A few weeks ago, David showed me a photo in the paper of a woman sitting next to the Seine with a typewriter on her knees. “Ooh,” I said. “I’d like to go to Paris to write.” “Good luck with that,” David said.
A couple of weeks later, I was making arrangements with David for me to go to Sheffield to meet my friend Diane for lunch. He said, “Why don’t you stay over? You said you wanted a writing break.” “I did,” I said. “In Paris.” “It’s Sheffield or nowt,” he said. So I booked the hotel. (I did have a couple of hours of fretting about whether it was a waste of money to go and stay in a hotel. Whether the money would be better applied to the Sekrit Christmas Project. Whether it was too indulgent, particularly since I’ve done this solo writing break thing before… And then I decided feck it – I’m with the boys ALL THE TIME and I deserve a break, dammit! Oh and I checked and my last indulgent writing break* was 2005. Pfft.)
Before setting off, I downloaded a couple of episodes of Parenthood to watch on the journey and in the hotel (Diane’s been at me to watch Parenthood for AGES and since she was right – so very very right – about Parks & Rec, I thought it was about time I listened), I packed a couple of books and some snacks, bought myself a coffee and off I went.
Trains are great for writing but only, I discovered, if you get a table seat. I tried balancing the laptop on the little fold-down table, but it didn’t really fit and it was bumpy as hell. Even so, I wrote 1000 words and then watched the first episode of Parenthood. Loved it. Changed trains, bought more coffee, did some reading and then met Diane and her mum and we went off for a chat.
Diane’s mum left, but the chat continued. There was pizza. And wine. And lots and lots of talking. (We even, at one point, had a rather heated debate. It was ace.) Eventually I had to go and check into my hotel and that was also ace. Nice big room with a huge bed, a desk and this lovely view.
I did actually move the table in front of the window so I could sit and look outside instead of looking in a mirror, as I was at the desk. I spent the rest of the evening alternating writing with watching Parenthood (and I Skyped with the boys) before a bath and bed.
I woke at 7, wrote a bit then went down to the spa for a swim and a little sit in the Aroma Room followed by an even shorter spell in the Ice Igloo (couldn’t even sit in there, the seats were too cold). Back up to the room for more writing and then out again for breakfast in a cafe I spied from my window. It was really cute and the full cooked breakfast and cuppa sorted me right out after my swim.
Back to the room for one last burst of writing before I had to check out. I stayed at the Mercure Sheffield St Paul’s Hotel and Spa and I was really impressed. You know how at some hotels you feel like they’re doing you a favour? This was the opposite. The wifi was free. The spa was free. You didn’t even need £1 for the locker. The hotel looks really stylish, but isn’t at all intimidating and the staff were lovely. I’d never heard of the Mercure chain before, but I’ll definitely check them out in future. And, no, I didn’t get the stay for free. (But I do plan to see if I can get a freebie for the Sekrit Christmas Project, yes.)
Went wandering in Sheffield – which is really lovely, btw, if you haven’t been, you should go – to Waterstones where I bought four books (oops) and then finally to the station where I wrote another 500 words and sat next to this beautiful creature. It was on the floor, so one of the cafe staff put a chair over it so it didn’t get stepped on.
Watched another Parenthood on the train, then wrote a final 500 words in Leeds station then finished my book (the one I was reading, not the one I’m writing – I’ll finish that one today) on the last leg home.
Not only did I write 7000 words, I had the most wonderful time and felt like I’d been away a lot longer than (*counts*) 32 hours. I really shouldn’t wait another eight years before doing something like this again.
* If you don’t include LA cos that was totally research and not actually one of the best holidays of my entire life.