We all know about Paris in the spring – the lilacs, pleached limes and cafe society – but few people set out to explore this beautiful city in winter. I have been blessed with fine weather on my travels over the last couple of weeks, but by any standards today was a dreamy day to be in the French capital, otherwise known as The City of Light. As in London, the autumn has been mild, leaving the poplars and horse chestnuts on the banks of the Seine clinging onto their papery golden leaves.
They shone like amber against the rushing water and the hazy blue sky. Where leaves had been lost the bark appeared polished like pewter. There was just a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the distance as we rushed passed the magnificent Louvre towards the Place de la Concorde.
Where foliage had fallen it formed crisp piles on the fringe of paths and pavements, crunching underfoot. The fine architecture around the edge of the Tuileries Garden was revealed through the bare branches of the trees, the soft stone glowing gently in the warm sunlight. It was lovely to see Parisians and camera-toting tourists alike basking at the edge of the fountains and generally having a wonderful time. The stress of Christmas and the chill of winter felt a million miles away.
On the Left Bank the formidable facade of Saint-Sulpice, a church heavy with history (the Marquis de Sade was baptised here), was framed by dazzling blue sky and the fading foliage of plane trees.
Of course I was lucky – the weather could so easily have been cruel at this time of year. And there was no time to linger as we hiked between the city’s glittering food halls and chi-chi chocolatiers.
Paris was a place I was starting to become fond of, but is one I could very soon be falling in love with.