The next time you, a fan of 1950s Science Fiction magazines, are in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, I recommend a visit to Le Cosmos, a café on Avenue Emile Zola, near the corner of Rue de Théâtre. They have a charming collection of framed covers of Galaxy and Nebula et al which, with an attitude I am coming to expect, they have just leaned up against the wall, because hanging is for neurotic foreigners, or something. They serve the best croissants I had in Paris, and you can, too, because they buy them from the boulangerie next door.
Some alternative accommodation for the remaining two nights sorted out, if not yet moved into, we tramp the Left Bank streets looking for Gustav Eiffel’s most famous construction. It, perhaps alone of things encountered on this, my first visit to Paris since 1984, has not got any smaller in the interim. Presumably there is a size above which the child mind simply files things as “enormous”, and as long as they remain enormous in the years between first encounter and adulthood, they do not shrink like childhood homes and primary school playgrounds. There may be a psychology PhD in that for someone.
Once inside the area under the pylons I have a look for Guy de Maupassant, who famously ate lunch there every day after it was built because it was the only place in Paris from which he couldn’t see the bloody thing. It would appear that he has got over his issues. A moderately long queue at the bottom for the stairs is more attractive than a horribly long one for the lifts, but still enough to test the patience of the kids in the hot sun. The climb is, at least, shady. I try to be smart and tell Seb to count the steps, hoping thus to keep him mildly engaged and to delay the inevitable demand for a shoulder ride. In fact, every tenth step is already numbered, and all I achieve thereby is to slow us down.
We reach the summit with only one major meltdown when I separate squabbling kids in the queue for the final elevator, unjustly singling out one as the wrongdoer when the true blame, as always, lies elsewhere. Eventually, we reach the top, where my discomfort with heights seems to be at a local maximum, which rather prevents me from enjoying the view. Raf amuses himself by wondering what would happen if the phone with which I am taking the pictures were to fall and hit someone below. I absorb myself by wondering how often that must actually happen, and why we never hear of the deaths that would surely result.
After the tower, it’s time to find our new hotel. The location seems good – the 2nd arrondissement. The room itself is four weary floors up (no elevator) and in a garret – the ceiling over my bed threatening to brain me if I sit up suddenly. But it’s clean, the bathroom is modern (and I can stand up in it) and we are beggars, so it’s home. The boys and I head to the Boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle for dinner, and they are thrilled to find a brasserie that serves “nuggets avec des pommes frites”. Relaxing to the inevitable, I have a burger. My gourmet’s trip to Paris will have to wait for another time.