A friend of mine celebrated her 40th birthday over the weekend, so I joined some 20 others in crossing the English Channel via Eurostar to Paris to celebrate with her. We stayed in a boutique hotel called Le General - a chic, quirky little place with fushia pink walls, cream and chocolate coloured furnishings and fresh Granny Smith apples placed on the pillows in each room.
We supped assorted cocktails then walked around the Marais district the hotel was situated in, soaking up the artistic charm of the area - much like SoHo in NYC and Soho in London, then piled into a dark Moroccan restaurant to eat fluffy couscous and tagines with lamb or chicken piled high with prunes, raisins and almonds or green olives and hard boiled eggs. Most of the women in the birthday party were lesbians and after several glasses of wine spent much of the night vocally admiring our waitress's glistening, taut arms.
The birthday girl lives in St Albans, as do some of the birthday party and these suburbanites spent much of the evening trying to convince the Londoners present the pleasures of living in the sticks. Most of them have children and I think they were trying to persuade themselves as much as us, for the real reason they live there is not the culture or the shopping, hell no, but the schools.
Because of those children, most returned to England on Sunday morning. But I stayed on to explore the city I had not visited since my early twenties. I sat in cafes sipping frothy coffee and eating lemon tartes admiring the intense stylishness of most of the Parisiens who walked by; I explored Marais more, wishing I had enough money left on my credit card to buy the gorgeous clothes in the many boutiques in the district - dark brown and grey cashmere knits, black skirts and ankle boots, pretty lacy blouses. I must return there for a shopping spree. I did manage to buy a bottle of 1999 Bordeaux though.
Then I strolled through the narrow winding streets and crossed wide, tree lined boulevards to the Picasso Museum, the Pompidou and the Louvre. I wandered along the Seine as lovers passed me by holding hands, and I missed M who'd had to stay behind in London working on a big case. I gawped at the tourists around Notre Dame, then returned to the hotel to catch a taxi back to Gard du Nord.
I'd forgotten how both stimulating and relaxing it is to visit Paris. I can't wait to return.