Paris 1

Up at 4am for a 6am train out of Euston. Spent the night between the peeling walls of the cheapest hotel I could find within walking distance of the station. We both admitted to having stayed in worse, which should be a damning enough note on any accommodation.

Getting up that early is a holiday must and the buzz takes away any of the fatigue felt if the commute is one of necessity. It also meant being in Paris before 10am, shouldering our way through the building work and domino shelves of Shakespeare & Company. At one point, E said that she could imagine us back there when my book comes out. That’s the kind of positivity I live for and, as I looked at the posters stuck to the glass front and the queues of people waiting outside to be allowed in, I could really see it. Only part of that vision was blurred by Ethan Hawke’s Jesse doing something similar in Before Sunset.

We walked for miles along The Seine, wondering if we looked like tourists while searching out a point along the river where we could get the shot in front of the Eiffel Tower. We stopped in a tabac for the required packet of Lucky Strikes. Knowing that food anywhere else in the area would be double the price, we settled in for a meal. I ordered steak hache, pretending I knew what I was doing and then being surprised when an unseasoned and unbunned burger made an appearance. E had a steak with peppercorn sauce. My DuoLingo levels of French only got us so far before the kind waitress either spoke in English or showed us pictures to get a point across. We smoked some more before climbing up to the 2nd etage, which was clearly a bad way round to do such things. There is a certain pride in overtaking other intrepid explorers who see the lift as a cheat.

There, we were offered a couples photoshoot, which we took, but then couldn’t stop laughing. The idea of doing anything so serious and cheesy sending us both into fits of giggles. When the photographer went to show us the photos, the file was corrupted and I was pleased I wouldn’t get to see all of my gangly six foot frame, with arms crossed, stood back to back with five foot three her. It would have looked like a Disney Channel original movie poster. The story is better when something goes wrong.

Following Montparnasse Tower like it was Mount Doom, we had a beer at La Rotonde, one of Hemingway’s favourite bars, and then took the lift and stairs up 59 floors to the viewing deck to watch the sunset. I hadn’t been to Paris since 2019, before the pandemic. It felt like a lot longer in a lot of ways. So much has changed and to be there with someone, to experience that together instead of staring around at the strangers and wondering if I was aloof enough for them was a nice change.

After checking in to our hotel, we went to Le Dome, completely unprepared and underdressed for the opulent traditional French restaurant, which again, was a place Hemingway frequented often enough that they have a set menu named after him as well as his black and white photo on the wall. It only took half a dozen oysters and a bottle of wine for us to get into a deep and meaningful conversation that continued until the other tables cleared out and we moved on, now in search of cocktails.

At Chez Papa, we continued to set the world to rights until the lack of sleep caught up with us and we called it, ready for day two.






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