PARIS, France -- Even travel scribes have wish lists. Occasionally a few lucky writers actually have a dream trip materialize.
My dream wasn\'t to visit the moon or lunch on top of the Himalayas. It was much simpler -- spend 24 hours of blissful wish fulfilment in Paris. Recently, I did it.
The preface starts in England.
After a good sleep on the overnight British Airlines flight from Toronto, I arrived at Heathrow wide awake and ready for my short stopover in London. I had pre-purchased a return ticket on Britrail from Heathrow to Paddington station so it was easy to get into the city.
Hotel with history
My lodging was the Colonnade, a small hotel with history, which I had passed many times in the last decade with the intention of going in for a look-see. Once a maternity hospital where noted code breaker and computer science pioneer Alan Turin saw his first light of day, it\'s now a smart, stately, small hotel.
For years, a plaque commemorated the fact psychiatrist Sigmund Freud was a regular guest but since the recent renovations, no one knows what has happened to the sign. Turin\'s marker is still proudly displayed on the cream coloured stucco facade. Freud, however, didn\'t stray too far. He eventually moved to a flat on the same street.
Located on Warrington Crescent, in residential Maida Vale, there\'s good access to the tube, which puts you outside the hectic city centre but keeps you in touch with the chic London lifestyle.
Early the next morning, small overnight bag in hand, I took the tube to Waterloo Station, this time heading to Paris. I had pre-booked a ticket on the Eurostar, which travels through the \"Chunnel.\"
In just over three hours -- during which I read the English papers, ate a hearty breakfast and counted the 21 minutes under the English Channel -- I was in The City of Light.
The next chapter to my fantasy was unfolding -- an overnight stay at Hotel Le Bristol. Tomes have been written about this majestic building on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore and its ups and downs on the way to becoming one of the top accommodations in Paris.
My airy, and gratefully not chintz-decorated room, overlooked the garden and sandstone Love Fountain. After my busy morning, it was an easy decision to have an early lunch in the Restaurant Le Bristol -- Euros be damned.
Once a private theatre room, the beautiful oval dining room still has the original 19th century hand carved oak panelled walls, gold leaf painted ceiling, 18th-century tapestry and crystal chandeliers, reminiscent of a Fragonard painting. The food is served on Haviland Limoges porcelain with Christofle silver flatware and delicate linens.
One always expects good food in Paris but Restaurant Le Bristol really is one of the best tables in the city. The chef, Eric Frechon, has recently been voted best chef in the city for 2003, and the restaurant is the recipient of two Michelin stars. The wine cellar has more than 31,000 bottles.
My first off-the-beaten-track destination was to Cimetiere des Chiens, the dog cemetery. It may seem wacky but it\'s where Rin Tin Tin, the most famous celebrity canine, is buried. Sweet sculpted tombstones with nostalgic words reminded me of my now deceased poodle.
Cries of poverty by the caretakers are issued annually since few tourists know about this cemetery and fewer Parisians visit. Located in the suburb of Asnieres near the Seine River, it\'s worth a trip if for no other reason than to say you opted for this rather than the Tour Eiffel.
Another little known jewel is Musee Marmottan Monet. Originally a \"grande maison\" purchased by Jules Marmottan in 1882, it now houses a major art collection. Among its treasures are works by artists Degas, Pissarro, Rodin, Sisley and Monet to name just a few.
Several years ago, I had visited the sewers (egouts) of Paris and decided to revisit that \"museum.\" Although dampish, there were no rodents or creepy crawlers. Interesting descriptions of the streets above and their history make it worth the steep incline. It\'s at Pont de l\'Alma opposite 93 quai d\'Dorsay. The nearest metro station is Metro Alma-Marceau.
On short notice, I tried to enroll in a cooking class at Le Cordon Bleu. Unfortunately, they are booked solid months ahead of time. Oh well, not all parts of a dream can come true. But there is always a next time.
Although now late in the day, it seemed like a good time to stop for a cocktail. The very \"in\" afternoon meeting place is Hotel Costes on the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore. With its maze-like interior and large saloons, each table yielded a vignette of chic, confident people who all seem to still enjoy their cigarettes.
What better way to end a day than with a fine meal. Since I wanted to spend some quality time in the hotel, it was well past my regular eating hour when arrived at the chic, trendy and recently opened The Market. It\'s the place of the moment and the buzz went well into the night. If you\'re looking for the newest trends in fashion, food and decor then The Market is definitely the place to see and be seen.
Next morning, after a luxurious breakfast in the hotel restaurant, I was back on the Eurostar heading to jolly olde London in time for my departing British Air flight. This plane had black-and-white framed photos from the \'40s and \'50s giving the area a lounge-like feeling and extending the luxury of this little escapade.
This dream is completed -- now on to the next.
If you go:
ACCOMMODATIONS: Colonnade Hotel/Little Venice Town House, 2 Warrington Cres., London. Telephone 44 20 7286 1052, e-mail email@example.com. Hotel Le Bristol, 112 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore, Paris, telephone 33 153 43 43 00, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. The hotel has 175 rooms, including 48 suites. Hotel Costes, 239 rue Saint-Honore, Paris, telephone 33 1 42 44 5050.
PARIS DIVERSIONS: Musee Marmottan-Monet, 2 rue Louis Boilly, 7th Arrondisment. Telephone 01 44 96 5033. Museum of the \"egouts,\" telephone 01 53 68 24 64 or 01 53 68 27 82. Winter hours, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Summer hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closed Thursday and Friday. The Market Restaurant, 15 rue Matignon, telephone 01 56 43 40 90. Le cordon Bleu Cooking School, telephone 01 53 68 22 50 or visit www.cordonbleu.net.