I find it hard to believe that it’s been a year since I was sitting alone in the grotty little Eurostar café. But it has been. And here I am again. Having just used the wonderful self ticketing machine, I’m sitting with a ‘cino, looking forward to our second Paris long weekend.

My fellow café denizens (for we are underground) are all pretty normal except for a young girl – she looks about 15 but there is an age we reach where ALL young girls look about 15 so she could have just as easily have been 32 I suppose. Anyway! This girl has whole heartedly embraced the odd and somewhat tacky fashion of ‘dog pants’ – this is what Nicole calls it. It’s when you can see the top of a girl’s knickers poking out of the top of her jeans. Nothing so odd in that, you say, but wait. She was not wearing the typical g-string, the usual favoured option. Oh, no. She was wearing a pair of nylon, see through pants with the little frills around the top of the legs normally favoured by swimsuits worn by five year olds. Yes, you could see that much! In fact, just before she sat down (and quite visibly upset the two young guys sitting behind her) her jeans had become pretty much superfluous.

But enough of that! Mirinda met me at the appointed hour, fresh from the pub and we did the security thing, showed our passports and boarded the train. A thankfully uneventful journey ensued although I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the horrendous queue for the snack bar. It managed to snake it’s way down two carriages and filled all toilets. I waited in it for far too long.

We arrived at Garde Nord at about 10:15pm and joined the five mile queue for a taxi. In London you could pretty much guarantee that if you hailed a black cab and asked for an obscure little side street, you’d get there without too much hassle. This is due to the Knowledge – something a black cab driver MUST know before getting a license. In Paris, on the other hand, they prefer the Lack of Knowledge system whereby every cab driver must have only been driving in Paris for about a week and have no idea how to read a street directory. Next time I am going to completely familiarise myself with the route and rattle it off when we jump in the cab.

We eventually arrived at Le Grand Hôtel des Balcons and, fortunately, Mirinda approved. Although it is only two stars, it is still very good. We consulted the Alistair Sawday Paris accommodation book and he recommended this place for its art deco flair. And the chap behind the counter was rather jolly as well.

Hotel entrance

Our room was small but perfectly formed with a tiny “Merci de ne pas fumer au lit” placed conveniently across the top of the ashtray – fortunately the room does not smell of smoke! It did not take long to fill out the breaky menu, hang it on the door and crash.

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