Wednesday, 21 March 2012
Outside the Box in Paris
Last week we took a spring break on Eurostar to Paris – for £55 return why wouldn’t you? Travelling by rail at 186mph has become so commonplace that the train crew don’t even bother to announce that the train is going at maximum speed any more, let alone telling you that you’re in the tunnel and will be under the English Channel (La Manche, if you prefer), for 20 minutes. When you get to Paris, getting around is cheap and easy: the city is compact, there are plenty of buses, you are never more than 500 metres from a metro station, you can jump on a Velib hire bike if you want to (and wearing a bike helmet is rare). And Paris is the spiritual home of the flaneur. Which doesn’t really translate, but essentially means a person who goes for an aimless wander along the boulevards: although, when doing so, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on the traffic – there are very few trucks, but where cars are allowed, they move at breakneck speed, so it’s best not to get too existential. Paris is geographically closer to London than many big British cities, but despite the occasional McDonalds and Starbucks, Paris is a whole lot still less homogenised than London – there are thousands of individual cafes, restaurants and shops, and a vitality to the streetscape that has been lost in many parts of the UK, including London.