Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Gay Paree!

Just got back from my first trip abroad as a Londoner - to where else? Paris! I popped over on the Eurostar on Saturday and spent four days there with some friends from New York. It's the first time I'd been there since I lived there in 1993, so I wasn't sure at all what it'd be like.

Paris was the first place I lived away from my hometown of Las Vegas (population then: 800,000). I suddenly found myself homeless in a much larger city in a foreign country where I didn't speak the language and I can remember how overwhelming it was. So I was a bit surprised by how underwhelmed I was on this trip. But I have to clarify that, I don't mean it in a bad way at all. I am in a much different stage in my life now, I've lived away from home for a long time in San Francisco, New York, London, and even Fairbanks, Alaska for good measure. There's no reason Paris should have been too much the way it was then. But since this was the emotion I had paired with Paris in my mind, it was odd, but nice, for it to have dissipated.

When I first arrived I was continually frustrated by the Gallic Way. Getting from Eurostar to the 5 line on the Métro wasn't as easy as following signs for "5 vers Place d'Italie" like I remember from living there and all the guidebooks assure you it is. Then trying to navigate the République station with its maze of exits and finally getting the right one only to have to dodge the famous dog poo that coats the sidewalks of Paris didn't warm me to the city.

I soon learned this was because we were staying more than "a few short steps" from the Marais and up in a less desirable area than we'd supposed. Once we walked our not ridiculous (just not expected) 20 minutes to the Marais things were much better. We could look at the architecture instead of where we were stepping, the bars were full of people that are beautiful in that way only French people can be (and, OK, a lot of them were just down right HAWT) and we were soon enjoying ourselves. This feeling became even more ingrained after we had a proper dinner with good wine one night and once we went to the Left Bank, where I spent most of my time in 1993, so suddenly I was seeing and feeling the Paris I remembered.

We kept to the usual schedule - dinner, drinks, out, good night's sleep, sights the next afternoon, then start it all over again. Made a classic, though informed, mistake. As a rule, never buy Coke in Paris - it's obscenely overpriced. However, one of my most reliable hangover cures is a breakfast (or lunch, as it were) of eggs, fries and a Coke. So after a big night we went to eat and three of us decided to brave it and get a glass of Coke with breakfast. I knew I'd be paying too much, but the elixir was needed. Then the bill came. The Cokes were €6,50 (£4.46, $7.68) EACH. In hindsight we deserved it. We knew not to do it, but we did it anyway, and we paid the price for our exuberance.

All in all a great trip, but I am glad to be back in London and back home. And that's the coolest part - it truly did feel like coming back home.

Shaun Coley
London, UK

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