No. 2 Son and I went to Paris for a few days this last week.  Last year we went to Rome and next year we shall probably go to Berlin or Venice.  Dad and his lad, having a bit of guy-time, getting cities under our feet by walking 8 to 10 miles a day between museums or whatever.  There is a poignancy among the pleasure because I shall be 67 this year and in the nature of things these opportunities to show my son that I love him will come to an end – maybe have come to an end, who knows?

We found a good clean hotel in a seedy area off the Bvd de Magenta.  Walking a city gives glimpses of a world that is missed if one travels by Metro.  At the top of the Bvd de Magenta is the Louxor Cinema, a superb example of the MGM Egyptian style I should otherwise have missed.  This area specialises in shops selling cheap flashy clobber for weddings: shop after shop full of the stuff.  Here, for €90 you can buy a sharp silver grey two piece suit, but my particular weakness is two-tone shoes and I find a rack of them: black and white patent leather or all white with snake skin trim.  To you, monsieur, € 19 – I repeat: €19. The suit and the shoes bring out my inner dude, my maquereau manqué, though I suspect that they would dissolve in the first shower and leave me strolling in my underwear.

In Montmarte I show No. 2 Son the Sacre Coeur, but  by the sheer serendipity of walking we find the far more interesting church of St. Jean de Montmarte, a late nineteenth pile in a an oriental style reminiscent of the mudéjar style of Spain.  As museums go, our favourite is the Carnavalet, housed in a seventeenth century aristocratic mansion in the Marrais.  It illiustrates the history of Paris with great clarity.  I was particularly struck by the wonderful paintings of the twentieth century: the Paris of Proust, Picasso and Sartre.

Our route back to the hotel takes us up the rue St. Denis, past tarts and “love hotels”, Irish pubs and Turkish fast food joints.  The Frog & Rosbif brews on the premises and its Kapow bitter is sharp, perfumed and wonderful.  A couple of black guys are chatting in the street, and one of them, a skinny little geezer, is wearing the pointed-toe two-tones I saw earlier and they look fabulous.

Here in the rue St. Denis a sign sticks out from a wall.  It says: “CHEAPER THAN A PSYCHIATRIST – QUALITY HAMBURGERS”.

I know what it means.

12 May 2014