Sunday, May 12, 2013

Out and about in Paris and London

It's been a while since I posted here, because I've been holidaying in Paris and London.  I still love saying that.

We stayed in an apartment in Paris that was in a house built in 1663. Luckily, the plumbing was more recently upgraded, but the lift was so small two people could only squash into it with a certain level of intimacy. If there were groceries, one took the stairs. When we were leaving, we had to each take our luggage separately, and when it was my turn the owner literally threw my new vintage fur coat in on top of me, pushed the button and I held everything in while the door closed, before avalanching out on the ground floor. I loved it.

Unfortunately, Paris hasn't really grasped the idea of op shops, although 'vintage' stores are popping up all over the place.  The distinction between 'vintage' and 'second hand' is - shall we say - blurred, and you have to comb through a lot of pretty average stuff to find the gems. I did see a Lagerfeld silk skirt for 10 euros,but it would have been snug on an emaciated poodle (provided it had been on a crash diet, was wearing shapewear and  holding it's breath). Other vintage 'big names' were just plain out of my price range.  In a weak moment, I bought a vintage wine coloured faux fur coat, which took up most of all of the room around me for the rest of the trip. It's total 1980's paisley silk-lined hand-finished swing style is so over the top I broke every single self-imposed luggage-limiting rule in buying it, but if we ever enter another ice age I will be looking stylish AND warm.

We loved Merci, which is a new and brilliant concept in charity stores, stocking new and secondhand books, clothes, jewellery, homewares, and just about everything else in classically classy French style.  Kind of like Ikea-meets-St Vinnies.  Great food, great shopping destination. My friend saw someone famous on the way to the loo, but couldn't remember his name. C'est la vie.

Parisians have fabulous hair and stylish glasses. They must have, because there was an optometrist and at least one hairdresser on every block. As I waited in gallery and museum queues, various, I noted that a man in a gallery or museum queue looks somehow deeper and more intelligent a) by being in the queue in the first place and b) by wearing studious and interesting, often tortoiseshell, round glasses. 

I spent a happy hour or so in Shakespeare and Company, the famous bookshop, and managed to limit myself to one new and one secondhand book. Maybe it was more than one hour.  It was a happy time. French gentlemen help ladies with their suitcases in the Metro, which has enormous amounts of steep stairs. 
I discovered that French women are thin because everything, everything involves several flights of steep, narrow, uneven, spiral stairs.  Houses, shops, the Metro, galleries, museums, chateaux, castles all involve the negotiation of steps.  It's like permanent step classes. La toilette, Madame? In the cellar.  The shoe department? Upstairs. Of course.

We saw people walking cats, and every breed of dog but the poodle. Not a single poodle. I felt vaguely cheated.

Probably 90% of the restaurants, cafes and shops wouldn't have met Australia's stringent health and planning regulations.  We had the best food in places where the roof was too low, the floor was uneven, and there weren't enough toilets in the cellar.  The road rules are more of a guideline really, people cycle without helmets, if the bar's crowded, drink outside on the footpath - it's a nanny state nightmare.  Yet people are polite and well mannered and I didn't notice piles of dead bodies being wheeled away in carts from overcrowded eateries.  They have the tourism thing nailed, and create a place which you want to return to soon, if you can drag yourself away at all.

I could hardly drag myself away, and I'm seriously thinking of selling everything I own so I can get back there soon. 

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