Sharks in Venice

San Michele cemetery island, Venice

San Michele cemetery island

We spent our last day in Venice in a cemetery, visiting museums and elbowing our way through crowds. The carnival had arrived. And we did our best to avoid it. We got up early and headed to San Michele alone. San Michele is the cemetery island just off Fondamente Nove. It’s illegal to bury people on Venice. This was one of our top places to visit before we came to Venice and we were not leaving without seeing it. We spent hours in Pere Lachaise in Paris, even picnicking there. Visiting cemeteries is one of our favourite things to do. Though trying to convince other people that spending their holiday with dead people is a great use of their time doesn’t always go down well.

VeniceWe tried using our Murano tickets to avoid paying for the ferry but alas, we were foiled.  The cemetery is actually pretty small. We managed to tour it in an hour. Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos. Or picnic. We found the graves of Igor Stravinsky and Ezra Pound. Most of the graves are actually ossuaries because you rent the graves and if you stop paying, you get moved into the ossuary. So whilst the island is small, there are a lot of people buried there because they’re all in what is essentially chest of drawers. There were some huge tombs. Some even had chairs inside them with glass doors. Sadly, the doors were locked.

church of Santa Fosca, Venice

church of Santa Fosca

We returned to the apartment to collect Tom and Amy and set out for a day of museums. First we took a detour to find more haunted places and to visit a supermarket. Our first haunted place of the day was by the church of Santa Fosca. An old money-lender, Bartolomio Zenni, staggers up and down the Campo dell’Abbazia, begging for help. If you approach him he turns into a fiery skeleton. That is one of the coolest ghost stories ever. On 13th May 1437, a fire broke out on the opposite side of the canal. He refused to help his neighbours save their children because he was saving his bag with his belongings. He dragged it to a nearby canal and vanished into the waters. Several nights later, he reappeared with the bag, breathless, and asking people for help. Everyone avoided him. His soul will only be free when someone helps him carry the bag from the Campo to the church of Santa Fosca. We’re great at carrying bags. And we hate children.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

one of the Mastelli brothers

We headed for our next haunted destination and ended up walking right past some statues we wanted. Typical. Fortunately, Amy spotted them. They are the Mastelli brothers – Rioba, Sandi, Afani and Antonia and are on the wall of Campo dei Mori. They were merchants who were apparently turned to stone due to their dishonesty and meanness. Rioba used to say “May the Good Lord turn my right hand to stone if what I say is not true.” They could buy any jury and ruined many families. One day in February, a woman came to them to buy Flanders lace for her shop. Mastelli brothers, VeniceHer husband had died and she needed to re-open her shop. Rioba showed her many fabrics, claiming it was Flanders and she couldn’t afford them but he wanted to help. He and his brothers quoted his line about being turned to stone. As the woman paid, she said “May the good lord be a witness to your honesty and may you be held to what you have decided.” With that, the coins and his arm turned to stone. Then his brothers’ arms turned to stone. The woman was Saint Magdalen. “Criminals! Liars and hypocrites! You will turn into the whited sepulchres that you have shown yourselves to be during your lifetime.”Mastelli brohters, Venice

The statue of Rioba has been seen crying in February. If someone who is pure of spirit lays their hand on his chest, they might feel his heart beat. We were too short to reach his heart. Tom and Amy could touch his heart no problem. We managed to touch his stomach while stretching up on tip toes as far as we could reach. Otherwise it would’ve been a groin grab and according to legend, that’s not what you can feel throbbing.

Mastelli brothers, Venice

Rioba, whose heart you can feel beating. If you’re not short arses like we are.

We insisted on heading to the museums through parts of Venice we hadn’t yet explored. Getting lost is how adventures happen! We wanted to see as much of Venice as possible, rather than retracing the same route we’d take every day. First up, we found another vegan gelato/sorbet place, Gelateria Alaska.

Gelateria Alaska

Gelateria Alaska

The guy serving asked if we were here for the carnival. We said we were here for our birthday so he insisted on giving us an extra scoop of sorbet for free. That was so nice! We had strawberry and mango and strawberry and lemon. They were delicious.

Museo di storia Naturale, Venice

dinosauro

We managed to find our way to the natural history museum, Museo di Storia Naturale, despite Cat having the map. Usually CatNav is unreliable and easily distracted. CatNav took detours a few times but did manage to get us to the gelato place and the museum. That was a really cool one, probably our favourite after San Servolo and Doge’s Palace. To be fair, it had dinosaur bones and anything with dinosaurs is a winner. We were so excited as we headed in that we started squealing and bouncing. Some people, can’t take them anywhere. They’re just an embarrassment. There were also sharks and other creatures. We love sharks as much as we love dinosaurs. This was our happy place.

