the very crowded and noisy Boulevard St. Michel. When we crossed the river I thought we might get the métro but John was in walking mode, so we walked the whole way by the river. Quai des Gesvres, Quai de Hôtel de Ville and Quai des Célestins, finding the little village area of St. Paul with its pretty artisan shops on the way up to the Rue de Turenne.

On Rue St. Antoine we came upon a takeaway of spicy ‘gambas’, salt fish and noodles with broccoli and prawn crackers, which we took home and had with the red wine we had bought earlier in the day. All for 16 euros (wine not included!).
Ah, bed! My feet and legs totally traumatized with the weariness of the long distance trudger! But now I am happy and comfortable and Paris is becoming more and more familiar. Dormir, c’est bon!


I was awake early and popped down to the ‘boulangerie’ to buy croissants and rolls. I have become a familiar customer already and am greeted with delight! My French is improving by leaps and bounds because of it. John wanted to go and see the museum of ethnography, opened in 2006. It’s a newly built structure by the river on Quai-Branly. We went to Invalides on the métro and then walked along the Seine. It was airy and sunny and there were lots of boats to look at and many of the buildings are very grand and interesting architecturally.

The museum was conceived by Jean Nouvel and promoted by Jacques Chirac. A large garden surrounds it, full of exotic plants, which are the perfect foil to the exhibits inside. The entrance is up a long, serpentine upward path with moving video pictures projected on to the floor. It’s a great idea but some of them – crashing waves, for example, underfoot – made us feel giddy and somewhat unbalanced! Everything is in half light, I assume for preservation purposes. The building is divided into Africa, Asia, the Americas and Oceania and the collections are enormously impressive.

There is so much to see and while John bounded about in his element, I got a bit overwhelmed after a while. John helpfully said that I was suffering from Stendhal’s Syndrome, when I said I wanted to lie down on the floor. It was just sensory overload. I needed to choose part of it and then come back another day. It is the same with the Louvre, where I get backache. But this is a real triumph for a new museum.

On the way back we walked to the Pont d’Alma – there is a shrine to Princess Diana on the opposite side of the bridge – and then took an RER train to St. Michel Notre Dame, where we attempted to find that bookshop of celebrated fame – ‘Shakespeare & Company’.

First of all, we walked along Rue de Huchette but we were tired and after fumbling around for a while, loathing all the tourist hordes, we ended up at a branch of ‘Paul’ with an excellent cup of coffee each, a tuna baguette, a ‘tarte au saumon et épinards’ and two tartines – one ‘aux fruits rouges’, one ‘aux myrtilles’. We ate this upstairs with the place almost to ourselves: a little bubble of peace and calm so we could gather our spirits together again. This revived us somewhat; at least it gave us whatever we needed to plunge back into the overcrowded street scene below.

We made our way to the métro and then I asked a man where I would find ’Shakespeare & Co’. We’d missed it by a whisker. Once again, we walked along Rue de Huchette and this time crossed the road at the end and there it was in its own special enclave, facing the river. It is an extraordinary phenomenon and worth persevering in order to find it.
John bought three books there, all stamped inside as an authentic buy from ‘Shakespeare & Co’. One was the sequel to Catch 22, another was about the human brain and called Proust and the Squid and the third was a novel with rather a beautiful jacket called The Reserve by Russell Banks. There were quite a lot of Americans around – it is a place of pilgrimage. I noted the makeshift bed arrangements upstairs. A lot has been written about this bookshop so I will leave it at that but encourage anybody who likes books and stories and a totally ‘one-off’ experience to spend an hour or two there.

John at Shakespeare & Co.

John at Shakespeare & Co.

We walked back past ‘les bouquinistes’, across the river, then took the métro back to Châtelet/Les Halles, walked again down the rue Rambuteau, which becomes the rue des Francs-Bourgeois, ‘tout droit’ to the Place des Vosges and home. It was such a joy to get back. I had to rub oil into my poor battered feet and lie down for one and a half hours. John made a very welcome cup of tea.

