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Cinnamon patrol

Mr and Mrs Lili Wedding


Great Cities of Europe: Un Tube

If Parisians are rude or cocky, I don't blame them. They think they have discovered the way to live well and, really, nothing I saw in Paris would lead me to believe they are wrong. The city is amazing and daunting in its gorgeousnesses: it is once thing to see a lovely building, another still to see a street of them, and yet another to see them in every direction, as far as the eye can see - all with their shutters and planters just so.

We flew out on a clear evening and had a good view of Dublin. Almost immediately we were over the Irish Sea, then 10 minutes later, over Wales. Although I didn't know what it was at the time, I could clearly make out the Bristol Channel, then the English Channel, then the looming mass of Europe. 75 minutes and we were in northern France. Not very far at all.

We did a lot in our three days (as aching limbs attest) but there is so much left. Like New York, there are lots of neighborhoods, each with its own feel. A favourite of ours was Le Marais, an area which escaped the haussmannisation of Paris and so was less boulevard and more alley. It's also the Jewish area and we enjoyed lunch at a Jewish deli (gefillte fish, latka, and onion bread).

Unlike our first day, when we walked everywhere (miles and miles and miles) we began to ride the metro like pros. And that's a lucky thing because on Monday we set out on a mission for un tube, that is a cardboard tube for the purposes of posting. No museum gift shop, stationers, or department store was immune from our attentions. In the end, a very kindly lady helped us find one in a large department store. She was the antithesis of the Parisian stereotype, kind, self-effacing and sweet. Expiring and perspiring, we made it back to our hotel with just enough time to repack our bags and head back to the metro for the bus to the airport.

(We flew Ryan Air, and they fly into a regional airport called Beauvais, about 90km north of Paris - and you need to catch a coach to the airport as there are no rail links. As airports go, it ranks at the highly crappy end of the scale, but I was much impressed with Ryan Air. Our flight was late leaving, but they did something nearly unheard of: they sped up and we landed on time! Apparently they are the most on-time airline in Europe).

Possibly my single favourite activity was the picnic we made, at the suggestion of Jonathan, a friend of Laura's cousin who we were very luck to meet for lunch on Saturday. At a very flash supermarket attached to the famous Le Bon Marche department store, we spent E50 on bread, cheese, champagne, pastries and fruit. Then, metro-enabled, we headed to the Jardin des Tuileries, a large and beautifully landscaped public space. In fact, we didn't go there at all. Due to a navigational error, we picnicked on some lawn sandwiched in between two roads. It was just lovely.

Listening to Linda Clark one day on National Radio, I heard an interview she had with some French author. She was a young lady and prolific in her output. She was an odd sort, and slept only a few hours each night. When asked about her favourite activity, she said the best thing in life is to drink champagne and walk through the streets of Paris. That is what inspired me yesterday afternoon, and that is what we did.

See my pick of the photos (on aesthetic grounds) by clicking the thumbnail above. The full collection is on Laura's flickr account. It's not the best camera work in the world. We were very preoccupied.

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