Dot writes: Ken and I had our tenth wedding anniversary last week (how did that happen, where has the time gone etc etc) and to celebrate we went to Paris for the weekend, leaving the boys with my parents who’d heroically come over from Norfolk to mind them. We stayed in a small hotel in Rue de l’Esperance in the 13th Arrondissement. I was worried it was a bad choice, since it was selected on availability and price rather than any knowledge of the area, but it turned out to be well-placed for the métro and we were able to have excellent meals in local restaurants on both nights without walking more than five minutes from where we were staying. Although the restaurants had menus in English, which they provided to us, the rest of the clientele was all French as far as we could tell. This was encouraging. Plus, the highlight of the trip for me: on the second night the waitress initially brought us the French menu, because I had asked for a table for two and whether we could pay by visa in French and she didn’t immediately clock me as English. My French vocabulary has dwindled pitiably since I left school, and I only have a GCSE in it anyway, but I derive tremendous pride from evidently having – for those two brief phrases, at any rate – a good accent.
We hadn’t been to Paris before. We did obvious tourist things: the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Quai Branly (perhaps this is slightly less obvious, but it’s very near the Eiffel Tower), a walk along the Seine, an exterior view of Notre Dame, and then the following morning the Musée d’Orsay, which houses paintings by the great Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as well as sculpture and Art Nouveau furniture. We also saw the Tour de France whizz past on its way to the finish line in the Champs Elysées. I was bowled over by Paris. It has horrible queues and some very confusing public toilets, but it is astonishingly magnificent and elegant. I was delighted by the unity and grace of the architecture, the broad streets, the river at the centre busy with boats, the trees, and the amazing proliferation of huge palaces and museums.