Well, I missed yesterday, unable to get my post out (no excuses, same old same old) but then I realised that I have the perfect excuse since the theme this week over at A Lingering Look at Windows Week #7 is ‘Valentine’s Edition’ and today is Valentine’s Day, so here it is!
Thinking about this romantic theme I was stumped at first but then it came to me. Several years ago, Hubby took me to Paris, and what better city in the world to associate with all things romantic, and therefore for Valentine’s Day? After all, isn’t Paris known as the City of Love?
As a girl I had taken a few school trips to France but we only went as far as Calais and the sights and sounds of the fish markets there didn’t exactly excite me. The idea was that we could practice our French in the shops when we bought our souvenirs but since the shopkeepers there could speak English they spared us the embarrassment and told us not to bother. C’est la vie!
When I returned to the UK in 2003 after living in California for almost 20 years I was amazed at how popular holidays in France had become for my fellow Brits. Not only that but it seemed that everybody I met knew somebody else who had moved there and were living their dream. I couldn’t understand it, my only experience of France being those smelly fish markets but then I had never been to rural France.
When friends of ours offered for us to stay with them at their farmhouse in the Dordogne region of France a couple of years ago we jumped at the chance and it was during that visit that I at last understood the love affair. The acres and acres of sunflower fields set against clear, blue skies, the open air and the peace and quiet. Like Britain 50 years’ ago so the saying goes, and it’s true.
Visiting Paris is, of course, a very different but just as spectacular an experience. We made the trip by Eurostar from St Pancras station in London right after its refurbishment and opening as an international station in November, 2007 (the original St Pancras station was opened in 1868 and needed work!)
Half the fun was sitting upstairs in the rather swish Champagne Bar. Nothing like knocking back a glass or two of bubbly with a plate of smoked salmon as its side-kick before embarking on what would be for me the train trip of a lifetime. This is because I had always said that no-way no-how would I ever travel to France via a tunnel right underneath the English Channel. As it turned out, I hardly noticed. The bubbly helped.
What is so amazing is that it takes just over two hours by Eurostar from St Pancras to Paris’s Gare du Nord. Now that is travelling! The only problem for us was that when we arrived in the early evening we discovered that Paris was in the grip of two things: A public transportation strike (no Metro, no buses) and an icy chill which arrived just about the same time as we did, blasting its way across the region.
This meant that we had to wait for three hours in bitter cold for a taxi to take us to our hotel. An American who travelled frequently between Paris, New York and London on business shared our taxi with us and we had a lovely chat. He ended up paying our fare. The random kindness of folk like this never gets forgotten.
When we pulled up to our hotel it was surrounded by scaffolding. The taxi driver didn’t speak any English but although our French is circumspect, we managed to ascertain that he was asking us if we were sure this was the right place. I was asking Hubby the same thing since he had booked it.
When we stumbled into the lobby we were met by the French version of Basil Fawlty (he was barking in other words). He led us up the narrow, winding stair case (the lift was broken) to our tiny but delightfully cosy and perfectly Parisian room at the very top.
The first thing we did was to take off our shoes and stand over the hot water pipes we discovered were running beneath our feet through the flooring and there we stood until we thawed out. It was heavenly. You can’t get more romantic than that.
This building on Avenue George V had some very strange and unusual windows. I wondered what the view would be like? As it turned out, not much. Look closer. These are not windows at all but murals painted on the side of a building under renovation. Had me fooled!
Happy Valentine’s Day!