Dom Joly: Champers, bacon, baggage, staff... That's the way to travel

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The Independent Online

I went to Paris for a couple of days filming last week. We were going to hand back a suitcase to a grateful Frenchman who'd lost it on a BA flight from Heathrow to Tokyo. We bought it at an auction house in south London where "unclaimed" bags are sold off.

The airlines are supposed to look into each lost bag for details of the owner, but this system doesn't seem to be that efficient. We found details of three owners out of 15 bought. The one we took back to Paris had a couple of business cards with the owner's name and number on – you hardly needed Hercule Poirot, or even Maigret, to make the connection.

We took the Eurostar over from the magnificent "new" St Pancras station, sat at the longest champagne bar in the world and had a magnificent plate of grilled bacon and heavenly tomatoes on toast. It was truly memorable, not something you normally say about British railway food. Two hours and 15 minutes later we slipped into the Gare du Nord, relaxed and in possession of all our bags.

I have a love-hate relationship with Paris as I used to live there. It is an amazingly beautiful city, but Parisians are such a bunch of unfriendly bastards that it's only really nice in August when they all bugger off. We went to the office of the Frenchman with the lost luggage and handed it over. He was thrilled, despite the fact that his expensive shoes and aftershave were missing.

Then the serious business – a night out in Paris. I started at my favourite café, Le Bonaparte in Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés, a stone's throw from Les Deux Magots, Jean-Paul Sartre's old hang-out. The Bonaparte makes a fabulous invention called the "Mojito Royale" involving loads of champagne. Suitably fuelled, we moved on to my favourite restaurant, the gorgeous Chez Georges in the 2nd arrondissement, which showcases everything that's right about France.

Straight out of a Degas painting, it's been run by the same family for three generations and it's not for the faint-hearted, culinary-wise. All thoughts of a post-new year diet evaporated as I faced mountains of kidneys, lakes of cream and lashings of glorious Volnay. The "patronne" politely declined the request by two of my film crew to have their steaks medium. "Non, non," she said, "absolument pas." They ate them rare (as you should) and that was that.

I awoke the next day to a stinker of a hangover and a nightmare taxi ride through the Parisian rush-hour traffic. Parisian taxis do have a front seat, but they don't feel the need to offer it to passengers. We squeezed into the back and barely made our BA flight back. The automatic check-in machines told us the flight was closed, but fortunately this wasn't the UK where any visible staff would have told us to bugger off. A helpful Frenchman peered into a cupboard behind the machines and reappeared with three boarding passes. It was amazing that there was anyone there at all. These days, you have to check in yourself, tag your bags – it won't be long until we have to put our own bags in the hold and fly the bloody thing – all for our own convenience, obviously. We squashed into our seats and flew back to Heathrow where we circled for three-quarters of an hour before landing miles from the baggage collection hall.

When we finally made it there, I noticed piles and piles of lost luggage sitting forlornly in a corner of the room. We tried to film it, but a man appeared immediately and told us that our footage would be erased by customs for "security purposes". Why anyone would fly to Paris is beyond me. Take the train, eat a wonderful breakfast in one of the best "new" buildings in Britain before arriving in the heart of Paris, relaxed and ready for yet another assault on their cuisine.

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