December and it must be Paris. Well, perhaps a little exaggeration. We spent a few days last year in Montmartre to celebrate our 30th wedding anniversary and decided to go again this year. This time our great friend Jo came too. It looked chaotic at St Pancras but despite the heavy snow in the south-east, Eurostar got us out with only a 15 minute delay. Speed restrictions meant we were an hour late. But on the return journey we caught an earlier train and got an upgrade to First Class. For 59 quid return, that can't be bad!
We strolled around the city sightseeing, visited the Sacre Coeur, the Notre Dame, the Shakespeare Bookshop, where among the shelves of English books is a piano and visitors are invited to take a pew, read or play. One evening we did the Christmas market in the Champs Elysees. Didn't buy anything but drinking vin chaud and peeping at the stalls was fun. We also managed to see Elles@Pompidou. The art centre had been closed due to strikes last year. They have made this exhibition of women's art (since the 1960's) a permanent feature. Well worth a visit.
In our apartment there was a visitor's book, where people wrote about the chic little restaurants they'd found. Looking for an authentic place to eat, we found a cheap place to eat near the Pompidou called 'Flunch'- a kind of BHS restaurant but where you can go back and help yourself to seconds from a vast range of veggies. It clearly provides a social service as we shared our meal with all kinds of characters-lady boys, hustlers, immigrants. One poor man, who looked like he had mental health problems went up three times to refill his plate with a mountain of rice and tomato sauce interjected by frequent visits to the Men's. On the way out a man who called himself himself the Chef, asked Jo if she'd enjoyed her meal and they shared a moment on the stairs enthusing about the quality of the food. I think the meal had cost about 6 pounds in total. One for the book!
By the third day it was sleeting and the pavements an ice rink. I began to get worried that I might fall and do damage to my hip but I held on tight to Rhys and all was well. Jo was braver and wandered round our area for hours inhaling the atmosphere. It was fun to spend the time together. But, I'm not sure I want a third helping of Paris in December. Now April, perhaps?