Mike's Paris Diary
From the Colonel's Regiment
|Table of contents|
Friday, 17th May
Got an e-mail from Steve at 4.02p.m. It read:
Hi Mike, I am now in Cambridge... What time is David likely to get to your's? I'll probably go out for a couple of pints at 5ish with Glenn, Good etc, and then mozey on over at about 7.30ish? Will he be in if you've gone to Wolfson? I suppose I could always give him a ring on his mob to make sure. See you soon matey, Steve. PS—AMuthumala in Paris , A Muthumala in Paris, AMAL Muthumala in Paris... -------------------------------------------------------------------- Steve Arnold, School of the Environment, e: email@example.com University of Leeds, w: http://www.env.leeds.ac.uk/~sra/ Leeds, t: +44 (0)113 2331635 LS2 9JT. mob/sms: +447811353745 --------------------------------------------------------------------
I didn't understand why he included that bit at the bottom. Just showing off I suppose. I mean, I know who he is, and where he works.
Little did we know at this moment how that PS would become a watch-word for the Paris experience.
That evening, I had to go to the AGM of my band, as I was returning officer at the election for the new committee. I did the business of explaining the voting system, which no-one understood, let everyone vote, then made my way over to the bar to meet Steve and David—two Colonel's men in the making.
David and Steve had been musing on the possible Cabinet discussion of the John Prescott egg incident. They thought it went something like this:
Tony: Right, We need to deal with the possible problem of John punching someone. What are going to say to the public?
Gordon: John is a fat thug?
Tony: No. True, but we can't say that.
Robin: John is New Labour?
Tony: No, they'll never buy that.
Mo: John is... a skilled orator and a fine debater?
Tony: No, that's just not true.
Gordon: Well, what is John?
Tony: John is, John is...
Robin: John is, John is...
Tony: John is John. Like, it, like it.
Some weeks later...
Gordon: Got a bit of a problem, Tony. John's punched someone. We're going to have to use the John is John speech.
Good musings from David and Steve.
We waited around for a while in the bar to announce the election results, then headed back to my house to meet Dave Linton, the fourth intrepid adventurer to join our group. It was now around midnight. We watched the French Alan Partridge episode to get us in the mood, and by the time we'd got everything sorted and were ready for bed, it was knocking on for 2a.m. We were getting the 7.15a.m. train for King's Cross, and Dave decided he didn't want to go to sleep, so he decided to walk around town for the rest of the night. He duly left our house and the rest of us went to bed.
Saturday, 18th May
I woke up at about six o'clock in the morning. Went back to sleep, but Steve roused me about half an hour later. Dave Linton was still at large. Myself, David and Steve had some very lazy breakfast—we were all knackered and therefore in bad moods. Each of us hoped that neither of the others spoke, since we weren't in the mood to respond.
At 6.55a.m., I got up from my chair, walked into the hallway, and said, "I will put my coat on" in a comedy French accent. Steve and David burst into hysterics for the next five minutes. David pointed out that we were benefitting from the well known phenomenon that everything is funny when you're absolutely knackered. This caused more hysteria.
We left the house and made it over to the station in time for our train. Dave Linton was waiting at the station, having been wandering around in town all night. He looked shattered.
The train from Cambridge got us into London King's Cross at approximately 8.15a.m.
Early on in the journey, I threw my book at David. He did a mock punch and we had a brawl, only to be pulled apart by Dave Linton and Steve. The first John Prescott recreation was born. Many more were done before we got to Paris.
(NOTE: for those that are unaware, during the May 2001 general election campaign, John Prescott had an egg thrown at his head by a crowd member in Wales. Dear John swung a left hook at the man, and a brawl took place. The two of them were eventually pulled apart by security guards.)
We met Poop at King's Cross, and then went straight for the Underground to Waterloo. Spirits were high, and many an Alan application was used.
At Waterloo, we went straight through the check-in area, and partook of some coffee (white chocolate drink for David and I, and orange juice for Steve), and chocolate bread in a cafe, before the 9.24a.m. to Paris departed. We wandered round the book store and I bought "Temple", a Matthew Reilly classic. Rupert was reading "Bridget Jones' Diary", which Steve pointed out was a woman's book.
Boarding commenced, and we were pleased to get away from the crazy brass quartet that was playing in the departure lounge. We headed for an almost empty Eurostar, and a return ticket to Paris.
The journey began quietly, before we began to get in the mood for Paris by translating Alan Partridge episodes into French. This took much of the journey. David and I also sang a rendition of "Shall We Dance", the classic from the musical, "The King and I". However, we sang it to the words "C'est le Poop. C'est le Poop, c'est le Poopy, c'est le Poop!" Rupert was not impressed, but it was the first of so much banter that he would have to endure during the weekend.
