As the time on the corner of my screen clicks onto 6pm, I close the spreadsheet I’m updating, send one final email and snap my laptop lid shut. TGIF, I think.
I lean back in my seat as a shaft of sunlight turns the petite marble table in front of me amber-gold, and a waiter pops into view.
“Voulez-vous autre chose?”
My desk this crisp, sunny Friday is a brasserie table facing Paris’s Place Victor Hugo – the brasserie also bears the author’s name, in fact. It’s a dream remote-working base, complete with canopied patio, zippy wifi, rocket-fuel espressos and a prime view of stylish Parisians sashaying past.
Opposite me, my friend returns her own laptop to her bag, and we order two glasses of rosé. It’s the easiest desk-to-bar transition of our lives.
We had whooshed out on the Eurostar from London the previous evening for a long weekend in the city, choosing the breezy option of a city-centre-to city-centre-train for our first trip there this side of the pandemic.
Worrying that a post-Covid, post-Brexit Eurostar would be a messy, convoluted affair, I’d arrived the recommended two hours early for the train. But the queues were still slim and swift, and staff at St Pancras hyper organised – and no one so much as glanced at my hastily scribbled ‘declaration of honour’ form (currently a must for anyone visiting France).
Masks aside, the Eurostar still felt like the same miracle of international travel – board, chat to your pal, neck a glass of Merlot et voila! You’re on holiday – with an added layer of novelty courtesy of having been exactly nowhere for the last few months.
Back at the Brasserie Victor Hugo, we sipped our wine in the warm glow of golden hour, as dressed-up professionals strolled past with tiny dogs, and immaculately blow-dried older women filled the terrace tables around us. My ex-smoker friend, who’d spent several months living in Paris as a student, luxuriated in the cloud of Marlboro fumes drifting over from a nearby table, but stopped short of indulging.
While she basked in the memory of more rock’n’roll years, I was remembering the joy of simply being in another city. No racing around, no…