Date: 21 May 2016.
Location: Under the English Channel, safe and warm on the 6.18am Eurostar to Paris. Then, later, tucked up in bed in Paris.
“Paris, napping, drools the whole way through the Chunnel…” I read aloud as I tap away on my iPad.
“You can't say that!” Paris protests sleepily from her position draped horizontally over two seats, across from me, on the early morning Eurostar. “I don't drool.”
I make a skeptical face at her and then admit I was teasing (mostly) and go back to writing this.
So this particular entry is going to get confusing: Paris and I are taking the train to Paris. You know Paris — blonde girl, occasionally ditzy, likes all things French with a special focus on boys and champagne. And you know Paris — City of Love, Champs du Mars, lots of boys and champagne.
In Paris (the city, you filthy-minded) we're meeting Twiggy, Chandler, Monica plus friend and Kitty. We have tickets to the French Open which, provided you can put the threat of terrorist bombs out of your head for two days, is phenomenally exciting. Apart from that, we shall eat and drink and shop. What's French for 'like, obviously'?
“Meet at 1pm under the Eiffel Tower?” We had sort of joked on the group Facebook thread. But, actually, it wasn't at all a bad idea and somehow it becomes the meeting spot.
Once in town we drop our bags and then Paris, Twiggy and I take the RER (thank goodness CityMapper now works in Paris!) from our hotel in the 14th down to Champ du Mars. The train emerges from a tunnel and Paris snaps at us: “Girls. Girls!” We both look up, lazily, from our phones. Paris all but rolls her eyes. “Look,” she encourages, nodding out the window.
“Ohhhh,” we coo together for we suddenly have a spectacular, unimpeded view over the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. It's quite magical — even to me, a black-hearted staunch Paris-hater.
My phone buzzes. It's my little brother, thanking me for a postcard from Florence. I quickly send him a snap of the view.
'You're never in London!' his Viber message back reads. Yeah, I can see why he might think that.
What unfolds is the perfect French afternoon.
We all meet up and picnic in the sun at the foot of the Eiffel Tower and drink wine. Then we learn that selfie sticks are weapons in the hands of drunk people. Then we wander along the Seine and drink Aperol in the hot sun. It starts to rain around the time we pretend to be locals and speak French to get into a barge bar (I'm briefly devastated when the bouncer searches my bag and insists upon throwing out the Petite Ecoliere biscuits leftover from the picnic and I have to pretend I'm too frenchy cool to care — I'm not). We have a dinner booking at Chez Fernand Christine in the 4th around eight and we arrive wet and tipsy and make pests of ourselves by bringing an extra person, which the charming French waiters take it in stride. I've always known French waiters to be brusquely and unapologetically rude so either these guys are an exception (which they may well be) or I've become so accustomed to surly British service that my expectations have fallen far indeed.
We eat so much: house-made foie gras and melted brie with baguettes, beef bourguignon and creme brûlée. Best of all, we have French champagne and, when we go to order 2 bottles of cote du rhône, the waiter suggests a Magnum instead and we are utterly delighted by the giant bottle of French red that soon lands on our table.
After dinner Paris, by now well alcohol-sodden (a state in which she is not alone!), tries to coax us out to enjoy the nightlife in the Marais. She has a list of bars! she insists, rummaging in her handbag. A physical list! However, litres of liquid and rich French food have cooked us and we're all for bed.
On our cab ride back west, we drive past the Eiffel Tower and it does it's nighttime sparkle thing. It's the perfect fairy dust on a perfect day — even for a black-hearted staunch Paris-hater like me. However, the rain picks up with a vengeance as we arrive home and our thoughts nervously flick to tomorrow's outdoor tennis. Ah, Paris, you sick tease.