We arrived at Paris Gard du Nord at 13.23 local time. Christopher Murrills, or, as he will be called hence, Christophe Moules, was not waiting for us on the platform. There was much rejoicing when we realised we would have to make our way to the hotel ourselves.
We made our way to the RER. Moules had previously pointed out that, "All the trains for St Remy have codes starting with P (PERA, PYRE, PUMA, PJOR, PTAC, PEPE etc. God knows what the rest of the code means!)" Useful information from Christophe Moules. David observed that we could therefore theoretically end up on a train called POOP. We were excited, but our train to St Remy did not bear that name.
During the journey, we passed many stations, the most exciting of which was Massy-Palasieu, a veritable beast, though there was also one called Massy-Vereilles, and annother with Palasieu/Vereilles in the title, I forget. Our designated drop off point was Le Guichet, or "the ticket office", for those budding linguists amongst you. It proved to be a very exciting station with an underpass, which we duly went through.
However, this was only after our first sight of Moules on the platform. There was much rejoicing. David immediately said, "Ice white shoes, ice white socks! It's a look that says, I'm in Paris and no-one's going to stop me!". We were pleased to see Chrisophe Moules, though our excitement was short-lived as he informed us that he would be heading back to work imminently. He had merely arrived to escort us to the hotel. Across the road, up the hill and round the corner, lay our home for the next three nights, the Hotel d'Orsy. It was a very quaint establishment done out in the design of a French hotel, which was quite convenient. Chris checked us in, speaking in fluent French with an English accent. The lift had a capacity of three people with luggage. Steve, David and I got in, leaving the others to climb the stairs to their rooms.
We all piled into room 303, dumped luggage and then decided to select room buddies. This was done by a random draw. Rupert chose room 308. David selected a bit of paper, which also had "308" written on it. Dave Linton chose 302. Steve received 303, leaving myself to pick 303 and Amal to be dumped into 302 with Dave upon arrival. Room buddies dispersed whilst Steve and I unpacked. We perused the television and watched the French version of "Big Brother", entitled "Loft Story". It was dull.
Half an hour later (about 3.00p.m.), we left our rooms to return to the centre of Paris (shortly after Steve and I had realised how much bigger Rupert and David's room was than our's, much to our disgust). Chris departed, promising to meet us at Notre Dame for tea. Dave was now group leader, and he took us on an intrepid adventure to a pleasant cafe in the centre of Paris. Steve and David were, by this time, very hungry, and had been eying up some tasty arms on the train on the way in, so they were much relieved when we sat outside and ordered croque monsieurs all round. We spoke in French, except for Rupert, who was too shy. The food arrived and we discovered that French toasted cheese was tasteless.
After paying for the food and Oranginas, we headed to the Seine, and walked along to the Louvre. Steve and I commented on the lack of line penetrations thus far in Paris.
At the Louvre, I took an arty photo, whilst we all engaged in many John Prescott recreations. We walked round the outside of the Pyramid, across to the fake Arc de Triomphe, through a nice park, to Paris' version of the Millenium Eye. Their's is much smaller and rubbish. It's at the bottom of the Champs Elysees and next to Paris' version of Cleopatra's needle. Their's is much smaller and rubbish. We looked with longing at the real Arc de Triomphe, but decided it was too far to walk that day, so we crossed the river, and walked down the other side, back towards Notre Dame. Dave Linton acted as tour guide throughout, and kept on telling us how much of the Eiffel Tower was visible and how much was obscurred by foliage.
I was (as usual) desperate for the toilet, but we discovered that Paris was not very good at catering for the desperate traveller on a budget. I eventually decided I was willing to spend a franc to go to the toilet, and we found a Paris portaloo, which entitled you to two minutes inside for the princely aforementioned sum. It was out of order. I kicked it in disgust and returned to the others, with David in toe.
We continued in the same way to Notre Dame, where I eventually did find a toilet. What relief.
We waited for Moules. Some roller-bladers in orange shirts went by. One of them looked like Moules, but we discovered it wasn't. At 7.30p.m. precisely, Moules appeared around the corner, carrying a big umbrella. We walked past Notre Dame and down a side street, to a restaurant called "Les Ancestoirs des Galois". Chris asked for a table in French with an English accent. We were shown to a big table downstairs.
Chris went upstairs with a big earthenware jug to partake of the free red wine that came with the meal. A waiter dumped a big basket of grass on our table, which turned out to be our first course. Upon closer inspection, we discovered it was crudites. I kept trying to persuade Steve to eat one of the massive onions or lemons that was in the basket. The waiter deposited some eggs down on top, breaking half of them. Fortunately, they were hard-boiled.
Course two was charcuterie, or big sausages, as I like to refer to it. David (seated opposite me) and I went upstairs to get some big sausages. Rupert, seated to my left, remained seated and drank his wine. Steve was opposite Rupert, and therefore able to monitor the progress of Rupert's drunkenness as the evening progressed. To complete the set up, Dave was on my right and Chris was opposite him.
Courses three and four arrived simultaneously, much to our surprise. We then discovered that course three was meat and course four was vegetables, or maybe it was the other way round. It was then that we discovered the cheap trick of claiming the meal was 7 courses, yet counting each individual sprout as a separate course. Chris thought this was perfectly reasonable behaviour.
As we were eating our main course, the table behind David became occupied with fifteen French youths. We observed that they were out on a stag night, due to the constant singing of the same song. The words, as far as we could make out, appeared to be, "Laaaa, la laaaa, laaaa, la laaaa, la laaaa, la, laaa, la la laaa, laaa, laaa." I declared it a triumph.
David threw something at Dave and managed the first John Prescott recreation in a French restaurant. The waiter then arrived with course five—cheese. We helped ourselves to some hefty portions, especially Chris, who had forgotton he'd already consumed four courses (even if one course was simply vegetables). When our desserts arrived (chocolate mousse or creme brulee), Chris declared that he didn't know what had happened to the fruit course. We let it pass.
At this point, one of the French youths approached our table and asked us if we were English. He then said that he wanted us to pay him a pound each for his friend to take his shirt off. Steve replied with, "Je parllle Scouse, seurllement", and the Frenchman walked away.
Rupert was, by now, very wasted, and we gave him more red wine to drink before we paid up and left. We walked alongside Notre Dame. Steve had also drunk more than his fare, and spied a railing. He declared that he could hurdle it, and set off towards it. Just before he got there, realisation dawned that he wasn't going to make it, but it was too late. He leapt, only to catch his foot on top, and he blundered down into the fenced off area. He bounced back to his feet and climbed over the railing again. Rupert also set off, but we talked him out of jumping.
At Notre Dame again, we discovered a place called Le Brasserie St Regis, which was a very amusing concept.
It was a pleasant evening, so we decided to walk to Gard du Nord to meet Amal off the train. However, it was the first of our blunders. Never again will we listen to Chris say, "it's not that far!" David was the first to get disgruntled, but we eventually arrived, and sat down outside a bar full of Leicester Tigers supporters (they were playing in the final of the Heineken Cup in Paris the next day). Whilst Steve and Chris were buying drinks for everyone, a waiter came out to take our order. Dave spoke very quietly in broken French and communicated that we had friends inside. The man left. Steve returned and declared he was disgusted with the prices, so took the glass. A fair exchange.
After our stop, Rupert was more drunk, and began hugging people on the way to meet Amal. It was about midnight, and we waited on the platform at Gard du Nord. Dave picked up his copy of the Rough Guide to Paris, and wrote "A Muthumala in Paris" on the inside of the front cover. He then held it up and, as people came off the train, he went up to them randomly and asked if they were Amal Muthumala. Amal arrived moments later, having eluded Dave on the platform. Rupert hugged him.
We waited for a train at the underground, whilst Rupert declared that he loved David and hugged him. At this point, we noticed that French underground trains run on tyres. This caused much hilarity. We bought a chocolate bar from a vending machine called Mr Tom (it was simply a cereal bar). This also caused much hilarity. It was a good half hour journey all the way back to the Hotel d'Orsay, but when we arrived back there, we duly collapsed, getting ourselves ready for day two.
Saturday, 19th May
I woke up before Arnold. He was still asleep. It was about 8.30a.m., and Moules had arranged to meet us at the hotel for breakfast. I staggered out of bed and partook of a shower in a very claustrophobic cubicle, which was easy to slip over in.
Fully refreshed, I made my way down to breakfast to meet the others. Breakfast was in the basement, and it was a buffet sort of affair. David and I helped ourselves to some hot chocolate and a couple of croissants. The rest of the boyz had to wait a good half hour for another basket of three croissants to turn up. Eventually, Dave Linton materialised in bare feet and sat down.
By ten o'clock, we'd successfully consumed our breakfast and decided to head off to the Eiffel Tower. Rupert was a little the worse for wear, and was in danger of descending into a Poop, so we tried to keep his spirits up by singing another rendition of "C'est le Poop".
