Day 9 - 30th July - Paris at leisure
Today was our last day on tour as tomorrow would be dedicated solely to travelling back home.
We set off early to head into the city to spend the day doing whatever we pleased. On route Richie gave us a talk about various places to visit. A few people were missing form the coach. Instead of spending a day looking around one of the most magnificent cities in the world, instead they chose to visit the tack-feast that is Disney-land!
Our first stop was at the Eiffel Tower wher we had a professional photographer take a group shot of everybody. It was then up to us to decide what we wanted to do. As most people wanted to go up the Eiffel Tower I decided I would go off by myself and do the less tourist places as I've already been up the Eiffel Tower twice before.
I headed to the nearest Metro station to make my way to Galleries Lafayetter to do a spot of shopping. When I got there to my dismay it was close because it was a Sunday. They are usually open Sunday's, but not in the month of August as this is when the French take their holidays, so a lot of places aren't open all the time. This was really disappointing as I knew my other favourite shopping jaunt, the department store La Samaritane, had been shut for a long time as they were undergoing huge renovations as it had been discovered that the store had been a really bad fire risk. At least this meant I would save a little money as I wouldn't get tempted by the Parisian fashions like I usually am. I decided to go see the Pompidou Centre as the last time I visited we didn't get a chance to go. I made my way to the nearest station, then followed the signs to the Pompidou, but the signs suddenly stopped in the middle of nowhere so I wandered around for a while trying to find it but with no luck. I got out my map and tried to locate where it was. Even with my map it was difficult to fin. i only found it by chance when I saw a corner of its distinctive building jutting out around the corner of the street I was in.
Once inside I made my way up to the top floor via the escalators and coridoors which are situated in clear, cylindrical shaped tubes attached to the outside of the building. At the top their were great views over the Parisian rooftops. There was also a restaurant at the top on a roof terrace. It was really modern, but hellishly expensive so I decided to pass by and go see the current featured exhibition which was a wide selection of metal sculptures by David Smith
from 1933 to 1964.
Ater that I went to the main floor of the gallery. They had a vastly different collection to what they had when I'd last visited in 2004. I saw some pop art paintings by Andy Warhol
and Roy Lichtenstein
as well as paintings by other artists such as Leger
. In another section of the gallery there was a room which was full of all things pink. On one wall there was a wind machine blowing some pink fabric to make it ripple with a light behind it, and in the centre of the room there was a gigantic pink stiletto. It was a very camp room, I'm sure Graham Norton
wouldn't look out of place there.
Escalator inside one of the cylindars on the outside of the building The pink stiletto Views from the Pompidou. Eiffel Tower on the left and La Defence centre, back View from the Pompidou - Sacre Coeur in Montmartre View from the Pompidou
View from the Pompidou - Montparnasse Tower
View from the Pompidou - Wifi zone in the sqaure below Andy Warhol paining David Smith sclupture exhibition View from the Pompidou - Paris's very own Banksy View from Pompidou - Looking down View from Pompidou View from Pompidou View from Pompidou Inside Pompidou
There was an obvious video theme running throughout the rest of the gallery with short video clips and films being shown on the walls. On imparticular was quite mesmorising. It was an old clip of a mans hand trying to catch objects which were falling from above. It was very bizarre, but quite captivating as you would start to count how many items he managed to catch in a row without dropping one.
Outside the Pompidou centre I sat in the square and watched some music performers whil taking a few photographs of the outside of the building.
Outside the Pompidou Centre
Next I made my way to Montparnasse to go up Tour Montparnasse. Luckily the Paris Visite travel card I'd bought got me 35% off the entrance fee. I made my way to the lift and headed up to the top flor. The lift was really fast and took around 20 seconds to get to the 52nd floor, compare that with my lift at work which takes the same time to get to the 4th floor. Once out of the lift I went up the final set of stairs onto the roof of the building. There were markings in the stairwell showing how many metres high the building was. The rooftop was 220m high. The views were amazing as they were completely 360 degree panoramic views of the city. From the top you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. The building was in direct line with the Tower so it made for great photographs. I definitely think this is the ultimate vantage point of the tower from anywhere in the city. I also saw the Louvre from above. From this high up you could see how large scale it was, it seemed to sprawl across such a large area. At night the view from the top is absolutely spectactular and is a completely different experience to day. I left came up this building in August 2005 at about 10pm when the sky was quite dark and the lights of the city illuminated the sky. It was simply breathtaking and a magical atmosphere.
