Friday, September 23, 2022
Mr. Waffle and I went off on our adventure to Paris to visit herself. V thrilling. The flight was uneventful although the journey to our airbnb from the airport felt good and long. The French metro tickets seemed so old fashioned compared to elsewhere. I was very impressed by London where I was just able to use my contactless bank card. The small rectangular Paris ticket seemed so strange. Apparently it is being phased out and I mildly regret not having kept a souvenir. I was charmed by this welcoming poster in the metro.
The airbnb was fine. The listing promised the best view in Paris and it was certainly a good view though the rest of the accommodation was a bit basique.
And frankly the sign in the lift indicating that the pest exterminators were coming on the following Tuesday to deal with the cockroaches was…unwelcome.
I think that the owner of the property may have been a Belgian as there were pictures of Baudouin and Fabiola in the bathroom. Others might have been baffled but my expertise in the field of Belgian royalty stood me in good stead. As my mother used to say, “knowledge is never wasted”.
Herself made her way around to us and we all went for dinner to a place on the quays in the centre of town. The food was fine but no more than it. The restaurant is related to the Tour d’Argent – the diffusion model, if you will – and I have to say that association is doing the Tour d’Argent no favours.
On our stroll around after dinner, we found ourselves passing the restaurant that saved our bacon when we were a hungry family of tourists looking for lunch in the centre of Paris many years ago. It was Asterix themed. We’re not proud. We took a photo to send to the boys but sadly they had forgotten this pivotal cultural moment.
After having put herself in a taxi, Mr. Waffle and I continued our 2022 tour of European city micro-mobility options by scooting back to the airbnb. Unlike in Berlin where you could basically drop your scooter anywhere, there are designated parking areas in Paris. A better solution, I think, although mildly less convenient for the user. Also cobblestones are a challenge.
Saturday, September 24, 2022
We went for breakfast in the Pain Quotidien (judge away) in Rue de Bretagne which was right beside us. Herself joined us and we went for a little flâne around the quartier, stopping to look in the shops and market stalls and a really excellent book shop. My goodness, you forget how heart-stoppingly beautiful Paris is.
After lunch we went to visit friends for tea. The mother and I shared a flat together in Brussels nearly thirty years ago and we have stayed in touch ever since – exchanging Christmas cards and our children – a source of enormous satisfaction to both of us. Their eldest daughter is abroad for college as well and their boys are teenagers. Slightly to my horror they are talking about buying a house in the country and downsizing to a smaller flat in Paris once the youngest starts college. How did we get so old? Also, their truly beautiful flat in the 16th, how can they bear to leave it and where will they put all their books?
Afterwards we went to inspect the Princess’s accommodation. It was in a very chic neighbourhood in an old building. So far so good. We passed the beautiful main entrance and I was delighted. We went on to the grim servants’ entrance behind and I was distinctly less entranced. She was on the 6th floor no lift.
Her landing was terrifying.
Honestly, if you were a location scout, you would say, “This is it, I’ve found the perfect spot for the crime scene.”
However, the flat itself was pleasant enough though small and boasting some slightly exciting plumbing arrangements.
She took us out for dinner to a local Korean place which was, honestly, nicer than where we had eaten on Friday night and far, far cheaper. It also boasted more wipe clean surfaces though.
To celebrate the saving over dinner we went to a local bar for a drink. People, I paid €7.30 for a cup of tea, surely a record etc.
Sunday, September 25, 2022
We went to Mass in the Marais. At the end of the service, we sang Salve Regina and all turned towards the statue of the Virgin Mary in a side chapel. Bit odd, I thought. Catholics please advise.
We met herself for a very expensive breakfast in Place des Vosges. When I was booking our airbnb, I saw one on Place des Vosges and when I went back to book, it was gone. Alas. Anyway, it was delightful. We re-created some pictures from when we were last in Paris together and what I find astounding is how much the iphone camera has improved since 2017.
We wandered past the Musée Carnavalet. It is free, so I was keen to go in. Mr. Waffle was dubious. It’s a museum of the city of Paris and weirdly like all of the other local city museums you have been to, although somewhat larger.
Undoubted highlight was reading some of the v angry comments on the experience. I particularly enjoyed the one that took the opportunity to have a dig at Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo (patron saint of cyclists).
We had lunch in the courtyard outside which I thought was lovely and atmospheric and herself and Mr. Waffle thought was a public health hazard. As a pigeon flew up on the table beside us herself commented tartly, “Its first time performing this manoeuvre no doubt”.
After lunch, we tackled the Louvre. Free for the under 25s but €17 for each adult. Still worth it, people.
Mr. Waffle and herself tired and went for a cup of tea in Starbucks (in the Louvre, sacred blue etc) but I persevered.
They have such a good collection of French painters as well as everything else and I love a bit of Watteau, Fragonard, Boucher frills and froth as well as the quieter charms of Chardin.
I am not a massive Claude Lorrain fan which is a pity because the Louvre has quite the collection. I had a quick walk down the long gallery stopping at some of the particularly famous paintings (although the Mona Lisa had a queue with a line other very famous and beautiful pictures did not).
I went to an online talk about the Louvre before going and I offer you the information that Diane de Poitiers put her initials and Henri II’s all over the Louvre to the intense chagrin of his wife, Catherine de Medici. I am sure you are delighted to note that your correspondent is as didactic as ever.
We had dinner in a local restaurant. Fine and a moment of triumph when we addressed the waiter and he said, in French, “Oh sorry, I thought you were English.” We did ok actually in the speaking French to French people stakes (something which was not very difficult in the past). They seemed willing which was all I wanted really.
Monday, September 26, 2022
After breakfast out, we packed up, put our suitcases in left luggage and went for a walk in Montmartre. Mr. Waffle was reluctant as it so touristy but it was handy. It wasn’t bad, I thought. I mean, there’s no two ways about it, it is tourist central – we kept getting caught up with a large Spanish walking tour – but it’s not exactly like the rest of Paris is tourist free. And it is rather charming with good views. It is possible that the on/off rain showers may have scared off some of the tourists.
Observe the site where Saint Denis stopped to wash his severed head in a fountain. Not a great picture but, if you look closely, you will see the statue is carrying the head. This is a source of a great line from a French aristo who having been told the story by some cardinal said, “Il n’y a que le premier pas qui coûte”. It’s only the first step that counts. In other words, once he picks up his head and starts walking, well, the fact that it’s 6 kms is neither here nor there. A perennial favourite phrase with my mother.
By lunch time, the rain was torrential. We were to meet herself in a trendy place for lunch. Many of her friends had recommended it. We queued outside for a good half hour in the lashing rain before getting in. There were two queues: the queue for those with reservations and the one for those without. We were in the latter group, sadly.
When we got in, lunch was nice and it was all very happening. I can recommend Pink Mamma but I would also recommend that you book.
Then we said goodbye to herself and began our epic trek to airport. Nothing went wrong but it was just long. I felt bad leaving her sitting dripping on her own on the other side of the metro tracks but she made it home safely and I felt very proud of my small girl making her way in the big city. Also, I was quite pleased that she was coming home shortly.
We had such a good time. I was delighted. Mr. Waffle was reminded of when he lived in Paris in the early 90s and his parents came to visit him. Overall it went well but his father’s credit card had expired and getting cash abroad was not as easy then as it is now. The upshot of this was that he ended up subsidising them in their high rolling cafe adventures from his slender student savings and he still remembers the pain (fear not, they were good for the money but cash flow can be a problem, if you’re a student). No such difficulties occurred during our visit which was just as well as I think our daughter is more like her profligate mama than her prudent papa.
All in all, a triumph.