This was always going to be a long day. Due to the vagaries of hotel bookings, it was not possible for Maggie and me to get 5 consecutive nights at the Trois Poussins Hotel. This meant that the final two nights of our stay would have to be at a nearby hotel with the unlikely name The Monterosa. For me, that name conjured up images of rugged cowboys running a huge cattle station, whereas in fact The Monterosa turned out to be just another typical 3 star hotel in this area.
We packed our bags early in the morning and set out on a short walk to see where our new hotel was located. As it turned out, we were not the only ones out on an early morning walk. On our way back to our morning meeting point I noticed Sue Rainsford wandering blindly in the opposite direction. She seemed pleased and surprised to see us. “I am lost already” she explained. “Then just follow us” I replied. Sue had arrived in Paris just the previous evening and was obviously still having a little trouble navigating the maze of streets near Saint Georges. Sue’s arrival brought our total strength to 19 participants. The final two would be arriving the following day and the rest would be meeting us in Orleans.
Although we had originally been intending to visit the Palace of Versailles, the dark gloomy skies and drizzling rain soon convinced us that an indoor activity would be more appropriate. About a dozen or so left, following Keith and Marg on their way to Versailles. I had given very clear directions so I knew that they could not possibly get lost. In fact they did.
Maggie and I joined David and Carol on a visit to the famous Musee D’Orsay. This amazing building was erected as a railway station for the Universal Exhibition of 1900. By 1939 it was deemed to be no longer suitable as a station and had a variety of other uses before it was scheduled for demolition in 1970. Fortunately it was saved from this dreadful fate, and it now houses the largest collection of Impressionist and Post Impressionist Paintings in the world. Many consider this museum to be the finest museum in Paris and it certainly should be included in any visit to this city.
When we arrived at the entrance, the main queues had not yet developed and we only had a short wait before we were able to enter. The cashier courteously explained that my Victorian Seniors’ Card would not get me a discount, but I figured it was worth a try. Although the art is certainly impressive, and the total value must be in the billions of Euros, for me the real work of art is the building itself. For anyone who has seen the movie “HUGO”, about the boy who lived inside the clocks in a huge railway station, you could swear that this is where it was filmed. Dominating high above the main auditorium are two huge clocks. You can stand inside the clock face and look out over the whole of Paris. In the distance you can clearly see Sacre Coeur Cathedral perched high on the Butte Montmartre. It would have been easy to stand here for a long time and just gaze out over this incredible city.
Although the notorious selfie sticks are banned inside the museum, this does not deter the intrepid horde of selfie addicts who carefully plan their visit so that they can be photographed in front of virtually every piece of art in the place. It made me tired (and also a little bilious) just watching the effort and planning this entailed. On the other hand it was easy to see that real art lovers left their cameras at home and just used their eyes instead. Some would stand for extended periods in front of just one painting or statue, carefully examining every detail and trying to get inside the mind of the artist.
By midday Maggie was begging for a coffee and a sit down (in that order). We left the museum and noted that the queues had now grown to biblical proportions, stretching halfway to the Eiffel Tower. Another reminder to always arrive early. We looked for a suitable cafe for a coffee and some lunch and found a large likely looking place nearby. We settled down and soon found that the waiter seemed especially attentive to Dave. After a while I was half expecting him to bring Dave chocolates and flowers.
This reached an even higher level of infatuation when the waiter arrived with our meals. He explained that he would “serve ze ladies first”, first Carol, then Maggie and then his favourite Davide. Apparently I rated as the only man at the table. By this time David was blushing redder than a bride on her wedding night and he seemed anxious to make a getaway. We managed to pay the bill and escape, just as the waiter was off to get a piece of paper to record Dave’s phone number. It had been a close call, even though David had repeatedly tried to explain that he was already married.
In every group there are some feats of endurance that are worthy of special mention and this group contains such a couple. Ever since they had arrived in Paris, Keith and Marg had engaged in a frenetic round of continuous tour hopping. Obviously every minute of every day had been planned months ahead in an attempt to get their names in the Guinness Book of Records for the most Paris tours in any 4 day period. Their stamina is obviously legendary. I knew that such a grueling pace would kill most people our age. It was even more amazing that each successive tour was ever further away from Paris. They had already done every possible tour, hop on hop off bus, cabaret show, etc in the city itself and then started venturing to more distant locations such as Giverny and Mont St Michel. Apparently they are now seeing if they can fit in a tour of Melbourne’s MCG on Tuesday.
The rest of the team have much more limited stamina and are rapidly reaching the end of their endurance. I did suggest that there was one activity that rewarded the participant with a unique view of this city and somehow managed to convince about a dozen takers that it would be a good idea to take a night cruise along the Seine. I instructed that we should meet near the base of the Eiffel Tower around 7.30 pm.
