The Paris Diaries, Chapter 6: Coming Home

As stated in my last post, Paris ‘ lack of pubs was getting to me, as well as my lack of French and the tired waiters who were forced to serve us in our forced-French-trying-our-best English ways.

And herein lies the crux – we start to yearn for home. The language barrier begins to grate on us as a reminder of our own ignorance with other tongues. The all you can eat buffet is getting boring and you feel forced to consume the beige feast set before you at dawn because the damn all inclusive responsibility is getting too much – you have paid for it, after all. What started as a polite conversation over breakfast with the family from Nottingham is becoming too familiar, evading them becoming more challenging, and you don’t need any new friends anyway. And if you trip over in your fucking flip-flops once more, you risk losing your big toe because that unassuming rubber, toe segregating mechanism is like cheese wire when extreme force is applied. at a high speed.

It’s your last day. The hotel is kicking you out at 11am and you pack your wrinkled, iron-neglected clothes along with all the other stuff you’ve bought along the way. Before closing the hotel door, you take one last look around at what has been your home for the past few days. It looks exactly as it did when you arrived; no character, bland, beige, effortless. You realise that you’re the one who brought life to it…

On the flight home, you vow to make changes to your everyday life. The problems that you left behind seem to have vanished and no longer seem pressing at all. You realise that life goes on, and you probably need to take time out for yourself more during the week. You ate out most nights for dinner – “why don’t we do that more at home?” you wonder. You vow to make use of restaurants and coffee shops as much as you did abroad.

As much as we enjoy A Holiday, toward the end we begin to desire the familiarity of home and our territory. It’s only through going away that we really understand the comforts of home. The things we take for granted. The people we left behind. Our safe routine.

Maybe that’s it. Maybe the art of travelling is all about coming home. We can fly half way across the world and find ourselves in a new place but, so long as at the end of it all, we come home…that’s what matters. Because it’s not our world that needs to change, it’s us. It’s our perspective. We need to give ourselves a break – not so much literally but, being as human as we are, we ride our own asses far more than anyone else. Our geographical location may never change but, as long as we do, that’s all that matters in life.

As T S Elliot said, “we shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

We leave the flight, we leave the Airport, and we’re at peace. We’re bronzed, sunkissed, relaxed, and ready to take on the world again…

And then, we see them. The people about to go on A Holiday. And they pity us for we are returning to the world that they have just left.

But we are wiser now. We’ve had our fill and we are ready to continue on in life until the next time.

Still, though…those lucky bastards.

The Paris Diaries, Chapter 5: Le Pub

Oui, oui. Paris is beautiful. But, the one thing they lack?


Proper fucking pubs with sticky counters and the local drunks.

Of course, if you want a refined drink over the course of four hours watching the sun rays kiss goodnight over Montmartre as it sets over the city whilst holding your significant other in a highly stereotypical circumstance, you’ll fucking love Paris.

But…I’m British. I like things predictable and easy. I want to walk into a Pub and not panic as to whether they expect me to eat. I don’t want to have to turn down yet another plate of crisps in the bid to keep me drinking. You know what keeps me drinking? My own British self-loathing that goes deep into my bones. My bitter cynicism that keeps me awake at night. My sorrow that I keep buried well below the surface of my psyche because my country survived two world wars under the premise of Keep Calm and Carry On.

No, we haven’t survived a revolution and we haven’t overthrown an aristocracy (despite what the British Red Tops like to spew about Meghan Markle) and maybe that’s why we drink in the way we do because the Royal Family still exist and the only chance we ever have at revolution is with a beauracratic vote which we form an orderly queue for. We tried the revolution through Brexit but then the children at Number 10 took over and made us look daft which sent us reeling back to where it all began in the sodding first place – Wetherspoons.

I’m also Welsh. I want to get legless in four hours or less. I want to sink three pints one after the other, fuelled by the collective loathing of those around me, and some good old fashioned banter that’s too close to the truth but that’s what makes it tragically funny. After I’m done sinking those pints and my sorrows have been blurred by an unholy amount of booze, I may stumble to the garden to smoke a cigarette that I will hate myself for in the morning because I apparently gave up last week and it’s just another thing I’m fucking shit at. I want to not have a damn clue what day it is, let alone watch another one end over the Land of my Fathers and the Mothers that raised them.

I want to get so drunk that liberty, equality, and fraternity are the qualities I find in the women’s toilets as I tell yet anoter beautiful girl that he’s a bellend and you’re too good for him.

