I LOVE PARIS IN THE SPRINGTIME - GRAND PANDA
Last week, General Deluxe reminisced about his adventures during a high-school trip to Fougeres in France, a magical and formative week filled with sunshine, illicit firework-purchasing, and the perils of climbing into medieval weaponry. A brief conversation with my flat-mate reveals that he too went on a European jaunt while at school, visiting the idyllic German town of Traben-Trarbach; here, the principal activities seem to have been petty shop-lifting and sampling as much local wine as could be procured from the poor, unsuspecting townsfolk.
I, on the other hand, did not get to sojourn in foreign lands during my school years. Sob, sob, sniff, sniff (or whatever noise a sad, regretful panda might make). The furthest afield I got was going to Hull one year, to visit the Humber Bridge. That’s right, our most exotic school-trip was walking 2200 metres across a bridge.
Never mind, readers, I’m over it now. And I have since made it out of Yorkshire a good few times. Just last weekend, in fact, I grabbed my beret, boarded a plane and hit up Paris for a few days. Oh no, I hear you cry, not Paris. Eiffel Tower, yawn, yawn. Louvre, snooze-fest. She’s going to bore us to tears with stories about baguettes and garlic. Fear not, friends, nothing could be further from the truth.
I spent the weekend visiting my friend George, who has lived in Paris for years. I have known George for over a decade, and he is one of my closest friends. However, I have learned to expect strange things to occur where he is involved. It was with George that I once stayed in a hotel which could have been more accurately described as a transvestite brothel. And George was there when our pedalo nearly crashed into a river-cruiser because we had inadvertently steered into Amsterdam’s main shipping canal. Last time I visited him, we went to an exhibition about the 1910 Paris Flood and then did karaoke in the illegal basement of a Korean bakery. Conventional tourism isn’t really a factor when you’re on holiday with George. Here is some stuff that happened on my latest trip to Paris:
1. We went to a wine-fair, where Parisian folk go to look disdainful for the afternoon, eyeing all the wines scornfully as though they are piss, before buying at least 7 crates of the stuff. George and I, on the other hand, tried about 18 types of wine, practised our Gallic shrugs and looking disgruntled, and then left. And it was all for free. Paris is great.
2. George has 2 things that I must get immediately for myself. The first is a board-game about the London Underground. It is guaranteed to make an evil transport-planning genius out of everyone who plays, and is the most fun I have ever had with a dice. Fact. The second is a miniature polar bear who lives in your fridge. He helps you with fridge-related decisions and helpfully reminds you to save energy by saying such things as ‘Global Warming!’ and ‘Shut the fridging door!’ Amazing.
3. I watched Top Chef. It’s sort of like Masterchef, only better. Mainly because the contestants cry more, and they have to do things like make a dessert out of fish. That’s right, fish. I think there’s an American version, if you don’t have George to translate the French one for you. Although once you’ve learned poisson and merde, I doubt you’ll have any trouble.
4. We went on a day-trip to the zoo. George, his friend Steph and I took the train just south of Paris, expecting a 30-minute walk to an idyllic haven for animal conservation. Instead, we got off the train, walked for an hour, discovered the zoo’s address doesn’t exist and that no local residents have ever heard of it. We finally located it a good 4km further on, just past a school for Apprentice Witches. I’m not even joking. The ‘zoo’ turned out to comprise of a lot of chickens, a stunted cow and an albino wallaby. Their ice-cream was good, despite the fact that when George inquired about one of the flavours, the zoo-lady said he could try it because she certainly wasn’t going to. The 15km-walk and rubbish zoo aside, I look back on the whole thing fondly, if only in a ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ sort of a way. Above is a photo of the zoo’s ‘Tropical Terrace’, presided over by an evil gnome. Obviously.