View of the city from Montparnasse rooftop View of the graveyards below Les Invalides
View of The Louvre
I spent around 20 minutes on the roof until it began to rain, so I made my way back down to the top floor where it was drier, and got myself a tea and cake and sat in the cafe which could easily boast the best views of the city. I made my way back to the Champs Elyse to do a spot of shopping seeing as I'd not been able to go to my two favourite shopping jaunts. When I came out of the metro it was pouring down with rain, so I had to try and dodge the puddles and walk under the trees which lined the road to try and stay as dry as possible. I suddenly head my name being shouted and turned around to see Rob, Mark, Rob, Luke, Erin, Andrew, Matt and Jackie walking towards me. great timing. I joined them and went to a small shopping centre on the Champs Elyse to avoid the rain, but as it was a Sunday most of the shops were shut, so we headed to Quicksilver next door. Our time was running out so we decided to head over to the Louvre to take a look outside as we wouldn't get time to actually go in. We decided to get the Metro as is was still pelting down with rain. The train that came was absolutely jam packed so we had to cram ourselves in.
At the Louvre we took some photos of the guys posing in front of the large glass pyramid. They did some action hero poses before doing a jumping shot which turned out pretty good. I completely forgot that we could actually go down into the Louvre without paying to go into the glass pyramid, museum shop and boutiques. Instead we just hung around outside, then went in search of which small pyramid Tom Hanks clambered onto in the film version of the Da Vinci Code. After that we walked across the river to get a drink at a cafe. I had the most delicious hot chocolate I have ever tasted. It was like I was drinking melted hot chocolate blended with cream. We didn't have long as we had to meet up back at the coach. While walking back to the coach which was about 5 minutes away my favourite sandals decided to break, and it was the one on my bad foor so I ended up walking the rest of the way to the coach barefoor alond the wet pavement. Back at the campsite a lot of the ground was covered in gravel so I had to persevere with the broken sandal a little longer to make it back to the cabin pain free.
The pyramids in symmetry at The Louvre Action shots at The Louvre - Mark, Luke, Rob, Andrew, Rob and Matt
That night we all got ready to head out into the city for our last night together. Once there we would go to a restaurant in Montmartre for a 3 course dinner followed by a caberet. I was only going to the dinner as the caberet was quite expensive. The dinner would be at Auberge de la Bonne Franquette in the artists quarter. The coach stopped at the bottom of Montmarte in the red light district. We walked to the base of the hill where Sacre Coeur stood. Once there, there was the option to climb up the many steps to the top of the hill, or to take the funicular. Luckily the Paris day pass I had bought yesterday back at the campsite included free entry onto the funicular so I walked past the queues at the ticket machine and straight onto it. Unfortunately for the rest of the group who had opted to take the funicular there was quite a long queue so they had to end up taking the steps. We went straight to the restaurant which was a couple of minutes walk from Sacre Coeur. We were in the back room which had two long tables set up for our group as well as having some entertainment in the form of an accordianist. He had a permanent smile on his face and his appearance was slightly haunting. He was a very old man and almost looked like a skeleton. He was also wearing massive mirrored shades so we couldn't see his eyes. He wasn't actually bad, and was flattered when Mel went to have her photograph taken with him.
