I travelled to Paris with a bag that measured 16″ by 10″.
It contained three pairs of black knickers, one tooth brush, a bottle of Chanel No. 5, a Mac red lipstick, a bergundy passport, a return ticket, an Oyster card, just enough money, 2 door keys, 5 pens a red notebook and a plastic raincoat that rolls up into a ball.
I left LBC at 4.00, threw all the above in the bag, leaving the rest of my life in the middle of my bed and ran out of the flat at 4.45.
I continued running for the 170 bus to Victoria.
Ran down the stairs at Victoria Tube Station.
Smiled on the tube,as I hung on for dear life, all the way to St. Pancras.
The beautiful building was full of Friday night excursionists.
Bought one bottle of water and a double Mars bar.
Clutched my free Independent and the Evening Standard magazine for my hostess, who just loves it…
Waited for the train steward to call us then walked the platform. The train comes in so precisely that the platform is painted with the coach numbers. I kept looking down until I passed coach 15. Then I climbed up the steep step and took my pre-booked window seat, in Coach 16 on the 19.00 hours Eurostar to Paris, I had specifically pre-booked the window seat in Coach 16 on the advice of my hostess who said it would cut down on patform walking when I arrived the other end.
I settled down when…
Two hugely imposing young men, complete with headphones, chiselled chins and Ipods asked me, in broken English, whether I would mind changing seats – I completed their sentences – because they wanted to sit together and as my ‘oosbind preferred to stay in Blighty whilst I gallavanted with my friend Linda in the louchest city in the world, I was clearly all alone and travelling solo so it wouldnt make any difference to me if I took their seats and they mine. Of course, I said looking up into their flies, and in my best of British, said their really wasnt a problem and climbing over my trainers, which I had removed, gathered up my bag and bits and took up residence in their seat behind me.
When I sat down the only view I had was of the grey mottled walls and the big heads of the two men who, under their headphones, were not communicating with each other at all and were certainly not looking out of my pre-booked window. Not only did I not have a view but the woman in my shared seat was a very large New Zealander with cellulite and large hair. She pored over her HELLO magazine and joshed very loudly with her Kiwi travelling companions who were on the other side of the aisle.
Th Angels of mercy were on my side as they found them a four berther leaving me alone with my two newspapers, chocolate bars, a book about dying and enough room for my short, fat hairy legs ( there was no room in my 16×10 bag for a razor).
The train shot through the English countryside, although for all I could see it might as well have been the velt in Bulawayo. But the journey was smooth, fast and arrived in Paris bang on time at 10.14.
Linda was right I stepped out of the train and could see the barrier of Gare de Nord.
Mothers hugged daughters, fathers hugged sons, lovers kissed, friends embraced, and I was left standing there with my little handbag, Evening Standard magazine and a whole heap if questions until my hostess emerged from the Metro.
I handed her the Evening Standard magazine, we hugged, not passionately you understand, although we could have done if we had wanted it was Paris after all, and before you could say ‘Non, non regret rien’, we descended back down into the Metro.
A little white ticket was shoved into the ticket barrier-slot, the doors opened and you’re through. Parisians, I’m told, like to buck the system, so two try and squeeze in as one. If you carry a few extra kilos the manouvre can be a little tricky, but Linda and I just about managed it.
I had been invited to the flat of one of Lindas friends who was sleeping in Lindas flat in West Hampstead. I had agreed to go without the old man, as I wanted to get a sense of Paris, for myself, so I could take him at a later date and show off my knowledge of the Knowledge.
On metro line 4, through familier but unspellable French stations until we finally arrived at Montparnasse-Bienvenue.
The metro was hot, crowded, and very – well French -.
Out of the station up the Rue Oddesa, over the road, past three cafes and countless beautiful people sipping Pastis and speaking in French, oiu, oui, oui I know!
Punched in 37B8 and a big metal door opened. The winding staircase looked like every French thriller I had ever seen. The winding bannisters shiny and woooden curved round and round like every Catherine Deneurve movie I had ever seen. The elevator had a metalwork door and closing pleated glass doors just big enough for two people.
The lift spilled us out on the fourth floor. Big blue doors on either side of the number 4, Linda unlocked our blue dooor which opened into a beautiful little flat that smelt of fags and wine. Pictures, paintings, unfinished manuscripts and the latest published work were casually thrown around the little apartment. Had a BBC designer been asked to create the set of a Free Parisienne, who wrote poetry AND prose, had had an affair with her Sherpa guide in Nepal, was into Satre, Flaubert and Merlot and really enjoyed face creams, they would have created this flat, right down to the rubber plant and strands of paper lanterns which were strung everywhere – over the fig trees, round the Moroccan wall hangings and in between the Persian palliasses.
I opted to sleep on the pink settee, my legs jammmed into the cushions. I awoke on Saturday morning with deep vein thrombosis, lock-neck and a hunger for croissants and coffee.
Linda had gone down to the supermarche for essentials, I had a stand up wash in the bath.,
The shower was so fierce I flooded the bathroom and the inmates of the bathroom on the 3rd floor. Trying to climb out of the bath revealed that my body was not what it once was. It took muscle power, bicep control, deep concentration and wishful thinking. I felt like a damp spider trying to navigate a drainpipe. I did manage it by the time Linda came back with bio yoghurt and fois gras, but I decided that I could never make a real French free climber, I just didn’t have the grip.
I was bruised, damp but dressed. We stepped out of the lift and I promptly slipped down the step, indeed every single time I reached the bottom step I tripped over it. I was emulating Jaques Tati and all the other clowns before me.
We stepped out into the warm Mediterranian air, turned left , crossed over the road, and walked up into a little market full of fresh fruit and veg, Big fruit, big veg, pommes,pomme de terre and us two pommies. So began my first day in paris…
To be cont….,