L ast weekend I travelled to Paris for the birthday party of a friend - this is actually the second gigantic knees-up that I've attended in the City of Light this year and the Academie francaise was so impressed with my party-hearty attitude that I have been awarded the official title of "Bete de Fete" (a distinction second only to the Legion d'honneur), which entitles me to 25 per cent off the price of novelty hats anywhere in the Ile de France. Now normally I would travel to the French capital on the fabulous Eurostar, I think anyone living in London who goes any other way is mental, but at the moment Air France is running this just incredible offer. For pounds 119 a head we got return flights to Paris, free airport bus into and out of town, bed and breakfast at the extremely smart Meridien Hotel in Montparnasse plus, plus, plus passes entitling us to free bus, metro and rail travel in the central zone and, and, and free entry to all the thousands of museums in the city and its environs for the duration of our stay. Well, you can't whack that for value, can you?

It was the passes that did for us. As soon as we got into our hotel room we started planning where we'd go. Maybe the Rodin Museum and garden in the rue de Varenne, or we could pop into Delacroix's studio and then nip round the corner to the National Museum of the Middle Ages and the Roman Baths of Cluny in the place Paul-Painleve. Or there's always the City of Science at La Villette. Then, instead, we thought perhaps we could maximise the money we were saving by getting out of the centre of Paris and riding our travel passes as far as they'd go out to the suburbs where we could spend half an hour in the Museum of Smoking in the rue Pifpof le Tictoc followed by free bus to the City of Croissants in the Faubourg des Chimpanzees and then, as you probably know, it's only a short cable-car ride to the House of Hats on the Ile de Langoustine.

In the end our heads burst so much from having too much choice and all the planning involved to ensure that we were wresting every centime's worth out of our passes that we both fell into a headsplitting coma. We woke up with a start, our mouths full of dribble, at 2am when all the restaurants were closed, so we had to eat a tub of cashew nuts from the mini-bar. The next day was completely shot, of course, because after I'd wolfed down my free breakfast (which made me feel bilious because I don't usually eat breakfast) I had to travel round Paris looking for a tin of cashew nuts the exact same brand and size as the tin that was in the mini- bar. With the usual gay abandon of reason and breathtaking cheek that characterises prices in hotel mini-bars worldwide, those nuts cost pounds 119, so to pay for them would have been to wipe out the saving we'd made on the Air France offer.

While my wife kept the cleaning staff out of the room by pretending to have a baby, I hunted high and low through the nut shops of Paris, but it wasn't easy. The people who stock mini-bars are hip to the fact that unscrupulous customers might try to restock the fridge themselves with stuff they've bought for a tenth of the price in a local store. After all, the sense of remorse you feel waking up the next morning with a Ukrainian sailor you've picked up at the docks is as nothing compared with the sense of remorse you feel when you wake and realise the night before you've drunk a bottle of tomato juice priced at 85 quid. But, as I say, the people who replenish the in-room ice-boxes know this so they stock them with bizarre brands and sizes of food and drink not easily replaced fom the nearest supermarkets - 1.345-litre bottles of Belgian champagne, blocks of Tanzanian chocolate and ninth-of-a-pint miniatures of Austrian "Gauleiter" brand whisky.

Finally, I tracked the cashews down curiously enough in the shop of the Musee des Noix et Salades Exotiques, but I'd forgotten my museum pass so I had to pay to get in, and then we were so late for the party that we had to get a taxi there, and then we were so hung over the next day that we couldn't do anything and a friend insisted on taking us to the airport in his luxury Mercedes instead of letting us use our free airport transfers - the bastard - so it was all a complete waste of time, really.

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