This weekend I was in Paris. What better time of year to eat your own bodyweight in carbohydrates, drink far more wine than is considered acceptable before 2pm and spend three hours queuing to go up the Eiffel Tower (yes really - don't do it.)
Parisiennes aren't famed for their warm personalities and are, for the most part, considered by the rest of the world to be arrogant and unfriendly. I like to take this with a pinch of salt and whilst I wouldn't say it is totally unfounded I do think that there is little point in getting irritated by it. It is after all, the 'charm' of the city, is it not?
Despite France and England being a mere two and a half hours train ride away from each other - as people, we are poles apart.
Take your average French woman - reserved, chic, sophisticated, stylish.
Where the French have Carla Bruni in Yves Saint Laurent we have Samantha Cameron in Hobbs. Sigh.
A French woman never over indulges or has a hangover. She wouldn't be seen dead in a tracksuit or a pair of Uggs yet wouldn't think twice about spending 120 Euros on a pair of knickers small enough to fit in a match box. She wears little makeup and thinks boob jobs are the height of vulgarity. She'll flirt with you, tempt you in, then laugh in your face when you think you can have her - and she's skinny, despite eating croissants for breakfast.
I like to consider myself to be reasonably up to speed with gallic etiquette and style, however I think it would be fair to say that there would be no mistaking me for a woman of French descent - hot pink nail vanish and a bottle of Beaujolais by midday seeing to that. After my weekend in the city of love, I was keen to see what rules of thumb one should follow in order to blend in on the Champs Elysees.
Well-considered advice included-
• Do everything you can to ensure your skin is great.
• Do not over accessorise. Stick to black pants, a cute pair of flats and minimal jewellery.
• Be enigmatic.
• Eat a small dinner ... slowly.
• Don't smile unless you mean it.
• Always be polite.
Right you are.
You see, here's the thing. England is a country of grey and often miserable proportions. Meaning that, not only are 'chic' flats near on impossible to fashion, but impossible to wear for eight months of the year. 'But Paris is cold too!' indeed it is, however where they care less about being warm and more about being effortlessly stylish we couldn't give a crap how ridiculous Uggs look, we ain't freezing for no one.
With regards to eating - a French woman is happy to peck at a slither of Roquefort and 6 grapes washed down with a diluted 125ml glass of good quality wine, an English woman (after a bottle of pub quality Sauvignon Blanc) can commonly be found saying 'f**k the diet' and wolfing down a kebab or some such similar culinary delight at an hour not conducive to small waist measurements.
Consequently, whereas French women can famously teach the world how to 'never get fat', their English peers can teach the world how to 'get fat but distract all attention from your ass by wearing a florescent green bangle, some hot pink nail vanish and a "vintage" headscarf'. We buy our lingerie (read: two for one sets at M&S) from the same place we buy our weekly food shop and, on a good night, don't keep our knickers on long enough to warrant spending 120 Euros on them.
The truth about English women is this.
We will never be effortlessly chic, naturally demure or sober for longer than 24 hours for most of the week. However, what French women have in subtlety and elegance we make up for in British eccentricity, individual style, humour and the ability to laugh - not least of all at ourselves. French women have grace, style and a sultry arrogance, English women humour, warmth and extremely good deals at Marks & Spencer.
You want to blend in in Paris? Wear a beret and stick a loaf of bread under your arm, they'll never know the difference.
Or for Queen and Country ... do the right thing. Over accessorise, wear heels you can't walk in, back comb your hair, eat too quickly, laugh too loud, swear like a sailor, knock back the wine and crawl back onto the Eurostar having virtually no memory of the previous 48 hours.
Now that's how to do Paris.