First of all, well done for not missing part two of this incredible recitation of fifty-something outings in a lovely part of the world, except where my wife is concerned. She didn’t come because of her great wariness of Paris and all things Parisian. I did want to come, which is how I can write this second instalment. Her loss. She just missed out on all the fun, fun, fun!
So, where was I? Definitely in a great mood, probably not in the fittest states if I were driving, and heading gently back to my hotel after having said goodnight to friends! I had missed out on pudding after my evening meal and knew that I had the Cyrille Lignac raspberry tart to look forward to. I found my room and actually get into it without having to call for help. It was a warm evening after a warm day, but the coolness of the evening was starting to arrive. O happiness, I could get my window open and still reserve my modesty with the blinds. I hit the deck. Well, I didn’t hit. It was like sliding into bed in a happy, sugary, raspberry mood and I drifted off to sleep. Hotel pillows seem to have this magical way of sending you off to dreamland….
I had set an alarm, just in case, but woke up at 6am. Far too silly, but it allowed me to emerge at a leisurely pace, which seems to be my general speed at the moment. Mass was at 11 am, so I had loads of time. Breakfast was between 8am and 10am. So definitely had loads of time. Now came the epic battle with the shower. Trying to work out how to operate it and not getting shot with cold water. Yay, it was possible and turned out to be a lot less challenging than I thought to begin with. I even got the rainfall showerhead to work. It was lovely just being able to chill, listen to Radio 2, and take my time without guilt. I floated down to breakfast, in an incredible mood.
Hotel breakfasts are something I quite enjoy. Self-service, and a chance for me to pretend to be healthy, with yoghurt, fruits, cheese, ham, pain au chocolat, cornflakes and, most importantly, a nice cup of tea. Once you figure out the various dispensing machines for the hot drinks, you’re fine. I finished before 10am to respect the fast before Holy Communion, and floated back up to the room and looked after my skincare and beard care routine. I may be a fat git, but I like to be a well-groomed fat git. Bag packed, and ready to check out knowing I could leave my bag at the hotel until my train, a very useful service.
The Church was on the Boulevard Montparnasse, just beyond the cinemas and cafés. It was a beautiful church dedicated to Our Lady, and the frescos high up on the walls were perfect for visualising the episodes of the Rosary. An old lady came up to me and gave me a hymn sheet and the Parish bulletin. She was one of those sweet old ladies that you can’t just say no to. I saw others that tried but saw how futile it was. Obviously an old girl on a mission. Three priests as well. Music that brought a tear to my eye. It was lovely. After mass, I said my Rosary and headed off into town.
We had arranged to meet up at the Abbesses metro station in Montmartre which has one of those Art déco metro entrances that you see in all the photographs. I got the typical shot and regretted not having stayed around to get more detailed shots. Maybe next time. Because, as Arnie said, “I’ll be back!” We met up at the appointed time and meandered through the streets to the Funicular. I would not walk up those steps. Let me bring you back to the leisurely pace concept mentioned earlier. As we were going up, I showed them where I would probably have had a heart attack if I were taking the steps… We got to the top and spied an Irish pub. Well, it would be rude not to. We ordered a couple of pints from the typical Parisian waiter. The man was running around like a madman. We knew straight away that he wasn’t having a good day, showed appropriate empathy, and won him over. There was the pub itself, a speaker blaring out rock music, and the guy was covering three terraces. Another girl looked after serving the food. We waited, waited, and waited some more. We gave the order to the waiter, whose back was obviously giving him gip, and jokingly said he should try some cocaine for the pain. He jokingly replied that he was already on cocaine, and I think having seen him zooming all over the place, I believed him. It was just poor management, and a lack of staff, and they were doing what they could. Anyway, we were about to leave and the food came. Not the right order, but the right order was there fairly soon afterwards. We were debating if we shouldn’t just cut our losses and leave and just pay for the drinks. Anyway, we saw people coming up the stairs that we had given up on. Some were actually running up “and down” and “back up again” obviously being far too sporty for a Sunday Lunchtime. We saw a “pétasse Instagram” posing and being photographed by her mother. Obviously getting the Paris trip shot for her feed. Something I would never do… Maybe I should? Big dude being a “pétasse” and posing like a pretty, young, twenty-something. It could be style and a sociological view of beauty standards on the Internet. Or it could be bloody awful. Maybe not then.
We looked over the panorama of Paris, trying to identify the buildings we could see. I even saw a tower in Romainville near where I used to live when my wife and I lived in Paris, or rather just outside Paris, in those close suburbs you see on the news, but not for the good reasons. I do love living in the country. Sacré Coeur is an amazing church and crowns Montmartre like Our Lady, keeping an eye over Paris and the Parisians, making sure they do nothing too stupid. We wound our way through the narrow streets towards Place de Tertre, which had been overtaken by restaurant seating pushing the artists to the edges of the square. I kept my eye on Dom who was keeping his eye on Vanessa. It was mid-afternoon and after nearly 30K paces in the weekend; I was knackered, and those taxis were looking very appealing. We walked down to the bottom of the hill and saw a poor tourist being ripped off by the game of the three cards and you have to follow the Queen, etc. A good old-fashioned tourist scam. It was simple spotting each member of the team, and I felt sorry for the poor guy.
We arrived on the boulevard, but the heat, fatigue, and knee had got the better of me. I’m not good at goodbyes. In fact, I would even say that I hate them. We hugged goodbye, and I descended into the abyss of the Paris metro, arriving parched at the hotel to fetch my bag. I must have looked awful as the guy went and got me some water. Maybe looking like a fat old guy has certain advantages to it? I took my bag and crossed the road to the Montparnasse train station. I could buy some food and water. Knowing exactly where I would go to eat and drink, English voices that reminded me of young English public school boys filtered through. It’s always strange hearing your own language in a foreign country, even though you might expect it in Paris.
I was headed to the platform when my train came up on the boards. My electronic ticket worked and allowed me through the gates. I boarded the train and sat at a table for four. The other seats were taken, but being in first class, people attempted to be quiet. The lady opposite me offered to take my bag for me and put it in the rack at the end of the carriage. I felt guilty because it was heavy, but she was very gracious about it. My headphones and tablet gave me that sense of privacy and I watched YouTube on the way home. In the group chat, I informed everyone that my train was on time and I wished them a pleasant trip home. Normally it was planned that my son was going to pick me up at the station in Nantes, but Virginie told me to get a ticket from Nantes to Montaigu, which I did at Montparnasse and told me she would pick me up at the station in Montaigu.
Once home, I just got naked and went to bed, in a very non-sexy way. I just wanted to get to sleep as soon as possible. Work would start at 5am the next morning. Not the easiest of things. It was a wonderful weekend, and I was so happy to have met up with friends from home and Sergio from Nantes. It was like having a bit of home coming to see me and was just what the doctor had ordered. With all the various Facebook posts and reels, and I suppose this article, we have dragged that weekend out to nearly three weeks. So Happy Birthday Vanessa. Welcome to the 50-year-old club. It would appear that it happens to the very best of us.