When you here a place described by the words, beautiful & breathtaking, magnificent & magical and staggering & superb, you could be talking about anywhere, indeed in Disco Matt speak, we could be talking about a whole myriad of clubs bars or events we visit, some more magnificent & superb than others, yet all adjectives which we would describe most if not all of our experiences. However, when we talk about culture and you add in that special French word amour, then marrying it with all those previous adjectives can only mean one place, and that is Paris, a city that is bathing in beauty, brimming with brilliance, magical in its making & soaked in sophistication and one, in terms of its gay nightlife at least, is coming alive again. But we are not here to report & review that, but to look at the French capital in all its finery and one which we fell in love with from the moment we stepped onto its soil, that wonderful word amour meaning much more than we could say.
So where did the love affair with Paris begin? Well, with only vague memories of a trip when we were very young misty in our minds, the first proper time we sampled the sheer splendour of this fabulous French capital was on a sunny Saturday in September of last year, a sizeable gap between visits we know, although very much worth waiting for. Indeed, from the minute we stepped off the Eurostar at Gare Du Noord, there was a sense that we were about to savour something quite special, our attention however being distracted by finding the right directions for our intended liaison with D.J. pal Javier Medina, who was waiting for us in the central Paris district of Les Halles. Now, being a bit of a novice in this unfamiliar city but having a few small wits about us, we attempted to find a map of the metro system, although with the easier option of a phone at our disposal a quick call to Javier found us heading for the RER train system and getting completed lost in the process, an eventual backtrack to the first metro option, delivering us to our destination in incredibly efficient fashion, if but later than planned.
Now we were in the central shopping district, with not too many spectacular sights to see, although a very obliging Mr Medina offered to show us around in advance of our Supersized Pool Party clubbing engagement, the primary reason for this first of two visits to the French capital. So, having dropped off our bags in his cute sized apartment, we were on foot towards the river Seine, a point of navigation that slices the city in half, yet because of it is one of the best ways to see some of the famous sights. But the sights was what Javier had in mind for us, the first being the modernistic Pompidou centre, not the awe inspiring architecture for which Paris is famed for but s spectacular sight nevertheless, a short walk further south then landing us on the river itself, before heading across to catch the majestic & imposing presence of the Notre Dame cathedral, the picture & images in books and on film, never able to do it justice, the sheer size as breathtaking as the amazing architecture. With this whistle-stop of some of central Paris’s sights also allowing us to catch up with Javier in competing conversation, further stop-off’s included the Louvre & its glass pyramid and the famous Opera House, before completing this tiny triangular tour back where we started at The Pompidou.
Having seen that small circle of sights, an excursion into the gay district Le Marias completing the Saturday picture, come Sunday morning and post our Pool Party plunge, we were raring to go for more, yet as we found our bearings walking down to the Seine, the breathtaking beauty of Paris in the early morning sunshine & the whole ambiance of it all brought us to tears a previous ramble into & down a typical French market kick-starting these engulfing emotions. So, in an instant, all sense of what we were doing disappeared and rather than taking to transport to get us around to the likes of The Eiffel Tower, The Champs Elyse, Place De La Concord & Le Bastille, we decided foot was the firmer way, our nose normally a nifty navigation tool, although in Paris it proved otherwise, we soon finding ourselves far south of the main attractions and heading in completely the wrong direction. Taking most of the rest of our time to put ourselves back on track, before we knew it, time had called on this Parisian plunder, although leaving us with the determination to visit again, perhaps under the guidance of long-time resident of the city & great friend to boot, Leomeo.
And so it was that we found ourselves heading back to the French capital not five months later, this time in the knowledge that we had both the time and the guidance of our Parisian pal, Leomeo vowing to show us “his” city in the best possible way. Keeping to his promise, it couldn’t have started better on a chilly February Wednesday evening, that infamous nose navigation once again failing us in finding the rendezvous point, the traditionalist map also out of the window in favour of the google version, which led us amazingly accurately to our divine destination, a liaison with Leomeo and the exceptional eating experience that was “Chartier”. This typical French restaurant, a breathtaking affair lifted straight out of 1920’s, charmed us from the start, Leomeo choosing proper French food served in the traditional way, was just the start to our re-engagement with this fantastic city & its culture we were dreaming of, this exceptional eatery getting our vote in every single way.
But the best was yet to come, as the following day ended up being a terrific tour to top all, our navigational guide not our nose, not the transport system and not the guide buses or boats, but our fabulous friend Leomeo, affectionately termed not as our “Tom Tom, but our “Leo Leo”, the best possible guide we could have had. And the full-on sightseeing day started in earnest as our Parisian pal met us at our hotel and immediately remarked how close to the famous Moulin Rouge theatre we were. So that had to be our first port of call, followed by breakfast of the French cafe style, which kick-started our day and got us in the mood for the massive & magical mystery tour around this magnificent city, our navigator extra-ordinarre mapping everything out in his own mind as quickly as we would have done, had this been London rather than Paris.
