Sep 14, 2009
|It all sounds terribly exciting. You hop on a modern plush train in the middle of London, have it transport you at high speed out over the English county of Kent, then it plunges into the earth, speeds under the English Channel and rediscovers the sunlight, after less than 20 minutes in Troll territory, to head straight for the centre of Paris, arriving a mere 2 hrs 20 minutes after departing.
I was excited about going to Paris again. Back in our dimly remembered past we had lived there for about four years; it was long enough ago for the currency to be in francs, a Menu du Jour including a Pichet du Vin Rouge to cost only 15 or so of those francs and for us to be in baby making mode. We had returned many times since those days, always thoroughly enjoying the city’s beauty, vibrancy, people, food and cultural distractions whilst attempting to avoid the dog turds. This time, we had found a studio apartment for our week’s stay in the 10th arrondissement overlooking the Canal St Martin, a stone’s throw (for an Olympic field athlete) from La République.
I glanced at the passing English countryside, thought briefly about the coming week and determined to finish off the two recent editions of The Economist that I had only spasmodically delved into. I shouldn’t have bothered reading them of course. The reality of the news therein did not engender a sense of ease about the world. One small snippet, did, however, add some humour to the sorry exercise: ‘A Bolivian religious fanatic briefly hijacked a Mexican airliner, ordering it to circle Mexico City. He told the crew he had three accomplices, whom he later identified to police as ‘The Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost.” A pretty accomplished gang, you would have thought.
The Eurostar slowed its way through the spaghetti like railways of inner Paris lined with walls of prolific, mostly ugly, forgettable graffiti and into the Gare du Nord. Packs on back, a carnet of Metro tickets purchased, we easily found our way to La République and emerged from the tunnels on the wrong side of the huge bustling square. It already felt like home.
It is very difficult to get lost in Paris providing you know where you want to go. The Metro is easy to understand and gets you nearly anywhere and there are very good local maps displayed at each station. So it wasn’t long till we had determined where our apartment was located and we headed straight there.
There was no time to greedily savour the Mille Feuille and Pain au Chocolat in the Patisserie or be enticed into a Boulangerie, its freshly baked bread aromas wafting out onto the busy, slightly grubby sidewalk. We had set a time to meet Madame Ayoun, the owner of the apartment, so such desirable delays were proscribed – at least for the moment.
Petite Madame Monique Ayoun (call me Mona), shadowed by body-built squat husband sporting a necklace that could have kept a Mafia type at the bottom of the Hudson River, proudly showed off her brightly decorated pad and parted with our cash warming her pocket as swiftly as she had arrived.
Although a little too eclectic with its large turquoise framed bathroom mirror encircled by colourful plastic vines and unnecessary pot plants vying for much needed space, the studio is all one needs (nearly) for a stay of a week or few in Paris. The building is about a decade old and boasts two reasonably fast lifts, each with capacity for several adults in defiance of their Parisian ancestors – many still operating - that barely transport one Aussie at a time. Our retreat is located on the 11th floor. Once quitting the main corridor with its lingering persistent smell from thousands of cigarette puffing locals (a Parisian necessity) the largish bathroom is found to the left. Four steps later you find yourself in the room. To the left, in front of the bathroom is a kitchenette, not entirely satisfactorily equipped but we got by OK. To the right, draped in a red cover, is the queen sized bed which faces a large glass door leading onto a small balcony looking over the canal with near westerly aspect; this is something to be coveted in Paris and proved to be well used during our stay. A small TV with 9 million channels but only 4 in English, a desk, two built in cupboards one of which is partly populated by Madame’s remnants, two stools, some chairs and internet access complete the package.
Unpacked and provisioned after a foray to the supermarché and boulangerie we settle into the balcony chairs, removing the half dead plastic pot encased plant sitting on the table. Whilst enjoying a beer we soak up the atmosphere. We can see over most of the roof tops, the towers of Notre Dame poking through a little way to our left, the Eiffel Tower in the distance and Sacre Coeur atop Mont Martre not too far away to our right. We are happy. We plot our moves to meet our Aussie mates for dinner in a few hours.
It just so happened that Peter and Maureen were spending a few days in Paris joined by their expat daughter Erika and hubby Rob, who had come down from Geneva. Pete suggested that we conjure up a Parisian venue, perhaps a haunt from the past. Brasserie Flo, where many a rollicking good night was had way back then, perhaps fitted the bill. They even sent a nice email to confirm – recession you know.
J'ai bien noté votre réservation pour le 12 septembre 2009 à 19h pour
6 personnes et nous vous en remercions.
M. FILIPPA Mathieu
Brasserie FLO, 7 cours des Petites Ecuries, 75010 Paris
Tel 01 47 70 13 59
Fax 01 42 47 00 80
Fresh from our English hill wanderings, a mere 20 minute walk through the streets of Paris to reach the tucked away brasserie would hardly get the blood pumping. Naturally, we began the hard exercise by taking up possies at a tiny table at Chez Pierre to partake of an aperitif (a clever French word that means having a drink before you are going to have a drink). This very French pastime of disguising people watching, people discussion and people analysis in terms of a drink as the sun wanes away, is just up our alley.
Fortified, we headed off and at one stage thought we had moved into a central African nation. We stuck out like, well, white people, in a sea of black. Droves of these new French paced the footpaths and cobblestones whilst an untold number of hair salons were packed with both men and women being coiffed to the nines. It was Saturday night so this could well have been their ‘big night out’ but it did seem slightly bizarre (another good word that really says that I had no clue as to what was going on). We passed through the whole melee without incident and were soon settled in the magnificent Belle Époque interior of Brasserie Flo with wonderful champagne in hand.
After an excellent meal and a great time filled with stories and laughs – for old time’s sake I consumed a French Onion Soup and then followed it with some perfectly cooked lamb chops – we repeated the walk in reverse, the dark continent having by then lost most of its inhabitants.
Sitting on our balcony enjoying a night cap, we were entertained by a flurry of fireworks. The Eiffel Tower sparkled in its thousands of golden globes, sweeping a bright laser beam from its pinnacle. The Parisian roof tops, romantically dressed in their array of shadows, stepped away from us into the faint darkness. I imagined that that Ewan McGregor would burst into one of his Moulin Rouge songs as he sat on one of those roof tops and as the Green Fairy twinkled above.
Paris is a magical place.