Recovery had me looking at my book of bistrots and then I remembered that Fréderic had recommended ‘Les Vins des Pyrenées’, a little place near the apartment. I noted it was also in my book. So we trundled off and had a very delicious two course dinner. The restaurant has a warm and rustic atmosphere – the sort of place where you could eat happily on your own and still feel included. I took one of their cards – very old-fashioned with a wavy edge and showing a loving couple from the past – ‘le petit bistrot où tu me souris pour la première fois’ – I’m sure the same sentiments apply today! It’s romantic and traditional. And who knows who you might meet, if dining alone? The French think nothing of signalling their interest, something I like very much about them.

The weather was good today – mostly sunshine, with a breeze. It did become overcast in the afternoon, but no rain. Bed was now top of my list of things to do.
As I felt sleep stealing upon me, I thought of things still on my list. ‘Le Jardin des Plantes’, a drink of mint tea at the mosque opposite the gardens, a visit to the grumpy ‘femme’ who sells lovely chiffon scarves for ten euros … and then I floated off into oblivion …


We were up early as John had a meeting with a work colleague at Le Café des Musées, about two minutes walk away. It was a coincidence that she was great friends with Pierre, one of the men who rented us the apartment and was talking to him on the phone when we arrived. Lovely that we were then able to get together. John and she go back quite a way – she runs a small outfit along the lines of SustainAbility, in Paris. It’s called Utopies.

Afterwards we went back to the apartment and I left John in the clutches of his energy project and went off to explore le Marais on my own. I remember once getting lost here with Hania. We walked up the rue Croix de la Bretonnerie so many times we nearly fainted with exhaustion. I think I’ve finally cracked the street system now. I saw a really lovely coat made of silk and cotton but it was almost 600 euros – Bof!

Jewels of the Marais

Jewels of the Marais

I also rediscovered the wonderful ‘glaces’ emporium on the corner (rue Vieille du Temple), which I committed to memory and then went back to fix lunch for John. Ficelles, goat cheese, tomatoes, juice – very simple. I then went off again on another little foray and came back to find John asleep. This project is very challenging and today was a gloomy and moody time for him. If it wasn’t so crucial, I’d make him give it up. However, I tried to be encouraging and decided on a little place to eat just five minutes away on the Rue Jarente – called L’Auberge de Jarente, which serves Basque food.

There was a boy there who seemed slightly alarmed to see us and he didn’t speak French or English but managed to let us know that ‘le patron était parti’. We ordered a particular bottle of wine but he brought a different one. I tried to change it but gave up and it turned out to be quite a nice red burgundy. We didn’t know whether he’d understood when we ordered our food but he had and it was amazing.

John had a wonderful fish soup with ‘rouille’, followed by tuna in a ‘marmitekon’ – (a deep dish) with a tasty sauce while I had ‘escargots’ in a ‘haricot blanc’ sauce, followed by heavenly ‘confit du canard’ with spinach and lots of small, fried potatoes, which John helped me eat (one of his favourite things). The whole dinner cost just 40 euros, including the wine. This was outstanding value and truly top quality.

We had started arguing again – probably the fault of this project hanging over John, so I suggested we take an evening constitutional around the ‘Place des Vosges’, which now had fairy lights twinkling in the trees and looked inviting and romantic. There are lots of interesting art galleries here under the arches, which are illuminated at night, and look very dramatic.

Le chat sauvage

Le chat sauvage

By bedtime, John had sorted out the latest worries with his work and I felt relieved but also annoyed. It had cast an all-enveloping blanket of gloom for most of the day and John had been sulky. Tonight my feet still ached from all the walking and then John said my French should be much more fluent, given the amount of lessons I had had – however, I had not gone to bed in a sulk. I actually think sulking has some genetic component. I seem to be without this gene, which is probably fortunate. I wrote my journal and listened to music and felt very much at home. Will banish tiresome project from my thoughts and think of Matisse, who said he painted for the pleasure that other people would get from what he produced. A pleasure like returning to a comfortable, well loved, armchair.


I didn’t get up until 8.30 am and only had yoghourt for breakfast with a cup of lemon verbena tea. The teabags were actually some I have had in my bag for ages. I tend to carry a few around with me, just in case – and so now we are having them. John doesn’t realize they are almost antique! The tea tasted fine.

