Summertime in Paris by Sheila Wilson

It's so embarassing ... you've never stayed in Paris?! No - I hang my head in shame. I've nearly been, twice, does that count? No, not really. We've driven through it once, in a taxi, does that count? Still no. This is something that's just got to be put right before I start another decade of my life. And summertime is apparently a wonderful time to go - lots of families will have headed for the coast, there'll be no coats or umbrellas to drag around, just me feeling like Audrey Hepburn in `Paris When it Sizzles'.

Where would I begin my longed-for trip? Easy - I'd get out the file I've been making for years, of all the little newspaper cuttings, photos from magazines, articles, occasional www pages, and recommendations from friends, then spread them over the floor until I had a tapestry of wishes. Once I'd arrived, by Eurostar, I wouldn't do the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre first, I'd sit in a café by some shops close to the banks of the Seine, have a coffee (OK, a glass of wine and then a coffee) (oh alright, if you insist, champagne) and take in all the sights and sounds, the river, the boats, the trees, the light, the shade, the talk, the fashion, the traffic even!, until I'd truly left England behind and soaked in my Parisian surroundings. Then I'd walk, as far as my legs would allow, over one bridge, back across another, peeking in this window, staring in that one, stepping inside an occasional shop, checking out the fountains and statues, saying bonjour to as many people as I dared, smiling instead if I chickened out. The whole of that first day, I'd just like to wander, sit, admire. Then I'd finish the day with a bistro meal, on a pavement table if it was warm enough, and an evening stroll before bed. I'd like to stay in an apartment so I could really relax, saving hotels for treats like dinner or cocktails.

Then, the next day, that would be the start the tourist thing. But only after a breakfast of still-warm croissants, from the patisserie over the road. Now apparently the Louvre is really busy in the mornings, so I think I'd start late, and go to the Eiffel Tower first, and go up it if the weather was good, so I could see for miles and get the hang of the arrondissements, getting my bearings and checking out the sites of interest from my Paris map. Later, I'd join the (now less lengthy) queue at the most beautiful conservatory ever made, at the Louvre, to gaze at the Mona Lisa and all the other greats therein, particularly the French art on the second floor. I'd be a real culture vulture and round off the day with a show, why not? Perhaps `Caberet' at Les Folies Bergere. With the money I'd be saving by staying in my beautiful apartment, I could blow a bit of my budget and have more champagne ... vive la France! It's not a waste of money if you're having the time of your life! And don't forget, how I have waited for this!

The third day requires no thought - I'd spend it all in Montmatre. Reader, I want to walk those hills, see the Sacré Coeur (I could always take the funiculaire if necessary), hear the bells, laugh at the street drama, toss a coin to a living statue and a busker or two, finger through the arts and crafts, smell the perfume from the florists, buy a present for someone I love, buy another one for me, feel guilty and buy two more gifts, knowing full well, as do you, that I'll probably keep another. I want to have as many conversations in French as possible, and have lots of lovely Parisians pretend politely that my accent is great. (It sounds great to me, so I will be easily convinced by the kindness of strangers!) And after all, by the end of this day, it will be even better. For lunch I shall have a light snack, maybe in the Two Windmills café, where Amelie once waitressed, because in the evening I reckon it's got to be... Le Moulin Rouge. My feet will ache that night, but it's downhill home if I walk, and anyway, the next day ...

... I take to the water! No not literally, I don't intend to get wet, but a boat-trip up the Seine is just what le docteur ordered. It will cheer me up, because this is the last whole day and I won't want to go home! An 11 o'clock trip sounds perfect, and who knows, I might make some friends after a few hours in close proximity `ooh'ing and `ahh'ing, looking at the sights my feet didn't carry me to, swapping notes and taking it in turns to take photos for each other. Infact, since this is a wish-list, let's say that I do make some some jolly good friends, and that we decide to get together at a jazz club that night - perhaps the Lionel Hampton near the Arc de T, as I've heard it's brilliant, and we can eat there too. It's probably going to be the perfect end to the perfect trip ... but first I'm going on a final spree - to Les Galaries Lafayette, to shop, perchance to buy ... infact, a nice chic outfit for the evening would be the icing on the gateau.

Here's an interesting thought - can something be perfect if it ends in tears? I think this trip could well end in tears, because parting will be such sweet sorrow. After waiting so long to finally visit Paris, I shall just have to come back again soon, with my wish-list twice as long, but not as a newbie anymore, but as an old friend, with memories to relive as well as new ones to make.

Sheila Wilson - N/A, United States