Romantic Paris?

There used to be a TV advert on CNN International many years ago advertising Long Distance phone calling .

It showed a picture of a young American businessman with a beautiful nightime Parisian scene in the background calling his wife with the caption…here I am in the world’s most romantic city ………… and I am stuck here with a cost accountant from Cleveland , as the camera pans round to a suited and accountant type figure sharing his dinner table complete with spreadsheet and calculator.

And of course no disrespect to accountants or people from Cleveland, Ohio but I know how he feels.

I have had the good fortune to visit Paris many times for work and pleasure but each visit I always see just as a taster and I want more.

Earlier this week, work took me on a very quick Paris trip and this time like the CNN man I was accompanied by a colleague.

The difference was this colleague had lived and worked there and in fact after our work day was over, he was on a mission to revisit a shop he had frequented when a resident. To quote another famous advert (HSBC) you really can’t beat local knowledge. The mission for cheesecake took us to the most amazing shop in the 4th Arrondissement. These kind of places are gems and long may they last and survive against globalisation.

A further meander around this area was rewarding with typical Parisienne variety of sights – quirky graffiti,

some unusual street furniture

and even “pride friendly ” pedestrian crossings.

So today was Paris..but actually most cities have the streets just beyond “the top ten must see locations” and these are the places that in my view are the ones to find on visits 2, 3, 4 to a city that you think you now know!

It’s over to you…..

National Treasure

There are many good things about living in the UK…it’s actually very important for those of us living there at the moment to remind ourselves of that, as with the huge Brexit chasm that we live beside it can seem a world full of conflict, divided opinions and distrust of each other. Sounds extreme…well thst is Britain in September 2019…not a pretty political place.

But that aside, we live in a land steeped in history and tradition and we are pretty good at preserving it.

For those not from the UK, the National Trust might sound like some second rate bank or finance house…ready to take your money but not give much back. Well, let me explain…the National Trust is actually a somewhat amazing charity who buy , save or rescue old buildings estates, ancient moorland or indeed anything that is part of our heritage or is at risk.

They then open these to the public and in many cases create viable and sustainable businesses within them. And in doing so preserve nature, traditions and even our coast in a sustainable way.

The imminent release of the Downton Abbey movie and the huge popularity of the TV series demonstrates the interest in buildings duch as these and the people who lived in them and worked, ‘below stairs ‘. The NT have got these by the dozen on their books the length and breadth of the UK. With tea shops, gardens and very often huge open spaces..for our family whenever making a long UK wide road trip we will detour to one of these for a break in our journey.

But all this comes at a price..but not a big one. The NT get no public funding and relies on admission fees, membership fees, bequests, grants, revenues from its some 400 rental cottages ,gift shops and most importantly a huge army of volunteers supporting it’s paid staff. And pound for pound…it’s really great value if you become a member…about ¬£10 a month gives you unlimited access to literally hundreds of places. If you are an overseas or occasional visitor you can of course pay for individual admission. Yes this is a more expensive process, but you know that what you spend is being reinvested into preserving the past for future generations to come.

And as I said, it not all stately homes. My primary school (a convent school ) was housed in classic villa designed by Scottish architect Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. At age 9 I was oblivious to the style of this building from the 1800’s but absolutely appreciate it now and delighted the National Trust for Scotland were able to save it and restore it to its original style.

And finally a word of caution for any overseas visitors..don’t go through the National Trust handbook or website looking for the fictional Downton Abbey.


Although portrayed as North Yorkshire,¬† the exterior is filmed at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, still actually¬† a private dwelling so not in the hands of NT. It’s the home of the Earl and Countess of Caernarfon and only open for limited number of days each year!

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