Museo di storia naturale, venice

sharks in Venice

Some people on Trip Advisor complained that none of the information was in English. However, there is an English guidebook at the desk and an English audio guide. Plus, in Britain, we don’t have museum information signs in any other language, so don’t complain when other countries do it. Wales is the exception, as we have bilingual signs in English and Welsh. We were heading upstairs saying “dinosauro” and doing our best not to show our excitement. And failing. Our friends doubted that this was the Italian for dinosaur. Turns out, we were right. It was amazing being able to touch the fossils. It’s like we were touching history without the danger of being eaten.

Palazzo MocenigoLynxNav took over and experienced technical difficulties when she ripped more of our battered map. It was one day from retirement and it was a battle to keep it intact. We headed to Palazzo Mocenigo, which was a perfume museum and had 18thc furniture. That was interesting. There were glass bottles filled with scents that you could sniff. Some places don’t trust tourists with touching furniture, but this place let you lift glass stoppers to smell the scents inside. Palazzo MocenigoCat sniffed too enthusiastically in the scent bottles and spluttered. A woman next to Cat laughed. At least we’re keeping people amused. There was also a table filled with bowls of different raw ingredients that you could smell. It’s the first time we’ve visited a museum that has an interactive olfactory section, so it was good to do something different. There was a collection of perfume bottles, some dating back 6000 years!

Ca'Rezzonico, Venice

Ca’Rezzonico

Our final museum was Ca’ Rezzonico, which had 18thc furniture and paintings. We kept our tradition by touring the museums the wrong way around and only discovering our mistakes when we found arrows pointing the opposite direction. There was a beautiful 18thc writing desk that puts our £10 IKEA metal writing table to shame. Though we have no room for a writing desk in our dungeon. We particularly liked the 18thc apothecary that was randomly inside the house but we weren’t allowed in. Each room was beautiful and proudly displayed its wealth while taunting us that we could never afford such luxury. The upper floor was all paintings.

Ca'Rezzonico

writing desk envy

Then we headed back to discover everyone had arrived for the Carnivale. We imagine the carnival itself is spectacular. The crowds, however, were not. This is officially the worst circle of Hell. You couldn’t move down the streets. We all got very frustrated and murderous and also claustrophobic, as our heads are generally chest, armpit or shoulder height to most people so all we could see was the back of the person in front of us. Being in crowds is horrible enough but when you’re short, it’s even worse. People were moving so slowly! There were even police officers directing foot traffic. We were glad to be leaving the following day to escape the madness.

VeniceWe found our way to another haunted spot, which as it turned out, we walked past every. Single. Day. It wasn’t far from our apartment. Although it gave us excuse to escape the crowds for a bit. In the Campiello del Remer on the Grand Canal, the corpse of Fosco Loredan floats to the surface holding his wife’s head. He was extremely possessive of his wife, Elena, whose uncle was Doge Marino Grimani. In 1598, the Doge heard a woman scream as she ran towards campiello del Remer chased by a knight with a sword. The Doge blocked the knight then recognised them. Fosco said “what right have you to stand between me and my wife? I am going to kill her and it is my right to do so.” The Doge replied that he wanted to know what Elena’s crime was.

Fondamente Nove, Venice

Fondamente Nove

Fosco suddenly recognised the Doge and claimed Elena had been unfaithful. Elena protested her innocence and said Fosco was jealous, even of her cousin, who was young enough to be her son. She begged the Doge to protect her and he agreed. Fosco swore he would do as the Doge wished, but Elena warned him not to trust Fosco. The Doge sheathed his sword. Fosco shouted “behind you! Armed men!” As the Doge turned, Fosco decapitated Elena.

The Doge drew his sword and Fosco dropped to his knees, begging for mercy and swearing he would do whatever the Doge asked, providing he spared him. The Doge replied “you will lift this corpse upon your shoulders and you will hold the severed head in your dirty hands. You will never put them down, day or night and you will go to Rome to see the Pope. When you appear before him, you will show him what you have done. He will decide your fate.” He threatened to chop Fosco to pieces if he disobeyed. Fosco walked for months and when he reached Rome, the pope refused to see him, sending him away without absolution. Fosco returned to the spot where he killed Elena and threw himself into the Grand Canal. His corpse now re-emerges holding her head. Sadly, he didn’t do it when we were there. Perhaps he was also avoiding the crowds.16807644_10155179942500982_5116692098111421778_n