John worked on the report for an hour. The sun came out and the weather looked fairly settled so I thought it a good day to explore ‘La Cimetière du Père-Lachaise’. I had been here once before so knew the way. We took the métro from Chemin Vert (about seven minutes walk), and changed at République for Père-Lachaise. When we came out, I recognized the long wall. You have to walk almost the length of it to the main entrance, passing all the ‘Pompes et Funèbres’ establishments with their offers of marble headstones, which face the wall on the opposite side of the street.

The news vendors sell maps of where the famous tombs are, for two euros. I don’t know how detailed they are but you can get a free one at the little house inside – up the main drag and turn to the right. In my pocket I had my Everyman Mapguide, which I find invaluable. I don’t think I can put a sentence about Père-Lachaise more succinctly than the one in this book. “With its shaded avenues, undergrowth, winding paths and esplanades, this cemetery is like a miniature world”. It is a wonderful place to walk in, airy, tranquil and surprisingly uplifting.

Light and shades

Light and shades

In parts, it is very hilly with out-of-the-way, overgrown corners, which turn out to have elaborate tombs waiting to surprise you. John always needs to climb to the highest point, and here was no exception. On the way we tried to find Jim Morrison’s tomb (The Doors). I found it first in the end but John had meanwhile wandered off. It’s a very small, flat grave and people have thrown flowers and cigarettes on it. There was, as ever, a motley crew hanging around. Last time I was there, it was awash with whisky bottles (empty).

Ever onward, we then climbed endless, meandering steps, and John started to get enthusiastic and took some good shots. Oscar Wilde’s tomb is very impressive, but the sphinx is now covered with lipsticked lips, where hundreds of people have kissed it. I felt it was rather tacky but John said O.W. would have thrived on all the attention he was getting. Next door to him is a bust of a very cheerful, good-looking chap – I noted his name was A. Vigneron. On balance, I think I would have preferred his company to Oscar’s.

Unknown celebrity

Unknown celebrity

My orienteering skills let me down again and I couldn’t find Apollinaire but we managed to track down Delacroix’s black basalt tomb, which is very stylish – as befits him. We sat for a few minutes on a bench in the sun – everything was very green and vibrant and the birds were singing. There are a lot of sparrows (des moineaux) in Paris, which is good to see as there is now a great dearth of them in London – I am not sure why. I do know that a colleague of John’s did a survey on this – his name was Max Nicholson.

Eggheads ou intellos

Eggheads ou intellos

A view from the bench

A view from the bench

Our next stop was at ‘Arts et Métiers’ – to look at the science museum there. This was worth it just to see the last bit where Blériot’s biplane and various vintage cars and an amazing working model of Foucault’s pendulum are all in the ‘Chapelle’. This is an old church and the use of the space is hugely dramatic and unbelievably clever. I complimented the guide on it as we left. People in general always seem to be complaining so at the moment I am going out of my way to say if things are well done or to thank people for being kind and considerate. It lifts my spirits too.

Avion étonnant

Avion étonnant



Statuette of Liberty

Statuette of Liberty

I was desperate now for a drink and some reviving food but we started walking again – I didn’t think I could go that far without sustenance but we went down the Rue Réaumur and passed a small park before turning into the Rue du Temple. This street is jam packed with costume jewellery shops and accessories like hats, hairclips and bags – it just goes on, shop after shop after shop. My jackdaw genes turned me into a ‘lèche-vitrine’.



Suddenly, things looked familiar after my explorations of yesterday and, even though dead on my feet, I managed to propel John into the ‘Café des Philosophes’ on Rue Vieille du Temple’ – right next to the cul-de-sac, Rue du Trésor, which is a little, flower-filled haven.

It was 4pm. My legs were like jelly as we sat down. I ordered scrambled eggs and an orange pressé – John added salmon to his eggs and had a glass of white wine. Twenty minutes later I was feeling so revived that we left and bought a delicious tub of icecream at the gelateria on the corner. It was a mix of crème caramel and coffee. We ate in the relative peace of the Rue du Trésor. I couldn’t sit down on the pavement as I was wearing my new caviar-coloured summer cotton coat. I imagine it looks very ‘chic’, but I could be wrong.

