paris6, originally uploaded by fred pipes.

Just had a great little birthday break in Paris with my friends Avy (her birthday too) and Stewart. Stayed in the Hotel Prima Lepic in Montmartre, which has a connection with the film Amélie - the Café des deux Moulins down the street was in the film. The hotel was wonderful - we were upgraded to balcony rooms and the internet deal included free breakfast and a river cruise! The bed was very comfy, the shower worked fine and there was a TV to watch the French version of Deal or no deal on! Breakfast was ample, with mini croissants, pain au raisins, bananas, strawberries and grapes, tho I did get told off on the first morning for using 2 teabags! We found some great places to eat thanks to Avy's trusty Time Out guide, but I'm not going to tell you (oh, all right, Chez Toinette was one of them, where I had curried mussels followed by skate). Paris is not great for vegetarians, but if you eat fish you'll be OK. It's such a shame cos the dishes of veal and duck are served with gorgeous vegetables! Despite what I'd heard, everyone, from waiters to shop assistants were thoroughly pleasant and friendly. Biggest negative for me was the price of beer in the cafes, tho it's cheap enough in the supermarkets.

Getting there was pretty painless: a diesel train to Ashford, the Eurostar through the tunnel, then a couple of tube trains from Gare Du Nord to Blanche (just by the Moulin Rouge) and up the hill. Wednesday, Stewart and me went to the Musée de l'air et de l'espace housed in the art deco splendour of Le Bourget airport. We got the RER to Le Bourget but there was no indication of how to get to the museum (you need to get bus 152)! It was deserted but fabulous, with hall after hall full of treasures, including TWO Concordes! We then got the 152 bus to the end of the line at Parc de Villette, to take in the Cité des sciences et de l'industrie, which I confess was a little too modern a museum for me - not enough STUFF and too much interactivity for my liking! Viz: only one plane (a splendid Mirage) and no railway interest!

On Thursday I visited the Gustave Moreau museum nearby with Avy, which was much more to my taste - an old mansion stuffed with paintings, drawings and the old man's living quarters. Reminded me of the GF Watts gallery near Guildford. After, we visited a friendly perfume shop with man's toiletries called things like Aéroplane and Yachting (Avy bought some Shéliane). Then I had a quick ride up and down the funicular at Sacre Coeur, then off for drinks and food.

Final day Friday we went on our free river cruise on The Jeanne Moreau, which set off from under the Eiffel Tower - great value, even if you're paying. It was raining, but then it brightened up. The Eiffel Tower is/was awesome! Luckily, there were big queues so we didn't have time to go up it! I wanted to pop into the Musée d'Orsay to check out the Objects and their Doubles exhibition catalogue, but, although it was free to enter the bookshop, there was a queue about a million metres long - and it was raining. So it was a dash back to the others, a quick tart and flan from the boulangerie, then off to the station and back home to dear old Blighty, worn out with aching feet and a thousand emails to read.



Went to a special screening of Mirrormask last night at the Duke of York's. According to its producer Simon Moorhead in the Q&A after, it's been nominated for a Golden Groundhog award, as a film eagerly awaited but which proved a disappointment. Designed and directed by local boy Dave McKean (with a little help from even localler Ian Miller) it has a troubled goth Alice in Wonderland (Stephanie Leonidas) on a quest to save her mother (Gina McKee) meeting up with various masked persons and CGI creatures in a yellow and black world of her imagining - I only really sussed what was going on in the 'review' in this morning's Leader. The story (by Neil Gaiman) is pretty dull, slow, tedious and cliched (give me Jan Svankmajer or Terry Gilliam any day) and presumably aimed at a young audience (a new Labyrynth is what Lisa Henson wanted). The CGI was done on the cheap by a load of students in a North London studio, with the sound of ice cream vans and crows in the background, but it's pretty good, albeit dim and murky. The live action takes place in the unrestored Embassy Court, rather dangerously on a sun deck without railings! Rob Brydon (Dad) and Dora Bryan (Gran) have cameo parts and the music (Eastern European circussy jazz) is by the wonderful Iain Ballamy - a Guildford boy I remember as a 16-year old prodigy playing with his dad at the Stoke Hotel jazz club. Rant: the film was advertised as starting at 6 and got going around 20 past, so why do some people arrive some 40 minutes later and expect you to stand so they can push past you or sit in front of you snogging their date and rustling crisp packets? No photos because Dez Skinn, Stephanie Leonidas, Dave McKean and Simon Moorhead were sitting in the dark!