Not gay Paree, more, they're taking the pee

15th May 2009 at 01:00
The Steeles went to Paris for three days at Easter

We saw all the usual touristy things: Sacre-Coeur, Les Invalides, L'Arc de Triomphe, la Defense, the over-the-top Gothic film set that is Notre Dame (the front is OK).

We walked round things. We climbed them, though not the Eiffel Tower. In a masterstroke of satirical irony, or perhaps ironwork, it was on strike.

Unfortunately, at the end of each day, we had to return to our hotel. Situated 10 minutes from the Gare du Nord, in the fashionable "Pee in the Gutter" district, this allegedly two-star facility left a lot to be desired.

Paint and wallpaper were surrendering their adhesion to vertical surfaces.

The walls were decorated in places with examples of French culture, of the Alexander Fleming rather than artistic kind. There was no plug in the bath, but the water drained only slowly. When I tried to unblock it, I could have made myself an Afro wig with the stuff I dredged out of the plughole. The sheets and towels were clean and one of the owners, a scurrying Manuel with undertones of Basil Fawlty, was helpful to us in the street one day.

That aside, the place was a disaster and should really have been called after a shop we passed in the street one night that bore the name: "Fokop Business Center". When we got home, my wife and son composed a suitably scathing review for tripadvisor.com.

I felt a little guilty about that. Everything that was said was deserved but we have never written a hotel review praising one we liked, and there have been plenty.

If there was ever something concerning my kids' education that I was unhappy with, I'd be sure to contact the school. Have I ever done so to thank a teacher for a job well done? True, there have been comments tagged on to the parental return sections of report cards, but perhaps it is something that I really could do better.

Gregor Steele now appreciates the value for money that a cup of coffee in a Scottish garden centre represents, having been repeatedly stung in Paris.

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