Oh Paris, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Son ‘15’ is a hoovering food machine at the best of times; set him loose in Paris, and watch him ramp up his gourmet habit.
Before I committed to this 2-month trip overseas, I drafted a budget. I did some Internet research, talked to a few fellow travellers, and guesstimated how much I’d need to survive for 8 weeks in Europe (while not paying for much accommodation, thanks to my extended family). I panicked a bit over the numbers I admit, then woke up at 2am one restless morning and thought “F**k it, if I don’t go now, when will I? And more importantly, when else will ‘15’ want to actually come with me? It’s now or never, before he’s 16 and in love, or 17 and rebelling, or 18 and doing Europe by himself anyway!”
So Hello two return tickets half cash half credit, and a firm but fair travel budget in place in my mind.
Hello to sensible talks with ‘15’ about restricting our food choices. Hello to negotiations about eating one meal a day (at least) at home- buying supplies from supermarkets, and cooking when we can. Hello to good intentions…
Then Hello Paris. City of desire, senses, history and pleasure. City of beauty, passion, and age. City of love. And city of food. Oh Paris, how do we love thee? Let us count the ways. Beginning with Nutella crepes, via croissants, pain au chocolat, and all the way to gelato, in the first afternoon.
Trying to restrict a teenager to a food budget is like standing at the sea’s edge, yelling at the waves to stop breaking. ‘15’ is usually a sensible young man, but “We’re in Paris Mum, and I’m hungry, and it smells so good here.”
Boulangeries for fresh baked bread; ham, cheese and salad baguettes heavy with fresh olive oil and pesto from the food markets; buckwheat ‘galettes’ with marinated cinnamon apples, handmade vanilla ice cream and caramelised brandy butter…
So food budget? Double it. Then double it again. And that’s just for the teenager OK?
We stayed in a small studio I found on Airbnb, in Le Marais area, close to the centre of Paris:
We lugged heavy suitcases up three flights of ancient stairs, and I had to think about the generations of feet that have worn away the centre of the wood, dipping it. It stopped me in my tracks, that physical manifestation of the passing of Time.
An afternoon visit to my Dad’s favourite building, to pay my respects to them both,
then a delightful solo sunset stroll from which I took no photos, only a full heart. There’s something about Paris that reveals a thirst in me I didn’t know I had. I just want to drown myself in the language and culture. I want to fling my arms wide, and throw myself down the throat of her. I guess I want to Belong.
We were up at 7 (in the dark!) to leave by 7.30 and walk to this beautiful place, munching fresh croissants along the way [what do you mean ‘previous gluten intolerance’??]
It doesn’t open till 9, but we still weren’t first in the queue (last time we were here, the line up was 3 hours long, so we walked away). We can now officially tick off The Louvre:
We strolled and strolled (after a siesta of course), and got lost, got lost, then strolled again. We were in bed by 10, very early by French standards, but slowly getting acclimatized, understanding that it’s best to rise later, and stay up later, just to be in rhythm with Paris herself. We had to be up at 6.30, pitch black outside, to find a taxi to Gare de Montparnasse train station, ready for the trip down to the countryside near Perigueux where my Aunt ‘M’ has owned a huge old Barn since the early 80s.
And that is where my true test of ‘acclimatization’ was to begin: I had to hire a car, and drive 1 hour 10 minutes to our new Home… On the right side of the road… With the steering wheel and gear column on the opposite side… Did I mention I was feeling nervous and ‘tested’??
But look, we made it: