Woke up feeling like someone had pumped my stomach full of rich food and booze and used my lungs to smoke twenty cigarettes. There was a clear reason for this. It was our third and final day in Paris and exactly that had happened.
Unfortunately, it was time to check out and walk to the only thing I’d booked in for the pair of us to do, at the ungodly hour of 09:45 on a Sunday – the Paris Catacombs. Somehow, in my various trips to the city, I had never visited, and neither had E so it fit our little Venn diagram of things we both wanted to do and hadn’t done.
Descending, I was alarmed by how low the carved tunnel ceilings sat, keeping a hat on to soften the blows to my clumsy skull. It truly is an eerie and incredible experience, feeding into the fascination I have with death and our relationship to it. It’s hard to know how to arrange ones features to reflect that these are people, that they lived lives and had likely suffered on their way out. That was until E told me she had “the headbone is connected to the neckbone” as an earworm. Meanwhile, a version of The Killers’ Bones played on a loop in my head.
On the way out, we checked the gift shop out (and it was one of the best) before getting a late breakfast of croque monsieur, while trying to work out what to do with our day. Three is enough days for a city break. I’d stay a lifetime in Paris but that experience would obviously look very different. We found another food market and Arènes de Lutèce where we sat and watched people playing boule. Sat with another flat white, it was the perfect spot to see enough of the city that I could imagine us being filmed from behind, on a bench, like characters in a Woody Allen film, without the weight that is obviously carried by any such observation.
Knowing we had to get to le Gare du Nord on time, I was anxious we had a direct line on Le Metro, which meant riding out the afternoon with a couple of cocktails. We returned to Montparnasse for a vodka martini and a margarita respectively, along with the foolhardy purchase of another pack of cigarettes. We stayed there until we were drunk enough for dinner and went inside. The service was great and again, we had timed it to avoid the busy period in the late afternoon when the French eat. We split a dozen oysters and a dozen escargot, which were both excellent. I could get used to this life of wine, woman and song. I then had the steak I had been waiting on since we arrived and E had moules. It felt opulent and right for us to finish up our trip in this way. By the time we had finished that and another bottle of wine, I was pissed, but we had enough time to make our train, and finish up the trip with another couple of rounds of drinks.
Hemingway famously said that Paris was a moveable feast. I certainly hope that’s the case.
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