Discover the Joie de Vivre in Paris

paris

It was raining in the UK and I was miserable. It was only January and the summer holidays seemed a lifetime away. I found a cheap flight to Paris and on an impulse booked a long weekend there. Would I discover the joie de vivre and have a cheerful winter break? Of course I would.

Trying Out the Language (and the Croissants)

Like most Brits of my age I studied a little French at school and then promptly forgot about it. After years of not speaking much French it was pretty nerve racking to think about rocking up to Paris and having to speak to real French people. Personally, I love the first day in a new city when I understand nothing and wander around in a daze. On this trip, it was especially exciting, as I grasped the odd words in other people’s conversations and understood fragments of shop signs. I wasn’t there long enough to get a lot of practice but on the last day I plucked up the courage walk into a bakery and make a reasonably complicated order.croissant Just for the hell of it, you understand. Well, for the crossiants as well, if I am being honest.  It worked out well, as the lady understood my mangled grammar and the crossiants were top notch. Little things like speaking a foreign language give me an amazing thrill and leave me wanting to try it again and again.

Walking All Day

I do a lot of walking when I am on a trip. Some cities are great for doing this (London, Buenos Aires, anywhere in Italy or Spain) and others aren’t. To my delight, I discovered that Paris was designed with the casual, disoriented pedestrian firmly in mind. Everywhere I wandered I came across strange and exciting things. The crowning glory was when I saw a magnificent building peeking out from between a couple of streets. It turned out to be the famous Sacre Couer church. If I had gone looking for it then it probably wouldn’t have had such a big impact on me. However, the fact that I stumbled across it meant that my first unexpected sight of it is something I will never forget.

The Kind of Famous Tower

Paris 017There are few tourist attractions which split opinion as widely as the Eiffel Tower. Some people despise the blooming thing while others think that it is the best thing in the country. Me? I so wanted to be cool and say that it was a pile of scrap metal but I loved the crazy thing. I walked past it during the day and was pretty impressed but I enjoyed it far more in the evening, when the lights show came on. It doesn’t sound like a big deal; a metal tower with lights on it. After all, this is the 21st century and we are now used to far more exciting things than that. Having said that, it was a magical experience to sit there and watch the lights show on the old tower. I can’t explain why I enjoyed it so much but I must have been there more than an hour, taking photos and soaking up the atmosphere. I even started taking silly pictures of me with a beret on, as my cool ratings took another big big hit.

The Food

Everyone talks about the French cuisine but my favourite food memories from Paris are a bit different. I arrived late and the only place I could find open was a Chinese restaurant, in which the waitress and I found we had no language in common. After a few tortured attempts at conversation a couple of plates arrived. I think one involved duck or some other sort of salty, aquatic bird in it. The food was great and this meal made me start to feel at home in Paris for some reason. The other food I can remember from there was a giant hot dog I bought from an Arab looking guy across the bridge from the Notre Dame. I was starving and this guy saw the hunger in my eyes and gave me the hard sell. I was an easy target and before I knew it I was trying to handle several inches of prime sausage in dangerously windy conditions. If you went to Paris once and saw a happy looking chap sitting on a bridge over the Seine, munching on a hot dog and smiling to himself then I’m sorry I didn’t speak to you. I was just relaxing and enjoying the joie de vivre.

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