FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – A summer of LOuVrE
It’s been a little while since I updated you on what we in the Moriarty-Simmonds household have been up to, and so with the onset of the darker nights, I thought it about time to tell you about our summer.
It all started well enough. We managed to get to the end of the summer term, survive the AS exams and then started looking forward to our summer holiday. At this point, there was a slight problem … No summer holiday booked. So, in the typically democratic manner which befits most of the decisions made in our house, we had a board meeting.
The junior partner in our “firm” expressed a desire to spend the whole of the summer in Hampshire, a rural setting which had only one pull (Ahh – the joys of young love!). That decision was overruled in the most draconian of fashions on the basis that we should at least try and spend some time over the summer as a typical British family – doing typically British holiday things, which of cause is a very subjective viewpoint indeed.
The second in command expressed a desire to spend some time in the sand dunes of an area of the Netherlands called Zeeland. Now, I have to tell you that in our partnership, two of us have quite a dynamic view of how to spend the ideal holiday and it does not, unless push comes to shove, involve a combination of sand dunes and the North sea – with respect to any of my readers who may either live or frequent the area of the Netherlands of which I am talking!
Option three then came up for consideration – a week in Paris. The City of Love (satisfies junior partner) a little bit of water provided courtesy of the Seine for the second in command and lots of cultural and shopping stuff to appease the senior partner – and you don’t get a prize for guessing who that is.
I have to tell you that the junior and senior partner are not known for travelling light … Make-up for me (well I have to try and keep up with Paris chic) and an abundance of toiletries that would blow a hole in the ozone layer from a million miles for James. Steve has tried to strike a happy medium of taking just enough to last the holiday. But when he suggested recycling the unmentionables just to save space, I very firmly drew the line. So, we would take the car. Bundies, make-up and toiletries galore and everyone was happy. Our chauffeur however insisted that we find a hotel with on-site parking. Now that in itself was no easy task at the best of times. In Paris it is almost impossible, but our ever-trusted travel agent Allison was on hand to sort out the arrangements.
As an aside, you may remember I told you in a previous Blog that everyone should have a “Dai” – Well add to that everyone should also have an “Allison”. On that basis, if you have a “Dai” and an “Allison” you simply don’t need a David, Nick, Barrack or even a Tony. The problems of the whole world would be solved with just these two people.
However back to the summer, and all was not destined to go smoothly before our departure. The ongoing saga of the lovelorn teenager meant we relented and had a visitor from Hampshire to stay for a few days before we left. No problem really, but unfortunately, our upstairs bathroom decided to misbehave and spring a leak, very late in the evening, two days before we were due to leave for France. Well, actually it was more of a tsunami. It started with a drip, then a bigger drip, and when it became clear (ceiling bulging like a balloon) that there were more than a few spots of water lurking above the plasterboard, Steve decided to have a go at the ceiling with a broom handle. His theory, the water was better down than up. Sensible man (well he thought so – and who I am to burst his bubble!). After he had finished poking holes in the ceiling it looked like a very good impression of a dot-to-dot puzzle, and having satisfied ourselves that most of the water was down, we all trundled off to bed, safe in the knowledge that what would be would be – Que sera sera. Bad move!
After a restful night’s sleep, we resolved that an early morning would mean we could at least get a plumber to come and fix the leak and then we would sort everything out when we came back from holidays. However, as you have probably guessed, it wasn’t a plumber that was needed by the time we got up, but rather someone who would obligingly clear up after the ceiling collapsed. The area around the bay window looked like Bosnia and the rest of the room could well have passed for a Liberian war zone. Undeterred, our two love birds willingly cleared up the mess and made the room presentable – well at least as presentable as you can with what appears to be an inverted volcano in your ceiling.
