Getting into Paris was as easy as I’d hoped it would be. There is a bus stop right outside the house and busses from this stop go straight to Neuilly Plaisance, which is where the train station is. However, I decided to walk there instead. I’d done the walk before so knew that it would only take me about twenty minutes. I hate waiting for busses!

The Neuilly Plaisance train goes to various stations in Paris and, after talking to Nashide and Fred, I decided to get off at Auber.

Had a coffee at a really nice little place on Rue Auber, just to give myself a little time to breath in Paris. From there, I walked round Uniqlo Opera and the back of the Paris Opera House. The first thing that caught my eye was an abandoned sleeping bag just left in the middle of the pavement. This is a shopping area, full of trendy shops and a large shopping centre and, here was something that I would have expected to see in the refugee areas of Calais and Dunkerque.

It didn’t end there. At the back of the Opera House I saw four or five homeless people who were begging and had made their homes on the steps of the building. I knew that they wouldn’t be allowed to stay there for long and that pissed me off even more.

From Rue Auber I headed for Montmartre and the famous Moulin Rouge. Interesting little bit of trivia; there is, in fact, a windmill at the top of the hill which the district gets its name from. Mont = mountain or hill. Moulin = mill or windmill. Get it???

Anyhoo, I walked up Rue Blanche to the Pigalle district which was exactly as I had expected it to be. A vibrant mixture of food shops, cafes, strip joints, the hip and the bohemian. Stopped for a beer at the Villa des Abbesses restaurant on Rue des Abbesses, a road which is cited on maps of Paris dating back to the 1670’s and beyond.

From Pigalle I headed towards The Louvre. And, I solved the mystery of the exponentially generating electric scooters. They are for hire. Just like the Boris Bikes in London. There are bicycles for hire here too but, the scooters seem to be far more popular. Especially among the young.

However, I now have another mystery to solve. The sheer volume of Sushi restaurants that I’ve seen everywhere. Paris is a big, cosmopolitan city so one would expect to see a broad range of tastes catered for but, Neuilly-sur-Marne? A decidedly dingy suburb and there are at least five sushi restaurants along the stretch from the house to Plaisance train station. I asked Nashide about this and her reply was as simple as it was unsatisfactory.

“We like sushi. We like Japanese food.”

Well, on my walk from Montmartre to Musee du Louvre, I saw yet another example of how much the French like Japanese food. Rue Sainte Anne, and the surrounding side streets in the 2nd Arrondissement, is chock full of Japanese restaurants and various other purveyors of all things Japanese. Pretty cool actually.

Oh, and something else which was pretty cool was a little camera shop on Rue Sainte Anne. Photo Vincent is basically a Leica dealers but, through the shop window, I spied a whole array of second-hand Nikon and Olympus cameras and matching lenses. Of course, I had to go inside and have a look. And, my debit card physically tried to fight its way out of my wallet because, lo and behold, a gorgeous black Nikon FM2 with a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens, all mine for a mere €560.00. Get thee behind me Satan! With much regret, I thanked Vincent for letting me play with it a little and left his establishment.

And so, my first day in Paris was done. According to the health app on my iPhone, by the time I’d got back to the house, I’d walked approx. 16km (that’s ten miles in old money). And my back was feeling every single step.

12th January 2020.

We got a new housemate today. Alexandra is in her early thirties, is Russian from Kazakhstan, has a doctorate in Russian Literature, is a keen photographer and documentary videographer and, she is here because she is studying theatre production in Paris.

Denis knows her well; she is teaching him Russian. He actually told me about her on my first night here and said that she would be arriving soon. He pointed to the room that Nashide was occupying at the time and basically let me know that he considered that room to belong to Alexandra. Which explains why Nashide had to take Delphine’s room as soon as Delphine left the house. Nashide didn’t seem too happy about that at the time.

Alexandra has been living in Paris for six years (she went to Kazakhstan for an extended visit and came straight here from the airport) so, not quite sure why she rents a room here.