I sat next to Naomi and Tracy and opposite Mark and Dan. We were given a drink to begin with called Kir. It was white wine wit black currant liquor. We were then given a bottle of white and red wine per table. To start with (entrees) we had a choice of escargot, pate or onion soup. I decided to got for escargot as I had quite enjoyed them back at the campsite and wondered how they would taste cooked by a chef. On the menu they were called 'Demi douzaine d'escargots de Bourgogne.' I made a good choice as the pate Tracy had was absolutely disgusting. You couldn't even tell what had gone into it. The majority of people went for the snails option too. We were given a special piece of cutlery which was used to hold the snails shell in place while you ate the snail from inside. The next couse was on option between fish, beef or duck a l'orange. I had the duck. It was really delicious, I only wish there had been more of it. To end with we had brie followed by some type of fruit torte.
Photo by Mark - Our funky accordianist Photo by Matt - Mel, Jenny and Rob (Ashton) Photo by Matt - Me, Tracy and Andrew (Frodo) Photo by Matt - Rosa and Kerry Photo by Matt - Mark and Dan Photo by Mark - Me and Tracy Photo by Matt - Regan and Rob (Wallace) Photo by Matt - Luke and Erin Photo by Matt - Ruth-Ann Photo by Matt - Agata and friend
After the meal we made our way to the cabaret, Nouvelle Eve, where the group would split into those who were attending and those who weren't would go to the local bars. I really wanted to go in. Tracy and Andrew easily persuaded me to come along. I sneaked in with eveyrone else and was soon in. I sat with English Rob, Mark and Mel. We were also given a bucket of champagne. Unfortunately just before the show began Richie came over to me as he noticed I wasn't on the list. I said I though I was and that I must have made a mistake and would pay him the next day.
The show featured various acts from dancing girls to comedy. The best performers were the ones in between the dancing girls. The first one was an old man who did a balancing act on top of these cylindrical containers. At first he started on a few with a plank of wood balancing across the top, then he kept going higher and higher. It looked practically impossible to do. They were really unstable, but he managed to do it before leaping off the top. The best act of the night by far was a gymnast who did a routine with a rope. She reminded me a little of Bonnie Langford. She was suspended from the ceiling spinning around doing assorts of movements and routines using just the rope. It was pretty spectactular and daring particularly as she was suspended so high up. At the end they involved some members from the audience. Phil from our group was picked to go on stage. They had to dance with one of the dancing girls. Phil was great and really got into it. We all cheered him along. There were also a few other members of the audience on stage too. At the end the audience had to cheer the loudest for their winner. Phil definitely got the biggest cheers, probably because our group was so large, but sadly another winner was chosen. i don't remember what the prize was so it couldn't of been that exciting. It soon came to an end and we piled back onto the coach.
I hadn't been feeling too great for a couple of days now and was definitely coming down with something. Once on the coach I lay across a couple of the seat. The next thing I knew I was waking up in my cabin. I'd passed out on the coach and they had to carry me off and put me to bed in my cabin. When I came around I had a splitting headache and was felling generally under the weather. My breathing wasn't too great either. I'd also developed a pretty nasty chesty coach and sore throat. After taking a few painkillers it didn't seem to go away and I felt pretty out of it. I was sat outside trying to cope with the immense pain of my headache. Issac came over as he was training to be a doctor. he was concerned about the headache. In the end we agreed it was best I went to hospital to get checked out. They called Richie a while ago when I first came round but he soon went back to bed. As it had been over an hour and I still wasn't any better they called him again and he came over eventually. Richie and Issac took me to hospital in a taxi. once there the bright lights were really causing me discomfort. Luckily te room I went into had a light dimmer swithc. I was checked over by a doctor. I had my blookd taken, temperature taken, heart rate monitored as well as my breathing checked. They were unsure as to what had caused me to pass out and affect by breathing. I was given salbutomol for my breathing as well as being given somme really strong painkillers. They said it was best that I had been brought in as I had quite a few symptoms of meningitis. As I was heading home the next day they said I could be released as I would be able to go see a doctor when I got home. The painkillers were definitely starting to kick in as my headache wasn't so unbearable as it was before. It was not about 4am and we were able to go back to the campsite. I hardly slept as I had a pretty bad cough and was really blocked up. I hope I didn't distrub Erin too much throughout the night with my coughing fits.