A couple of phone calls, a nice plumber and a house secured from further water damage allowed us to look forward to our, now much deserved, break. Car packed, and off to go. A short stop at a service area on the M4 to handover one half of the Celtic love spoon; a chat with my friend Tom who has helped me rediscover my love of painting, with an introduction to the Mouth and Foot Painters Association; and then off to Folkestone. Now it goes without saying that we have never been known for making things easy, and the drive to Paris was no exception. The journey through France is one that we have made many times, and the auto routes are the most wonderful thing the French have ever invented, aside from croissants. However, why we decided to enter one of the busiest cities in Europe on the final day of the Tour De France is totally beyond me!! I was assured to know that Chief Officer of Police had our car details on file, together with the name, driving licence and passport number of our Chauffeur. I therefore felt safe in the knowledge that Chief Inspector Clouseau would undoubtedly ensure our safe passage through the throng of Bradley Wiggins fans that would be lining the Champs-Élysées.
However, one coffee too many at the service area, a distinct reluctance by our love birds to be surgically unwrapped from one another, and the switch to European time conspired to ensure that we were entering the “City of Love” when it was getting dark. Now I really don’t know what happened when Steve fitted the obligatory beam deflectors, but had the light from the headlamps been any dimmer, then our dash across the Place de la Concord would have been even more hairy than it was. Fortunately, even as our lives flashed before us in the Parisian dusk we were lucky enough not to encounter any ghostly images of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette on their way to the guillotine. And so, miraculously we arrived at the hotel without hiccup. Given therefore that all Bradley’s fans did not have the good courtesy to wait for my arrival, the next most pressing problem was finding somewhere to eat. Alas, Paris is not New York. It is fair to say that Paris is the city that sleeps – and most certainly on a Sunday! A charming restaurant a few doors down from the hotel did their best with the time honoured French snack of croque-monsieur, but I have to say it was a long way off what I had imagined our first Parisian meal to be. But when reminded that if I didn’t have to travel like Prince Charles and take my loo seat everywhere I went, not to mention enough unmentionables to keep the foreign legion satisfied, then we could have quite easily travelled by air, and arrived in time to have a decent meal … But c’est la vie!
Moving on. Joy of joys, the next morning saw us eating a proper breakfast. I looked on in wonder … cheeses, bread, pastries and all those naughty things that really are the nicest. Memories of the previous night’s croque-monsieur disappeared into a distant fuzzy haze. And with just the faintest hint of conscience before tackling the feast which awaited me, I consoled myself that if all else failed, Steve and I could take up where those two rotund ladies left off, and we could have our very own daytime television programme … the title? I saw it in all its jammy glory … “Two Fat Flids.” Conscience satisfied, I thoroughly enjoyed my buns, jam and everything else that my lovely French waiter could give me. That reminds me, why do I have such a thing about French men? … remember Jean Claude (o-la-la!).
But then, back to earth, the chauffeur had gone off to find the obligatory tourist guide and was determined to make the most of his Parisian experience. We would go in search of King Bradley’s throne. Well, actually, we would take a stroll up the Champs-Élysées.
The French seemed to have no sense of urgency about dismantling the seating and stands that had been erected for the final round of the Tour De France, and so a quiet amble up the widest road in Paris turned out to be the negotiating of an obstacle course that would have been a worthy sport in the London 2012 Paralympic games. Three quarters the way up, we stopped for a break. Do they have Pimms in Paris? Not being entirely sure of the reply that came from the waiter, I opted for the safe bet “cafe au lait, s’il vous plait”. We spent a leisurely hour watching another emerging Olympic sport. Tourist ten-pin bowling. We were reliably informed that the object of the game is to see how many tourists (European or Far Eastern – it doesn’t matter) Parisian drivers can knock down whilst they (said tourists) try to get the best photograph of the Arc de Triomphe, without being killed in the process. Needless to say, our intrepid junior partner decided to have a go, and came out unscathed, and with some jolly good photographs to add to our digital collection of holiday snaps.
