4–7 June 2015

To anyone who regularly takes the shuttle to France it’s probably just another means to reach one’s destination, but when it’s been over six years since you’ve travelled that way, and the intention is to have a long, relaxing weekend in Paris, the journey is all part of the adventure. Waiting in the beautiful St Pancras station in London, sipping a coffee outside Costa, we’re amazed at how many brilliant pianists there are in the crowd, making use of the pianos that are there for anyone to use. After a leisurely stroll up and down the station, we go through customs and passport checks and board our train.

There are a number of tunnels before we get out of London and my ears feel each one. We have a sandwich on the train but discover we could have eaten anything without putting on weight!

Arriving in Paris, in a temperature more reminiscent of Nice than Paris we find our way to our hotel to find we’ve made a good choice. It’s fairly small, but clean, fresh and modern and we’re on the sixth floor. Thankfully there’s a lift. We’ve been to Paris before, but always in November, and we wanted to see the city in a kinder light.

The following day is hot, around 32-33°C. Armed with a camera, bottles of water, sun hats and layers of sun protection we go out, staying in the shade as much as possible. At the Louvre I’d wanted to go inside and take photographs in the pyramid, but the long queue outside in the dusty courtyard makes me realise I don’t want to do it that much!

Later that day, we planned to go inside Notre Dame Cathedral but an even longer queue, snaking backwards and forwards in another hot, dusty courtyard with no shade produced a similar decision. Not to worry, there are many things to see and we walk until we can walk no more before enjoying a few hours relaxing with books and cold drinks from the small supermarket opposite the hotel.

We go to a restaurant called Victoria Station in the evening. It’s decorated inside like an old railway carriage. We don’t much care for the music but the pizza is wonderful. Thin, crispy, au feu de bois, and delicious. I know, I know, go to Paris and eat Italian … but it was good!

The next day is cooler and much better for walking. One thing we notice is very different from last time: the pavements are clean and we no longer have to be careful where we put our feet for fear of treading in something! We walk in a different direction, taking in the sights and just enjoy being in this elegant city.

We visit the Jardins du Trocadéro but despite waiting over an hour, and watching the fountains go through a complete cycle, the water canons don’t fire so we move on past the Eiffel Tower. We hadn’t planned on going up (to my relief!) and just as well as, guess what, another long queue! There must be a happy medium between coming in November and coming in June!

The last day dawns and we breakfast and pack our bags. Leaving them at the hotel, we head for Montmartre and the Sacre Cœur. No trip is complete without a stroll around the Place du Tertre to watch the artists at work and have coffee in one of the cafés.

We pick up our bags and head at last to Gare de Nord to take the Eurostar back to the UK. This too is a very elegant station, at least until we get through customs and baggage and find ourselves in a small, crowded space with way too few seats. We’d planned on getting a coffee and snack through here, as we did at St Pancras. No such luck. There are just a few kiosks, mostly selling perfume and one with small coffees and rather dry-looking pastries so we decide not to bother. We’re quite relieved to get out onto the train and once we’ve cleared Paris we have a (calorie-free, remember the napkin!) toastie and a coke and feel much better.

Back in London we time it perfectly for our train home. Well, almost perfectly, we have to wait an extra quarter of an hour as they can’t get the train doors open! Bienvenue!!

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