Paris Diary

City Breaks, Diary , 2 March 2012

Paris, When It Drizzles

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I have just returned from a rather gloomy paris. The inclement weather was quite an issue in a city best seen on foot, especially as I was most keen to scout the Pere-Lachaise cemetery for Wilde’s grave. Ever dogged in my approach to hunting for relics of interest, I visited his resting place anyway, but don’t think I arrived in the sort of fashion a man who said that ‘looking good and dressing well is a necessity’ would have appreciated.

Thankfully, despite my bedraggled appearance, I didn’t feel too shabby. I think this is, in part, because I now have cold weather licked (Dermalogica’s Barrier Cream, night socks for roasty toasty morning feet and the rather oddly soothing Grays Herbal Tablets), and partly because I didn’t have hungover mornings – the fashion in Paris now is not getting sloshed, but getting involved in something ostensibly causal and having a drink or two while wafting cause-related paraphernalia around – in this case, books.

I am referring to The Book Club at Le Carmen. The brainchild of Rosa Rankin-Gee, Celine Brugnon and Jethro Turner, this book club is part of their Tale of Three Cities arts journal mission – to promote print journalism and all that. It was very telling that the doorman was insanely strict on the ‘no book, no entry’ policy but, once within, nobody asked me what book I’d brought and there was no exciting literary banter happening anywhere near me. JR and I eventually decamped to a metal cage overlooking the whole affair and sipped our nameless cocktails.

This is big in Paris – the menu-less cocktail menu. You sort of have to converse with the bartender about flavours or liquors you like and they put something together for you. I suppose its a way of weeding out the non-French speakers from the bars – I was also totally lost at Harry’s New York Bar bar (the Bloody Mary was supposedly created at a branch of Harry’s and Hemingway was partial to a tipple here, to continue the literary theme) and relied on JR to order me a caipiroska. I managed to enjoy both my evening and my cocktail without further debasement on my part in trying to cross the language barrier by trying to pronounce vodka in a multitude of ways in the attempt to order a palatable cocktail. All these annoyances were tempered by the one standout star of Parisian nightlife – the lighting.

Paris really is the city of lights and, it seems, good lighting. Everywhere we went I found myself marvelling at the attention payed to hue and ingenuity. At Le Carmen they were even burning a huge Cire Trudon candle. It was really very impressive. I’ve long held lighting above other atmospheric tricks to make a party successful and rued the carelessness of London’s lights, so this was really a standout feature for me. This pattern came to light (pun unintended) when I saw the beautiful shades in the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro station – it really does put the underground in a bad light (pun intended), and just seemed to make travel so much more convivial and passengers more, well, civilised.

Lighting aside, here are the other things I really loved en Paris:

1) The Maje Stock shop. Well worth a look around – I scooped a dress at a 6th of its original price.

2) Le Médecine Douce. I loved almost everything here. Particularly these:

3) ba&sh and des petits hauts. Here’s hoping these shops will be big here:

4) Strange graves in Pere Lachaise. Top picks:

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