Tom and Amy returned to the apartment while we stayed out because we wanted to find a Murano gondola with black cats and a moon that we saw a day or two before and hadn’t seen since. Lots of shops sell glass gondolas, but hardly any sell them with cats instead of people. We’re starting a collection of pewter models of the cities we’ve visited – for Paris we have the Eiffel Tower, so we wanted a pewter model representing Venice – a gondola or the Rialto Bridge. We didn’t see any, then figured that Murano is famous for its glass, so a glass gondola would be perfect. On Murano, we saw a black gondola with two cats and a heart and whilst we liked it, hearts aren’t really us, so we wanted something different. We ended up constantly in the crush because we kept going wrong. Couldn’t find the cats with the moon so decided to get the one with cats and a heart. We saw it before Tom and Amy left us but could we find it again? No. So we had to retrace our route through the crush. In one shop, a shopkeeper’s dog was barking. She hated the crowds. We agreed with the dog and told the owner we wished we could get away with barking at people too.

p1200288It was so busy, there were police directing the pedestrian traffic at crossroads. That’s the first time we’ve ever experienced that. And hopefully the last. Lynx got stuck behind three women who stopped to window shop, so a police officer marched them on to keep the crush moving. It was like being back in high school when they locked the doors, trapping several hundred kids in a corridor. We eventually found the shop with the cat gondola and headed back. By now, our tempers had frayed so much, the slightest provocation would result in someone being Hulk smashed in the face and tossed into a canal. Our rage is bigger than us.

When we returned home, our feet were back in the pans of cold water while Tom and Amy went to get pizza for them and kindly got chips for us as we couldn’t physically walk anymore. We uploaded our pics, chilled out, packed and celebrated not being outside with all those people.16730201_1452867414755530_7725308376231030617_n-1

16903144_1455424244499847_4630676275197451023_oThe next day, we left. We got to the airport very early and had to sit around for half an hour until check in opened. Our bags were underweight. Hooray! We waved them off and headed to security. Everyone got through without a patdown, except Lynx who got checked for drugs. We needed a Red Bull. We went to every shop downstairs. No Red Bull. They only sold Coke or water. We needed a Red Bull. The headaches were forming. Our thirst was increasing. Our tempers were rising. We headed upstairs, our rage starting to burn brighter than a dying star. No Red Bull. This was reaching dangerous levels. This was reaching…Edinburgh levels, where Cat had a meltdown on Canongate and nearly destroyed a man’s fridge. Finally, as the meltdown started to reach Volcanic levels, we found a shop that did one. €3.3o! For a small can! We paid in disgust, cracked it open and like a bomb being diffused with seconds to spare, our rage dissipated with each sweet sip.p1200594

Corpse Groom

VeniceOn Wednesday, we woke so full of hope. We were going to visit dungeons and torture chambers and not allow Tuesday’s curse to hang over us. We were going to conquer Venice and finally achieve something. We were…going to fail.

We decided to head to St Mark’s Square – Piazetto San Marco – and the Doge’s Palace. Doge’s Palace had been top of our list for museums. We’d promised KT, our Polefit instructor that we would honour the class in the palace. We ended up going the same route we took on Tuesday night and eventually found our way to St Mark’s Square using a combination of a little bit of map reading and mostly guesswork. The guesswork consists of ‘keeping heading south’. St Mark’s Basilica is beautiful.Venice It’s where St Mark’s body is kept, after the Venetians stole it and claimed him as their saint. They also stole the lion on the post that is his symbol and the horses on the Basilica. The Basilica also has a ghost story attached. On the corner of the Basilica are two lights, which tradition claims they symbolise atonement for when Venice wrongfully condemned Pietro Faccioli, a little baker boy, to death. On the corner of the Basilica is an execution block where he was decapitated. He was accused of killing a nobleman, Alvise Guoro. The block was a section of column in perfidy brought from Acri. Since the boy’s death, on foggy nights, people report seeing blood drops on it. clock tower, Venice

We couldn’t find it. There’s a surprise. It’s the story of our lives, being in the area something is and not finding it. As we discovered when we went to the front of the doge’s palace – Ducale Palazzo – and realised we had walked right past St Mark’s Square on our first night and didn’t see it. If only we had looked to our left. Yes. We walked past Venice’s most famous square and Did. Not. See. It. In our defence, it was dark. And we weren’t looking. And it was dark.