Once the remainder of the men had showered, we made for Le Guichet and went all the way up North to the Eiffel Tower. On the RER, Dave commented on the possibility of a pink rabbit getting his hand stuck in the doors on the train. It seemed to be a common phenomenon.
We arrived at the Tour Eiffel, and once again we'd been beaten by the Leicester Tigers gang. We positioned ourselves for a photograph, before checking out the deal with climbing up. After much debate, we decided to climb the Eiffel Tower. I did the bargaining for myself and David and, with Moules in toe, we led the way to the first level.
Wandered round the first level for a while. Got bored. Walked up to the second level. Here we discovered a fabulous machine where you could get a star named after you. Moules had a go. When he'd finished, Dave had a go. The machine took a photograph of you, so myself, Moules and David crammed into the shot. It was a classic. Amal amused himself looking at expensive gifts in the gift shop.
There was some debate as to whether to buy a drink, since David was thirsty. David pointed out that he could survive if there was minimal dicking around and we bought a drink upon returning to ground level. We thus descended back to the first level.
Moules and I were leading the way, and we went for a toilet stop on the first level. The others waited, or so we thought. When we came out, we could only find Dave, David and Steve. Amal and Rupert had disappeared. The rest of us spread out on the first level to find them. David expressed his opinion that they could have descended to the floor. Chris replied that this would be stupid behaviour, since we had quite clearly stopped off.
A few minutes later, David spotted two familiar looking dots emerging from the staircase at ground level. It was Amal and Rupert. We shouted down to them, and they looked up frantically, but couldn't see us. We decided to return to ground level.
At the ground, a woman came up to us with a bag and waved some water in our faces. I thanked her, until Steve pointed out that she was trying to sell it. He haggled, and we got a bottle of water each for ten francs. Seeing we were easy targets, a man walked up with a collection of mini Eiffel Towers on a chain. Dave said he didn't wish to purchase one since they were all attached together and therefore not much good.
We walked back towards the river, and another man approached us with an open case containing thimbles and cigarette lighters. Dave told him he had a nice collection and he should keep it up. He also commented to a postcard seller that his postcards were no good since they were all attached together and you wouldn't be able to send them to different people.
A few uneventful moments passed, before Dave challenged all of us to be the first one to see an embassy and to do an impression of someone who might work there. Everyone scanned the surroundings, and simultaneously clocked the South Korean Embassy. Appropriate impressions were done by all, except Steve, who had not been concentrating. Thoroughly distraught, he ran ahead, to clock the next embassy before anyone else. Upon arrival at the building, he turned around, ripped his coat off, placed it on his head, and made some gun-like gestures with his fingers, whilst making a funny noise. We were all very confused, until we clocked the Iranian Embassy, but then we were even more confused. David pointed out the video camera on the building that had filmed the entirety of Steve's performance. Steve thus obtained a fatwa on himself.
Many more embassys were passed, including the Oman one, which I did a comedy impression outside, and the Uruguayan Embassy, which I had to take a detour to discover. Soon, the Arc de Triomphe lay in front of us. We stopped on the Champs Elysees and recreated strolling pastel in the middle—firstly myself and Dave did it in opposite directions, then a combined David and Moules strolling pastel occurred. This was carried out with the cry, "The place, the Champs Elysees. The look, strolling pastel!" Once we'd satisfied our strolling pastel needs, we walked through the underpass to the Arc de Triomphe. We looked at some plaques. We sat down. Moules read a plaque with a woman and I took a photo. We commented on the names of all the people. It was nice.
David got hungry, so we left the tomb of the unknown soldier, having failed to find out who he was, though we didn't try too hard. Chris showed us La Defence, on departure. He suggested we went there, but David said it would be boring.
Back through the underpass and down the Champs Elysees a short way, we came across a sandwich shop and stopped for some food. We went upstairs to eat our food and Chris found someone's wallet. He returned it—nice man. Lunch was uneventful, except for the fact that we ate food. David and I had tuna sandwiches. Rupert didn't.
Lunch finished and, after a long walk, so did the Champs Elysees. We were back at Cleopatra's Needle and the Paris Eye. We possed for a pop band photograph in that area, and continued onwards. In the park, we stopped for a while to look at some French people attempting to fall in a little pond. Back at the fake Arc de Triomphe, we saw some mentalist standing on a stool dressed as an Egyptian. Steve dropped five centimes in her pot and she bowed. A waste of energy, we thought.
Back at the Louvre, we sat down. Rupert went on strike and refused to be in any more photos. Loopy Myra had their photo take at the Louvre. David came up with an alternative version of the John is John speech, which went, "Poop, c'est le Poop".
