Sensible cat has been to Paris – and it was brilliant. One of those lovely short breaks where everything comes together right. For starters, perfect city sightseeing weather – sunny, dry but not too hot. Good journey too – first time on the Eurostar. Still can’t quite believe that just 20 minutes in the dark brings you into a whole new country where the trains go twice as fast!
Some cities are just so iconic – they give you a kind of jolt when you actually see them. Those rooftops, the Eiffel tower, the cafes of the Left Bank, yes, it is all there. We queued for two hours to go up the Tower – was it worth it? Absolutely, but bloody freezing. Also we did Notre Dame and the Louvre (I was bowled over by Cupid and Psyche, but the Mona Lisa left me strangely unmoved. Maybe it was the crowds, maybe just the thought of Romana and Four in there?) What did impress me was, God,the French know how to do a museum. The splendour of the building and the boldness of its redevelopment was so perfect as a foil for the treasures within.
Across the Seine, the Musee D’Orsay is also full of treasures, most memorably the great Impressionists, and a beautiful building in its own right. We walked and walked and walked, exhausting but wonderful. It’s a remarkably compact city, reminds me of London in many ways, but so unified and stylish.
We stayed in a neighbourhood called La Defense, which has been totally redeveloped over the last 30 years or so. Think London Docklands, then imagine it with Canary Wharf as the smallest and least imaginative building. That’s about it. It looked more like a futuristic city than anywhere else I’ve ever been. You could have filmed New Earth there. And from the Grande Arche, which is hundreds of feet high, you can look straight down for about five miles to the Arc de Triomphe. I would hate to live in a centrally planned country where engineers inherit the Earth and whole neighbourhoods are moved out to fit some grand design. But it’s wonderful to visit.
And on the final day, for all you DW fans, we went to Versailles. What pomp and circumstance! What scale and magnificience. It makes Buck House look suburban. Particuarly magnificent when they play Baroque music and all the enormous fountains are switched on. They are restoring the Hall of Mirrors. Maybe they’ve been having some trouble with a man on a horse?