“No darling, I’m off to Paris for the weekend, but it’s been an absolute pleasure”.
The greasy, balding middle-aged Pom didn’t raise his single eyebrow as he took my hostel dorm key and turned back to his daytime soap. He obviously did not share my excitement. He obviously did not notice that it had been raining in London for oh, say, the last three months or so. Nor did he fully understand the dire state of ‘English cuisine’. (Curry’n’chips anyone?) It is quite possible that this charming hostel manager had not recently feared for his life, as I had, by wearing the wrong football club scarf in the wrong part of London. I was quick to learn that the lovely crowbar-wielding Brixton locals did not find my Chelsea scarf as cute as I did.
Aah, feck it. I didn’t need his support. I was heading to the Continent! The anticipation of which had me craning my head out of the taxi window, tongue hanging out and hair a-blowing. Despite appearances I did not possess the nonchalance of the well seasoned traveller. Oh, no sir! Rather, I was the epitome of the unseasoned (ready salted if you will) variety of backpacker: wild eyed, and pathetically eager.
It was in this rabid state that I flew into Charles de Gaulle airport. Ooh, everything looked so…so…French! My first sighting of a thin black moustache had me nearly swooning.
By the time I found a train heading to the city, I was falsely self-assured in my ability to navigate around a foreign city. Never mind speaking French, I was armed with my best orienteering skills (care of Form Two camp) and the finest survival education Girl Guides can offer. So when I prematurely disembarked the train and found myself ‘Not Where I Was Supposed To Be’, I didn’t panic. I didn’t even raise an eyebrow. Rather, I calmly strolled through the streets, positively oozing a cool confidence one might expect from Danny Zuko in Grease (without the colossal grippers of course).
An hour later my confidence started to wane. Two hours later I was reduced to a snivelling wreck. Luckily for me, two very large French lads took pity on me and kindly offered to take me back to their apartment. I politely declined. Instead they escorted me to the Metro, which would safely deliver me to the door stop of the tourist information centre (cue chorus of angels and blinding white lights).
The rest of my weekend was a croissant-filled blur. I partook in all the usual Parisian delights.
I stared blatantly at the extremely camp Parisian men who were far too well groomed and skinny-legged for my liking.
Trekked up and down the dog poopéd streets
Narrowly escaped death-by-maniacal-drivers who drove on the right (wrong) side of the road
Attempted a line or two in appalling French only to be answered in snappy, but perfect English.
Queued for the queues to queue at the Louvre
Unintentionally purchased multiple mini Eiffel Towers to be later pawned off to unsuspecting relatives.
Endeavoured to squeeze my non-French bottom into French trousers (God loves a try-er)
Stood outside Dior whimpering and pressing my nose up to the shop window.
Of all the Parisian tourist traps it was the Louvre Museum that meant the most. At this point I must make it clear that I know nothing of art, or French history, or anything remotely useful for a museum visit. Hell, I couldn’t even pronounce ‘Louvre’ without sounding half drunk, and slightly retarded. Nevertheless, studying the gargantuan foldout map I tried to work out the best plan of attack. Visiting all three levels of all three wings was out of the question (and beyond my attention span). So embracing my inner Philistine, I set myself the challenge to view something from Donatello, Michaelangelo, Raphael and Leonardo. And yes, I do realise that the Ninja Turtles were not the true artists. Obviously. Turtles don’t have opposable thumbs. It may not have been the most conventional mode of viewing the definitive artistic impressions of human creativity. But running through endless corridors of 10 foot paintings and armless sculptures had a nice Bande a Part feel to it.
Monday rolled around far too quickly, as all Mondays tend to do. And before I knew it, I was bumbling my way through Heathrow. The rain continued to depress London. The stench of curry and chips pervaded my senses. But inside I felt a warm afterglow. For internally I was rehearsing my best “Darling, I’ve just been so extraordinarily busy lately. Just popped over to Paris for the weekend, don’t