A rainy night in Paris is like no other. For one thing most of the bars are shut by 7.30pm. The Left Bank is boarded up and the noise from the road that killed Diana is beginning to cool.
If you listen carefully, you can almost hear the Seine.
There’s something special about Paris at night … even if you do find it difficult to get a drink.
I turned my collar up against the cold, took a drag on my cigarette and studied the ancient revolutions of the skyline. It was like high-rise medieval history,
To my right Notre Dame was hunched in the dark.
Now if you really want to find a drink, you can always take a stroll up the Champs Elysees – you can dine with the pretty people for a hundred pounds or. The Champs Elysse still the place to be seen.
Or you could go to Montmartre and sip a glass of red wine in the Place du Tertre, watching the street artists and the very wealthy go by – but you have to be very wealthy in these cobbled streets, wine can cost you £20 a glass while somebody makes a fool out of you on a sketch pad.
Perhaps you might be attracted by the gay bars around the George Pompadou Centre – you know, that living breathing arts centre that has all its innards strung around the outside like some camp chainsaw massacre.
Actually, come to think of it, there are plenty of places to go for a drink on a rainy Parisian evening. You just need to know your way around, that’s all.
You see, everything is a little bit secret in Paris. It’s the city of infidelity, intrigue, tragedy … and above all, it is the city of romance.
Take Pere Lachaise. How romantic it must be to be buried there.
It’s a ten minute ride by the Metro, probably the most amazing rail network in Europe. Amazing for its reliability, its cheapness, its cleanliness and its punctuality – not to mention the value-for-money three minute theatres – between stops – by street performers and beggars alike.
These undulating, motorised aisles are also the catwalks for some of the world’s most stylish people.
Pere Lachaise has more gothic dignity than Dracula … and more imprints of the stars per square inch than Hollywood Boulevard.
So many people who were somebody are buried there – Edith Piaf, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde … Jim Morrison.
This walled cemetery, dripping with ivy and the memories of our minor gods, probably speaks volumes about Paris. It has an elegance, it has a style and a sadness. It has history and it has a dignified charm.
There are lots of bars open in the early morning around the flea market at Saint Ouen where you can buy everything from an over-sized mirror-legged imperial dressing table to a fake lava lamp.
Get there about 5am.
120,000 people go there every weekend – about the same number who visit the Eiffel Tower.
You get off the Metro at Porte de Clingancourt. And you walk.
The road is wide and the sidewalks are untidy in the early morning. The cafes and the bars are bustling – and so are the twenty restaurants that feed the thousands of traders at this, the biggest market in the world.
You can buy anything there. I bought an Imperial mahogany bed with a photocopied provenance that assured me it was nearly one hundred years old. Monsieur Ooelo dutifully had it shipped to Britain for me.
I considered buying an amphibious motorcycle sidecar for another 5,000 francs. It was built in the early 1960s at just about the time Renault literally launched their own amphibious vehicle.
I could have bought a plastic palm tree and enough Tiffany to reglaze every window in my house..
That afternoon was bright and it was breezy.
I felt good as I strolled carelessly near the Moulin Rouge waiting for the matinee at the nearby Theatre of the Macabre to begin. More of the gothic I guess – just a bit bloodier – but then nowhere does the unusual better than Paris.
By the time this traditionally sick freak show finished it was early evening again started to walk, ostensibly looking for a ‘’ chanson’’ bar that was open and offering a little l’mour.