Maggie and I arrived early and took a long slow walk along the river from the Musee D’Orsay towards the Eiffel Tower. As I crossed the road I was nearly skittled by a driver roaring up the road in a brand new red Ferrari sports car. I could not be certain, but I think the offending driver was the same scruffy guy that had taken us on our cemetery tour a couple of days earlier. C’est la vie , I guess.
Near the base of the tower we met up with Eugenie, Sally and Liz. Maggie was starting to rebel at this point and gave me an ultimatum. “I am not walking any further until you bring me coffee and dinner”. She pouted her bottom lip and went and sat on a bench seat under a big tree. I have learnt that, when she is such a mood, I have no alternative other than simply obey.
I walked around looking for something that might appeal to her appetite. I was soon mesmerised by a crepe maker and found myself ordering two crepes, stuffed with strawberries, bananas, chocolate and cream. It seemed like a good idea at the time and I didn’t even faint when the operator asked for 27 Euros. When he handed across the steaming hot bundles I had to admit that they did look good. The trouble was that I had two cups of coffee and two crepes and I was exactly two arms short of the optimum quota.
Clutching the scolding crepes and balancing coffees, I staggered back through the crowds and tried to find where I had left Maggie. Along the way I started to wonder why people were looking at me and smiling. I guess they all wished they had bought a crepe as well, I thought. After a couple more minutes, my hands were burning and I tried to get a better grip on my goodies. It was only when I looked down that I could see why I was single handedly sending the multitudes into paroxysms of mirth. The bottoms of both crepes had burst, sending cascades of brown molten Nutella all down the front of my shirt and trousers. I was literally covered in the stuff right down to my shoes. Now I knew what the village idiot must feel like. I was NOT happy.
Eventually I found Maggie relaxing under her tree and I thrust the now collapsed and saggy crepe into her hand. “You had BETTER enjoy this”, I yelled. She took a few bites and allowed the rest of the delicious contents to slip through her fingers and splatter to the ground in an unsightly pile of pink and yellow. At least the birds would get a feast.
In the meantime I was engaged in a futile attempt to remove even a little of a cream and Nutella from my clothes. I really hoped that night would come early to hide my shame. It didn’t, in fact I think there was an unexpected hour of daylight that day for some obscure astronomical reason.
Later in the afternoon we were met by a large group of Ghostriders and we set sail on our Seine River Cruise. Although I had already done this cruise several times before, I always find it a beautiful way to experience the famous City of Light. All of Paris’ most beautiful buildings are illuminated and the whole place looks like a scene from a fairy tale. On the top deck of the boat it was getting pretty cold and even the heat from the red hot Nutella was no longer sufficient to keep my legs warm.
After the cruise Sally was the only one with a map and she took over leadership of the group to get us home to our hotels. I should have already known that women have no concept of what maps are, and I suspect she was holding it upside down as she led us like the famous Pied Piper in the opposite direction to what common sense was pointing.
After 30 minutes of blind wandering we found a Metro Station and began an eventful journey back to Montmartre. “Hurry Up” I called to the stragglers when I saw a train waiting at the platform. I jumped on board and tried to hold the door open. In the process I made an important discovery about Metro trains – you cannot hold the doors open. They simply snap shut like a metal press, no matter what is in the way. I was fortunate not to lose the major part of my right arm, but somehow managed to fall into the carriage just in time to watch the rest of the group still standing on the platform.
Fortunately Metro trains runs every few minutes and we were eventually all reunited. Maggie and I staggered into our room around 10.30 pm and made the decision that the following day would be a quiet day.
I hope that our team have enjoyed their short stay in Paris and just maybe they might have fallen a little in love with the magic that permeates every street. Paris is so much more than museums and monuments, it is the infectious joie de vivre that Parisians incorporate into every aspect of their lives that makes me want to return over and over again. This was typified by the elderly trumpet player that we saw wandering the streets yesterday. He was not asking for money, he just wanted to play his trumpet and greet people that passed by him in the street, as if it was the most natural thing in the world.
UPDATE ON THE INJURY LIST
John Rundell – evacuated to London for rest and recuperation leave – indefinite
Maggie Dawson – Hand improving, but hip now hopeless (also a bit irritable) – 2 days
Sharlie Cousland – Restricted to bed due to possible recurring bout of tiredness – 4 hours
Dave Yates – Bad back and severe embarrassment – 2 weeks
Myself – mental stress – indefinite
Gonny Rundell – Wonky knees – indefinite
Carol Yates – Dodgy Feet – 2 weeks
Mary Jonas – Lost in action – indefinite
All the other women – suffering from obvious bladder failure and acute incontinence – indefinite