It was raining when we arrived in Paris and it didn’t really stop for three days. Unfortunately it wasn’t the kind of romantic rain that makes great photos, giving everything a patent leather sheen, but full on torrential rain, that leaves bin-fulls of dead umbrellas in its wake and gets into your shoes.
I was in Paris to do some more research for my Spanish Civil war novel – most British people who volunteered for the International Brigade passed through Paris – so as well as walking on the left bank, we went to Belleville in the east of the City. It is now full of middle Eastern bakeries, Chinese restaurants and north African shops but in 1936, it was a poor workers district full of Russians, Jews and Greeks. It was once home to Edith Piaf and it was where that classic French film, The Red Balloon was made. We walked up the hill and found an incredible view right across the cit and for about half an hour it stopped raining. It was wonderful to discover a new area of Paris. Now I’d like to go back and spend longer there.
Although the weather meant that we couldn’t wander through the city for hours, it is almost impossible to have a bad time in Paris: long lunches with wine, hot chocolates in atmospheric old bars and several sojourns into galleries to look at modern art. But apart from the bakeries that sell cakes that look too good to eat and the beautiful people, it’s the smells of Paris that evoke so much, like the sweet metallic tang of the Metro and the bitter tang of freshly roasted coffee.