Finally, we trudged the last lap homewards, checking out a possible restaurant near the Picasso museum and poking our noses into some contemporary art galleries. At No. 8 Rue du Foin there is a big blue door and I managed to get a glimpse of what seemed to be a wondrous ‘jardin’ with exotic palms as an old woman made her way in. How I longed to slip in invisibly after her.

Couldn’t wait to snuggle up in bed. So exhausted, we only had chocolate for supper which was in the fridge.


This morning after breakfast I left John to the joys of his project and went down to the Rue St. Antoine where I’d seen a china outlet. It’s incredibly cheap with some lovely, plain white dishes. I would carry things home if they weren’t so heavy. I did buy a very pretty white porcelain lemon squeezer with its own little jug for Hania’s flat, which cost six euros. I love white china. This was really simple, yet stylish.

It was spotting slightly with rain and became quite heavy by the time I got back. I felt anxious about getting on with the day and not being squeezed by John’s work. There was a notice in the lift, which said ‘Tranquillisez-vous’, so I tried. It was actually explaining what to do if you got stuck and telling you that somebody, somewhere was there 24/7 to come to your assistance. That would be nice.

Buoyed up, I decided we would go to the Musée de Parfum by the Fragonard shop, suitably frivolous to counteract the general state of the world. We set off by métro to ‘Opéra’, which is where the famous department stores, ‘Galeries Lafayettes’ and ‘Printemps’ are, next to one another.

The perfume museum is small but exquisite. We ended up in the shop buying soap – one bar was made with oil of apricot and smelled so wonderful that we ended up buying a number for presents.

Outside, I took a photo of a man with a barrel organ. On top of it in a basket, two cats were snuggled up together. They had feral, baleful stares. Another man was selling painted plates but people were attracted to him mainly by his very sweet looking brown dog and her two puppies.

John took photos of the ‘Printemps’ window dressings, which were fabulous. I took one, too (see below). Round the corner, we found Fnac – the large store which sells records, books etc. In London, I had looked in HMV for the film music CD of ‘ Quand j’étais Chanteur’, a film I fell in love with. Many of the songs are sung by Gérard Depardieu himself as he plays the singer in the film. HMV said it was ‘on order’, but had never arrived. And lo and behold, I found it here, almost immediately.

Vitrine du Printemps

Vitrine du Printemps

I also bought a ‘roman policier’ about Père-Lachaise by Claude Izner in French. It has been translated into English and is proving very popular but I thought it would be great to have them both and see how good I thought the translation was. It might help my French as well. And on the way out I saw a small book on where to get a good massage in Paris – cheap and not so cheap. Felt like going to the nearest one on offer!

The soap being rather heavy, we struggled back to the métro at ‘Opéra’. Just then, I espied ‘Café de la Paix’. I had never been there but knew it was famous. I said to John we should at least go and have a cup of coffee. The ‘brasserie’ part is all glass and a perfect place for ‘people watching’, both inside and out. And we got the perfect table for this, right by the window.


Café de la Paix

Café de la Paix

There was an old but very well preserved gentleman, tanned by the Riviera sun no doubt, who was dressed in that laid back but sophisticated way. He kept staring at me. His companion was blonde and very soignée. She was wearing a pale green suit – if I had to guess, probably Chanel. They looked made for one another – I looked back at him and raised one eyebrow. This sort of thing is much more fun to do in France than it is in England. I don’t believe I even do it in England.

We ended up having lunch, both opting for a most delicious Roquefort and walnut salad. John had a small glass of red wine (10 euros – yikes!) and the espressos were six euros apiece. I took a photo of mine (very dreadful and naff but nevertheless…) and slipped the wrapped sugar cubes into my pocket. Everything was beautifully laid out and I enjoyed myself enormously.

As we were leaving, the waiter checked our table and found John’s camera left on the floor. What a disaster that would have been! Thank you, thank you, Shoyeb, S. (His name was on the bill). Je t’aime.