Being a hot day, we decided to go for coffee, so we left the Louvre and headed for some square or other. On route, Dave spotted a pigeon attempting to eat some bread. Dave decided it would be funny if he took the bread away from it, so he did. The pigeon followed him, and, as we crossed the road, he placed the bread on top of a set of traffic lights.
We walked into a brasserie and sat down. I ordered something. So did David. In fact, everyone ordered something, except possibly Dave. We had either coffee, tea, coke or orangina in some form. I went to the toilet and we discussed plans for the evening (not in the toilet). Chris wanted to go to Sacre Cour, but I wanted to go back to the hotel to get changed because I'd been sweating like a pig in the centre of Paris all day.
A debate took place, which I won. Steve and David also wished to get changed. The only disgruntled member of the group was Dave. He wished to wander round Paris until tea time. So he did.
We all paid up and left, walking to the nearest RER stop, which happened to be underneath this square populated by rollerbladers rollerblading round cups. Exciting stuff. Dave said goodbye, whilst the rest of us headed to the Hotel D'Orsy.
Nice ride home. I don't remember anything about it. Chris stayed on the train and went one stop further up. We all got off at Le Guichet.
Back in our room Steve and I got ready for a night out. We began to watch a French comedy, which we didn't understand, so we laughed in random places. Amal walked in halfway through, and was confused. Amal pointed out that Dave liked to sleep with the window open, and he found that frustrating, cos he got cold.
Once we were all ready, we walked outside the hotel to meet Moules. He was late, so we watched some French girl attempt to back her car out of the hotel. Moules turned up and we rushed into the centre, making for Gard du Nord, our rendez-vous venue with Linton. When we arrived, Linton was leaning against a wall reading the Guide Approximant de Paris. Steve, David and I were chatting excitedly about our prospective meal. At this point, Moules declared that he was intending for us to walk to Sacre Cour before getting some food. We decided this was okay, provided we went to see the high-kicking ladies afterwards. Chris explained to us that it was not that far from Gard du Nord, so we set off walking.
After fifteen minutes, we were beginning to get a bit perturbed, as Moules had taken us into a pretty dodgy area, and he seemed unsure of where he was going. Steve and David began to talk about turning back, and made a pact such that if one collapsed of exhaustion, the other could satisfy his hunger by eating him.
Ten minutes later, I too was beginning to get disgruntled, as Moules was forcing us to carry on walking. Amal nearly got sexually assaulted by five men, but he was disappointed when they let him be. Eventually (and I mean eventually) we arrived at the bottom of the Sacre Cour steps. Steve was in a very bad mood, and refused to walk through the gate. We eventually managed to get him through, but he then refused to climb to the top. David also refused, so the remaining five of us climbed to the top and stood at the front of Sacre Cour to watch the sun go down. I thought it was very beautiful, but was it worth the trek and semi-mutiny?
At the bottom again, we reunited, and Steve, David and I possed for a "disgruntled boyz at Sacre Cour" photo. Once we'd done this, we decided to go for food. Chris found a really shabby, disgusting looking restaurant in Montmartre, but he spotted that they were doing food, so wanted to go in. Steve put his foot down, as did David, as did I. We said we wanted a civilised restaurant where we had a better than 50% chance of surviving the meal, so we headed back to Notre Dame, crossed the river and found a very nice looking restaurant down a side street. It served lots of fish and we sat at the back. Steve was sat opposite me, and commented that the picture on the place mats was a picture he had in his room. David, sat to his left, repeated this over and over to Rupert (seated to Steve's right) during the course of the meal. Amal was seated to my left, and he decided to order some fish. Moules was sat on Amal's left, and he ordered moules. There were lots of set menu options. Needless to say, Chris and Dave (opposite Chris) ordered the most expensive menu, whilst the rest of us didn't. It was a pleasant meal, and there was many an application. Steve and I reminisced about the French comedy show we'd been watching earlier. Amal replied with, "Yes, you two were laughing your tits off and I didn't know what was going on!" David, meanwhile, was happy, as he was eating food (even if he'd accidentally ordered a medium steak) and he'd recovered from the dicking around that had been going on earlier. We discussed what to do the following day, and decided to go to Versailles before Amal had to leave (he was catching a Eurostar in the evening). Just for the record, our set menu was soup, steak for main course and ice cream for dessert. I've no idea what the expensive trouts had for their set menus, other than the fact that Moules had moules.
After dinner, we walked along the Seine to some steps, and we recreated Alan's version of Imperial Leather, by walking up the steps and leaning, super cool, onto the side, with Notre Dame in the background. Rupert thought Steve, David and I were being childish. We didn't. We then strolled along the river some more, past several couples romantically entwined. Amal commented on all of the lovers walking along the Seine, not to mention the French couples we kept passing.
