“Weren’t you going to come to Paris?” my friend asked, and that was all the encouragement I needed. “Errrr, I’ll check train times, I said”. And not long afterwards, the date was arranged and tickets were bought.
It was late-February and this year it hasn’t really felt like spring is nearly here at all. In fact when I got off the train on the outskirts of Paris, it was snowing. I took full blame for bringing the weather as I was told it was very unusual for it to snow in Paris.
First on the agenda was apero and a get together with a couple of friends. A low key affair of bread and cheese, salmon, dips and salad accompanied of course by some delicious red wine. Simple and effective. En route to the party we stopped off at Mme Poulo’s bar. I can’t tell you where it is because a) I wasn’t really paying attention and b) I kind of want to keep it as an awesome secret that only those who know, know. The bar is unsuspecting and with room for only about 6 people, quite cosy. You can sit at the bar, but there’s not a lot of room anywhere else. Except for the cat, and the budgie and about 50 years worth of rubbish. No doubt in there somewhere are a few treasures, but I’m not sure if you’d want to find them.
But as with so much, it’s not about the place, it’s about the people. Our hostess is well over 70 years old and has been in the locality for as long as anyone and in fact barely ventures out of it. She knows a lot of stories and exactly how to tell them – even to a non-native french speaker – fantastic entertainment. We covered topics as broad as how she won’t have her photo taken, her granddaughter’s success in dressage and the increasing price of the stock (passed on un apologetically to the customers).
An onwards to the party, eventually making it out for dancing till the small hours. A long night, but plenty of smiles and laughter and stories to tell.
The rest of the weekend was equally sociable. Too many queues for the exhibitions, too long to wait for hot chocolate but a good long tramp around the city – seeing a lot of the sites without the need to go in, tea in a small cafe by the Centre Pompidou and a trip to the cinema.
On my return I was asked what I’d seen and done and had to reply – not much. Not much of the typical tourist in Paris type things, but much in the way of meeting people and hearing stories and learning the language and getting to know the everyday culture. And for me, for now, that’s what counts.
My tip – book a trip to somewhere new and do whatever you feel like doing. You could follow the guidebook or just the person in front of you, but you’ll have a good story to tell.