Thursday 27th June
Woke up to a text from Dad explaining the Tower strikes: seven hours of failed talks on Monday led to the first strike since 2010, with a deal being reached last night – meaning better pay, a date for necessary improvements to be made and profit sharing. Pleased for them; the Tower will still be there next time, and hopefully the workers will be happier.
Showered, breakfasted and packed. No bus rides today because our drivers needed to rest ahead of the journey back overnight this evening. We took the Metro instead, leaving the hotel to the roaring rattle of suitcases on tarmac and the splash of wheels through puddles. It had rained over breakfast but the sun shone as we left. We have been lucky with the weather.
I wrote on the Metro. I am briefly reminded of Madrid, but the trains here are darker, louder and less stressful. No buskers stroll through the carriages, and there are staff members with us here. The stations light up on the map on the wall; the one we are approaching flashes and then goes out when we reach it.
Miss A started a conversation; I talked to her about Summer OneHundred. We change trains, and eventually arrive at the station for the Sacre Coeur, swiftly making our way up to the top. More stairs.
Caught sight of an African instrument I didn’t know the name of.
On the next balcony, a harpist was playing – a Celtic harp like mine. Was a little captivated; wanted to play.
Entered the building; we had to cover our shoulders as we walked around. It is stunning but I felt a bit indifferent.
Amy and I headed back down to shop. Bought bits and pieces for family, as well as some things for ourselves. We found an amazing chocolate shop which had a replica of Notre Dame, a saxophone and a giant pirate ship, all made entirely out of chocolate.
Tried tasters; bought cookies and macaroons and had brioche taken from breakfast for lunch.
Finally we found a street which lacked tat-shops and purchased some perfume; Amy bought a gorgeous dress. Spotted one of the street pianos that are all over the city and played a little.
We headed back up the hill and found Eleanor sitting on the grass above the town. As we made our way up, some guys grabbed our wrists trying to sell us bracelets – other members of our group had some men try to take their jewellery; others watched scam artists rip off tourists.
Stood and marvelled at the performer on one of the balconies of the Sacre Coeur for a long time.
Went back to the Metro – we were so tired by this point (the last few days had caught up on us with the knowledge that it was our final day) but we headed for the Musée d’Orsay. Amy and I stuck together again. Saw fabulously famous and wonderful Van Goghs, Gaugins, Seurats and Degas; others stuck out for me but the names escape me now. We went upstairs to see the Impressionist galleries – stood in front some incredible works by Monet that I hadn’t expected to see, and felt empty and numb.
Said that I was tired – we made our way back down to the café for a welcomed cup of coffee (if you’re ever in the Musée d’Orsay, I highly recommend the café crema). Sat outside with Georgia, Sophie and Rowena, watching a busker set up. Took a group photo in front of the statues outside the d’Orsay, and then started walking to our restaurant, detouring to one of the padlock bridges.
the Seine from love-lock bridge
this one was rather sweet
Ate our last meal on French soil – by far the best food we ate all week, and the evening was highlighted by Rowena receiving a second salad starter when she told the waiter she was vegetarian, even though she’d eaten all of the first one except the paté. Wondered how much I would continue speaking to these people once we returned to school. A card for our bus drivers was passed around; we all wrote in little messages quoting some of the best things they’d said over the week, and our teachers had gone out and bought them both berets as a thank you.
Settled down on the bus and started to make our way out of Paris after refueling.
455€ on fuel…
Watched The Devil Wears Prada. Didn’t sleep, and sighed as we sped away from the city, down the roads which had been so congested on Sunday (what took us two hours to drive on our first day took ten minutes on the return journey). Lost myself in music, and the sunset over France.