On the way home, we stopped at a vending machine and bought a chocolate bar entitled Nuts. It was the same as a Topic. We were disappointed. Back at Le Guichet, Chris departed home, whilst the rest of us walked up the hill to the Hotel d'Orsy. Steve became official translator in the absence of Moules. We had to press the buzzer to get them to let us in.
Once the others had been dispatched to their rooms, Steve and I had some chat which gradually got more and more incoherent as we drifted off to sleep.
End of day two.
Sunday, 20th May
Just like the previous day, I woke up. This puzzled me, especially when I realised I was in Paris. Moules had promised to meet us for breakfast before we left for Versailles, so I roused Steve and we staggered down to breakfast for the second day running. We sat in different places this time, though David and I were still first ones to the croissants. Rupert made the mistake of selecting other breakfast options as well, thus decreasing his opportunity to eat croissants. Moules was on time, and he got his fair share of breakfast. Dave was the last one down again, so no surprise there.
During breakfast, David pointed out that "Sunday, bloody Sunday" really summed up the frustration of a Sunday morning.
Once breakfast had been concluded, Chris declared he needed to return to the lab to set some experiment up. I said I wasn't intending to accompany him, as I was duty bound to make a toilet stop before we left. With that in mind, everyone except myself and Steve accompanied Chris to the lab. I took care of business, before we returned to ground level to wait for the others. Shortly, they arrived, with a little cup which apparently had contained liquid nitrogen. They had amused themselves by pulverising leaves on the way to meet us. Steve and I thought it was a triumph for the human spirit. We walked to Le Guichet. We caught a train and got off at Massy Palaiseau to change for a train to Versailles.
Massy Palaiseau is, as the name suggests, massy. In fact, it's so massy it is made up of lots of huge platforms and little bits where you store trains and underpasses and overpasses and it's even got a village (Palaiseau??) tacked onto it.
As we walked to our new platform, Moules pointed out that we would only have to wait a few minutes for our connecting service.
When we arrived at our new platform, I pointed out that we would have to wait for over an hour for our new service. Moules couldn't believe it. The disgruntled boyz could.
Since we had nothing to do, we decided to take a walk across the road to the bakery. I stopped off briefly with Amal to buy some chocolates for Tom and Anne-Marie in another shop. We then arrived at the bakery. I asked Moules to get me whatever he was having. He said he was having an apricot slice, so I asked David to get me whatever he was having instead. Between us, we selected a portion of cake which was entitled simply, "Pudding". The simplicity of the cake was intriguing. It was brown and chocolatey and tasted just like a form of pudding. Pretty good name, I thought. Rupert had just bought a diet Coke, but he shortly discovered that he'd quite like some Pudding too, so he returned to the shop to make the purchase.
After we'd spent some time commenting on the double decker trains that frequented the area, our train arrived and we headed off to Versailles.
Upon arrival at the station, Chris dicked around for a good half hour trying to find out when we could catch a train back so that Amal could make his Eurostar. He didn't find out, and was advised to go to the other station.
We eventually hit the streets and began walking. I'd drunk too much coffee and was again desperate to relieve myself. Just before arriving at the front of Versailles, Moules, Rupert and Amal decided to go to Versailles' second station to check out train times for the return leg of the journey once again. Steve was somewhat annoyed, David was, frankly, disgruntled, whilst I was merely desperate to relieve myself. Dave spent time watch the kids riding different kinds of bikes behind us in some kind of fenced off area, where you could also rollerblade or go in little go-kart things.
Eventually Rupert and co returned with train times, and we walked to Versailles. Inside, there was some debate as to what we wanted to see. We decided to go on the hall of Mirrors tour, since that was our preferred choice. I found a toilet, but had to pay for the privilege—bloody French. We walked through a metal detector to enter Versailles, and had to leave any bags we were carrying with some nice security guard people. Chris queued for tickets and paid with his own money, as he had been doing at almost every opportunity so far on the trip—some of the guys still owe him money (but not me!).
We began to walk through Versailles, past lots of French people who couldn't get their headsets to work. We were without headsets (or sans headsets, if you want the French translation), so we made our speedy way up the stairs to a room with a nice and expensive roof. Rupert found some girl giving away guide leaflets. She was English and Rupert found her quite attractive, but he was too shy to get a leaflet.