After this, we took the métro to Jussieu, so I could visit my ‘femme des chiffons’. There was a man in our carriage playing the accordion rather well. I wanted to give him something but he jumped out before I could find my euros. Must put some in my pocket to be ready for these occasions. Yesterday in the métro, we had to move seats as an incredibly smelly man got on and moaned to everybody about the state of his life. Not inspirational. On our various walking marathons, the smell of drains is quite frequent, although it used to be much worse. When I came to Paris aged sixteen, this smell and the palpable one of garlic oozing out of skin in the métro were overwhelming – and quite exciting.

My ‘femme douloureuse des écharpes’ wasn’t at the shop, but it was open. Unfortunately, they only had two scarves left of the type I like and neither appealed. However, the ‘vendeuse’ said she was expecting a new delivery. Ah well, next time …
John, meanwhile, had made off. We met up and did a little turn around the Jardin des Plantes but saved our energy (and our feet) by taking the métro to Mabillon, which is close to Delacroix’s atelier. Fifth time lucky! This time it was open and it was definitely worth persevering. There is an enchantingly small, enclosed garden reached by an outdoor staircase. It had box trees and red, black and yellow tulips. And there is a very clean and welcome loo. I took a great photo of John, sitting in the garden. Delacroix loved his atelier and I can see why.

John chez Delacroix

When we came out I was careful not to walk the wrong way down the Rue de Seine again (!) This time we got to the river, crossed at the ‘Pont des Arts’, walked over to the Rue de Rivoli and then all the way back to the Place des Vosges and home. It was quite a hike and never was a cup of tea so welcome. I lay on the sofa recuperating while John got ready for his conference call with various people at 6 pm. It was going to take over an hour so I went out again and roamed around. I am getting to know this arrondissement quite well.
I passed a café where an old man was sitting. His paper-thin face looked like ‘The Scream’ by Munch but it was also bright yellow. I couldn’t think how he could be still alive, sitting there staring into space, apparently oblivious to all around him.

This was our last night and we decided to eat in. I had noticed a tiny wine shop – ‘Au Mois’ – which specializes in South American wine, just a few doors down from our apartment. We bought a lovely shaped bottle of Argentinian wine on the proprietor’s recommendation and for 10.90 euros it turned out to be velvety and smooth. I bought bread and two walnut tarts at the ‘boulangerie’ and cheese and tomatoes round the corner. It was just what I felt like for supper. The walnut tart was extremely generous, piled high with ‘noix’, all held together with melt-in-the-mouth thick brown icing sugar.

Afterwards, while John carried on working, I listened to my CD of the film music I had bought. It is music to dance to, so I did and felt romantic while John arranged his photos of the day to put on his blog.


I woke at 6 am. Sunny again and very warm already. I had brought many too many winter clothes. Breakfast was rather a scrappy affair, as I had to clean the apartment, put out the rubbish and pack. Pierre was arriving at 9.45 am and the taxi at 10 am. It’s only fifteen minutes to the Gare du Nord and if our cases weren’t so heavy we could easily have got the métro. The downside of the métro is that there are lots and lots of stairs, which is bad news when you have heavy bags.

At the Gare du Nord, you get out of the taxi and beggars fall upon you like a flock of rabid pigeons, wanting your change. I didn’t give them any. I was busy enough trying to find the right amount for the taxi driver. I remember once, a long time ago, in Leather Lane in London, giving a beggar a bag of apples I had just bought in the market and he threw them with an oath into the gutter. I suppose this has always rankled, so he didn’t do his fellows a very good turn, as they have had nothing from me since. I know I shouldn’t hold grudges but sometimes I think it’s justified – and, yes, sometimes not…..

In the queue for the Eurostar we saw Trevor Nunn and Imogen Stubbs. She once came to the girls’ school and gave a talk about her career. She still has long, blonde hair.

Just before we dived into the tunnel our taxi driver in London sent a text to say he would be waiting for us at St. Pancras. Great news, as we are horribly weighed down. The tunnel is a bit like Alice through the Looking Glass. When you come out on the other side the apartment can now only be reached by looking at images on the internet. It will soon ring to the dulcet tones of the next inhabitant, who will make it her own. Pierre told us she was an opera singer.

We have had a fabulous week … and writing things down holds the memory of it.

Au revoir Paris – et à bientôt.


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.