‘I’ve seen at least three Ladurée bags since we got here. I think they might be clichéd,’ said my girlfriend, her tone heavy with disappointment, clearly thinking of her own small pink bag tucked away at the bottom of the suitcase.
We were at Gare du Nord waiting to board the train that would take us back to London. Back home.
‘Darling,’ I replied. ‘We watched the Eiffel Tower sparkle and light the skyline on the hour. We walked hand in hand down the Champs Elysees. We ate onglet steak in Les Halles. We took photos of the Louvre’s great glass pyramid. We drank fresh and fruity Beaujolais Nouveau. We sipped short and strong coffees in Les Deux Moulins were Amelie waitressed tables. We admired the books in Shakespeare and Co. The whole of Paris is a cliché.’
And it is. But what a glorious cliché.
Despite never visiting this wonderful city before, I couldn’t quell the feelings of familiarity that radiated from almost every street corner. Paris has inspired so many great works of artistic merit that one feels at home here even before you step into the fractured metropolis.
Books and celluloid have captured the unique feel of the city more than any other place on earth. Before Sunset, Paris, Je T’aime, Amelie, Hemingway, Orwell, and countless others have managed to, each in their own way, make permanent the fluctuating romance of the French capital.
But it is a romance that pervades still, and only becomes tangible when you see these places first hand.
The narrow streets and grand boulevards, the tiny cafés and large brasseries, the small specialist shops and grand department stores are all somehow uniquely French and quintessentially Parisian.
And each of these dichotomous elements manages to be a neat concentration of the city itself which is at once a sprawling conurbation and a collection of small, independent and unique villages.
And the food is pretty good too.