48 Hours in Paris

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

On the last weekend in June, I jumped on a train, crossed the channel, and found myself with 48 hours to spend in Paris. If you want to see a whole city in just a weekend, you can. Sort of.
I spent the first night in the Quartier Latin which is bang in the middle of the city and borders the Seine, and the second with friends in a sleepy, leafy suburb, Neuilly. The great thing about Paris is that the centre - unlike London - is relatively compact: you can reach pretty much anywhere by foot, so long as your calves allow.


I hadn't been to Paris for years, so it was great to see it again in the flesh. Sure, it's beautiful, but it's all too often seen through rose-tinted glasses; imagined as the site for quirky rom-coms, and, as the official Ville de L'Amour, the official breeding ground for romance (though around Valentine's Day, a breeding ground, it literally is).

Scrape off the sugar-coat, and the truth is that it smells a bit and that Parisians are pretty unfriendly. Mere stereotypes? Afraid not. Forget customer service: here, doing one's job is doing you a massive favour. Ask 'So sorry to bother you, but could you, possibly, please, perhaps direct me to the Champs-Elysees?' and expect sighing, eye-rolling, and grunting. And consider yourself lucky to be paid attention to. Spoilt brat.

On the first night, I met up for a drink with my good friend Camille, a real living, breathing, and actually very pleasant Parisian! I was swiftly led away from a tourist trap to a street which ran its parallel: equally pretty, but without the buskers' renditions of 'La Vie En Rose'. I know it's hardly rocket science, but it takes spending time with a local to remind you that Paris isn't just a quaint picture-perfect cobble-stone town but a working city with genuine -gasp!- inhabitants. Seems obvious, but the rom-coms suggest otherwise.


We weren't so lucky with the weather and it poured for much of the weekend. But maybe this was a blessing in disguise, as Paris somehow suits rain. The grey-roofed buildings and outdoor cafes become all the more charming and atmospheric, and it may just be me but Parisians look even more effortlessly cool, umbrella-clad. Yes, it could just be the novelty of being in a foreign city, but trust me, Paris suits rain better. Anyway, we took refuge in a buzzing and Belgian fish restaurant called 'Leon de Bruxelles': the place to go to sate your fishy needs.

No city comes very close to London in my eyes, but Paris, manners and smell aside, was lovely. I'll be back.


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