Doge's Palace

Doge’s Palace

We wanted to do a secret itineraries tour of Doge’s Palace but we’d read that at midday during the carnivale, an acrobat jumps from the bell tower in St Mark’s Square. As it was 11:30, we decided to hold off on the tour until after the acrobat. It didn’t happen. We decided to do the tour, and the guard with the metal scanner at the entrance took one look at the metal on our outfits and laughed. He didn’t speak much English but managed ‘sexy’ as he waved us inside. Once inside, we couldn’t decide which tour to do. We wanted to see the dungeons and the cells where Cassanova was kept. Yes, that Cassanova – world’s greatest lover – he was jailed for hitting on the magistrate’s girlfriend. And we wanted to see the torture chamber. Y’know, the touristy stuff. We were in one of the most romantic cities in the world, the day after Valentine’s Day and we wanted to see the place where people were tortured. And people think romance is dead! We suspected the secret itineraries tour was the one we wanted but the last one was at 11:35. So instead of wasting half an hour for an acrobat that didn’t show, we could’ve done the tour. Now we had to wait until Thursday. Yet another wasted day. If there’s one thing we can’t stand, it’s wasting time. It can’t be replaced. Our fury was reaching a level considered dangerous. Tourists were looking nervous. We cracked open a Red Bull and tried to deactivate Tantrum Mode.Venice

So our day wasn’t a complete disappointment, we decided to check out haunted spots we’d researched. We walked across the water front and stopped at a pizzeria so we could finally get some wi-fi. Well, the others wanted food, we just wanted the internet. It was a good job too because our sister video called us with exciting news: we have a new guinea pig! He’s two years old, called Shadow (we might change that because we had a cat called Shadow) and his owner was about to give him to Cefn Mably farm because he and the other guinea pig he was with kept fighting. So we got to see him on video, as well as our duck, our youngest cat and our dog, who was very excited to hear us and even waved at the phone. Much nicer than his usual response, which is to ignore us on the phone. While our friends enjoyed their lunch, we sat by the Grand Canal eating Discos and waving at our pets. Time well spent.

Venice

At the Grand Canal

We made our way to the island of San Pietro and San Pietro church. It was in a lovely, quiet residential part of Venice. That’s the great thing about incorporating haunted stuff into your holiday – you get to see parts of the place you wouldn’t normally see. San Pietro’s story involves two lovers – Ennio and Tosca. They met in Treviso where she lived and he worked. They swore eternal love and vowed to marry, dead or alive. Technically, two corpses marrying would be impossible as they’d be unable to say the vows and you don’t even want to think about the wedding night. Mind you, Corpse Bride managed it. Ennio, on return from a job in Florence, became ill and died within hours. Tosca didn’t know. The following night, Tosca was in bed and heard Ennio call to her from the courtyard. She ran to the window and he said, “hurry up and get ready, then come downstairs without saying a word to anyone. We’re going to get married in Venice.”Venice

Now our response would have been something along the lines of “get off our land,” but Tosca, although confused, was so in love with him that she didn’t argue. We suspect this is how most marriages happen. After a while of walking, Tosca offered Ennio bread. He said “don’t you know that the dead don’t need to eat?” A gust of wind then transported them to San Pietro. We could’ve done with that magical wind today – saved our poor feet. Tosca was too terrified to scream. Ennio left her outside the priest’s house while he went to fetch witnesses. Tosca shouted to the priest for help. The priest ran down to let her in so she explained the story. He didn’t believe her. To be fair to him, it does sound made up. Magical winds? Dead groom proposing marriage? Hollywood has probably already done this and it probably stars Johnny Depp.

Venice

San Pietro

Then the priest looked out the window and saw Ennio with a group of musicians. He had buried Ennio that day and knew he was looking at a band of dead souls. Ennio said “I want my fiancée, because we swore that dead or alive, we would be married.” The priest said “Away with you, you damned soul. Go away, you and your friends.” Ennio “Give me at least her ring finger or I will never leave her alone.” The priest told Tosca there was no other choice, (um, how about ‘no’) cut off her ring finger and threw it out the window. Ennio caught it and left with the band. Tosca’s mind never recovered and she refused to leave the priest’s house. The priest looked after her until one evening she left and was never seen again.

San Pietro Venice

San Pietro church

At night, she can be seen wandering in front of the church in elegant 19thc clothing, dressed as though for a wedding ceremony. She wanders and moans as she searches for her ring finger, because without it, she can’t enter the church to be married. We also couldn’t enter the church but that’s because we weren’t dressed modestly, not because a priest had chopped off our fingers. Plus you had to pay to enter and the ghosts haunt outside.

