The International Writers Magazine: Paris Weekend
Night Sunday Morning in Paris
A Birthday. Eurostar. Seems easy. You buy the tickets on-line,
you have a choice of hotels, you go and spend your money.
need a lot of money by the by. Paris is more expensive than Tokyo. And
then there is the dog shit. A lot of dog shit, you have to look down
a lot. I am not kidding.
You can get to Paris cheaper than by train, but then again, with all
that security and the cheaper airlines operating from inconvenient airports,
train is the best option. You have trains leaving virtually every hour
through the day, their first one leaving before 5am, getting you to
Paris in under three hours. (Its a bit slow from the UK side but
speeds up once you get the other side). At the moment you leave from
Waterloo Station and arrive in Gare de Nord. You can also take the Eurostar
direct to the Alps for skiing and of course to Lille or Brussels.
Arriving in Paris you can go by Metro to your hotel and the smart thing
to do is buy a Carnet, ten tickets to use on single journeys anywhere
on the Metro. If you know your bus route, you can use the ticket on
the bus too and often, except at rush hour or when they are digging
up the streets, its much better to go by bus at least you
will get to see Paris.
On the point of hotels, do watch the small print. Eurostars website
gives you a whole bunch to chose from at cheaper rates but you might
We stayed at Residence Monceau Etoile on Rue De Saussure in the
17th Arrondisment. Their normal published rates are 164€ a night
which is high for a tiny room with a shower. But what was really disappointing
was that for this price it was a sofa bed that sagged in the middle
and customer service was ZERO. They just couldnt give a shit.
My advice NEVER stay at this hotel. It is better, off season, to book
something yourself using the Rough Guide or Lonely Planet
Guide. Deal direct with the hotel and ask them what kind of bed,
if the shower is hot, if there is any soundproofing, so you cant
hear next door throwing up all night and that kind of thing. Dont
worry about breakfast. There are tons of wonderful pastry shops that
serve coffee and hot chocolate just around any corner and a lot cheaper,
absolutely fresh and more fun.
season it is probably best to use the Eurostar service and perhaps go
higher than three stars as you really dont get much for three stars
these days. *Although your room price will include taxes, guess what,
when you hand the key back they also charge a head tax of one euro a day
and wont give a receipt, so we figure its a scam. Its
not much, but if all the hotels do it to all the guests, thats a
lot of scam. Everyday.
*If your in France and can use the motorways, of course you can stay in
perfectly reasonable chain motels for around 40€ a night on the outskirts
of most cities in France.
One of the best ways
to see Paris is to walk it. Sure you can ride, but in fact you will miss
so much of you go underground or whiz by in a bus or taxi. We spent a
fun afternoon in St Germaine looking at wonderful little boutiques selling
trifles and whatnots for exorbitant prices. This is interspersed with
buying Café Latte at 5€ a pop (£3.50p and most of them
completely undrinkable) but not really enjoying the the fact that people
smoke right in your face. Hell its probably against the law not
to smoke in France. Thank god for Starbucks who have opened in
Paris and its no smoking as normal, real drinkable coffee and clean
toilets. I take back any bad word I ever said about Starbucks.
In Paris they are an oasis of civilisation.
We met up with the writer Roman Payne and had a fun evening chatting about
books and Paris in an Italian restuarant (and being pressured to give
up our table by the waiter) and then going on to an underground bar in
St Germaine. We lasted about two minutes. The smoke was disgusting and
it is true, everyone and his dog smokes in Paris. Nowhere is safe from
it and you find yourself stinking from it later. Health isnt a priority
in this city. Like the dog shit, air quality is an unknown concept. Neverthless
the handsome and just recently single, Roman, ex Seattle, has been entirely
assimilated and loves Paris. He has immersed himself in the culture, learnt
French and is writing novels set there. Living the writers dream
and loving it. You can read about his first novel here.
Its was Kits birthday, and it was a Sunday. Thats another
thing, Paris is closed on Sundays and most of Mondays and Tuesdays
if youre planning a weekend, make it Thursday to Saturday if you
want to have fun. I exaggerate of course, but it is quiet. The Louvre
is open and free on the first Sunday of the month, sadly every tourist
in the world knows this and the queue to get in was backed up all the
way to Berlin. Kit settled for the Cartier-Bresson Foundation which opens
at 1pm in the afternoon on a Sunday. (2,Impasse Lebouis, 75014 Paris).
It doesnt always have an exhibition of his wonderful photographs,
but luckily this week it did and the portraits of people such as Coco
Chanel, Stravinsky, Camus, were striking and what struck us most was that
his focal point always seemed to be their hands. Brilliant images and
an amazing studio space above. Youd kill for such a place to write
We hit a movie afterwards back in St Germain. Most of the new films are
in version originale, which helps. It would be cool if the
French films were with subtitles in English too, so youd be tempted
in. But although I am a huge fan of French cinema, I have to say that
they know absolutely nothing about the art of trailers. It is almost as
if they are daring you not to want to see it. We saw Faux Amis
in the end which turned out to be The Ice Harvest starring
John Cusak (one of our favourite actors) in a film noir pastiche. At least
I assume it was pastiche. At any rate, it could have been a B movie from
the 1940s with femme fatales, mob men, lawyers running off with
mob money and Billy Bob being surprisingly upbeat despite being a bad
guy. What the heck it passed the time.
Ill skip the dinner. Ok we had dinner at Dome on Villers and if
you like spinach swimming in butter or salmon fried in butter, fine, but
it took about five Rennies to cope with it and to be honest I dont
think the French know how to cook anymore. The non-fumeur section was
right next to the smoking section too and the French dont seem to
have cottoned on to les foreigners wanting a smoke free dining
the last day, Monday we snuck over to Boulevard Hausmann and Galerie
Lafayette, surely one of the most glamorous department stores
in the world. One store the size of Bloomingdales just for women,
another the size of Macys for men and another the size of
Barneys for furniture and the like. The original store (for women)
has the usual decorative dome in the centre and all of the store
centrered around it, but it is astonishing and a real and lavish
it yourself here
Of course you cant afford anything. If I was French Id pop
over on Eurostar to London to Harvey Knicks and you would think you are
in a dime store by comparison. Everything is about double what it should
be and people pay the prices. So good luck to them. The canteen is cool
too with a great view of the Iffle Tower. People pile their plates high
and have masses of ice cream and no one is fat. I guess tobacco is good
for one thing huh. Die slim.
Two nights in Paris on the cheap and we still spent 500 pounds in all.
($875 US) Ok its a birthday, but we spent a whole week in Spain
for that in October and it was warmer.
Is Paris worth it? Hmm, well if you plan on being poor or bohemian there,
Id wait for summer, there are enough beggars sleeping rough. (Even
on rich Hausmann we saw literally a pile of people sleeping rough and
one guy bivouac in his tent on the sidewalk). If you are rich, well, youd
dont care anyway. If you have a spare 500 pounds you can just about
do Miami for the same price in February and methinks its a better
deal in this cold. But then again, you dont get jet lag on a train.
I'm just glad Charlie Hebdo didn't publish the (cartoons) until we
London-Paris Eurostar 2hr.35mins
Eurostar on the web here.
© Sam North Feb 8th 2006
Sam North is the author of Diamonds
- The Rush of '72 - Story
of the Great Diamond rush of 1872.
now from Amazon.com
terrific piece of storytelling' Historical Novel Society Review
Also printed in the UK and available from
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