Continuing our theme of love, we walked towards the river and left some padlocks on the bridge of love over the Seine, and had a trip up the Eiffel Tower (not all in the same day. Remember we were on holiday and not training for the marathon). We did however discover, that to eat lunch before being sent skywards in the Eiffel Tower elevators is not a good idea. But then, the colour of Steve’s complexion after this episode was nothing compared to the colour of his cheeks after an evening at the famous Lido floorshow.
Having decided we should introduce James to the delights of French nightlife, the Lido floor show seemed an ideal option. Tickets ordered, we got all dolled up and decided to walk to the show. After all, the Champs-Élysées hadn’t seemed that long a few days beforehand. However, when all togged up in attire rather more formal that chino shorts and a T shirt, I must confess James did suffer. Never mind the cool air conditioned auditorium would sort him out. Maybe I’m a bit old fashioned, but I had assumed that smart, or at the very least smart casual, would be the order of the day for such an evening. However, things appear to have changed since our last outing to a Parisian floor show 24 years ago when we were in Paris for our honeymoon. I have a feeling that the tourists who survived the Tourist ten pin bowling were quickly shunted over the road by their tour guide and into the Lido – It was a kind of a no-man’s land between Butlin’s in September and a Warner’s weekend (strictly for grown-ups).
The show started and then I noticed a rather puce looking face peering intently towards the stage. Having never subscribed to any more risqué satellite TV channel than UK TV Style, the sight of scantily clad dancers held a certain fascination to our chauffeur. I have to say James was coping really well, but when Steve expressed some confusion over the more masculine flat chested dancers, it was then I decided he needed more champagne!! It is so true … you can take the boy from the valleys, but you can’t take the valleys out of the boy! But please don’t worry, composure regained, we went on to enjoy a wonderful evening of entertainment which saw dozens of set changes, so many costume changes I lost count, and when a fully grown stallion appeared on stage I could do nothing other than marvel at its bowel and bladder control!
We visited the Notre Dame, but sadly as a place of worship, it had become nothing more than a tourist attraction. For those in the Cathedral who just wanted to spend a few minutes in quiet contemplation, it was almost impossible. The clicking of the cameras and the popping of flash lights was almost intrusive. I have to say, nothing at all like St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, where even though the throng of visitors was greater than at Notre Dame, there was just a more respectful air about how the tourists conducted themselves.
We did the Da Vinci thing and went to the Louvre, where we met the most fascinating man who very kindly guided us out of the museum when we became totally lost in the maze of corridors and exhibition rooms.
Have you ever come across a person who you find curious and rather odd at the same time? Well, this man had obviously worked in the museum for a very long time, and knew everything you would possibly want to know about the Louvre. But when he got us back to the exit, before we could thank him, he disappeared as quickly as he appeared. It was a bit like those films you see when ghostly images appear and fade away in the blink of an eye. Spooky yes, but we all agreed that with his grey wiry hair and chiseled features, he was most certainly a descendant of the French aristocracy.
Throughout the week, we did all the other usual things that you do when on holiday, like buying fridge magnets for an already over-magnetted fridge, and consuming far more rich food and drink than is good for you. But with the pending redecoration of our living room waiting for us on our return it was a few days of well deserved escapism.
Talking of insurances and redecoration, let me pose a question. How many people does it take to process a house insurance claim? The simple answer is more than one, and at this moment we’re up to five, and counting!! The only consolation is a change of decor now beckons for the room that we have nick-named Etna. My imagination is currently running wild. I have considered subtle shades of grey, with more vibrant accent colours, but then, why not be totally outrageous. How about a mural of a scantily clad woman, cavorting around on a fully grown stallion, whilst munching a generous portion of croque-monsieur at the top of the Eiffel Tower?
Now that really would be a talking point for the neighbours, but would the accent colour on Steve’s face together with the need for a generous supply of blood pressure tablets create the desired result? Maybe not, but you have to agree, its good fun even just thinking about it!
So it’s back to the wallpaper catalogue of this seasons “must have” colours and textures to make the perfect ambience to recreate our summer of LOuVrE, Happy days.