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After climbing the winding staircase of Notre-Dame, my brother took up the challenge of warming up his ultra-modern
camera-equipment from one of the most popular camera-clicking spots in
the world as his girlfriend, Kath, stood shivering by his side. Later,
I led them across the pont au Double, across Quai de Montebello onto
rue Lagrance, then took the first left onto the pretty rue de la
Bucherie, where there is an extremely useful Internet Shop and an
extremely useless (unless you’re Buffy the Vampire Slayer and out of
stakes), giant-pencil shop. My brother was so surprised, he forgot to
photograph it. ‘If you bought three of those pencils, a
pencil-sharpener, and an eraser,’ he pointed out, ‘you’d make it about
half-way down the street and collapse.’
around the corner, on the right, on rue Frédéric Sauton, is a doll-shop
full of spookily real babes and kids, guaranteed to stop any female in
her tracks. It had this effect on Kath. She smiled through the glass,
saying, ‘Aww, she’s cute,’ and girly things like that, whilst I
imagined waking up in the night and seeing them marching across the
floor towards me, clutching butcher’s knives and giant pencils.
Luckily, just further down the same street is a sight guaranteed to
stop any Northern English male in his tracks: An English Pub, The Long
Hop, which made it my brother’s turn to get all watery-eyed and
emotional, and for Kath to have nightmares of her own. The convenient
thing about The Long Hop is that it’s about ten steps soft of Metro
Maubert Mutualité on Line 10 and just across the road, Rue des Carmes
leads straight up to the Panthéon.
across the front of the Panthéon and looking down the broad rue
Soufflot and across to Eiffel’s Tower, Brendan, who has an artistic
eye, saw what a great photo opportunity this place is. He then walked
around the Panthéon and his other eye, which is alcoholic, saw a second
English pub, The Bombadier. Luckily, Kath put her foot down and her
hand firmly on his valuables (camera equipment, silly), and pointed him
back towards the Panthéon (built by Louis XV, apparently, as a thank
you to Saint Geneviève for curing him of illness; although, judging by
the growing number of stiffs kept in there, she doesn’t seem to be in
any hurry to repeat the favour.) TOP STIFFS INCLUDE: Voltaire (‘I don’t
think, therefore I’m dead,’) Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, Dumas. No common
corpses here. Any ghosts caught wandering in through the walls of the
Panthéon on cold, moonlit nights, are directed straight back out again.
down to line ten, into the Metro, three stops in the direction of
Boulogne Pont de Saint Cloud to Metro Mabillon, brings you out at Place
d’Acadie in the 6th. I lead us to Rue du Four, on our left, and along
that to Rue Princesse, the second on our left, the start of a cool
little area around Pl. St. Sulphice. Rue Princesee is full of inviting
little restaurants and shops. My brother spotted a photo opportunity
and pointed out, in a seemingly casual way, that there was an English
pub, The Frog & Princess, right beside us. Luckily, Kath was right
beside him and delicately led him in the direction of away. We walked
to the end of this street, spotted another pub, turned right and walked
along to Rue des Canettes, another picturesque little street, full of
eateries, shops and, Brendan noticed, a bar, O’Neil’s, that brewed its
front window of O’Neil’s was filled with designer brewing equipment,
the inside was dark and inviting, and Brendan, who by now had more
drool hanging from his lips than a starving Komodo Dragon, decided that
he needed some inside shots of the place. Once in there, he stoically
decided that, since I quit drinking some years ago, somebody had to
research these fine ales. He threw himself on the sword for Bonjour
Paris, and Kath loyally joined him. Their reviews were good, but
Brendan knew that—as professional research has to be thorough, and as
somebody had just announced that it was Happy Hour—he’d better have
another. I bought an orange juice and flicked through one of the stack
of Fusac’s available there.
next day, with a late start and home-brewed headaches to contend with,
Brendan and Kath called and informed me that I was helping with the
shopping, as they were booked in for a show at the Moulin Rouge and had
been advised to turn up around seven. Kath wanted to buy a dress and
Brendan wanted his clothes ironed. This would be a race against the
clock, of course. As always in these cases, the male is easily pleased,
whereas the female knows her own mind. I found a dry-cleaner and amazed
nobody with my grasp of French, as I asked if the clothes could be made
ready for six. We got a big yes. Sorted.
and Kath had done their research, though, and had the addresses for
some of the major stores: Galeries Lafayette, Printemps de la Mode, and
of course, La Samaritaine. I took us down to rue de Rivoli, home of La
Samaritaine in the 1st, via Metro Chatalet on Line 4 and popped into
several clothes shops as we walked along; Brendan and myself making the
mistake of giving advice and telling Kath which combinations looked
good and which didn’t. Kath instinctively rejected everything we said,
of course. Probably a good idea, as I just wanted to get out of there
and was nodding and grinning at anything.
