That's right, look at the gif. Nice, isn't it? Nice places, tasty treats; Parisian life at its finest. Keep looking, just for another moment. Because I'm about to ruin it for you with a story about a cat shitting himself from both ends.
When you tell people you're moving to Paris, they tend, understandably, to vomit envy all over you. Long, hot gushes of unconcealed envy. "Oh that's my DREAM!", "Are you KIDDING me?! That's what I'VE always wanted to do!" I've never been comfortable around envy of any kind; the mere suggestion that I might be in any way luckier than someone else leads me to list off all the downsides of any given situation, the way a middle class white woman who's about to be a freelance writer in Paris never should. Still, when you're moving to Paris because your husband's family are dead, it's hard to get too dreamy about bloody macarons (though, admittedly, I hadn't actually tasted them at that point).
Moving to another country isn't as big a deal as people make out. Airbnb makes finding a flat a lot easier – instead of deposits, proof of income, professionally translated references and a notorised picture of you at your high school prom, you have a credit card and for both landlord and tenant the threat of a bad review gives mutually-assured civility. So at that point, moving abroad is simply a matter of packing your pants, board the appropriate transport and then you're just THERE. That's how I moved to Mexico – except this time, I had a husband and had four furry creatures in tow.
Top left: Ollie. Top right: Bastie. Bottom left: Thissy. Bottom right: Ludo.
Ok, so that complicated things a bit. First of all, they each needed passports – which is basically just a record of a vet pinkie-promising they've administered a rabies jab 21 days before travelling, presented in a lovely, blue, £150 booklet.
Then there was getting them to Paris. The Eurostar, which could have zipped us there in two and a half hours, doesn't accept animals. So we had to drive. My parents offered to road trip me and the animals there while my husband and some suitcases took the train. My mother insisted on budgeting five hours for a 1hr 40min journey to the EuroTunnel terminal, so we left at 6am for our 11am crossing. Predictably, we arrived hilariously early.
The thing about putting a cat in a box and then taking it on a terrifying journey for several hours is you have no way of explaining to them that nothing terrible is happening to them. It felt like taking a friend for a birthday lunch by thumping them over the head and bundling them blindfolded into a van. And if I were thumped over the head and bundled blindfolded into a van, I would probably vomit and soil myself simultaneously too, which is exactly what poor Bastie did as we arrived at the Eurotunnel.
In case you ever need it, and I hope you don't, here's how to wash a cat en route to Paris:
Step one: Grab some towels (egyptian cotton ones, a wedding gift from your aunt), open the cat box and clean up around the cat. Throw the once-very-nice towels in bin next to EuroTunnel queue.
Step two: Drive into EuroTunnel and locate toilets. They are tiny slivers, because they've basically been built into the EuroTunnel walls. My mum, who is an ex-nurse and shall henceforth be referred to as SuperMum, goes on a quick scouting mission to locate nearest toilet that doesn't have an "out of order/ hors de service" sign on the door. It is three carriages away.
Step three: Get out of car carrying a box of Bastie, who weighs 6kg. Make way through EuroTunnel, pushing and leaning through doors that weigh roughly the same as Sweden. Think of it as strength training. The world is my gym, etc.
Step four: Lock self in bathroom with Bastie and SuperMum. Let Bastie out to explore this loud, tiny, horrible cell as you clean the box with disinfectant. Remove shirt and do this all in a crop top because it's BOILING, not least because bathroom is so tiny SuperMum keeps backing into the dryer which blasts the room with hot air.
Step Five: Pick up cat, face his belly towards the mirror, lower him under the tap so you and SuperMum can wash his little butt in the sink, with that horrible foam soap from the dispenser and cold (COLD!) water. Say "I'm so sorry sweetie..." on repeat and try in vain not to look at his little "FML" face in the mirror.
Step six: Pat him dry(ish) with tissues. DO NOT try to dry him under the dryer. That would be a potent mixture of mean (it's loud) and pointless (those things can't even dry hands, let alone a Maine coon).
Step seven: Secure the box with Bastie inside so he can groom himself and hate you and wonder how it all came to this in peace. Go back to the car carrying the impossibly heavy cat box through the impossibly heavy doors past all the out-of-order toilets and collapse back into the car.
Things only got really stressful once we passed the périphérique into Paris. The entire journey from Crouch End should have taken around six and a half hours. But by driving through central Paris at rush hour on a Friday night, it took nine.
Something terrible happens to people as they cross the périphérique: they turn Parisian. It's not even particularly controversial to say that Parisians are selfish. It's a common complaint here, and in surveys about what people like least about the city, "the behaviour of the people" is ALWAYS mentioned. The driving here is as bad as I saw in Mexico City, Koh Samui and Marrakech, and it comes down to selfishness. If you're planning to drive in Paris, don't. Seriously, just change that plan, there's still time.
We arrived, and unpacked everything before promptly passing out. Our life in Paris could begin.
And don't worry about Bastie. He groomed himself beautiful again and settled right in.