So all that there is left for me to write is an update on my last days in the la Ville-Lumière. I will miss the regular blogging on my Parisian adventures, so I think there’ll be a few posts to come on things that I wanted to comment on throughout the year but never had the time to do so. Whilst Paris may now be a stretch of water away, I can always transport myself back through words.
In view of the miserable weather recently, I had been wondering whether the English rain clouds had followed me across the Channel. However, the French sun did say coucou before I left. In fact, the sudden canicule was a bit too much for the pasty English girl to handle! Living on the 7th floor of an apartment block was like living in a permanent sauna. I therefore got a lot of use out of my Pass Jeune and took refuge in museums with air con. For any students in Paris next summer, I would definitely recommend applying for a pass – the scheme offers free entry to or reductions for several museums, expos, sporting facilities and cultural activities in the capital. During my attempt to dodge the sweltering heat, I kept my brain on its toes with visits to an expo on Victor Hugo, the crypt of Notre Dame, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs, La Maison de Balzac and the Musée de la Vie Romantique. A nice little cultural and educational escapade to end the final chapter of a long adventure in such a rich and vibrant city.
I also made my way beyond the outskirts of Paris to spend an afternoon in the gardens and park at Versailles, as well as making the most of a pair of free Disneyland tickets with Guillaume. (A big thanks to my mum’s friend Ingrid for that!) Anyone who has had to put up with me at a theme park will know not only that I’m terrified of scary rides, but that, if you manage to get me on one, I am a screamer. But I braved Space Mountain yet again – wailing and screaming all the way. My (slight) apprehension when it comes to rides was not helped by the fact that we ended up stuck on one. I’d love to make it dramatic and say how we were left dangling upside down in the middle of a loop-de-loop, but luckily we were stuck on the horizontal. This did mean that we were the last to be evacuated, as there were actually people in the first situation… An experience nevertheless and we got given a queue jump for when the ride was back up and running.
As you may have guessed, the realisation of my rapidly diminishing time in Paris had spurred me on more than ever to ensure that every corner of the city had been explored. So to finish my Parisian adventure and in order to discover the city from all angles, I descended down into the eerie and mysterious depths of the Catacombes, an underground ossuary created at the end of the 18th century. This is something I’ve wanted to do all year, yet after turning up twice with visitors to find that it was closed for works, I was beginning to think that underground Paris would have to remain a mystery. Though I thought I’d give it one last try, got up early and braved the two hour queue in the blazing sun. Luckily, it was worth it – it’s definitely a fascinating visit for anyone wanted to see Paris insolite. I topped this off with a visit to the Montparnasse cemetery and a promenade around Parc André Citroën, which pretty much completed the very long list of things I wanted to do and see here. I can now say that I have seen all the faces of Paris – the pretty and the not so pretty…
My other main preoccupation during my last days was of course seeing friends and saying goodbyes. This was not before a reunion however, as Cristina couldn’t stay away from Paris for long and made a return visit. Caroline, Cristina and I decided to make the most of a hot summer evening and check out Paris Plages. This is exactly what the name suggests – sunbathing, eating ice cream and lazing about on the beach along the Seine. Every summer certain embankments are transformed with sand, deckchairs and palm trees so that the beach can be brought to those Parisians who are unable to get away. We then made our way out of Paris to the banlieue for a sleepover with popcorn and scary movies at Emma’s place. My last days in Paris would of course not have been complete without my final bad experience with the RER, which completely threw my plans up in the air and resulted in a journey from hell to Poissy. I did get there eventually – though be it slightly flustered, sweaty and red in the face. I managed to put the morning’s travel antics behind however and enjoyed an afternoon of home-cooked French cuisine and conversation. I knew this would probably one of my last French gourmand tastings for a while, so I savoured every bite.
Before I knew it, I was once again saying goodbye to Cristina – not for long though, as I am invited to Spain and she will be spending a term studying in London. We had what has become a traditional froyo before I accompanied Cristina to the bus departure point at Porte Maillot. I then spent the evening chilling around Canal St Martin with Caroline and one of her colleagues from L’Humanité (a left-wing newspaper). I just love how Parisian summer evenings along the stretch of the Seine. We ended up spending another evening along the Seine (myself, Caroline, Anastasia, Emma and Charles) after our plan for a night-time visit on the top of Notre Dame did not go quite to plan. Tant pis! The frozen-food themed diet continued the next day as I met up with Isa for ice cream. We’d unfortunately been seeing less and less of each other since term 2 at the Sorbonne together so it was really nice to see her one last time before leaving. I then finally had my first barbeque of the summer at a friend of Guillaume’s and my last home-cooked French meal in Poissy.
Back over the other side of the Périphérique, I had final evenings spent with the few survivors left in Paris (every one being Francophone but myself). I had a great evening with Yannick, Grégory and Caroline in the 13eme by the Seine at Batofar. The embankment here is lined with bars on board of boats and venues on land – a great place to hang out on a summer evening. Our evening was slightly dampened by an orage (storm) and ended up with us taking shelter in MacDo. I was touched to be presented with a leaving present at the end of the evening – a macaron recipe book. La Durée better watch out!
Caroline then said that I should start getting reacclimatised to the British way of life and suggested drinks in an English pub. This was dipping my toe back into what is very much a different culture and way of life. Funny how two countries which are so close can be ever so different. My family did not take the soft approach when it came to my re-acclimatisation however. They decided to do quite the opposite and make an entrance. Expecting just my dad, I was given the shock of life when my brother jumped out of the car boot. Et voilà, my first taste of les rosbifs.
Au revoir la France et bienvenue en Angleterre!