Paris je t’aime

How can you not love Paris? It’s a city I’d return to in a heartbeat although I must admit the recent terrorist incidents have made me wonder just how keen I’d be to return at the moment. Not to mention a lack of actual funds or time off.

I first visited Paris in 1989 with a couple of friends who were living in London. We picked a busy weekend (sporting event? soccer I think?) and when we arrived (I think we flew?) hotels were scarce. With my high school French we managed to find a hotel with three sagging beds with dodgy chenille bedspreads. We couldn’t risk not taking the room because there was a trail of tourists with the same idea following us.

Well, that could have been my first visit, or my second; I managed to visit Paris three times across a four or five week period during my first big European adventure in 1989. I had intended to visit with one of my best theatre friends but when I arrived in London she was broke.

So I ended up doing a Contiki tour that took me to Paris, Florence, Venice, Switzerland, Austria, and Amsterdam. We stayed in budget hotels, backpackers and even some chalets in the woods somewhere along the line.

The third trip was with my now less-broke friend, and I am pretty sure we flew. I have no idea where we stayed. We bought interesting brocade jackets and tunics. We went to Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen which I seem to recall had thoroughly appalling toilets.

Visit two was with my husband in 1998, en route to a wedding in Scotland. It was May and unseasonably hot. We picked a hotel that ended up being not far from Sacre Coeur but somewhat too close to the Sexodrome.

Our last visit, in 2007, was as a family en route to a wedding in Amsterdam. We arrived via Eurostar and spent a couple of days in Paris before heading to Disneyland Paris. We then returned for a final few days before taking a Thalys train to Amsterdam.

For the first few days we stayed at the Hotel Valadon. By the looks of the website it has had a serious makeover since then. We chose it due to the proximity of the Rue Cler markets which I had read about in a Rick Steves guidebook. I think that was the start of my habit of basing hotel locations on their proximity to restaurants and markets.

On our return we stayed at Residence Les Gobelins, the website for which doesn’t seem to be working at present but Gobelins seems to indicate it is still open. It was a budget hotel, close to the Rue Mouffetard markets and restaurants, and we had a family room with three beds. The breakfasts were simple – croissants and baguettes with coffee.

I remember painstakingly researching all of these hotels over and over – this was probably the early days of TripAdvisor from memory – and perhaps emailing inquiries to half a dozen about rates and room set ups…

In all of these visits I have never made it to the top of the Eiffel Tower, given my fear of heights seems to get worse, not better with age. I think I made it to level two on my second visit. Last time, the family went to the top while I ate a baguette by myself on the first level.

It’s my aim to brush up on my now very rusty French and visit Paris and New York for my 50th. Watch this space (for a few more years!).

Photographic memory

Photographic memory

Back in the days when I still used a camera that took film, the first thing I did after going on a holiday or to a party was race out to a chemist or photo lab to get the film processed.

Remember when one-hour photo services popped up? Remember the delight at poring over the photos with friends, and the annoyance at getting finger prints all over prints accidentally ordered as glossy instead of matte finish?

These days we have instant gratification on our iPhones and smart devices. Photos can be instantly viewed and instantly shared on social media. The days of printing photos and painstakingly putting them into albums, for most of us, is a distant memory.

But what happens to all the dozens, hundreds, even thousands of digital images that weren’t able to be shared or worthy of sharing at the time? Or ones taken before we started to really embracing social media? Or had the data and ability to easily upload images?

I’ve recently started trying to locate all my holiday photos to unite them on one portable hard drive. Most of them are backed up on my PC. Some are backed up to our NAS. Others are on DVD-ROMS. Anything taken pre-2007, or on an old phone, who knows.

Having had a digital camera of some sort of other since the late 1990s, there are probably thousands of photos unaccounted for on old hard disks…and very few have been printed due to the cost of printing/ink back then (my poor children also have incomplete baby books thanks to digital cameras!)

Over the next few weeks I hope to upload assorted travel photos, partly to keep my family holiday memories alive, and partly to inspire anyone else planning a holiday to somewhere distant and exciting.

The photo below is a street somewhere in Amsterdam. I’ve been to Amsterdam three times, in 1989, 1998 and 2007 but hadn’t really thought much about the city again until last year after the characters in the teen weepie The Fault in Our Stars went there.

Somewhere in Amsterdam, 2007

Somewhere in Amsterdam, 2007

Then it crossed my mind after the shooting last month on an Amsterdam to Paris train (we’ve done the reverse trip from Paris to Amsterdam).

We were in Amsterdam for a friend’s wedding and a group of us stayed in a bed and breakfast called Mae’s B & B. We had the top floor attic, accessed up a very steep and narrow staircase. We had great breakfasts every morning and a couple of nights, had delicious Indonesian take away from a restaurant down the road.

The city was easy to get around by foot or by bike, although that was not a mode of transport open to us with a pram.  One of the things I remember about Amsterdam and Oldenzaal, which we visited in 1998, was that people often left their curtains wide open, giving passers a glimpse at how they live.

Certainly a place I’d like to get back to one day…

Houses, Amsterdam

Houses, Amsterdam

Amsterdam canal by night

Amsterdam canal by night