We made our way back to towards our apartment and en route, bought ourselves a flail. Y’know, typical Venetian souvenir. Then we ended up by the Fondamente Nove, which is also haunted by the girl who was never buried. On 29th November 1904, Francesco Quintavalle, captain of the vaporetto “Pellestrina” left Fondamente Nove for Burano, despite visibility being almost zero. Two gondolas rowed by Antonio Rosso and Andeto Camozzo were filled with inhabitants from Murano on their way back from Venice. They waited for Francesco to pass the tip of San Michele then left to ferry  their passengers home. Francesco passed the cemetery then decided to reverse. He didn’t see the gondolas and crashed into them. Rosso’s gondola split in two and sank. Four people were pulled on to the vaporetto, but five women disappeared. Rescue efforts began immediately and lasted through the night.

Fondamente NoveSeveral hours later, Maria Tosa Bullo was seen clinging to a post. She was taken to Murano but died a few minutes later. Lia Toso Borella and Amalia Padovan Vistosi’s lifeless bodies were found the next morning in the stern of the gondola. The remaining two passengers – Teresa Sandon and a little girl, Giuseppina Gabriel Carmelo – weren’t found.

In September 1905, Teresa Sandon appeared to her sister in a dream and said “pray for me, for my soul, because my body is still imprisoned, but if you pray it will be freed from the bindings that hold it to the bottom of the canal, and I can rest in blessed ground.” Ten days later, a battered body was found by two fishermen in the canal of the ‘Bissa’ towards the island of the Vignole. The scarf she wore identified her as Teresa.

Giuseppina was never found. But on foggy nights, a floating casket can be seen, lit by candles so ferry boats don’t crash into her.Fondamente Nova

We returned to our apartment to rest our aching feet in a saucepan of cold water and write the blog. After an hour and a half’s rest, we headed out for food and ended up in a pasta place. Tom, Amy and Lesley all ordered. We tried our best to explain to the waiter ‘vegano’ but he couldn’t speak English and gestured for us to point to what we wanted on the menu. We pointed out chips, but ‘what are your chips cooked in’ and ‘are they cooked separately from the meat/fish’ wasn’t available to point at. We didn’t have internet access to Google translate either. We’d just about mastered basic Italian. So we just said ‘no food’. It’s easier that way. He then seemed really affronted that we were taking up breathing space and not eating as he brusquely gathered our glasses, cutlery and plates and marched off. Calm down, sir, we’re just not eating. It’s not like we punched your mother.

vegan gelatoWe then returned to the chip shop for our meal then headed to one of the gelato places on our list that did vegan gelato. We had the cherry/vanilla and it was even listed as ‘vegano’. This is what we like to see. Is it really so hard to just add ‘vegan’ to a label on food? Whilst we ate, we made our way to a pub we had seen last night – The Devil’s Forest. It turned out to be an English pub. Which meant it had football on TV. Real Madrid and Naples. We had to constantly endure deafening chants of ‘Napoli’ as we tried to play a great card game, Million Dollars But. The guy next to Lynx kept knocking her and she was sorely tempted to punch him, but we’ve never started a bar fight and would like to keep that record clean.

The pub had promised us wi-fi but the barman didn’t know the password, so we returned to a café whose wi-fi we had used before and had memorised their password so we could lurk and use it without buying anything. We know that’s bad etiquette but we needed it to access our email as our host had emailed us our apartment’s wi-fi password. That would have been useful before. Lesley then joined us and bought a coffee. We hurriedly uploaded our 200 photos under the waiter’s suspicious gaze. The upload was slow. Lesley had finished her coffee and was ready to leave. The waiter watched us. The upload icon was spinning. Lesley stood. The waiter moved closer. The photo upload froze. We avoided eye contact with the waiter. The photos uploaded. We shut down the laptop and fled before we had to buy a drink we hated. Now we know how Jack Bauer feels when he’s downloading information onto a usb stick while armed men hunt for him. Note to selves – sit further away from the establishment whose wi-fi you’re stealing.St Mark's Basilica

In Seine

River SeineIt’s a sour end to the trip when you end up naked by the Seine in an area that stinks of piss.

