Tuesday, 27 April 2010

London, Paris, New York. Part 2.

Last Christmas, I hit upon the brilliant idea of giving The Man I Married tickets to a London Show for Christmas. I even sorted out flights, hotel accommodation and a dinner reservation. This year, we decided to do it again, only we thought we'd go one better and add in a special Wedding Anniversary gift of a trip to Paris too.

After consulting with friends, I sorted childcare out and booked tickets to see Priscilla Queen of the Desert (The Musical). The Man I Married booked hotel accommodation in London and flights to, and a hotel in, Paris. I booked us a table at our favourite Parisien restaurant. We had ongoing discussions as to which Gordon Ramsay establishment we would choose for lunch in London but apart from that we were all set for a weekend of utter fabulousness.

Disaster threatened when British Airways cabin crew started making noises about strikes. The Man I Married worried. He does that sometimes. It irritates me. "Oh, it'll be fine!" I said. Nonetheless he made alternative arrangements just in case. He booked a flight from Glasgow to London with EasyJet instead of BA. And he booked a fully flexible ticket on the Eurostar. He reserved a room at an hotel near St. Pancras in case we ended up not flying to France. Secretly I scoffed at all this caution and anal retentive planning activity but let him get on with it. He had folders with documents and tickets and reservations and was as happy as a happy boy. We had flights with two different airlines, hotel reservations with three different hotels, train tickets and theatre tickets. Still hadn't picked out a lunch venue.

Time rolled on as it tends to do and it began to look as if all the extra planning wouldn't be needed afterall. BA had gone fairly quiet and no noise had been made by the cabin crew with regard to further strike action. The Man I Married started to relax a bit and I tried not to look too smug.

You know what happened next. Big bangs in Iceland as Eyjafjallajokull chucked a shedload of volcanic ash into the sky and while that rained back down to earth chaos reigned in European airports as flights were immediately shelved and travellers the world over were just, well, stuck.

But not us. No. We were still on for Paris. I was going around calling it Serendipity but the fact is that The Man I Married had pulled an absolute coup! We would have to drive to London, and lunch from Gordon Ramsay had been swapped for lunch from Simply M&S on the M1 but we there was still going to be fabulousness in our lives.

The drive down to London was dull. That's the way I like it. You don't want too much excitement from your motorway driving, and someone on the other side had obviously had far too much of it as we drove past what must surely have been a fatal accident. I offered up a silent prayer that perhaps someone had survived, and that we would be safer and luckier than they had been. You don't want to take these things for granted.

Our London hotel was a step up from the Premier Inn by anyone's standards. They had a bellhop to take our bags to the room and while I checked us in I worried about how much to tip him. Sometimes it's just easier to do things yourself! We had room service for dinner before I snaffled the hotel's bubble bath and had a long leisurely soak in someone else's hot water ahead of the theatre.

We had decided to get all dolled up for the show. It seemed appropriate somehow and I felt my daft high heeled pink sandals and bright pink ruffled dress were the perfect get up to see a bunch of drag queens. I'm hoping that I didn't look like a drag queen, although actually, many of them do a much better job with their make up than I could ever hope to achieve.

The show was pure joy. Anyone wading through all this waffle that hasn't yet seen it should make it a top priority. It was joyous and I loved every minute of it.

Still high from the antics of Felicia, Mitzi and Bernadette, we set out the next day for Paris. The train ride is much more fun than being on a plane. It doesn't make me feel sick and dizzy with fear for a start and there's no need to calm my nerves with gin. And besides, when you disembark from a plane you still have to faff around luggage carousels and take a train to the city. With Eurostar you get off the train and you are there - right at Gare du Nord, right in the thick of things, no messing around. I love it!

I couldn't decide if it was because of the lack of planes in the sky or if rich people these days also prefer to travel by train, but there was a distinct odour of money in our carriage that day. I almost gasped out loud as I realised that the woman across the aisle from me had a weekend bag by Louis Vuitton. And a large handbag by Chanel. The distinctive Gucci logo was on the side of her sunglasses. LV provided the scarf that she casually knotted round her fingers. I vaguely recognised the enamel bangle round her wrist and I was sure I'd seen those sandals in a glossy magazine last month. I really did gasp though at the Versace necklace dripping into her non-fake-baked, surgically enhanced cleavage. I noticed that she took it off and slipped it into her handbag before leaving the safety of the train. How many labels could one woman wear at once? Quite a few by the looks of it!

We had originally booked ourselves into the french equivalent of good ol' Premier Inn. By some stroke of luck, The Man I Married remembered that he had amassed a huge number of "points' with Hilton hotels, and consequently we upgraded ourselves to the Hilton Arc De Triomphe. Oh man. This was luxury indeed. I wasn't sure that my M&S jacket and Boden handbag were up to the job. There was yet more Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Fendi and Prada in evidence here and it was hard not to feel a bit of a fraud! (This place was so posh that the "bell boy" took our bags up to our room without us and so the un-nerving question of how much to tip was neatly avoided completely!) However, it was still basically just a hotel room, even if they did turn down the bed and leave you chocolates on your pillow. We didn't do battle with striking cabin crew and Icelandic ash just to look at four (posh) walls. Oh no.

Paris was everything it should be. The sun shined warmly for us during our stay and as always, it felt like being back at home again. We walked everywhere, with frequent stops at cafes that appealed, for wine, water, coffee, beer, sometimes even food. Our favourite Parisien restaurant did not disappoint and we had a wonderful meal - goats cheese pressed with roasted vegetables followed by carpaccio of beef for me, thick black coffee and dark bitter chocolate to finish, while The Man I Married indulged himself with Roquefort and steak and finished off with the most sublime Creme Brulee. I only know this because there was one little bit that didn't look quite good enough and I was considerate enough to save him from eating it. Even that defective bit was heavenly!

We're home again now and I'm utterly grateful to my very dear friend for having The Offspring while we went on our super-luxe travels. I hope they behaved well enough that she'll do it again some day! I should just about have all the laundry taken care of before it's time to set off again. This time I'm leaving all my crew behind as I head for the bright lights of Edinburgh for a Hen Weekend. I'm part dreading it and part looking forward to the adventure. If nothing else, it will give me something to write about!

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