Gill and I like to hop around Europe every October to mark the end of sunny summer, the start of a crisp autumn, and our birthdays. This year, we chose the close proximity of Paris for our mini holiday – the aforementioned hop, plus a skip and a jump, a quick ride on Eurostar and there we were, in the city of love, culture and impressionist art.
If either Philip or Alison are reading this blog, stop now! You don’t need to know what follows…
Having spent the first evening dining in Saint Germain, the quintessentially Parisian quarter close to our hotel on Rive Gauche, we popped in to a gorgeous patisserie and chocolatier to pick up some gifts. Each having friends who love salted caramel, we bought some of the gooey stuff, beautifully presented in glass gift jars with tiny silver spoons. A couple of enormous gift bags later, satisfied with our culinary purchases, we had the sparkling idea of climbing to the top of the Eiffle Tower for a midnight hot chocolate while the on-the-hour lights glittered around us.
Throughout Paris, security is comfortingly visible. Gendarmes parade the streets with their Ruger (not so) Mini rifles clearly at the ready, and every public building requires an airport-style security check. I’ve been stopped at the airport before when an underwired bra has made a spectacle of itself, but entering a tourist attraction is generally unremarkable. Not this time though.
“Qu’est-ce que c’est?” enquired the bemused security guard holding up the little jars, obviously hoping for the final hour of her night shift to pass without complication.
“Salted caramel sauce, obviously…”
Despite our protestations, the sticky caramel intended for ice cream embellishment was a horrible security threat to the French capital, and there was no way we were being allowed onto the landmark with the scary sauces. So what to do? We’d travelled there by taxi, it was close to midnight and we really wanted to go up. I’m not sure now whose idea it was to hide the caramel, but that’s what we decided to do.
Laughingly, we bypassed the many street traders hawking their neon-flashing wares and walked to the darkness of some nearby bushes, growing inconspicuously between street lamps and men with ‘best price selfie-sticks.’ Glancing around to see if we were being watched, we chucked the small jars under a bush and hoped for the best. Would they still be there when we returned? (We certainly didn’t share that information on Facebook.)
The Tower is amazing at night, with spectacular views across the city. And when we descended an hour later, we found, to our surprise and intense pleasure…. The two jars still lying beneath the bush. Not sure whether any tramps had peed on them, or drug dealers injected them with any sort of illegal substances, but we took the chance that they hadn’t and chose to ignore all possibilities of salted caramel sabotage. Nice gifts, eh?!
The holiday was wonderful, with lots of lovely French cuisine, hot chocolate, cocktails that I think cost more than Eurostar, open top bus rides, a scenic cruise, three art galleries, three churches (where I lit candles for little Joey – and thank you to everyone who sent condolences; very much appreciated). We also managed to visit all the major tourist attractions plus a couple of beautiful lesser-known ones.
Now it’s back to work in still-sunny (at the time of writing!) Angleterre, creating client blogs, ensuring people’s social media accounts are well managed and pumpkin carving.
The only French song I can think of right now is the possibly-inappropriate Lady Marmalade… Oh, oh – as I typed that another tune popped into my head!! “Flash is fast, flash is cool, Francois sais pas, Flashe no deux.” Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit, but I’m still in holiday mode.
Enjoy your Halloween week! And don’t forget I’m always happy to retweet your scary pics: @WeekendWitch.