The others went to get breakfast while we finished packing. We were supposed to check out by 12 so they left their bags with us in case they weren’t back in time. So we just hung about the apartment catching up on our blog posts ‘til 12. We then wandered around the main street until we got to a gluten free place in an arcade. The others wanted to wander different shops picking up food as we were going to picnic by the Seine like the locals do. We couldn’t be arsed to traipse from shop to shop dragging our heavy case and carrying the heavy rucksack, so we made our own way to the Seine. There was a metro stop near us but we weren’t prepared to lug our case down all the steps so we walked instead, using Google maps and sticking to the shaded side of the road. We got there no problem.River Seine

River Seine

Don’t leave Goths in hot places

We originally sat under the bridge but it stank of river and piss so we moved to another shaded part near a decent looking guy while we waited for the others. The view was lovely and the Seine’s pretty too. By the time they came, we’d already drunk both Red Bulls and eaten, so while they guarded our stuff, we went looking for drinks and sorbet. We wanted another birthday present for our mum and spied an artist selling oil paintings on Pont Neuf. They were stunning so we bought a small canvas of the Eiffel Tower in grey and red. He’d been sheltering under an umbrella when we stopped so shaded us with it while we looked at his paintings.River Seine

River Seine

Lynx is in Seine

Then the day turned to shit. Lynx has no idea how it happened but one minute Dragonstone (her new phone) and her wallet were on the bag, the next, they were sliding down the concrete bank into the Seine. Dragonstone sank but the wallet floated. And floated away. Lynx slithered down, tossed her boots up to Cat and hurried along the small ledge after her wallet. She managed to scoop it out and returned to Cat and Neen. She got Cat to pass her the walking stick and used it to test the depth of the water. Waist deep. She prodded the rocks and found a large stable one. Against Neen and Cat’s wishes, she passed up her jewellery and carefully waded into the Seine in her lovely dress because she didn’t want to strip in public. She couldn’t see her phone and soon attracted a small audience on Pont Neuf, who thought she was crazy going into the river where people used to dump dead bodies. Not sure how they knew to shout in English – probably because the Parisians know better than to go in the Seine. But she’d had Dragonstone for less than a month and even though he would probably never work again, she could at least reuse the case. If you remember our American adventures, she left Stormborn, our other smartphone on the plane. We knew we’d be coming home without Dragonstone.

River Seine

the Seine at twilight

There was no way she was putting her face in the water so she carefully felt around the area with one foot, keeping hold of the ledge. After several minutes, Neen and Cat persuaded her to give up, as they were convinced she’d catch a disease. She hopped out onto the ledge and they grabbed an arm each, hauling her onto the bank with such force, her feet didn’t touch the bank. She discarded her fishnets and socks and used the last of our shower gel to have a quick wash. Cat got her a change of clothes and she went to hide under Pont Neuf between a van and a car to change, after making sure nobody was in the vehicles. Being kidnapped whilst half naked would put a real damper on things. The area reeked of piss so she made sure not to put her clothes in anything remotely wet. Ending up naked by the Seine was not how she wanted the holiday to end.

Conciergerie

in the women’s prison yard at the Conciergerie

It was time to go home. Our suitcase was almost half our body weight and the rucksack weighed at least a quarter of our weight so while the others went on ahead, we limped after them, not bothering to try to keep up. We went to go down into one train station and a guy offered to carry the case down. The others asked if it was the right station. He said we wanted the one across the street. So the poor guy ended up lugging the case back up. We then went to another metro station. This time, Neen carried the case down. Only for it to be another wasted journey. They eventually found the right station and we waited for the train to take us to the airport. The ticket entrances don’t hold the doors open long enough for you to struggle through with your case, so it shut on Lynx’s rucksack, jamming her. The doors only opened when a guy put his ticket in and helpfully pushed her free.

Paris Metro

riding the metro

The train was hot, sweaty and smelled of hot, sweaty people. And it was the same price as a taxi. So we could have saved ourselves a lot of walking. Disheartened at Dragonstone’s untimely death, and in pain, we made it to the airport without trouble. This time, baggage allowance was 23kg and they didn’t even weigh our hand luggage, making the fiasco of flying out even more unnecessary.

EIffel Tower lift

in the lift of the Eiffel Tower

But Paris was beautiful and we’d love to go back and see the sights we didn’t see, plus return to the catacombs. People often say the French are rude, but every person we spoke to was lovely.

flying home

flying home

They didn’t mind our terrible French and were all very helpful. If a waiter didn’t speak English, they found one who did. Almost every person we spoke to complimented us on our outfits and if they didn’t speak English, they’d gesture to us, smile and give us the thumbs up. Two people asked what our style was. They’d never heard of Goth and were pleased to learn something new. Security guards, instead of being annoyed at all our metal setting off their bleepers at tourist attractions, laughed and told us we looked amazing, while shaking their heads in despair. Paris obviously didn’t have many twins, as we’d get a lot of people pointing and saying “the same?” People would openly stare at us but not in a rude way, they’d obviously not encountered Goths before. We didn’t see anyone even remotely gothic during our stay. Paris certainly wasn’t expecting us but it embraced us.Conciergerie

Dead Famous

Pere Lachaise cemeteryToday was to be the day of the dead. First on the agenda: Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Jules and Alex didn’t want to come so us and Neen headed out on the metro. There’s not many people we could convince that spending a hot, sunny day in a cemetery is the best thing ever. Give us a city of the dead over a beach any day. We can get a tan, see beautiful mausoleums and leave without getting sand in places where sand has no right to be.

