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Holiday Nostalgia - Paris as a teenager

Friday 29 June 2012
On the ferry - the classiest route to Paris
I've been getting very nostalgic recently. Partly because some friends are getting married, other friends are having babies... and I'm trying desperately to cling to the strands of our youth. I want to drag them all, kicking and screaming, back to the times of sleepovers, cinema trips and awesome school holidays.

As part of my Mrs Havisham style reminiscing, thoughts of my first time in Paris keep popping up.
We went as part of our fast track French class (though we could barely speak the language) and we were beside ourselves with excitement. After a childhood spent in mobile homes and tents (while on holiday, not in everyday life) I was going to stay in a hotel!

When I was back home for a few nights recently, I found my photo collage from the trip, and I thought there's no better time for a bit of nostalgic blogging. Especially now I have such an awesome picture to hold up the post. That's me, third from the left.

I think we were 15 on this trip. Maybe a couple of us were 16. And we were looking FINE. In our combat trousers, fleeces and stylish ponytails, we were ready to take on the most romantic city in the world.

We took the ferry, and a coach, which was the style in my school. I think even when a school trip when to Ghana, they took a ferry and a coach.

When we arrived in Paris, it was late. The coach pulled up along wonderfully exciting sights, such as the Moulin Rouge. The Moulin Rouge! We gasped at the glamour. We then gasped for other reasons. It turns out the dizzying musical had kind of glossed over what a hole it is around there. Maybe it wasn't back in the day... but it sure is now. Hookers a lot less charismatic than Nicole Kidman strolled the streets, dealers perched on every corner and there was no sign whatsoever of Ewan McGregor.

We weren't exactly a street wise bunch, and it shut us all up pretty quickly.

Actually, a few nights later our bus driver went out for a night time stroll (funny how we didn't question that at all) and was beaten up.

Once we stopped at the hotel, things looked up ever so slightly. It's killing me that I can't remember the name of the place we stayed. I'm pretty sure it was the Hotel Montmartre, but that's not showing up anywhere, probably because the name is also a search term. It's tricky to find again, but I did a couple of years ago. If I do myself proud, I'll edit the entry with a link.

It was located down a side street, close to the Sacré Cœur. It was a little ropey (there was a distinctly bloodlike stain on our ceiling) but the most exciting thing was that we were actually overbooked, and two groups had to move down the street to a different building.

A completely different building! It would be like we were on our own separate holiday! I raced at the chance, and myself and three friends went, along with a group of three guys. Oh, and two teachers had to come as well, but they both went for their own nightly strolls, so it was of no bother to us.


We had such craic in that separate hotel. In the other one, where the bulk of the others were staying, the teacher stalked the halls all through the night to make sure everyone stayed in bed. In ours, no one gave a shit, and we spent the nights running from room to room, making friends with other school groups and generally getting giddy with the freedom.

One night, we locked ourselves out of the room, and I was nominated to go up to the teacher's room at 1am, in a fricking white vest top and micro-shorts, to break the news. It reads like the start of an awesome porno, doesn't it?

In reality, it was an opportunity for me to break out some world class lying. It turns out, you see, that the little boy staying in the opposite room had an asthma attack in the night (stolen from a lie I'd heard him tell his teachers earlier on) and had come out into the hallway to find help. We sprung, bleary eyed from our beds, in order to provide medical assistance. And, can you believe, after we saved the life of the wee boy, we couldn't get ourselves back in.

They still didn't really give a shit.

I'm struggling to remember anything actually Parisian from that trip. One night, we were given a choice. One teacher (who remains the best teacher I've ever had) was offering to take anyone who wanted to on a night time stroll up around the Sacré Cœur. Only myself and my friend Amy wanted to go, which still strikes me as insanity to this day. So the three of us went up, walked around and felt like almost-adults.

It was beautiful. The lights from the city were laid out before us, people were spilling out onto pavement cafes and the domes of the Sacré Cœur were glowing. People tried to sell the teacher 'roses for his ladies'.

The other idiots were back at the hotel room, after buying a naggin of vodka which turned out to be water.

The only other crystal clear memory also serves as one of my most shameful moments.

We were at the top of the Eiffel Tower. The aforementioned Best Teacher Ever had paid for us all to go up, out of his own pocket, after the school budget had been wrung dry. A lovely thing to do, no? Particularly when you consider that he was terrified of heights. Selfless.

And one little bitch had to ruin it all.

At the top of the tower, he clung to the edge of the building, not daring to inch out any further towards the barriers. The man was visibly scared. We were trying to coax him out further, so he could appreciate the view and conquer his fear. I decided that there was only one true way to vanquish a phobia. So as he took his first, meek little shuffle out towards the platform, I reached behind him and gave him an almighty shove.

As he tumbled towards the edge and staggered to a stop, he looked at me with what I can only describe as pure hatred. He somehow retained his composure, and didn't call me a little bitch, but I know it was just on the tip of his tongue.

I don't think I'd have kept myself together in the same way. I honestly still feel ashamed when I think back.

The fact that the city of Paris features so dimly in my memories shows you that if your job is to haul a group of teenagers off on a trip, the location really doesn't matter. The ungrateful brats aren't going to remember it anyway. So cart them off to some hole in the arse-end of nowhere. It really makes no difference.

Do you still think back to school trips? Did you go on one stand-out one as a teen? Share it in the comments!

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