I met my current flatmate Ludo at my first job in London. We bonded quickly and our weekly gatherings quickly became known as the ‘Ludo and Sean Club’. Something we discussed already from these early meetings was going to visit Paris, after all Ludo was French and I had loved Paris the first time I’d been there. Money has not been on our side this year, and whilst we dreamed of Paris for months and months it seemed like it was never going to happen. Until my birthday rolled around, and we decided that would be the perfect opportunity to escape!
We left the house early for St Pancras where we’d catch the Eurostar, which would get us to the City of Light in just over 2 hours. I was once again surprised at how easy it was to cruise through French passport control and then we were on the train, and the train was leaving, and then we were in the tunnel, and then we were in (rainy) France. RAIN! No it couldn’t be! We wanted to escape the rain, we didn’t want a holiday plagued with rain. Luckily, the rain stuck to Northern France, and we had good weather for the time of year for our stay.
We met Ludo’s friend Aurore, who we’d be staying with, at Gare Du Nord before hopping on the bus and winding through the Parisian streets back to her house. Aurore lived near the Pantheon, the first destination on my last trip to Paris as well. As we walked streets I was familiar with (some of the oldest in Paris) I was reminded of a piece of street art I had seen the year before. “There’s this stencil of a cat! Let me see if I can find it.” Sure enough I could, ironically Aurore’s house was opposite. We climbed the oldest staircase I’ve possibly ever been on to her cute little apartment, where we began being really french. Charcuterie and Fromage awaited us, accompanied by some fresh baguettes from a local Boulangerie, one of the few actually open on a Monday.
I also got to eat my first cake of the tour, Aurore had baked a chocolate gateaux and it was delicious!
After that Ludo and I started pounding the pavement, past Notre Dame and off towards the Opera House. I’d somehow managed to miss the Opera House the first time round, despite my attachment to theatre, and it’s link to the Phantom of the Opera. It was already darkening by the time we made it. A deliberate move, I wasn’t too sure how to handle my camera in low/dark light and we figured that the lights on the building would help to take a better picture. They did. The building is grand. A free standing theatre that you could probably fit all of the theatres on Broadway into. We couldn’t get inside, there was a premiere of a new work, well dressed and made up women stood like beggars at the door with little signs “one ticket please”. We ventured around to the gift shop, which granted us entry to at least a little portion of the building. From the DVD section we could see the crowd waiting in part of the marble lobby.
After our foray into the world of the opera we headed towards Galerie Lafayette, a large shopping complex which (according to their advertising material) attracts the second most amount of tourists after the Louvre. The stunning centrepiece of the Galerie is a 1912 glass dome, currently decked out for Christmas with a giant Christmas tree below it. I had teased Ludo about eating McDonalds in France, something he wouldn’t allow me to do (despite France being the largest consumer of McDonalds outside of America), I say this because amongst the shops was a McDonalds! We searched for a French Great Gatsby for my collection in their book section but could only find one with the film poster for a cover. I had that one. At least we got some nice photos with the dome.
We walked down streets glittering with jewellery and Christmas lights before winding our way to the beginning of the Champs Elysees (a busy street). For Christmas they’d erected a little market selling traditional street market things like hats, odd trinkets, chocolates, gingerbread and then more Frenchy things like cheese and sausages.
After the market Ludo managed to get us lost, something he would manage to do successfully over the entire trip, eventually I (who have been to Paris ONCE) helped get us back on track and to his sister’s house for dinner where we dined on traditional raclette. I’d had raclette a week or so earlier (and prior to this had NEVER heard of it). It basically involves melting cheese (of course) onto potatoes, and eating that with sliced meats of various kinds. (If you’re starting to see a pattern in my French eating, you’d be correct, and I don’t have a problem with it!)
As it was such a long walk to Ludo’s sister’s house it was decided we’d take the Metro home. A very reasonable decision. I went to bed content. I was relaxing. I was with friends. My phone had no reception so I couldn’t be bothered by anyone, and I was filled with French cheese, meat and wine! It doesn’t get any better than that! Oh…and I’d had cake, which was the whole purpose for the tour in the first place!