Pere Lachaise cemeteryThe metro stopped right outside, so we walked across the road, bought a map of the cemetery (without one, we’d probably still be there until the council is forced to bury our well dressed skeletons) and marked off the people we wanted to see: Oscar Wilde was top of our list, along with Jim Morrison for our friend, Rodney, and some people who either haunted it, or their graves we’d seen in our book about haunted places in France. Neen wanted to see Gertrude Stein for Zoe. And then we spotted a name we had to visit – Sex Toy. No idea who this person is. And no, we’re not Googling it. We’ve fallen for that ploy many times.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Raspail family tomb

Pere Lachaise is rumoured to be one of the most haunted cemeteries in the world. Visitors report intense eerie feelings, a deep sense of unnatural calm, shivers down the spine, ghostly apparitions and orbs. Jim Morrison is apparently seen near his grave and Chopin likes photobombing people. Some say Oscar Wilde haunts it, as well as lovers Marcel Proust and Maurice Ravel, who apparently rise from their graves searching for each other. This will be us when we’re dead – rising from our graves, searching for Red Bull. Pere Lachaise opened in 1804 on Napoleon’s orders to cope with the overflow of bodies from the Revolution. There are over 300,000 people buried here. It’s the place to be seen dead in.
Pere Lachaise cemeteryWe wandered the graveyard, taking photos and getting ideas for our tomb. So far, it’s going to have steps, skeletal hand sconces, gargoyles and castle towers. And a plaque that reads: ‘this is the story of C L Raven (they die at the end).’ But unless we start selling more books, we’ll probably end up in a pauper’s grave. Or eaten by our cats.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Etienne Gaspard Robertson’s grave

We made our way to the closest grave on our list: Etienne Gaspard Robertson – a magician who liked to terrify people. He invented the phantasmagoria, using lantern slides to create horror shows. His grave had featured in the book and had an incredible carving of the living on one side, the dead on the other and a flying skeleton between them, playing a trumpet. We stopped by a tree and consulted our map, certain we were in the right area. Then we turned around. It was right beside us. The carving was fantastic. He also had skulls on the top of his monument. A French couple asked us where Chopin’s grave was, so we directed them.

 

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Jim Morrison’s grave

Despite our poor map reading skills, we managed to navigate the cemetery easily. Neen said it was because it was something we’re interested in. This is true. If we’re not interested, we won’t put effort in. Hence constantly failing school exams. There were quite a few people around Jim Morrison’s grave, but we managed to squeeze in and take photos. There are railings up around the whole section where he is to stop people going to his grave.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Marie Elizabeth Demidoff’s grave.

The next grave on our list belonged to Russian princess Marie Elizabeth Demidoff, who apparently stated in her will that she would leave part of her inheritance to anyone who spent a year beside her corpse. Her monument was impressive, with columns and wolves’ heads. We stood at the bottom, trying to figure out how to get up to the other side. We eventually walked all the way around and up. Only to discover that had we gone the other way, a flight of steps would’ve taken us right to it. We were not shining today.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Sex Toy’s grave

Our next mission was to find Sex Toy. That grave was off the path, so we had to explore amongst other graves. After fifteen minutes of failing to find it, nearly falling over and being attacked by brambles, we realised we were in the wrong area. We crossed a path to another section and continued the hunt. Cat slipped and her hand landed on some brambles. We hunted for another fifteen minutes then Lynx stopped to change her camera battery. And happened to stop by Sex Toy’s grave. Neen had walked right past it. We were expecting something phallic shaped, or with chains. Maybe even something that vibrated. Nope. A simple slab with SEX TOY written in old English font. So like men who can’t find the g spot, we were poking around, trying to look like we knew what we were doing, only to find it rather anti climatic.

