The best place to start is home. Or at least where home is at the moment.
Paris (in France, not Texas – invent your own damn names) is a pretty extraordinary city in its own right. Since I do a fair bit here, there’ll be articles on the place coming from time to time and I won’t write any attempt at a complete guide here, but I can get a few of the more mundane details out of the way.
I live in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris, which is clearly the most stylish and fantastic arrondissement of them all. It’s traditional for Parisians to insist that their chosen section of Paris is by far the best. Everyone else is wrong, the 6th is the coolest. It has the history – much of it is still ‘old Paris’ unredesigned by the Haussmann boulevards and huge town houses that came after the Napoleonic war, it has hundreds of bars and cafés, huge numbers of restaurants both affordable and not so affordable and a fair smattering of nightclubs (but for the larger ones you’ll need to head towards the centre).
Paris is separated into the Left Bank and the Right Bank with reference to the river. Since in most of Paris the river actually cuts the city into north/south blocks, tourists and newly-minted expatriates take a while to get used to the arbitrary ‘left’ and ‘right’ attributes of each side. But while people may have opinions about which side of the river is better or worse to live on, most will agree that most parts of Paris have something to offer. This is because Parisians know Paris intimately – probably because it’s not that physically huge, there are great places all over the city, and there’s an efficient working metro system to get around on – unlike in London where some people seem to think the city stops at the water’s edge and the underground was last refurbished just before the crusades.
My work is in La Defense, which is to the West of Paris and just outside the city limits. This is where all the skyscrapers are, as well as “La Grande Arche de la Defense” which is a very strange looking building indeed. You can’t build skyscrapers inside the city limits, but this area is a good alternative as it’s on wo of the most major transport lines (RER subsurban train Line A, and Metro line 1) – there are skyscrapers everywhere, branded with everything from Ariane (which is worrying since one of the big letters on their building has been broken for months, and they make spaceships), Societe Generale (where they have the rogue traders), Total, EDF, Suez and Areva – the monoliths of French industry, and other significant international companies. It’s kind of impressive and done with a modicum of style, but despite the city’s numerous attempts at creating a cultural life outside of the centre, La Defense tends to get abandoned in the evening, except for a steady trickly of late workers flowing from the buildings across the huge Esplanade towards the metro and RER – a far cry from the masses who transit during the daylight hours.
My work gives me the luxury of a lot of holidays, most of my weekends and enough disposable income to travel. Not to mention enough airline miles that many of my holidays end up costing a lot less than they might.
Where would you go? – Answers on a postcard to :