A week or two ago, I got to finally go on a ‘summer’ holiday. Having moved house at the start of the year, I decided my budget wouldn’t withstand much (or indeed any) gallivanting or beach holidaying. I’d accepted I would be staying at home all year.
In the end though, I relented and decided a short break in a European capital couldn’t hurt – and shouldn’t cost too much! I was wrong on at least one of those counts as, the day I travelled, the exchange rate was less than a euro to the pound. Long gone, it seems, are the heady, halcyon days of a great exchange rate and cheap European holidays! Oh well, I wasn’t going to grumble. I was getting away for a week and I was going to make sure I was going to enjoy it!
I finished work on the Thursday late in the day and rushed home to pack. I say pack, it was more like a ‘Generation Game’ episode where the contestants are challenged to see who can stuff the most items into their suitcase! I’ve never been an economical packer, always bringing far too much stuff that never gets worn. Please tell me I’m not the only one?
Friday morning saw my alarm go off at – what felt like – the middle of the night. Bleary-eyed, I trotted into town to meet one of my besties, Lisa, at St. Pancras to catch our Eurostar to the stunning jewel of a city that is Paris. There’s something very magical about it, and this was my third visit in the last six years.
When our packed train arrived at Gard Du Nord, we emerged from the station fully prepared for the usual rugby scrum at the taxi rank, only to discover just one couple ahead! Score! Thank you Paris, for the stress-free arrival. Off we set to our rented apartment for the week. Once ensconced, a bottle of wine was first to be unpacked. We popped it in the freezer for 15 minutes, along with some tumblers.
Having unpacked my clothes, I jumped in the shower and promptly sat down to a glass of wine – or two – to unwind and start soaking up the French atmosphere. We decided we would retreat ourselves and, once dressed up, splurged on a taxi to avoid the rain. We were whisked off to The Ritz, where I had always wanted to have a cocktail. Lisa always wanted to visit The Hemingway Bar as she is a fan of Ernest Hemingway, who had more or less taken up residence in Paris during the war. He spent most of that time in one of the bars, so they named it after him.
I’m not sure I really have the words to describe the splendour and opulence of the place. It was a touch overwhelming, but also a real reminder of the very small percentage of people who live in a world that I will visit very occasionally, but never inhabit. Whilst there, I remembered I will never belong there. It is nice, sometimes, to pretend!
That’s precisely what we did. We laughed and had a lot of fun. We had two cocktails each (our budget wouldn’t allow for more than that) and headed off to a very reasonably-priced and modest restaurant a couple of streets away for a dinner that costed less the the drinks! It was totally worth it though.
The Sunday saw us rise early and head off to see one of my favourite things in Paris: a retrospective of the life and work of Chrisitian Dior.
It’s an extensive exhibition covering the early life of the designer, his influences (he was once an art gallery owner and collected Salvador Dali pieces amongst others), right through to the present day.
His most famous looks were there, particularly ‘The New Look’ which transformed utilitarian post-war women’s wear. Women’s fashion was still dictated by rationing, from boxie and bland to curvy and voluminous with its cinched in waist and multi layered skirts. The whole exhibition was breathtaking and I could have spent a couple more hours there if I’m honest.
It is definitely worth a visit and I have subsequently spoken to people who have booked a Paris trip with the exhibition as the central focus of their visit. Having seen it myself, I can understand why.
Alas we couldn’t stay any longer, as we had booked a jazz brunch. I am a big jazz fan, and who could go to Paris without hearing some jazz?
I was sceptical at first, as I was worried it was just going to be some half-hearted jazz players with a few croissants thrown in. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
It was an unlimited brunch buffet and the jazz was superb. We had a jazz quintet playing like they had jazz in their souls and would burst if they didn’t let it out by playing for us all. As a massive jazz fan, I lapped it up! It was a stunning Sunday in Paris!
Monday saw the departure of Lisa and, whilst I did a quick changeover of bed linens and towels, my two nephews and niece arrived to stay with me until Friday. Now that they’re all grown up and living their own lives, I don’t tend to get to see them as much as I would like. I want to maintain that close relationship with them that I enjoyed so much when they were little, so thought this time together would be perfect.
My eldest nephew has been to Paris twice before, so had seen all the sites. The other two, however, had never been, so I was pleased to be with them for their first experience of a city that I love.
Within 30 minutes, we were out the door and off sightseeing. The quickest way to see everything, is on an open top bus; so that’s what we did.
We started at the Arc De Triumph, just next to where we were staying. Photos and selfies had to happen at every opportunity and then be immediately posted on Snapchat and Instagram – it’s how millennials communicate with each other these days, apparently! I loved it though because I was hanging out with them.
Next stop was the Eiffel Tower and the inevitable climb to the top! Paris involved a lot of walking, but even more queuing! If you ever go and do the tourist thing, be prepared! As well seeing the Palais De Garnier (Paris Opera) and the Galleries Lafyette, we finally ended up at Notre Dame. A place for quiet reflection, I thought. But with a mass of tourists milling through, there wasn’t much chance of that!
Tuesday was a lifetime first for me: visiting an amusement park. Well, we were in Paris and one of the big attractions on the tourist trail for a couple of decades now has been Disneyland Paris.
I really wasn’t sure about this stop on our itinerary, but it was what my nephews and niece wanted, so who was I to argue?
We had such a fun day, but some of it wasn’t all that much fun as the weather (as it had been since I arrived) was very mixed. Every day I was in Paris was pretty much four seasons in one day.
I could have done with our recent Incredibrella Today’s Special Value! I had to carry three different jackets, as well as sun glasses and Ultrasun sunscreen. It was really difficult weather the whole time, but seemed to be even more problematic when wandering around an amusement park queuing for rides.
Despite my initial protestations, I did concede to go on some of the rides. I decided to start big and went on the Tower Of Terror. They take you up 13 stories and drop you at a high speed to the basement, then shoot you back up multiple stories, and then drop you again. This happened several times, to the point where I no longer knew whether I was going up or down – all I knew was that I was genuinely terrified!
After that, it was strictly only The Land of The Little People, Snow White, Pinnochio, and The Mad Hatters Tea Party. Basically, only rides or experiences that a four year old could go on! Concluding with the fireworks display at the end of the day. Best of all, I did get to meet the real Mickey Mouse. He was so sweet and friendly, fame does not appear to have gone to his head at all!
The rest of the week involved more sightseeing, including The Louvre, Sacre Couer, and Monmartre. We walked and walked – on average between six and eight miles a day, with the day at Disneyland being the winner at 13 miles!
Friday saw us all pack up and head to the airport to catch flights to our respective destinations, and reluctantly say our goodbyes.
Truly a week to treasure for a very long time, with so many incredible memories.
I have been very busy at work since my return, to the point that I have almost forgotten more about my holiday than I have remembered. What I can remember, though, is very special and for that I am thankful. I really do feel blessed when I think about it.
When things get tough, you should remember the good times and have a happy thought to go to that will help you through. This will be mine for a long time, what will yours be?
Until next time,