It’s taken a little longer to get round to finishing this what with coursework marking and the final push for Tough Mudder but here, at last, is the final installment of my Paris trip.
I tried to get up for a run before breakfast again but, when I tried to get out of bed at around 7am my legs pretty much said ‘er no’. My feet felt crippled and I had little choice but to return to bed, reset the alarm for a little later and go back to sleep with the hope that, when I got up in a few hours time, I would be able to walk some. Although, worst case scenario, I could hang around the hotel until it was time to head off to Paris Nord, I’d saved Montmartre and Espace Dali til last, the latter being one of the main attractions of my stay.
Fortunately that extra couple of hours seemed to be exactly what my feet needed. Although they weren’t completely pain free, I could walk without too much discomfort. I showered, packed, went down to breakfast, returned to check my room and then took my suitcase and checked myself out of the hotel.
At the start of the trip I’d bought a carnet of tickets for the Metro and, as most of my sightseeing had been on foot, it meant I had tickets enough to go first to the Paris Opera house just to see it. Perhaps if my feet and legs were a little less ouchy I might have partaken in the tour but, as I really just wanted to see where the tragic story of the Phantom of the Opera was supposed to play out, I settled for a quick scoot round the outside and some photos. If the tour had taken in the underground lakes which had originally captured the imagination of Gaston Leroux then I may have been persuaded. Let’s be honest, if you’ve read the book it is the most intriguing part of the whole place, if you’ve seen the musical it’s all about THAT chandelier. Neither of these feature on the tour. Boo.
Back on the metro and off to Montmartre. I’d wisely left this to the last day as it was nearish to Paris Nord and seemed sensible to head there on my eventual way to the Eurostar. Not long after I arrived in Montmartre I realised the error of my thinking.
You see, Montmartre, the bit that houses Espace Dali and Sacre Couer, is at the top of a MASSIVE hill. To reach the bit I had expressly come to see I was going to have to climb several flights of stairs. When I realised this, at the foot of flight number 1, I looked for any alternative to the top. My choices were pretty much by winding street around and up and around and up or stairs. I felt a little like CL4P-TP in Borderlands 2 when faced by them (CL4P-TP stairs). Still it was just one flight of stairs right?
Around the next street corner was a second, longer flight. I stood opposite the bottom of the steps and casually flicked through my guidebook, hoping that nobody would notice I was really crying inside. I had come all this way, was so looking forward to basking in the surreal glory that is the work of Salvador Dali and I just couldn’t. Perhaps if I wasn’t toting my suitcase as well…
In the end I had little choice. I wanted to see Espace Dali, plus I had hours to kill before my train. Stairs it was. So I sucked it up, grabbed my suitcase and up I went. Halfway up I stopped, on the same landing as a guy who’d been coming down the opposite steps, also with case. We kind of nodded and gestured in a sort of shared, ‘so you stupidly came to the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower and brought a suitcase, me too’, kind of way. Before I could think about maybe giving up and spending the rest of my life on that tiny landing, I mustered up what little strength I had in my spaghetti arms, thought wistfully of Tough Mudder and how this would be pretty standard in terms of exertion there and continued up, hoping I would not find another staircase lurking around another street corner.
Instead I found a woman with a clip board blocking my way. As I tried, slowly, to dodge round her she waggled it at me demanding I sign. I laughed and muttered ‘seriously?’, gesturing at the case weighing down my arm. She responded by repeating her request. I just wanted to sit down and yet couldn’t go anywhere, as she was blocking my way. In the end I shouted at her, something along the lines of ‘are you fucking serious, MASSIVE suitcase, love?!?!’ I don’t know if she understood what I said but I can tell you she definitely understood the tone (as did everyone in the vicinity, all of whom took a big step back from the crazy angry English girl with suitcase) and wisely backed off.
Eventually I found my way to the gallery, ditched my case in the reception area and drifted downstairs into the wonderful, weird world of Salvador Dali.
Like the Pompidou, it wasn’t actually the museum I remembered, whether because they had done some serious renovations in the 20 years or so since I’d visited or because I was actually remembering another Dali museum in another country (this is highly possible, it seems most of my formative years were spent visiting art galleries, buildings of architectural significance and churches in various European cities) but this didn’t deter me in the slightest. Instead I immersed myself in the art.
First I went round and photographed EVERYTHING. Each painting and sculpture. Then I started again and inspected each piece of art, read every sign, watched both films that were playing on loop and lost myself completely. I have countless books on Dali at home, studied him as part of my A level Art, have been to Figueres and thought I knew everything about his methods and style, however, here were paintings unlike any of the ones I’d seen. They were luminous and disquieting, drawn from diverse influences ranging from Alice in Wonderland, through the Marquis De Sade to the Bible. At the centre of this is the famous Mae West lips sofa (a version of) and all around various examples of his mad sculptures.
Well worth the climb.
I’ll admit, after that I was pretty much done in. So much so that, after a sit down, coke and croque monsieur I decided to head in the direction of the metro via Moulin de la Galette. Which I did.
Fortunately the metro was downhill and in no time at all I was Paris Nord/Eurostar bound.
Two and a half days of walking Paris, seeing pretty much everything I had set out to see was an immense experience. Not only did I prove I could navigate a major city by myself, I also demonstrated levels of determination that reassured me I wasn’t totally mad in signing up for Tough Mudder. At times, looking back, it has seemed like a dream and writing it all down has helped cement the experience in my mind. Now I just need to decide if, next Easter, I return to Paris and explore my favorite parts at a more leisurely pace, or tackle another European city…
One thing’s for certain, I will do my best to make sure whatever choice I make doesn’t abuse my poor poor feet quite as much as this trip did!