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Published: October 11th 2010
So said Doctor Who and who am I to argue? The sun is shining as if it has just risen from the galactic cradle and the sky glitters azure as baby blues. My impression of Paris is that it is simply stunning.
That wasn't my first impression however. My first impression was what rubbish their ticketing system on the metro is. One ticket machine for all one gazilion people coming off the Eurostar, result: massive queues. My second impression was that they must have known I was coming because three soldiers in combat fatigues carrying very large assault rifles wandered menacingly towards me in Gare Du Nord. Fortunately I remembered my SAS training and gave them the slip. My third impression was that rubber wheels on the metro is a myth as the train I was on rocked, screeched and generally grizzled. Apparently its only on a couple of lines they have rubber, a bit like Ann Summers. 😊
But once I got out of the metro I emerged in a Paris that was totally storybook. From the Jardins de Tulliers replete with statues of gods and heroes among the chestnut groves to the Place de Concorde and its
shining gold-tipped obelisk along the Champs Elysees to the magnificence of the Arc de Triomphe, Paris is simply classical architecture fairyland. It's huge and grand and meant to impress and by Jove, does it 'eck! Never mind that a lot of the statues are recent restorations. Never mind that they put an obelisk in Concorde because it was the least politically stirring object they could think of as the peasants had already torn down Louis XV's statue in riots and it was later the sight of the guillotene in the Reign of Terror. Never mind that the Arc de Triomphe is covered in lists of French military victories rather than good deeds. It just looks fabulous and overawes you and that's all there is to it. Everywhere I look, every corner I turn, there’s another beautiful architectural grandiosity smashing across my eyes. Isn't that a pip?
Typically though, there are always strange things in big cities. I came across a garden shop which sold giant plastic animals. You could buy a life size crocodile, ostrich or llama for your garden. That would put the wind up those gnomes! And then there are the beggars here who don’t just have
a dog to get your sympathy, they have a whole litter of puppies! Never let it be said that the French do things by half. And unlike us self-important Brits, there are lots of statues of other countries' heroes and streets named after them. There are statues of Winnie Churchill and Simon Bolivar and there's a Charles Dickens Square and avenues named after Winnie, Franky Roosevelt and George V. I'm not even sure if there's a Winnie statue in England, except perhaps Winnie the Pooh outside the Disney store, but you have to put a quid in him to make him sing so your toddler can dance along. Ironically Winnie's statue featured a quote 'We shall never surrender' and attributed it to the summer of 1940. Am I the only one who thinks that's ironic? 😊
Wierdest of all though, beyond the shadow of a doubt, is the fact that they still have C&A stores. Can you imagine!?!
So all in all a fine start to the week. The only disappointment is that the French public transport workers are striking from tonight for an indefinite period. That may mean I can’t get to Versailles, which would be a
shame. We'll see.
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