Saturday 3 December
When we arrived at St. Pancras to get the Eurostar I had a Margaret Drabble moment. In her new volume of short stories Margaret Drabble writes of a woman who is very excited by trains going to foreign destinations. I felt the same. In a very short time we would be in the heart of the Marais with elegant Parisians drinking wine, smoking aromatic cigarettes and discussing politics and philosophy. And we were.
Clutching Kate’s artistic and thorough guide we arrived at the big doors and entered. We climbed the wooden, spiral staircase to the 3rd floor. As she wrote, C’est formidable. If we were on a television programme to guess who owned such a flat we would be saying, “Striking, modern art; wooden floors throughout; minimalist, stylish furniture: must be an art dealer or designer.” Spot on! We explored the rooms, shouting with pleasure. In the end bedroom we saw a wooden K and T and deduced that was Kate and Ted’s room and so ours for the week. Out of the windows we saw typical Parisian buildings with iron shutters and balconies and perfectly proportioned windows.
Opposite the flat was a restaurant packed with Parisians having long lunches. We went to join them then turned to Kate’s personal guide again. Rue de Bretagne, Le Marche des Enfants Rouge (why is it so called, we wondered), Café le Progres, Les Succulents de Cactus, galleries, quirky shops: we enjoyed them all. Then back to the flat for a late afternoon rest and read.
We wanted a simple, unfussy but French scene for dinner and found it at Robert et Louise: a crowded, shabby restaurant with large tables, unmatching chairs and a huge fire where they grilled meat, including our wooden boards full of lamb steaks. Very Café Oto, we thought, very us.
Back to Le Progres, as we now call it, for coffee and cognac and to absorb Saturday Night French Fever.
The peace and beauty of “our” flat was very welcome – so was bed.