Paris…

One of the great things about living in South East London is how easy it is to get to Paris. I live about 20 minutes from Ebsfleet International Station and from there it is only about 2 very comfortable hours on the Eurostar to le Gare Du Nord and the centre of Paris.

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I love Paris. It is a beautiful city and this time I got to enjoy it with some wonderful friends. I met Julie at Gare du Nord just after I got in and together, after we had found our hotel, we walked about a million miles in three days and saw all the sights. Despite the fact I have been to Paris before I still enjoy seeing the ‘touristy’ things. We were very fortunate are the weather was perfect for January; clear blue skies and not too cold.

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I also got to meet up with my old friend James. James and I went to school together and he is in Paris for a month editing the music to movie…he has an awesome job! James, Julie and I shared a lovely dinner at a restaurant near his apartment.

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One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to go to Montmartre and look out of their city. It is one of the best places to view Paris and we were lucky to have clear blue skies and could see for miles. Montmartre itself, while its picturesque narrow cobble streets and little cafes give tourists the vision of Paris that they expect to see from the movies, is a little busy for me. Every third person you meet is trying to sell you something or paint your picture or get you to come in and eat at their restaurant. But standing at the foot of the steps up to the Sacre Coeur and taking in the view makes it all worth while.

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They have also done a fantastic of cleaning up the Notre Dame Cathedral. It looks like they have undertaken a similar project to St Paul’s Cathedral in London. The intricate masonry and enormous towers, once covered in hundreds of years of black grime are now pristine. We got there just as the sun was setting and the light coloured stonework looking like it was glowing gold as it reflected the last of the days sunlight. Definitely a highlight for me.

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During all the walking we did I hardly saw one or Paris’ most famous sights…the dog poo! Unlike during my last trip, and not according to what James and my sister, Claire had said, Paris seemed a lot cleaner that I remember. I counted 6…and possibly a few halves! But in the main I was very impressed with how clean the city was, although it is true that I stuck to the nicer parts of Paris.

One of the stereotypes that I did experience, however, was the rudeness of the people of Paris. I like to think of myself as well travelled and open mined enough to ignore those kind of pre-judgements but between being accosted at the foot of the Sacre Coeur by obnoxious street sellers who physically would not let Julie and me pass and being barely spoken to by short tempered waiters I found it a chore to take our order I had to work hard to let it all go!

I am certain that the friendly, polite service I received throughout my stay outweighed the bad service but unfortunately it is the bad service that sticks most in my mind. I thought it may just have been me and my terrible French kicked it off but even Julie, who is French, felt it as well.

I think that people who work in the tourist or service industry seriously underestimate how important their behaviour is towards the people that visit their city. They can make or break a person’s experience and almost control whether or not a person or family will go home happy and want to come back.

That said, none of that was bad enough to spoil my time in Paris. The company, the scenery, the food and the coffee were brilliant and I can’t wait to go back.

Merci, Paris. A bientot!

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