So, I'm in Paris for three weeks. The apartment for which I've house-swapped is in the romantically-named Passage de la Bonne Graine, one of the numerous little passages crossing the Faubourg Saint Antoine. These passages used to give access to the factories and workshops behind the grander facades of the main street.
The apartment has been squeezed into a renovation of an old building and is accessed by one of the minuscule lifts that are common modern additions to old buildings in France. The lift is so tiny that two people can't stand shoulder to shoulder within it. You have to decide on entering whether you want the intimacy of standing face-to-face, or the apparent rebuff of turning your back on your companion.
Overwhelmed by the drugged feeling that's induced by travelling (economy class) from Australia to Europe, we've done little but explore our immediate neighbourhood. Most importantly, we've already discovered our local restaurant, a few metres along our passage, also named Le Passage.
We lunched there - enjoying the French offering of the formule midi - three courses for 15 euros. We went with tradition: pate with caramelised onions to begin; slow-cooked veal shoulder on a bed of perfectly-cooked cabbage to follow. I finished with cheese, and my friend with what she said was the best combination of just-set pannacotta with orange she could imagine. Such an unpretentious first French meal. The perfect way to begin a French holiday.