“He who contemplates the depths of Paris is seized with vertigo.
Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic.
Nothing is more sublime.” - Victor Hugo
Day One - The Pompidou Centre
Victor Hugo’s words resonated with many of us as we escalated towards the sundown view at the top of the hi-tec postmodern iconic building that is the Pompidou Centre on the first evening of our Paris adventure. Our ascent was synchronised with the sun dramatically descending behind the magical rooftops of Paris, creating a backlit silhouette of the Sacre-Coeur on the hilltops of the Paris’ historical artist quarter, Montmartre. The Modernist art exhibition and Cy Twombly’s retrospective baffled some and delighted others. Regardless of artistic comprehension and aesthetic taste, these exhibitions probed productive and stimulating discussion and debate. Nested behind the Pompidou is the Marais, an old Jewish Quarter, now a bohemian mishmash of small artesian shops, galleries, gay bars and traditional brasseries. A dinner challenge was set for the students to try the local cuisine of snails and frogs’ legs although most settled for pizza.
Day Two - The Eiffel Tower
On day two many of the students reached the dizzy heights of the Eiffel Tower on foot (it was after all freezing). This served as a perfect opportunity to build up a sweat and with reduced entrance charges these brave souls also managed to save some Euros. Others sailed to the birds-eye view of Paris in the lift and those left behind took an obligatory tourist snap and scuttled off to the nearest overpriced but warm café. The lure of the Montmartre drew us to another panoramic view of the city that evening with a mighty hike up to the hilltop. Many were by now building up a healthy quota of steps. Students reflected on the impressive Roman-Byzantine style architecture of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and embraced the hospitality of the local buskers ,even joining in on occasion, while avoiding the incessant hustlers who are drawn to these tourist spots. The Metro was a force to be reckoned with and if anything was to be learnt from this antiquated public transport travel mode it was to appreciate the London Underground’s exceptionally well designed maps and more importantly the generous time allowance for the doors closing. We survived the fast and furious snapping Metro doors - just! Note: no snails or frogs legs were eaten on this day either.
Day Three - The Louvre
The final day and the weather hadn’t brightened but our team’s spirits were high. A trip to The Louvre was the main agenda item for the day and a chance to glimpse the Mona Lisa and other great artworks. This vast and comprehensive collection of Renaissance masterpieces, Greek Sculptures and ancient Egyptian artefacts was the focus of our relevantly short visit. We felt we had only touched on the collection but were also reminded of the great museums and galleries in London that also host significant artworks, nudging us to visit these establishments more often. Bags packed and numerous Eiffel Tower miniatures acquired we headed off back to London on the Eurostar with a taste of Paris. Some snails and frogs legs were consumed on the final day. One last head count….all aboard.
Thank you Johnny for organising the trip and to the staff and students who embraced the shared experience, worked together and looked out for each other. These are the attributes that make any team great. “We’ll always have Paris”.
- Derval Fitzgerald - Teacher of Photography and Art & Design