My daughter and my husband are in Paris this weekend. Their mission? To find a flatshare for her year at university there. Luckily they struck gold on the first day so they’ve spent the rest of the weekend with our dear Parisian friend Anne Marie. They've visited the Louvre, wandered along the Boulevard St Germain and watched the Bastille Day parades (complete with military jets trailing patriotic streaks of red, white and blue across the sky).
I am so envious - and plan to visit my daughter lots in the coming months. Paris, I reckon, is one of the most civilised cities on earth. Everyone looks stylish – even the pigeons seem sleeker and less down-at-heel than their ragged UK cousins.
I remember sitting with my daughter in a café at the Palais Royal (above) a couple of years ago. An elegant orchestra played Vivaldi in the square, elderly ladies walked tiny dogs on long leads ("rats on strings,” said my husband) and roller bladers whizzed past at death-defying speed. Thanks to the dire exchange rate, the prices were eye-wateringly high – eleven euros for a lunchtime baguette and a glass of bourgogne blanc. But considering we sat there for hours, enjoying the music and soaking up the atmosphere, we probably got our money’s worth. Even better, all the museums and galleries we visited let under-26s go free, so sightseeing didn’t cost us an arm and a leg. Just an arm.
Other highlights were dinner at La Coupole, the famous brasserie where Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir were regulars, and a visit to an amazing emporium called Merci.
Launched by the founders of chic children’s fashion store Bonpoint, Merci is utterly gorgeous. Housed in an old factory in the fashionable Marais district, it sells furniture, flowers, clothes (new and vintage), pictures and Annick Goutal perfume. All the profits go to a children’s charity in Madagascar and there’s even a used-book cafe where you can sit in an old leather armchair, sip an espresso and peruse the books. My son called it a “do I really need it” sort of shop - and, devoted dad though he is, I can guarantee that my husband definitely won’t have set foot in the place this weekend.