Saturday 2 May 2009

Paris, paris, paris

Today rapidly turned into one of my worst days in France. We (the father of my first host family and my current host) drove to Paris to visit the big Andy Warhol exhibition at the Grand Palais. We couldn't get in. Enormous queues and our attempts to book ahead on the Internet had failed.

We went to look round the Palais Garnier instead. I've been a few times to see stuff there and it's always quite striking. But if you remember when it was built (1875) it does seem a little bit naff. Too much gold and corinthian columnage. A latter-day Versailles.

After a decent lunch, we nipped off to Ladurée for some macaroons. I had three superb flavours: salted butter caramel, lily of the valley (the traditional French mayday flower) and bergamot (for the hint of home). I also shelled out a shocking €4.50 for a Violet religieuse. It was excellent but overpriced. And an average cannelé.

At Pierre Hermé, having split with the others to save them queuing (there were queues along the pavement at both Ladurée and Hermé), I invested in €10 worth of macaroons for us to taste together later (including his version of the salted butter caramel). I also bought myself a jasmine macaroon and an olive oil one for immediate munching. And an average cannelé.

The jasmine was pretty decent but the olive oil was really sensational. Due to the accompanying sugar and fat it's pretty hard to pin it down as olive oil. I think one would struggle in a blind and uninitiated tasting. But it was really first class.

I carefully put the other macaroons in my bag so as not to squash them, then winded my way to a swimming pool.

Passing this old dear was the high point of the day. She came sauntering along with no trousers or skirt, an enormous cigar and odd socks.

Then things turned bad. First, all the swimming pools shut by 7. Even in provincial Surrey the pool is open until 8 on a Saturday. So having walked an age between a few to check none were open, I decided to console myself with one of the remaining macaroons. I opened my bag to discover every single one had been crushed and smeared to a paste. Bloody waste of €10. I ate the smears to avoid some tramp fishing them out of the bin. And promptly started to feel sick.

So I set off to find the other Hermé boutique on Rue de Vaugirard to undertake a replacement operation. This, I have now discovered, is the longest road in Paris. I walked for half an hour with gusto and finally arrived to discover the bloody shop had shut.

So I went off to the train station to get my ticket home only to be told there were no trains back to Rouen that night. I was curtly informed there was no way at all for me to return and I would have to wait until morning. Bugger.

I thought it might just be worth double checking at St-Lazare, so nipped off that way in an almighty strop. The departures sign said there was a bus replacement, the man at the information desk said there was a train and the woman at the ticket desk told me there was nothing on the system but she'd sell me (thoughtfully) a ticket anyway.

I strolled back to the Palais Garnier to console my humour and kill the 2 hours until the train/bus moment. There's a cracking little bar just outside so I had a couple of Kirs and took a snap of the excellent view from my table outside. Felt a little better.

Made it home finally at 1.30am after the stopping train took me half way to Rouen and an astonishingly uncomfortable coach took me the rest.

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