La Samaritaine was a bust, I started to get worried, but Kath seemed to
be following some deep-seated intuition, even though time was running
down with alarming speed. So we hopped back on the Metro and headed for
Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th, home of both Printemps de la Mode and
Galeries Lafayette, and spent fifteen minutes stuck in the middle of a
tunnel thanks to a mob of hysterical woman who simultaneously pulled
every emergency stop on the train simply because two males were
indulging in a play-ground punch-up.
said anything as we entered Printemps de la Mode, but we were all aware
of how price ranges can vary dramatically from place to place in Paris
and we all seemed to feel that this place might not be on our side.
This feeling came to the surface as we rode the escalator to the
women’s clothes department as two British women, standing directly
behind us—one of whom looked, and both of whom sounded, remarkably like
the Queen of England—chattered meaninglessly. My brother looked blankly
round at them, then back to me. ‘Either they’re in the wrong shop,’ he
said bluntly, ‘or we are.’ It turned out, of course, that we were. The
prices were awe-inspiring, and we didn’t have the time to just gawp. So
Lafayette, just down the road, more visually impressive, a specialist
in high fashion and housed under a huge dome dating back to 1900, had
“Leave now!” written all over it, but Kath seemed much more optimistic
here. I wandered around with Brendan, looking at all the plush, cosy,
nightmarish seating areas, each filled with listless males staring
mindlessly, vacantly, in a kind of modernist vision of purgatory, a
waiting room of the terminally bored and financially doomed. ‘One day
I’ll open my own department store,’ I told my brother, ‘and all those
screens up there, playing adverts, will play endless football and
boxing matches for all those poor bastards. And somebody will waltz
around offering beers.’
picked her dress almost straight away, a black number that looked
great, was clearly right for her, and that landed (almost) squarely in
their target price-range. ‘I need tights with this dress,’ she said.
‘How do you ask for them?’ ‘Collants,’ I replied. Kath moved to the
counter as my brother gave me a cold eye. ‘How the hell do you know the
name for tights?’ he demanded. I thought about that. I wasn’t sure. I
just did. He looked me up and down. ‘Football and boxing, eh?’ he said
doubtfully, and moved away.
We went up to the roof for an absolutely superb view of Montmartre, by which time I’d remembered how I knew the name Collants. Stella, the French girl I’d lived with soon after moving to Paris
for the first time. She spoke no English. I spoke no French. We lasted
a month. She had once tried to strangle me with a pair during an
argument about chocolate pudding. (At least I think that’s what we were
arguing about,) and the word stuck in my mind. But it was too late (and
too embarrassing), to mention it now, so I looked around and took in
the view as Brendan photographed it. Then we all tucked into pains au
chocolate and grand-crèmes purchased on the little café up there. Bren
and Kath were very short on time by now, but they were here to
chill-out, not panic, so we relaxed.
made it to the Moulin Rouge and loved the show; and I left them to do
their own thing after that (only advising them to seek out Rue de Lappe
for bars and clubs when at Bastille). They had a great time, taking
boat-rides along the Seine at night and being not the first visitors to Paris
to discover that the view from the top of the Arc de Triumph is the
best in town. Approaching Eiffel’s Tower up close on their last night
as the lights came on left them both stunned, of course.
the moral of the tale is…. Well, actually there isn’t one. Only that a
little research saves a lot of time and trouble when you finally hit
the streets of the city, and that living with a partner you don’t
understand isn’t quite as bad as living with a partner you don’t bother
listening to in the first place, apart from the fact that you may spend
the rest of your life knowing embarrassing foreign words and wondering
if your relationship ended because of a chocolate pudding.
Galeries Lafayette – 40 Blvd. Haussmann, 75009, Paris. Metro Chaussée d’Antin-La Fayette.
Open Mon through Sat from 9.30am to 7.30pm. Late night opening every Thu until 9pm. Tel. 01.42.82.36.40. www.galerieslafayette.com
Printemps de la Mode – 64 Blvd. Haussmann, 75009, Paris. Metro Chaussée d’Antin-La Fayette. Open Mon through Sat from 9.35am to 7.00pm. Late night opening every Thu until 10.00pm. Tel. 01.42.82.57.82.
La Samaritaine – 75 rue de Rivoli, 75001, Paris. Metro Louvre-Rivoli, Chatelet, & Pont Neuf. Open Mon through Sat from 9.30am to 7.00pm. Late night opening every Thu until 10.00pm.