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!).


Random observations about Perth

For all the people who complain about there being  nothing to do in Perth, bah humbug.

Friday night went to the Nova 937 Eskimo Joe album launch at the Astor – nothing better than a gig with seats! Love those showcase gigs where you get a short, sharp set. Great to see the Astor getting a new lease on life. Inshalla is one of those great no-filler albums you can just play and play, as I have for the past week.

Afterwards had dinner at Hanami. So many places to choose from in Mt Lawley these days compared to 20 years ago when there was only the Desert Cafe.

Driving through Northbridge on a Saturday morning is a killer. Watch out for the one way streets when trying to take short cuts to avoid William St mayhem.

My new favourite bit of Northbridge is around Brisbane/Palmertson St.  Those with a sweet tooth should head for Rochelle Adonis cakes at 193 Brisbane for divine nougat, cakes and tarts. She is only open Wed to Sat.  I also spotted a new Italian patisserie nearby so must go back to check that out soon. With Tarts and Le Papillon nearby, I may undertake a cake crawl….

Mt Lawley restaurants seemed quiet on Friday compared to the crowd at Tony Romas in Perth on Saturday.

If you want ribs on a Friday or Saturday, my tip is get there by 6.30pm because they don’t take bookings those nights.  That said the wait at the bar didn’t seem overly long. No sign of recession with people tucking into plates of ribs and giant cocktails. Loved the complimentary bread basket with herb butter, a nice touch.

Only quibble was with the kid in the booth behind me who kept reaching over and grabbing at my hair. Hello parents, if I can keep my kids seated why can’t you? If all mothers have eyes in the backs of their heads why couldn’t this one see her kid standing up on the seat facing the wrong way?! Ended up swapping with my daughter, and the kid couldn’t quite reach her head.

Perth seems to have an awful lot of lights on in the city after dark. Why? Even the Harbourtown carpark was ablaze with lights Saturday night and we all know Perth doesn’t have late night trading at weekends, although I live in hope.

Mandurah is amazing. We have driven by rather than into Mandurah the past few years but today we went to visit friends at their waterside apartment and were surprised how much had changed. Had fish and chips at Cicerellos and then coffee over at Ninos. So many cafes and restaurants to choose from. And the drive is much quicker now! Next time we might be more organised and catch the train. Dolphins were an added treat.