Ah Paris; the cafes, the gilded palaces, the shopping, the more shopping, the Moulin Rouge, the back street bars, the strange behaviour of my family on the loose (or on the hooch as Son would say)…
The Eurostar was the only disappointing thing about our weekend. I had imagined some streamline modern version of the Venice -Simplon Express. Sadly, what we got was a grubby Mad-Max style grey train, with an understocked buffet car and a madam of a Madam behind the counter. But bah humbug to that, my little family of four went to Paris!
We stayed in the Hotel du Louvre – a charming place located right next to The Louvre Museum.
The metro was seconds from our door, the Galleries Lafayette and the Champs Elysee both within walking distance and the Eiffel Tower in all its glittering splendour just a hop and a skip down the river.
Our first night in town, we went for a stroll along the river and found a bridge covered in padlocks left by lovers – it was charming and, though we didn’t know it then, lodged in Son’s head. We were stunned by the splendour of the Galleries Lafayette and had to recover in a curry house where we found our terrible French didn’t matter because Indian menus are the same the world over. Afterwards, we meant to head back to the hotel for an early night, and we sort of did, via the Cafe Comedie for obligatory Champagne, finally landing in the hotel bar.
The following day we ventured to Versailles on the RER – a sort of double-decker version of the London Overground. The Palace is incredible – it knocks Buck House into a cocked hat. However, though the grandour was indesputable – I do think the French miss a trick selling their history – we managed to leave Versailles having failed to map out the history of the French Royal family or where the Treaty of Versailles ( either one of them) was signed. Son was bored witless ( which has never happened visiting an historic house elsewhere) but he recovered in the gardens. There’s a huge amount of space for a boy to run about in and the bizarre English village that was Marie-Antoinette’s playground was hugely entertaining being both bonkers AND full of small animals.
Friday night we went to the Moulin Rouge – the food was superb, the service fabulous, the show spectacular – girls swimming with snakes, a talking dog, incredible dancing, a record breaking juggler and the original French CanCan. Feathers and sequins and foof of all kinds – completely wonderful – an institution and rightly so.
Saturday our party split – the boys went off to the Musee D’Armee the highlight of which seems to have been some armour belonging to tiny baby King Louis the Something, right up to a full grown man version …though yet again Son felt let down on the history – despite having audio guides that were actual Ipod Touchs (his current most coveted device) their ‘way coolness’ was let down by a failure to fully utilise the potential of the technology.
Daughter and I, meanwhile, went in search of Flea Markets in the north of the city at Porte de Clignancourt. Despite me being a massive idiot and failing to see a huge blue arrow that said ‘Flea Markets’, we managed to find our way to the tumble of alleyways that make up the various different markets – it was heaven for a forager. Daughter indulged her love of vintage clothes and found the stallholders , mostly, very willing to bargain.
When Daughter and I got back to the Old Quarter, we went to the Louvre – she was all excited to see the Mona Lisa, then all disappointed, the other paintings being ‘Way better’ apparently. The Venus de Milo perked her up for a bit but then, light weight that she is, she went back to the hotel for a nap and I got to wander the Louvre for a couple of hours on my own – wonderful.
That evening we took a trip on the Bateaux Parisian – what could have been cheesy was chic and welcoming thanks to our lovely waitress Sandra. Under the glow of the Eiffel Tower we set off down the river, ate fabulous food, drank champagne cocktails and laughed so hard we nearly wet ourselves. It is entirely possible we let down our nation with our complete lack of decorum. Sorry about that, especially to the French man who was sat behind us, (though if you’d try talking to your wife a little more, you might have found us less annoying).
During dinner we realised we had all done something we really wanted to do except Son. Beloved had his Army Museum, I had the Louvre, Daughter had her Vintage purchases. What did Son want to do that was all his?
‘I want to put a padlock on that bridge for our family.’
On a Sunday morning, with not much time to spare, we could only find one lock. We took it to the bridge and wound it though the fence. We should be able to find it again, it’s pretty obvious which one the Evans’ family left.