What is it about Paris that gets under your skin? It has a heartbeat and rhythm unlike any other place. I always forget how magnificent the buildings are, how spectacular the French women are and how cosy and inviting the bistros are even though they are all offering pretty much the same thing as the French are so traditional their menus are identical. It is comforting that you can get your favourite dish at any one of the thousands of bistros that dot the avenues and boulevards of Paris. In this city of Lights there are so many romantic corners to snuggle in it’s hard not to feel like a voyeur as young lovers gaze into each others eyes over their entrecôte and frites. It is also not the sort of place you want to be by yourself and especially not when you had spent months anticipating being there with your husband and all of a sudden you are there solo. This is exactly how our long looked forward to holiday begun however.
Things started out so well with an upgrade to business class and a lovely meal in the 1st class lounge before we boarded at 10pm. We were so chuffed and kept saying what a great start to our holiday we were having and how lucky we were. Things were a bit short-lived however as on arrival in Doha my erstwhile travel companion couldn’t locate his passport. As we were still on the plane and he had it on arrival at his seat we were pretty sure it must have slipped down the side of his chair and an engineer was called in to take the seat apart but to no avail. It had disappeared and the only thing we could think was that someone had picked it up by mistake and they would discover their error once inside the terminal. Eternally optimistic we proceeded in and to the transfer desk for our 2nd leg to Paris presuming it would be found and delivered in time for our flight. Sadly this was not to be and our plight became apparent as our luggage was offloaded and talk turned to notifying the consulate in Abu Dhabi (no embassy in Qatar either just to make matters worse) of our situation and of having to return to Sydney to apply for an emergency passport as there was no way he could enter France without paperwork and to top it all off permission from Sydney immigration had to be sought before he was even allowed to return to his homeland – CRAZY!!!
I was told I could continue to Paris on another flight but I had to take all the luggage, apparently they couldn’t or wouldn’t separate our 2 cases so off I poddled to gay Paree without my boy but with 40 kgs of luggage not being very sure where or when I would see him next. So here I was in the most romantic city in the world eating dips and crackers from the supermarket in my bedroom my first night because I felt so jet lagged and just couldn’t be bothered to attempt to go out at night alone. When daylight came however I was in my element – off exploring the sights and walking the length and breadth of Paris along with all the other tourists. It was an uncharacteristic 36 degrees and I was grateful to be able pop into an art gallery here and a cool shaded park there to rest and recover before I one again grasped my camera, sunnies and map to discover another little corner of Paris. I must say the Parisians are VERY good at utilising their public green spaces. In the Jardins de Luxumborg there are people everywhere – playing basketball, tennis, swimming, reading, painting, playing chess and a million other things. Using every available inch of space and facility and each park seemed to have at least one cafe serving everything from a bottle of water to a 3 course lunch with wine! I enjoyed the special of the day (the flakiest, butteriest of quiches with the perfect amount of perfectly dressed salad ) and an enormous glass of rose under the shade of a plane tree all for the price of a pie in Australia!!! They are masters of the simple things done well. I was so lucky to be staying very close to the Seine and in my jet lagged state I was waking up very early and walking as Paris woke up. A beautiful time of day anywhere but especially here as I wandered through the amazing buildings that make up the Louvre totally alone apart from a pigeon and a stray cat. It really made me feel part of the history unencumbered as I was by the usual throng of tourists.
After a couple of days exploring and eating alone I was excited to board the TGV to Narbonne in the South of France to visit our family friend Brett and his wife Laura and family. He is an Aussie, an ex Wallaby who now plays rugby for Narbonne. He has two delicious little children and a beautiful wife who was happy to share her house not only with me but with another 3 people who happened to be visiting and there was a lovely party atmosphere as we had a wonderful weekend of eating, drinking and playing with the littlies. They live on the beach at a wonderfully undiscovered place called Leucate which was dotted with restaurants and pop up bars and is the South of France that the French go to!! The beautiful local seafood, Carcasonne and it’s amazing ramparted city and well preserved castle, tapas at the local bar and a cute village square together with some genuine Aussie company all helped me forget the plight of my loved one for a day or two.
By the time I returned to Paris he had managed to get an emergency passport and had bought a new flight to meet me – exactly a week after we had set off together the first time!! We were staying near the Gare de Nord as we had an early journey on the Eurostar to London so we made the most of our time walking to the Sacre Coeur and bar hopping until we found a great restaurant for dinner.
One night in Paris together before we headed off to London and the main reason for our trip – my Mum’s 80th birthday weekend. We met our daughter who had flown in from Hong Kong for the auspicious occasion and had a fab day wandering through the streets of London (l think there’s a song there somewhere!!) which was awash with hanging baskets of flowers and those fabulous pubs that I still miss after 30 years living in Oz. Little Venice with gaily painted houseboats tethered along the canals lined with Weeping Willows, Notting Hill and Kensington Wine Room for lunch after a drink in the amazing pub The Churchill which was decorated with chamber pots hanging from the ceiling and the walls completely covered in pictures of everything you could possibly imagine. Completely mad but somehow it works!!!
Next stop Thornbury Castle for the big birthday bash………!!!!