A quick journey on the metro found us arrive at the first of our spectacular sights, the famous Arc Du Triomphe, like the Notre Dame we had stood by the night before, a truly imposing structure that no pictures or film clips could do justice to, Leo neatly comparing it to the mini-sized version at Marble Arch in London, this Parisian original well over twice the size. With a handful of photo shots snapped, it was now a jaunt down the equally famous Champs Elisee, this wide avenue, as Leo explained, one of THE main arteries of the city, lined with shops, cafe’s, restaurants and the like on each side, so more grandeur than others, yet this primary Paris route, should we need to compare, combining the sophistication of Mayfair with the width of Park Lane in London, but the road as straight as a dye & pointing us down towards the direction of Place Du La Concord and beyond. Stopping off as we meandered along each side of this amazing avenue, we took in the wonderful window displays at Louis Vitton, then were awe-struck by the modernistic beauty of the Citroen showroom, a five floor structure that oozed design sophistication in splendid form.
With the tour continuing taking in the Grand Palace where Leomeo had been privileged to play at a massive Vodafone sponsored music concert, we then headed to the nearby Seine, were our friend found us some more bearing points, so in future excursions we wouldn’t get lost. And looking west to south west, there was The Eiffel tour, admittedly shrouded a little in cloud, yet for it making an impressive statement on the skyline, the quickly melting mist soon revealing it in all its 570ft glory. Turning tail it was now the wheel we here headed, the Paris version of The London Eye, located just on Pace Du La Concord, Leo braving the zooming traffic to leg it across this busy circular intersection, we following in hot pursuit having snapped more photos, this time of The Needle & The Louvre behind. Taking a ride on The Wheel allowed our guide to further explain the geography to show us the straight nature of The Champs Elisee & how it slices through the city, the view also capturing The Eiffel Tower to the west, Notre Dame to the east & Mont Martre to the north among a whole host of other Paris tourist hotspots.
Back on terra firmer, lunch was calling, a stroll along the riverside capturing the familiar glimpses of The Louvre to our left as well as some amazing riverside architecture that gives Paris it’s amazing atmosphere & feel, the district of San Michel our destination. With Leomeo explaining everything around us as we walked, we learnt that we were headed for the first ever area of Paris and thus named number one, the rest spreading out in the shape of a snail to include a total of sixteen. With a Greek style snack on the cards we savoured our lunch before the next instalment of this thrilling tour, a trip down the Seine as for as Tour Eiffel and then back past our docking point to take in the further eastern reaches of the city, then doubling back past the Notre Dame to complete an enthralling hour seeing Paris’s spectacular sights in a different yet delightful perspective. And with our tour guide Leo Leo by our side, the camera was out, we catching as many pictures for posterity, including a crowd of children waving at us as we passed under one of many bridges on this rapturous river romp, our companion also making sure we made a wish under a certain bridge, the tradition then being to kiss your nearest neighbour to make the wish come true.
Now we were deep into a sunny Paris Thursday afternoon, but with still more to take in, we now headed in towards the centre of the city, first skirting Les Halles, that shopping district we mentioned earlier, then also seeing the Pompidou centre once more, followed by a dive into le Marais, the famed gay district of Paris, but an area full of bars, restaurants & cafe’s, giving it a truly cosmopolitan feel. With Leomeo sure to bump into a host of familiar faces, we stopped off for coffee and then, after a short visit to his pharmacy, those face bumps kicking in as fellow D.J. & Parisian Ben Manson fell upon us, the engaging Frenchman accompanied by two pals, as well as arriving Spyce Bar host Philippe, we finding common ground with him through common friends, not least Brent Nicholls, our close companion back in London and one whome Philippe had got to know well when club brand Crash toured Paris.
With the light now beginning to fade, it was time to pick up on the last few bits of the tour, although not before a little retail therapy in our favourite sports brand store, Adidas, walking out with more thasn we bargained for, but very happy with our lot. Then, falling on an amazing square with a mysterious monastery like feel, the walkways concealed in brick arches, illuminated just enough to create a serene setting, we were becoming enchanted with this perfect Parisian evening, as dusk was waving its magical wand on the charming city, our final major sightseeing spot being The Bastille, with the “new” Opera house behind, we somewhat surprised by the position of this most momentous monument to French history, right on the intersection of a busy arterial road. So, with dusk turning to dark, all that remained was to retire to our pal’s residence for a spot of culinary delight and then savour Paris by night from the amazing view from the lofty suburb he was resident within, thus concluding our cultural connection and paving the way to our return to clubbing cavorting.
So, how do we sum up this enthralling experience in a few short words? Well, to say that Paris pretty much stole our heart sums up just how we feel about this superb city. With each & every turn we made during both visits, the awe-inspiring architecture, the enthralling atmosphere and the breathtaking beauty simply blew us away, the whole culture & the whole charisma of this fabulous French capital, truly captivating us in every respect. And to spend our time first in the company of Barca boy Javier Medina who was gracious in showing us Paris in his way, then pal Leomeo who proved the most incredible guide in our Parisian Pursuit Perfected, taking us round this jewel in the French country crown in a wondrous way that exceeded all expectations, we couldn’t have asked for two better people to spend our two times in Paris with. In documenting our joyous journey, we hope to have inspired those of you that have yet to savour the splendour of this prolific place, to plan your own terrific trip and in doing so, like us, fall for the amour that is Paris. (DISCO MATT)