Yes. A good old fashioned pub is what I yearn for in Paris…

and a decent cup of tea.

The Paris Diaries, Chapter 4: Paris, baby!

Let’s take a break from the cynicism for a moment and actually talk about Paris.

Ohhhh, sweet Paris.

I’ve been fortunate to visit the City of Light a number of times in the past and each time has been as spectacular for it’s own reasons. The first time I went, I left my heart there and everytime I’ve been back since has been an attempt to recover it. She will be out of my system one day but, until then, she will be my second home. This time around we refused to take the Metro and walked everywhere. We lived in an apartment in Montmartre, sipped on the most delicious Lager we’ve ever had in our lives, ate handmade Croissants from the local bakery, and I lusted continuously after Parisian fashion in the height of Summer. I wouldn’t say I’m a Paris expert but, if I could offer a few tips for enjoying Paris, it would be the following:

1.Unless you are going all out and have a shit ton of disposable income, try to make your own food. Food is the biggest expense in Paris and probably the most money we spent was on meals. Where possibly, buy some things from the supermarket and have Breakfast and Lunch self-catered. Then, you can spoil yourself with a meal out in the evening if eating out is your thing.

2.The Louvre is great but it’s fucking massive and trying to get around the entire thing in an afternoon is near on impossible. There are other museums which often get left out in the shadow of the Louvre’s reputation – Musee des Arts Decoratifs is free – FREE – and houses a wonderful Art Nouveau collection. If you adore anything Victorian, need some home decor inspo, or can’t be arsed to fork out for another visit somewhere, this is a great one to go to. Similarly, Musee d’Orsay is just down from the Louvre and, although you have to pay, it has some iconic artwork and a wonderful collection of sculptures.

3.Don’t be fucking ignorant – at least attempt to speak French. Saying Bonjour, Merci, and Sil Vous Plait instead of Hello, Thank You, and Please go a long way. It’s not hard to learn basic French phrases and, usually, the French can tell you’re British a mile off and won’t buy your bullshit and respond in the Common Tongue. At least you tried.

4.Walk. Walk walk walk walk walk. Walk until you can’t anymore because not only is this good for your general health and the only form of exercise you will do during your stay, but you see so much more of Paris that way. Get involved. Yes, it is time consuming, but get up early, beat the morning rush, and have more of the day to enjoy.

5.Visit Paris at all times of the year. She’s beautiful in the rain, she’s magical in the sunshine. I would probably say that my favourite time to go would be March/April time or September/October. It tends to be warm enough to walk around comfortably and not wear a coat but, also, the sun sets early-ish. Paris night life is fantastic and really laid back. They stay up late. Head to Bastille for some wonderful bars and, please!!, buy some bottles, and a picnic, and head to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower at night is truly an unforgettable sight.

6.If you really want to get into Paris life, forget the Hotel and go to Hostel World or Air BnB. You can book whole Parisian apartments and live like a Parisian for however long you stay. It has its own pros and cons but I would always go down this route because it’s just that little more special.

The Paris Diaries, Chapter 3: Arrival

The flight. Nothing spectacular happens above ground except rising above the smog, seeing the sunshine, and having that incredible moment of clarity knowing that you’re on you way. Let’s not dwell too much at this point on the extortionate prices on board – £3.50 for a cuppa soup? £3 for a bottle of Evian? Anything from the trolley? No, thank you. I’ll dehydrate and starve.

You step off the plane to your new home for the next 7 days. A Holiday. This is what you needed and what you coveted for so long. You are here and, as if to remind you that this is your reality now, the heat unapologetically slaps you in the face. The English is limited and, with that, you feel a sweet relief at being entirely ignorant of any language and living off the bare essentials of your suitcase for the next seven days…

Speaking of suitcase…You make your way to the luggage collection which remains the final test before you can truly relax. You see, we have all heard horror stories about people not receiving their luggage. Tales of when the suitcases rebelled, having absconded and taken a detour to Dubai whilst you’re on French soil patiently waiting like a forlorn lover. As the belt jerks to life you begin a silent prayer to the Travel Gods “let my fucking suitcase be here let my fucking suitcase be here let my fucking suitcase be here…”

Then…you see it. The incomparable relief of seeing your suitcase come around the carousel like a Queen heralding a new future. “Yes!” it silently announces. “I have arrived and with me comes a promise that life will be better from this moment.” All thoughts of going commando evaporate and you feel like laughing with glee – except you’re British and that poker face isn’t going anywhere. You catch your suitcase; another victory you’ve notched up in the last five hours to add to your magnificent list of achievements which boasts finding the check-in desk, not giving eyeball daggers to the screaming child behind you in the queue at Starbucks, getting through passport control, hydrating yourself before the flight and remembering to packing your underpants.

