Last time the Ghostriders conducted a ride in France, I offered to take a group of them on an extended walking tour of the city, just to help them get their bearings and appreciate some of the magic of this amazing place. When I offered to do the same thing this time, I had 12 people who turned up at the appointed meeting place.
Although this was always to be a walking tour, several of the participants presented with various ailments right at the start. In fact, even before we started, John pulled out because he apparently has a bone in his foot and his wife Gonny pulled out because her knees are “wonky”. At the start of the walk Carol informed me that her feet were already sore after the 100 metre walk from the hotel and Sharlie informed me that she would not be able to walk on any uphills or downhills (and apparently was not much good on the flats either). I often compare the Ghostriders to the famous Dad’s Army, but this is getting ridiculous. I began to think I should have booked a set of wheelchairs for the group.
In spite of my misgivings, we set off at a brisk pace of about 1 km per 24 hours and slowly made our way towards Pigalle. After we had crawled about 200 metres, I turned around and could not fathom how some were already 300 metres behind me. They must have been walking in the wrong direction. After much hand waving and shouting we were regrouped and staggered on about 100 metres or so. “My feet are aching” said Carol, “My knees are feeling a little queer too” added Sharlie. “Is it time for coffee yet ?” Maggie contributed. This was going to be a long, long day.
After much encouragement, cajoling, threatening and after numerous “rest breaks” we finally made it up the hill to Sacre Coeur Cathedral, one of my favourite spots in all of Paris. Carol and Sharlie caught the funicular railway to the summit, while the rest ran the gamut of the African hustlers who always crowd the steps. “It must be time for coffee now” suggested Maggie. It was.
We crowded into a delightful little flower covered coffee shop near the Place du Tertre and settled down to a heavy session of coffee drinking and people watching. When we counted the heads we discovered that we were one head less than a dozen. Sharlie had gone missing. She turned up after a few minutes and explained that she had been shopping for some cat pictures, as if that explained it all.
As we started to head back to Pigalle to catch the train, Maggie found a lovely little Montmartre back street and said that we should go that way. It was delightful, but it meant that we were going in the wrong direction, necessitating a long walk back up the hill and past the cathedral again. More complaining from Carol and Sharlie. A few others joined the chorus as well with a steady counterpoint of “I am getting tired”, “Is it much further ?”, ” I saw a man with a baguette” and other nonsense. Maggie asked if it was too soon for another coffee.
I finally herded the remaining 10 people onto the Metro (Keith and Marg had already lost patience and bolted). Carol’s feet were still hurting, although Sharlie had apparently found her second wind and had come good again.
When we got off the train at Concorde there was the usual exclamations of wows as people stood on one of the most famous boulevards in the world. The women all headed straight to the nearest toilet. The clock kept ticking.
We wandered down through the Tuileries Gardens towards the Louvre and I was amazed that the usual Gypsy pickpockets were nowhere to be seen. Maybe the police have finally succeeded in moving them away once for all. It was then along the right bank of the Seine and through the famous Ile de La Cite and the equally famous Ile St Louis. It was then time for a baguette and an ice cream. Carol had already caught a taxi back to the hotel. And dammit, even my feet were getting tired. It was getting close to 3 pm so I decided to cancel the remaining 10 km of the walk and announce that it was time to head back to the hotels.
What followed was another lesson on survival in the underground maze that is the Paris Metro, but all made it safely home. Maggie and I bought some food from a mini mart and had our own picnic in the hotel courtyard. It really had been a fun day and, in spite of the teasing I give them all, I really do love travelling with these wonderful folk.