We’re NOT going on a, summer holiday…

Or ‘how to go on holiday without really having to go on holiday’

HolidayParis1Remember when the novelty of the New Year faded and you were sat at your desk, chin slumped on fist, dreaming of your next holiday? A thousand exotic beach locations and city breaks paraded through your head, while an impossibly bronzed and deliriously happy version of yourself frolicked in the foreground. If you seized the moment and booked yourself a break, then well done. You’re probably doing important foreign cocktail research, twisting by the pool and not reading this blog.

But let’s not assume all of us are lucky enough to have given our passports an airing – some of us routinely decide not to flash the vacation cash in the summer months, meaning that ‘holiday’ is little more than the name of an early Madonna song (and I wouldn’t blame you a tiny bit if you were reluctant to step on a plane at this exact moment in time).

Personally, Granny flat sucks money out of me like the the aforementioned cocktail through a curly, flourescent straw, plus I have a bumper crop of kale-in-window-boxes and fledgling herb garden to keep hydrated, so two weeks away just isn’t an option. But here’s a rundown of ways in which you can kick back and relax in France’s capital, whilst fooling yourself into thinking you’ve had a nice long break.

This town, is coming like a ghost town…

There is no better time of year to enjoy Paris than during that hallowed month when the holiday magnet draws most of its population away. You’ve always wanted to try that restaurant that had rave reviews but could never get a table? Now is the time to pounce (not literally of course, this is not feeding time at the zoo). You’ll find the pavements much easier to navigate, queues for all the cool stuff more small caterpillar-like than anaconda-esque (though the busiest spots will always be busy), and the city’s spaces more warm and opening in their collective embrace. Take FULL advantage before the hoardes return.

HolidayParis2Get your tourist on

Living in a place might give you local’s bragging rights, but in reality, it’s the visitors to a city that tend to know your patch way better than you do. As a resident, rather than chillin’ like one, you spend your waking life with head down, charging through the crowds tutting, stuck on the endless cycle of metro, boulot, dodo (that’s the deathly trio of commute, work and sleep for the non-Frenchos). Now is the time to raise your noggin and smell the municipal roses. I bet you there’s a list a mile long of places that you’ve been meaning to explore in Paris, but never have. Now is the moment to show that list who’s boss.

Leaf it all behind

Yes, the country bumpkin hat is on again – need I mention all of the glorious green spaces begging to be inhaled outside of Paris? With the Navigo being dezoned and the RER almost floating under the weight of its lack of passengers, heading out into the sticks is one of the best ways to changer tes idées, i.e. blow those  mental cobwebs away and clear your head. Isn’t that what holidays are designed for?   

The host(ess) with the most(ess) 

If sightseeing on your own sounds about as sociable as playing Candy Crush on your iphone, then open your floor to some of your friends. You’re in Paris! They’ve probably been hankering for an invitation for ages, but you’ve just been to busy and important to notice. Seeing the city through fresh eyes is truly a wonderful thing, and you’ll have to search out some new and interesting out-of-the-guide places to impress their culottes off with.

It’s all in the mind…

Mindfulness is the buzzword of the year it seems – that blissful practice of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, taking the time to fully live in and appreciate the moment you’re in. So switch your whirling head down a few gears and take a good look at what’s around you. Take a stroll around a different quartier, and look, really look at what surrounds you. Those metro stops between work and your nice warm bed are not there to prolong your morning agony, put a name to a concrete face and go and check them out. You never know what you might find (though I’ll put a fiver on at least one croissant).

And finally, if you can’t be interesting, at least be clean

The official ‘get your rubber gloves on’ time is traditionally the spring, but I’m a great advocate of a summer clean – given that you can fling your windows open without a care in the world this time of year. If you suck at relaxing (I hear ya – the talent escapes ol’ Jack Russell me), hate the idea of museums, came last in strolling class and generally like the indoors life, then take the opportunity this August to get yourself tidy and organised and ready to kick the rentrée in the bottom come September. You’ll reach a blissful state that even two weeks on a Greek island will find it hard to beat.

All that remains for you to do is to dust off your holiday sandals, juice-up the camera and hit the road. And don’t forget to send me a postcard.

A river runs through it

Kimfish2In Paris, why yes it certainly does. A big blue snake providing tourists with a perfectly glideable passage across the city, given that a great deal of the best sights hug the banks of it. The Seine is also a godsend for the more permanent beings of Paris too, offering kilometres of meandering cobbles along which picnics are encouraged, if not practically compulsory.

Many choose to settle next to the flowing water when a sunny evening beckons armed with good conversation, cheese and wine (is there anything else in life you could possibly need?), whilst others prefer to dream of beach volleyball, sheened and bronzed torsos, and string bikinis on the urban sand at Paris Plages. But I’m the kind of girl who likes to go against the grain, and as much as I’d be perfectly content with either option, I rather keep it more real.

Well, reel at least. One of the last things you expect to see whilst strolling along the river bank are handfuls of folk dipping long sticks into the water, hoping for an animal from the deep to take hold, but holy baited hooks Batman, in Paris the fishing bug has well and truly bitten.

It found me when I was merely a young sardine, carted along with my dear granddad to the beaches and piers on the south coast of England where I caught my first tiddler aged three (I suspect the grown-ups helped me out a bit with that…). Never did the prospect of river-tickling enter my thoughts when thinking of activity-filled days in the French capital.Kimfish3

Then I entered the world of French employment and met Ed, a fellow Brit and rod-dipping maniac (enthusiast seems too disengaged a word somehow) who lured me back to the shore, and took me for my first riverside expedition. Lucky for me, he’s a well-kitted out sort of chap, so I was able to ride off the braces of his yellow fishing dungarees and avoid the expense of procuring my own equipment, and more happily, putting the worms on the end of the hooks (though it turns out a certain type of dog food is in fact his secret weapon). Two fins up.

