I had hardly touched down in Cromer after Eastercon when I set off once again, this time with massed Croxii, for our annual holiday. Now you might wonder why we should be taking our annual holiday after Easter, when most people do it in the summer. Well, Mrs Crox’s thoughts were that we should do something to help us get over the most unpleasant winter remembered by anyone under the age of fifty. And, moreover, as we happen to live in a place where people go to spend their summer holidays anyway, it made sense to look forward to summer spent at home, or, at any rate, the Marine Biology Field Station Beach Hut.
We thought of all sorts of destinations, from the Islets of Langerhans to Ruritania, but once Mrs Crox (who should have been a travel agent) had juggled availability and affordability, we settled on three nights in Paris. The younger Croxii had never been to the City of Light, and we felt that they needed some acculturation.
We decided to trade cheapness of travel against lux interiousness of accommodations, which meant flying from Luton Airport to Paris Day Of The Jackal Charles De Gaulle with SquezyJet at some appalling hour of the day (or, as it may be, night) which necessitated an overnight stop at Luton Airport, in which all the Croxii crammed into what is laughingly called a ‘family room’ at the Holiday Inn Express. This was a double bed with a pull-out sofa bed, and when the two are at the apotheoses of their respective zeniths, you can barely see the floor. Hence the point of the luxuriousness of and so on and so forth. Now that Crox Minor is 12 and Crox Minima is 9, it gets hard to find suitable hotel accommodation for more than a one-night layover without shelling out for separate rooms. That’s when we hit on the idea of a suite, and thanks to the magic of teh interwebz and Mrs Crox’s tireless cybersurfing, we booked a suite in a hotel through LastMinute.com.
And what a find this was!
We stayed in a serviced apartment at Le Claridge, at 74 Avenue Des Champs-Elysées. As you’d expect (I mean, just look at the tariffs) the staff was very friendly, helpful and quite unflappable (in the three days we were there, the water supply to the Champs-Elysées was disrupted by workmen, and the hotel was temporarily rendered inaccessible by a bomb scare in the building next door – all in a day’s work for the concierge). But what impressed me most was that this appears to be an historic location. Colette lived here for a while and the hotel allegedly appeared in her fiction; Georges Simenon, too, found inspiration here. I’m hoping that some of their mojo might rub off on me.
Having arrived there from Luton thanks to the cheerful and efficient offices of Squezyjet, and finding it still early, we dumped our bags and set off down the Champs-Elysées in glorious Paris-au-Printemps sunshine, across the Place De La Concorde with its obelisk – Crox Minor looked at the hieroglyphics, while Crox Minima, being smaller, concentrated on the loweroglyphics -
and into the Tuileries.
Progressing through the square in front of the Louvre we wandered down the Seine and crossed to the Île de la Cité and had lunch. Then – to cut a long story short – we did a quick circuit round the Notre Dame, being entertained by some very unusual street performance in front of the grand façade of the cathedral – not quite Salami dancing naked in front of Harrods, but close
and got a bus back to the hotel, where we officially checked in, and Crox Minima and I hied off in search of a boulangerie and a mini-market so we could make something for uz tea. We were, unsurprisingly, knackered.
But wait – there’s more. As regular readers of this column (both of you) will know, Crox Minor is fond of surrealism and had expressed a wish to visit the Espace Dalí in Montmartre. So, the next morning, after I’d bought pains-au-chocolat the size of pillows, we hailed a cab and off we went. The Espace Dalí is small gallery, but full of surprises. It doesn’t have any paintings, showing off instead Dalí’s sculptures and especially his drawings – of which I had had no knowledge whatsoever. Dalí tended not to do single drawings, but themed series, such as ‘The Twelve Tribes of Israel’, or scenes from works he admired, such as ‘Romeo and Juliet’ or ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Crox Minor was especially pleased to see one of Dalí’ sofas made in the shape of Mae West’s lips. Sadly we weren’t allowed to sit on it.
And then we had lunch, at one of the restaurants in this typiquement Montmartreuse cobbled square.
It is my belief that the greatest contribution made by the nation of France to world culture is not the Eiffel Tower, or the institution of men in berets and striped pullovers cycling around on bikes draped with onions, or even the ability of drivers to drive their cars in a more-or-less consistent direction while both smoking and talking on their cellphones – but the fixed-price set menu, which means that you can get a pretty decent three-course meal for a reasonable price in even in tourist traps such as this.
and then decided to walk back to the Champs-Elysées, and I have a feeling that had the other Croxii known the geography of Paris as well as I do, there’d have been a revolution. The more-than-two-mile walk through the very seedy red-light district (we stopped for a coffee in, for shame, Starbucks, opposite the Moulin Rouge)
and cutting south wore everyone out… I have to hand it to the younger Croxii for being so patient. There was much soreness of feet.
But wait – there’s more. Mrs Crox had the great idea of booking a boat-and-bus tour for that evening, in which we took a boat trip along the Seine (yes, I know, we were completely InSeine, get over it) followed by a bus tour of Illuminated Paris By Night. The cruise was utterly rammed by tourists of all nations, the rudest of whom were undoubtedly the Japanese. Brits abroad are notorious for drunkenness, Americans for loudness, but Japanese tourists en masse excel at sheer pushiness. I’d never seen anything like it. But soaring over all was Monsieur Eiffel’s majestic erection:
Paris is very largely a low-rise city, which makes the Tower stand out all the more … um … impudently. We were all quite enchanted, especially Crox Minima.
But wait – there was more. That’ll have to wait until tomorrow – stay tuned for ‘Fear and Loathing in the Magic Kingdom’.