Thursday 27th June day twenty-seven: 5.30pm – outside the Musée d’Orsay 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…

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Wednesday 26th June day twenty-six: 1.45pm – mesmerised by Raft of the Medusa Up before seven for breakfast again (the hotel wouldn’t let us have a lie-in today) but went straight back to bed afterwards as we weren’t leaving until ten. Woke up to a wonderful text from Dad regarding where we were visiting today: The Louvre. Where begin? Winged Victory of Samothrace, set wonderfully at top of staircase designed for it. Gericault’s sombre Raft of Medusa, a condemnation of how ruling class abandon the poor. Spot sail they wave at. Note black people on raft. See splashes of red in the gloom. Vermeer’s The Astronomer. The Rembrandts. The Mesopotamian Seals and Stele (engraved columns), Bosch’s Ship of Fools ie us and our society, and the Mona Lisa if you can get close. It is a robbers’ cave and a treasure chest. Wander and be amazed. Shower. Bus. Was a bit disorientated having gone back to sleep and didn’t talk much – instead, I watched. Our bus drivers handed out macaroons on the way to the Louvre. Street workers de-weeded beneath the plane trees. A girl stretched by the park fence after running. Posters for classical concerts were plastered over the walls: Vivaldi and Mozart, Rachmaninov and Rossini. An old man in a wheelchair played an accordion by the side of the road; I was a little sad and confused following some news I heard yesterday, but the sight of him brought a smile to my lips. Blue skies. Don’t waste it. Sirens – a police boat glided down the river and an undercover care blared past; there are even police buses here. This is a loud city. One shop had dressed all of its window mannequins in the same outfit – are they so popular that they don’t even need to showcase their stock? There were adverts for the Tour de France going up too. A piece of graffiti on a wall read ‘Your luxury is our misery’. This world is changing. We arrived at the Louvre and found our meeting point. Amy, Eleanor, Rosie, Alicia, Will and I decided to head into the museum, but were swiftly split up from each other. Amy and I had no idea where the others were, so decided to make our own way. She is an art student – primarily a portrait painter  so we decided to head for the paintings. We spent an hour or two in the Richelieu wing. I was reminded of excited days out to the national Gallery and the Tate with Dad, and talked about symbolism and intent to Amy, whilst she spoke of technique and brush strokes. As we ate lunch (which took a long time to find, but we both spoke a bit of French) I marvelled at the fact I’d never spoken to her four days previously. More paintings in the Denon wing. We spied the Mona Lisa but didn’t bother pushing through to get to the front, instead focusing our attention on the enormous work opposite…

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