We walked on, through some room with a throne in it. It was probably the throne room. Chris, David and I were in the lead, and we decided to try an experiment. On arrival in the next doorway, we all stood in it, blocking off the flow of people. We decided to wait until shear weight of people behind us pushed us through the doorway. This happened about thirty seconds later, much to our disappointment.
At the end of the building, we turned left and were confronted with the Hall of Mirrors. There was a photo opportunity for the Vegas boyz in the hall of mirrors, whilst the others had a much needed rest. The hall of Mirrors was okay, but disappointing. Some of us had seen the real one in Las Vegas six months earlier, and thought it was better.
At the end of the hall of mirrors, we turned left again and eventually walked into another room, where you could go straight on into a little gift shop area, or left towards two intriguing doorways. Some woman was sat outside one, so I moved to this and tried to walk through. She collared me and told me, in French, to go the other way. I turned to her and said, "No French!" before going the other way. It was some sort of exhibition, which was nice, but we couldn't really understand how the order you walked round it made any difference whatsoever.
Shortly, we entered the hall of battles, and Steve and David did a John Prescott recreation, deciding that that battle should have pride of place. Steve and David also did impressions of Pel underneath a picture of Pel and a statue of Pel. Further round, we found some statues, including one of a guy called Arnold. Steve stood underneath it and had his photo taken.
The Versailles tour shortly ended, and a debate began to rage as to whether we should go around the gardens. David was considering cannibalism again, whilst I believed we didn't have time, so Amal and Chris returned to pick up their bags whilst the rest of us sat in front of Versailles and wrote "Christophe Moules" over and over again on the paving slabs. He was very impressed when he came back, though he turned round almost immediately to go to the toilet. We were annoyed as Chris was clearly dicking around again, so, when he returned, Steve, David, Dave and I possed for a "disgruntled boyz at Versailles" photo, before we walked for some food.
Out of Versailles, we turned right and walked to this little mall that had a sandwich shop. Some of us went into McDonald's to go to the toilet. David and I bought Tuna baguettes and muffins. Chris decided to go for a pancake from the pancake shop, which was, I suppose, unsurprising. He was unfulfilled having eaten this, so he went to buy a sandwich as well. The others had also all eaten sandwiches, except possibly Dave, who may have had a pancake. Amal and I went to buy some chocolates at a store. He got some for Tom and Anne Marie, and we bought some for Moules from all of us to thank him for organising the trip.
Once everyone had eaten to their satisfaction, we walked to the new station and waited around for a train. We walked to a vending machine and bought some "Twix Tops". The were okay and tasted like the tops of Twix chocolate bars. The train arrived, and we decided to board it, since that was the only way we'd get to Gard du Nord, short of walking, which would have taken us ages.
Much comedy on the journey as always, though more of the same involving pink rabbits and the like. Tragically, we arrived at Gard du Nord and said goodbye to Amal, but not before we'd all possed for another photo inside the luxurious station, on the first level, overlooking the trains. Amal departed, through the mobile ticket inspection gate, that was attached to two trolleys. Saddened by the loss of Amal, the only route open to us was to return to Le Guichet, yet stay on the train and disembark at Bures sur Yvette, which was where Moules lived.
It appeared to be quite a quaint village, and Moules decided to take us on a detour through some park before we arrived at his abode. The park was nice and had trees and a square rowing strip. Down the road a bit, we turned into the Moules estate, which was your standard regular university hall accommodation. Moules was on the first floor (or possibly the second), so we climbed up and walked into his pad. It had a corridor with a kitchen in it, a sizeable pot facility and a bed.
David and I walked onto Moules' balcony and noticed the little plate of bread. Moules told us it was for friends. We sat down and relaxed. One of Moules' French friends rang up. Moules spoke in French with an English accent. Moules' place soon became boring, so we decided to go back to the hotel and prepare for our evening out. It was quite a trek back to the hotel d'Orsy. We walked along a little stream for a while, then through the main university campus, past lots of buildings with broken windows, before turning back onto the main road to the hotel. Nice walk. Moules had decided to take Amal's place in the hotel that evening, so he brought some clothes with him. I think it was a secret ploy to spend a night with Dave Linton.
We'd planned to go to a nice little restaurant that Moules knew around the corner from the hotel, so we walked down there for eight o'clock. It was closed. Steve, David and I began to call Chris every name under the sun for not knowing this. In hindsight, that was probably unreasonable, but funny none the less. We decided to head into Orsy and take our chances elsewhere.
Cannibalism was again considered and temporarily dismissed, as we passed restaurant after restaurant that was closed. Just when the disgruntled boyz were on the verge of munity, Moules found a pizza place that was open. We went in and sat in the non-smoking zone, that had two tables in it, and was cleverly decided such that it was above the smoking zone and all the smoke from the lower tables drifted into it. David was disgusted.