Our chosen spot is as central as you could possibly get, slap-bang between the two islands Cite and Saint Louis, where there’s a bridge supplying both ready-made rain coverage and punter’s gallery for the onlookers to marvel at the beasts we dredge from the bottom of the murky flow. I’d like to say the applause doesn’t penetrate professionals like us, but sometimes, just sometimes, it’s the glory we’re all after.

I’m not going to lie to you. It’s as much about the beer and the socializing than anything else, though the fishing element definitely adds a sense of purpose to hanging around aimlessly on the banks of the Seine (I resemble a Jack Russell puppy in my constant inability to sit still and the need to be constantly doing something, so it suits me fine). With his wonderfully patient and accepting girlfriend Beth, Ed can spend hours waiting for the rod to twitch all but a few millimetres, and for him it’s a rain-or-shine deal (not so for me and Beth who creep indoors when the heavens open).

Kimfish1But the wait is worth it. In the first picture you’ll see my first catch, a 30-odd-kilo catfish of nearly mythical proportions  – wot I caught myself whilst wearing a dress (Ed’s fishing buddy Mathieu swears I’m the only girl in Paris ever to have done so). In the second, you’ll see last weekend’s spoils, again reeled in whilst wearing a dress (you’re welcome).

These bottom-feeders aren’t for eating though; if you’re surprised there are fish in the Seine at all due to the less-than-clean water quality, you’ll understand why we get our glory snap and throw them back. And hopefully you’ll understand more about the activity than some of the passers-by who have quizzed us during past expeditions. “How on earth did you get the idea?” one Parisienne asked, clearly flummoxed by the whole exercise. Not wanting to insult her by explaining the centuries-old equation of rivers = fish, I claimed the whole thing as my own. Kim – Princess of scales.

To get involved you need a rod and related equipment, obviously (which Decathlon et al do decent lines in, amongst others), but more important, a fishing permit (you can get the just for the day), available from www.cartedepeche.fr.

Though if you encroach on our patch, it might be you being fed to the fishes. Know what I’m sayin’?

No no, no no no no, there’s no limits

Navigo passI was a child of the 80s, so I hope you’ll let me have that title… So, I hope everyone has recovered from the Bastille Day weekend and had a suitable red, white and blue time, wherever in the world you may be. Sadly I have been struck by the illness wand lately, hence the long overdue post. But Granny Flat worked her defensive powers, and now I am as right as rain and ready to get my adventure shoes on once again (well, adventure flip-flops if the sun would stick around).

And my timing couldn’t be more perfect. As mid July engulfs us, those in Paris may have noticed the thinning crowds on the streets (not near the Eiffel Tower of course where they always stick like glue), and the general calming down of things. Indeed, holiday time has arrived, and many of the city’s residents (the ‘early shift’ let’s call them), have packed their bags and headed for warmer climes for their yearly summer break – something Parisians take extremely seriously.

From now until the dying embers of August, Paris empties out as if somebody pulled the plug in a 20 arrondissement-sized bath, and those of us who are left can enjoy the city in relative peace and quiet – as much as a capital city can ever be serene and deserted. Now is the time to explore the parts you’ve always been meaning to, without the threat of being caught up in the usual human treacle hanging over your adventures.

And the best bit is that the city transport authorities furnish your expeditions with your own set of explorer wings via the annual dézonage of the Navigo pass which means that the inner zoners can travel all the way out to the outer zones of the city (that means the suburbs and beyond – don’t get dizzy now) for no extra cost. There are some awesome locations to see as well so far out of the centre that you feel like you’ve left Paris far, far behind, and you have until the end of the dézonage, the 17th August to check them out.

I haven’t had the chance to get my tourist boots on yet and check it all out, but when I do, I’ll let you know some of the best places around to visit; countryside, village backwater and historical sights galore. You can bet your ordnance survey map on it.

For more info check out http://www.navigo.fr

In season: July

tomato kimAh July. Halfway through the year when New Year’s resolutions are a mere distant memory, but the sun shines bright to make us all happy despite our failings (well, in theory). The World Cup, the Tour de France, Bastille Day just around the corner… but way better than that, it’s finally tomato o’clock. Finally.

Forget the insipid offerings that insult the market stalls and supermarket shelves for the early months of the year, now the real red darlings have arrived. You can smell the greenhouse goodness just by smelling them, and the taste just has ‘garden’ striped through it like a stick of round, juicy rock. Seriously, I’m that excited. In fact, I probably won’t eat anything else for the next few months.

Only kidding, I’d be an utter fool to go that far given the vast array of wonderful seasonal produce on offer this month, with the fruit contingent really beginning to muscle in for once. Here’s a list of what’s good to stuff your kitchen with at the moment. Spoiled for choice? Oh aye (nod to Yorkshire there, given the le Tour and all). Never did a month spell ‘picnic’ like ‘July’ (if you tweak the letters a bit, obviously).

Apricot – abricot
Artichoke – artichaut
Aubergine
Beetroot – betterave
Broccoli
Cherry – cerise
Chicory – endive
Courgette
Cucumber – concombre
Fennel – fenouil
Green beans – haricots verts
Greengages – reine claude
Lettuce – laitue
Nectarine
Peach – pêche
Radish – radis
Raspberries – framboises
Rocket – roquette
Spinach – epinard
Strawberries – fraises
Swiss Chard – bette
Tomato – tomate
Watercress – cresson

And what’s the best thing to do with the pick of the mix, the humble tomato? The opportunities are endless, but sliced up, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with salt, pepper and basil is the greatest hommage you could give. Enjoy! (I’ll expect my picnic invitation in the post toute suite….)