Paris

Cool new toy!

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When I go away on holiday I like to take photos, I have to balance taking decent shots with keeping the rest of the family happy at being asked to stop regularly so I can take a picture. Consequently I tend to travel light – these days I use an Olympus E-P1 plus a couple of lenses. This allows everything to fit in a small gadget bag, but is still capable of taking good quality images.

One of my problems however has been taking a tripod – I purchased a light weight on a few years ago that lives in my car and is small enough not to be a problem most of the time. But if like recently we are travelling by train (Eurostar) to Paris then size and weight of luggage is a big issue – and my tripod is one item too far!

I have tried things like Gorilla Pods but don’t really get on with them – although they are undeniably clever, and the mini tripods are just too flimsy in my view. A bean bag is another option, but not one I have used to date.

However, just around the corner from us this holiday was a large (and it turned out the oldest) photographic shop in Paris – I felt I had to inspect it!

It was a truly lovely shop – catering mainly for the more professional end of the market but also keeping ‘high end’ amateur stuff. A quick inspection of the Manfrotto department produced the item in the photo – a brilliant little tripod made from metal and solid as can be – a purchase was made and now my minimal travel kit has a basic camera support – result!

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Paris – what a great city!

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Firstly let me admit to being a great fan of the French – I realise this makes me a target for much of the UK population. We seem to have an in-built hatred of the French – I assume it is an historic thing, but I don’t share it. I also believe we can learn a lot from them in the way we manage and plan our cities.

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I am coming to the end of my week staying in the Marais in Paris and have to say it has been very relaxing. I have also at no time felt threatened whilst walking the streets or riding the Metro (apart from one incident – and that had a good side). This does feel a very friendly and safe city.

We have been very lucky with the weather, it has been in the low 20’s all week – not normal Easter weather but very nice!

The feel of the city from a ‘property mans’ perspective is generally positive. They do have more vacant units in the districts, but there are still tower cranes over the skyline in many areas.

Their transport system also works flawlessly – let’s hope London looks and performs as well for the Olympics next year!

The only ‘blip’ was when both my wife and I had our pockets picked at the same time on the Metro. A group of women crushed onto the crowded carriage behind us and had my wife’s purse out of her closed handbag and their hands in my pocket on my wallet before we knew what was happening.

Only the quick intervention of some locals stopped them. And this is the difference to the UK – would anyone help on the tube in London or just turn away so as not to get involved?

We need to get back to some proper values in the UK and quickly!

Lunch on the Eiffel Tower

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I have had over the years a number of ‘things to do before I die’ – not a massive wish list, and to be honest, not a particularly successful one!

Top of this list for years was a flight on Concorde – now unlikely unless there is a similar campaign to the one that got the Vulcan flying again.

Another item on the list involves Paris and the Eiffel Tower. I have always wanted to eat at the Jules Verne restaurant on the tower. It is world renowned and gives the best view of Paris from any restaurant. It is so popular that booking 3 months in advance is required!

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Well this week we are in Paris and have been to the tower and have eaten there – unfortunately not in the Jules Verne but in the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant. Still a great experience as the view is the same, but the cost significantly lower! Walking up and down the 700 stairs (each way) should also have helped burn off any food – (the Jules Verne has it’s own lift).

The set menu for the 5 of us at the Jules Verne would have set me back €800 and that is before any wine and drinks – so probably €1000 is a low estimate for us all!

Unfortunately this one will have to wait to be ticked off my list!

My favourite store in Paris

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When ever we come to Paris I have to visit one particular store – it’s one we used to have in the UK, but no longer do. It’s also a dying breed of shop in Britain due to our love of Internet shopping.

The store in question? Virgin Megastore.

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When I was a student in the 80’s Nottingham had a number of great record shops – Selectadisc was a Mecca for all students. I spent many happy hours each week going through the music racks of albums (remember those?).

Somehow HMV just doesn’t do it for me these days. But the Virgin Megastore in Paris is vast, has a huge library of music in both CD and vinyl and it’s just a great place to be!

They also have live music fairly regularly – something to applaud in any music shop and sadly lacking in the UK.

Next time you are in Paris have a look, you won’t be disappointed!

Public transport – and HS2

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If I am honest I am not a huge user of public transport – I only tend to use the bus at Christmas to get too and from our works Christmas do, and then if as a family we are going to London by train we get the bus to the station.

However, once in a while I do see the benefits and can’t understand why we don’t sort out our piecemeal system once and for all!

This week I am off to Paris with the family. Getting there is a total “no brainer” – Train all the way. I can walk out of my house first thing in the morning, get the bus to the station and then roughly four hours later be in the centre of Paris. And that is using our frankly antiquated slow rail system down to London and then the super fast Eurostar from there.

This has highlighted to me the need for the High Speed Rail 2 link that my colleague Tim Garratt has been championing for the last few months.

Improved rail links and combining public transport services (as in much of Europe) work on so many levels;

  1. As a real alternative to both car and air travel
  2. Greatly reduced emissions
  3. Any station on a HS line will be a ‘growth hub’
  4. It would get me to Paris one hour earlier!

The problem as I see it is our lack of belief in the ‘common good’ – the nimby effect again! The pain that the country went through over the Eurostar line was huge but the benefits can now be seen, and I would hope are universally accepted?

Time to be controversial now – the South has always benefited most from Central Government – perhaps its time now for them to ‘pay us all back’ north of the Watford Gap and take some pain for our benefit.

Lets get HS2 sorted and now!