We all ordered our pizzas in French, Moules with an English accent and everyone else with a French accent. Some of us ordered wine, and we settled down to talk about the holiday. Everyone had had a good time, except for Rupert, who was disgruntled. The pizzas came and we ate. Very nice. Afterwards, we decided to order desserts and coffee, so the waiter brought the dessert menu.
David noticed that there was an item on the menu that was made up of lemon sorbet, vodka (in the bottom and not touching the sorbet) and a slice of lemon. It was called "The Colonel". He tried to persuade us to order one for the table, but Moules wanted the biggest sweet, so wasn't prepared to do this. Steve and David laughed at the concept of the Colonel for some time.
The sweets arrived and we asked the waiter to take a photo of us. Once he'd taken our picture, he, very amusingly, turned the camera around on himself and said, "the next photo is this!".
After foodage, I suggested a follow on trip to another destination in six months time. Steve and David were still laughing at the Colonel, but it appeared that everyone was in agreement. I then suggested we all pick a destination, put them into a hat and eliminate them one by one. The destination that was left was the place we went to.
I then suggested Lisbon. Dave suggested Reykavik. Moules said that, despite the fact that some other people had been there, he selfishly wanted to go to Barcelona. Steve desired Berlin. David wanted to go to Copenhagen. That left the Poop. He felt he didn't deserve to pick anywhere, and he was quite happy with other choices. We told him he had to pick somewhere, so, under much duress, he selected Dublin, since he'd been there before. Some people thought he'd missed the point here.
Dave wrote down the destinations on tickets to Le Guichet. He then passed the glass around. Chris eliminated Barcelona (blunder). I eliminated Lisbon (second blunder). Poop eliminated Reykavik. Steve eliminated Berlin, leaving David to blunder and eliminate Copenhagen. Dave then revealed the remaining destination—Dublin. Poop had won, much to everyone's bemusement. We ordered coffee and talked about Mission two and its prospects.
Once Moules had paid, we walked back to the hotel. On the return journey, Moules pointed out that one advantage was the lack of Alan applications that were possible in Dublin. Steve, David and I burst out laughing and David said, "that's where you are bang wrong!". He then reeled off several potential Alan applications. Myself, Steve and David were suddenly very happy with the destination for Mission two. Rupert and Chris were not.
As we arrived back at the underpass which went under the RER and cunningly separated Le Guichet from Orsy, Steve spotted a traffic cone that was as big as he was. Noticing an opportunity for some top comedy, he (after a huge struggle) picked it up and held it to his mouth, shouting, "stop telling me what to do!" He then realised how heavy it was and almost dropped it.
Back at the hotel, Steve and David were still laughing at the concept of the Colonel. We returned to our rooms and collapsed, ready to return to civilisation on the following day.
Monday, 21st May
For the third morning in a row, I woke up in the Hotel d'Orsy. Steve was recreating "Loft Story" in his sleep—nice one. I stumbled into the shower, and had a shower. Nice one. Once I was fed up of saying "Nice one", I roused Steve. It was early. We'd decided to check out and then have our breakfast. It seemed like a sensible plan. I quickly checked that the other Colonel's men (our new title) were awake, then, once everyone was prepared, we all went downstairs for check-out followed by breakfast. It was quite a tiring affair, as everyone was tired. We had croissants and hot chocolate as usual. We shortly departed to catch a train at Le Guichet and said farewell to Chris, which was a sad moment for all of us, especially Chris. He'd been a top organiser and chief dicker around, so it was sad to lose him. Gard du Nord was as far away as ever, and we bade farewell to Massy Palaiseau on route.
At Gard du Nord, we had time for a quick coffee. The quick coffee came quickly, but so did the waiter asking us to pay up. Steve couldn't believe it and refused to leave a tip. Very sensible move, I thought.
Outside the cafe, we attempted to buy another French chocolate bar—"Cratch". This one proved difficult, since none of the vending machines appeared to work. Eventually, Dave put some money into one and hit it. It gave us a packet of Cratch. They were quite nice, though I can't remember what they were like.
We rushed to check in. And shot on Eurostar back to London. Comedy was at a low point, as we were all knackered and going home. At Waterloo, the comedy picked up, as we began to say things like, "you won't find these people on a French train, they're English!" and phrases like that. It seemed funny to us. Rupert departed for home on the underground system, after putting up with many a reverse Alan application. The rest of us headed back to Cambridge, feeling lousy because we were going home.
As we arrived at Argyle Street, there was one thought going through our collective mind—could Dublin possibly be any better?