Yes, my friend, you’ve made it. Everything from here will be just fucking dandy…

What’s that? Of course you can get horrendously drunk when you get to the hotel. You are on A Holiday.

The Paris Diaries, Chapter 2: The Airport

Airports; the limbo between A Holiday and your denial of the monotonous routine that your life has inevitably become. Or maybe I’m just being cynical. It is also a breeding ground for insecurity (as if you needed any more) as suddenly everything you were sure and certain of has melted into a puddle of doubt. Does the hand luggage pass as hand luggage? Is my suitcase too heavy? Have I got the tickets? Where the fuck is my passport? Is lip balm a liquid? Have a accidently packed a machete in my suitcase? Are nail clippers a weapon? Have I been used as a mule for drugs without my knowing? Where the fuck do I check in?

Prior to arriving at the Airport, even the most logical and laid back individual becomes so controlling they make North Korea look lax. Despite Smartphones holding all the relevant information we need to cross the threshold from misery to happiness, we insist on printing off three copies of everything. Under the influence of manic paranoia, we check that our passports are still in date in lieu of us knowing that we have at least another 8 years left until it expires.

All these thoughts disguised with a poker face of “Keep Calm and Carry On” that even Churchill would be proud of. Indeed, such is the British way, that we finally understand how the band kept playing when the Titanic was monumentally fucked and going down to the bottom of the Ocean.

Chin up, chaps.

We set our alarms at 6am to be at the airport two hours before the flight despite the flight not being until 1pm. “Well, you never know,” you defensively insist when your family look at you with utter disbelief. “There could be traffic.” You drive on clear roads and do not see another car until you reach the Airport Car Park. En route and in the distance, you see a plane taking off and a warm excitement spreads through you like honey. You feel a sense of Fraternité with the strangers on board that unknown flight. “Where are you going on A Holiday?” you muse and silently smile to yourself. You see, you are kindred spirits with those in-flight passengers; you are all going on A Holiday, all seeking the same pleasures and fleeing the same daily grind.

This same sense of comradeship hits you again as you move toward the automatic doors – you see them. Those who have been on A Holiday and returned with bronzed skin, bleached hair, and still defiantly wearing their flipflops despite the temperature being a mere 10 degrees. You pity them. Their vacation is over, and you know all too well the bullshit that awaits them after today. You have only just left that world and they must return. You dare not dwell too long as this is all too stark a reminder that, one day – a long, long time away from now – you must also return.

The Airport itself is anarchy. Children crying, stray toddlers running with that obnoxious slapping of sandals (I mean…do they purposely make children’s shoes that loud on purpose so, in the event they run away from watchful parents, you can locate your absconding offspring via Echo Location?) There are families wrapping their suitcases in giant rolls of cling film, queues meandering across the foyer, someone is kicking off at the airport staff, and the staff themselves started their shift a mere three hours ago and have aged 5 years in that time. Chaos. Misery. Stress.

Well, they always say it’s darkest before the dawn…

Border control – the only place in British history where you are guilty until proven innocent. You strip yourself of everything that could possibly set off the alarm and what the fuck actually sets off the alarm is a mystery on par with the KFC recipe. Women everywhere try to sneak through the iron gates without taking their heels off (spoiler alert: women everywhere fail) and there’s always someone who has to go through a pat down because they’ve forgotten to take their keys out of their pocket. The nerves are kicking in hard; the last time we felt this way we were 6 years old and acting as a supporting artist for the school nativity play wearing an old bedsheet adorned with tinsel…

But, we pass. Silent night, Holy night – we are innocent. Jesus applauds. The angels sing. There’s nothing left for us to do now except shop at the Duty Free, buy some inadequate shite that is only appealing with Airport eyes and we would never normally buy in the real world, and wait as audience to the world’s shittest play – the Airport timetable which tells us when we are finally allowed to pass from limbo into Heaven.

Righty-oh, altogether now! “We’re all going on a Summer Holiday, no more working for a week or two…”