Travel: Chic galore
Although the World Cup kicks off there on Wednesday, Paris is far from a laddish city. In fact it's perfect for a girls' weekend, writes Miranda Haines
Saturday 06 June 1998
7am Paris in the springtime; Paris for lovers; Paris for World Cup fans. No, no, it's Paris pour les filles. Hurray! I'm off to visit my French girlfriend Corinne who is an artist and lives in the 11th arrondissement, not far from the Gare du Nord. Tres handy for the Eurostar. Must remember not to look at the new Stade de France in St Denis and catch this football fever. Brrr.
8am Huh. First of all I have to go to work for the day.
10pm Paris. Taxi to Corinne's. Told l'homme he can do as he likes this weekend.
11am Woke up late and spent long time trying to look like a chic chick (ie very French) in a T-shirt and skirt. We walked coquettishly with sunglasses on the nose to local boulangerie (no one around). As usual bought too many croissants and sat down in a downtrodden but branche (meaning "plugged in" or trendy) cafe with a terrasse in the sunshine. Ordered cafe creme and smoked five cigarettes deciding on our master plan for the day. Noticed that everyone was much more chic than me, even in the 11th arrondissement, so shopping was going to be a necessity.
11.30am Headed for the 5th arrondissement. This is the Knightsbridge of Paris but an area with a lot more charm than the roaring Brompton Road. St Sulpice, St Germain and St Michel are good boundaries to set and every boutique is worth a peek.
11.35am Bought a pair of beautiful sandals for lots of francs. At least the exchange rate is on my side. I swear I will not buy more things. Only looking now.
12.15pm As we were looking at the summer frocks in Agnes B Corinne announced, "You should buy that dress". I looked at this pretty silky slip of a thing and tried to imagine when I might wear it in London. "It's much too smart," I insisted. "Boff," Corinne sighs, not without missing the opportunity to highlight the tragic difference between London and Paris. "I would wear that to go to the supermarche." Touche.
1pm Lunch on le St Louis in the cafe that overlooks the Seine and is opposite the ice-cream shop where families queue up all day long. We ate a salade parisienne and drank a carafe of house white. All becomes quite hazy in the sun.
The Seine was choppy and sparkling so we felt tempted to organise a bateau-mouche (boat) ride. Naked bodies lay strewn in bathing suits along the paving stones down by the water's edge. A saxophonist blew harsh blue notes from the Left Bank and in the small garden on the promontory beneath the Pont Neuf two men with bare torsos played bongo drums.
2.30pm (tipsy) Bought the guide Pariscope for 3 francs in order to look up the boat times. Decided to embark from the Pont Neuf (five minutes' walk) at 4pm and chug up to the Eiffel Tower and back. "The Tour Eiffel will lay an egg on the eve of the millennium celebrations and the Seine will be perfumed, according to my Millennium Rough Guide," I slurred. Corinne didn't believe me. But when I reminded her of the time that Yves St Laurent covered every inch of the bridge in roses, the idea took on a more reasonable resonance.
4pm Bateau-mouche was a brilliant way to see Paris and get a suntan. Can't believe I lived here for three years and never went on one. Corinne said that next time we could take a boat all the way up the Canal St Martin, which takes you through a Paris that is rarely seen.
9pm Arrived at La Muscade, a restaurant in the Jardin du Palais Royal. Very pleased to be sitting in such palatial splendour away from the bustle of the streets, with views of the formal garden and perfectly clipped avenues of trees.
We agreed that the next weekend in Paris we would book tickets to the Opera at the Bastille and then dine on the Pont des Arts. This is a pedestrian bridge where people set up tables and white tablecloths and drink champagne over the Seine to the whine of a violinist, if they choose. I remember that Paris is also about dreams.
Midnight Forgot to get a facial. Too late now but am inspired to get one back home because apparently all the Parisian girls have them as regularly as having their nails done - ie every other week.
11am Slept well. Realise that this is how the Parisians are so good-looking, despite smoking so much (illegal, and unenforceable in public places).
Must remember that beauty sleep is a profession.
1pm Picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens where children float boats on the lake, watch puppet shows with squeals of delight and swing around and around on a merry-go-round that was built in 1880.
Some men practised t'ai chi in the shade and nearby some very tall men swung low playing basket ball, while the rest simply sat and watched.
This is definitely the best Parisian park, no matter what the weather.
5pm Checked in at Gare du Nord and decided to upgrade to first class when I thought of Eric Cantona's philosophical advice about travelling on the Eurostar. For once I agreed with a football player - even if he was paid to say it
10pm Back in a London pub, and I remember that this is a city pour les hommes.
One week later
Still haven't had that facial, or a long night's sleep.
Restaurant La Muscade, 36 Rue de Monpensier 75001 Paris (00 33 1 42 97 51 36)
Miranda Haines is the editor of 'Traveller', the magazine for members of the Wexas Travel Club.
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