Pere Lachaise cemetery, Oscar Wilde's grave

Oscar Wilde’s grave

We stopped for a picnic on a bench before finding Oscar Wilde’s grave with no difficulty. He wrote our favourite poem, the Ballard of Reading Gaol, so we had to find him. We expected it to be crowded like Jim Morrison’s was, but there were only two guys there. Oscar’s grave had a glass case around it, because there was a tradition of people kissing it and leaving lipstick marks all over it, inspired by his quote ‘a kiss may ruin a human life.’ And graves, it seems. The oils in the lipstick were damaging the stone, so the family paid to have them cleaned off and put a glass barrier around it to protect it.

 

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Auschwitz memorial

We headed to the eastern wall where 140 communards were shot at dawn on 28th May 1871 after fighting their way across the cemetery. They were buried where they fell but apparently visitors have seen them. We didn’t see them. There were some incredible memorials to the victims of the holocaust and those that died in the resistance. They showed skeletal figures, reminding people of the horror they suffered. We much preferred them to regular plaques. We found Gertrude Stein’s grave easily. She was a lesbian American novelist, playwright, poet and art collector. We also saw Edith Piaf’s grave as it was near the exit. A French woman asked us where Oscar Wilde’s grave was, so we pointed it out to her then gave her our map.

Pere Lachaise cemetery

Auschwitz memorial

We stopped at a café across the road to rest our painful feet before limping our way to the metro stop to go to the Musee Fragonard. We got off and walked down the really long Avenue de General de Gaulle. We couldn’t find it so went into a shop to buy a drink and ask where it was. They didn’t have any squash so we bought a big bottle of lemon water. The cashier didn’t know of the museum. We kept going until Neen checked the number. It was back near the metro stop. We turned around and hobbled back the way we’d come, only to find a solicitor’s at number 7. Neen got out her map. We were at the wrong end of the street. We got back on the metro and went another couple of stops. We had not come this far and put up with this much pain to quit now. We were going to the museum and it had better be damn well impressive. It also closed in an hour.

Musee Fragonard

Musee Fragonard

The museum is inside a university and was well worth a visit and the pain. We did the audio guide but there was so much information, we didn’t have time to listen to it all. There weren’t as many flayed people as were hoping – it was mostly animal skeletons and organs, as it was a veterinary university, but it was still fascinating. And cows don’t have four stomachs – their stomach is divided into four, with each section doing a different job.
Eiffel TowerWe got back on the metro to meet Alex and Jules at the Eiffel Tower. For some reason, we expected it to be silver, not brown. We got pictures as we walked past it then had to walk a long way to find the café they were in. By now, Cat’s bad knee had given up too, but luckily she’d brought her walking stick and had bought ice patches on our first day in Paris. A helpful American translated to the waiter what we meant by vegan then we sat and had chips. Our boots came off the minute we sat down. One waiter said “cook fries in with the meat? Who would be crazy enough to do that?” We replied “The UK.” He was impressed with our French when we asked for the bill.

Seine

Seine at sunset

The queue for the tower was still long so we did a cruise along the river Seine at sunset. It was the best time to do it. The boat was quiet, whereas in the day, the boats are always packed. We’d seen the Seine plenty of times in the day. It was beautiful as the sun went down and the lights came on. There was this annoying couple by us at the back of the boat. All the woman was did was take constant selfies without smiling in a single one, but doing those partial smiles with closed lips, ‘cos heaven forbid your smile should crinkle your face. The typical ‘identical facial expression in every photo so I always look beautiful’. Us and Neen had posted many unflattering photos of ourselves. We were glad when they left the boat, otherwise we were going to push her in. Let’s see her look picture-perfect after a dunking in the Seine.

SeineWe gave each other dares during the evening. Lynx had to ask a guy where the River Seine was, as we cruised along it. She even asked in French but he couldn’t understand her. Jules and Cat had to twerk picnickers as we sailed past. Having never twerked before, Jules had to teach Cat. They did it and got cheered by the picnickers.

River Seine

twerking it

Neen’s dare had been to ask someone where the Eiffel Tower was, as we stood across the road from it. He helpfully pointed it out then a man stopped his car and got out to have his photo taken with us. Alex had to lick her ice cream bowl. Us and Neen claimed it wasn’t a dare, as we’d do it anyway, so Neen dared Alex and Jules to tie their plaits together and walk around. They did it on the boat, but told the captain it was a dare so it didn’t count.

SeineIt was getting dark by the time we got back so the Eiffel Tower was lit up red white and blue. It looked beautiful, so we video called our mum and sister by it so they could see it lit up. Sarah asked if we could ring her when we were up there. We didn’t have to queue long – advantage of going up at 11 p.m. Security check through your bags at every major tourist attraction and the woman confiscated our big bottle of lemon water we’d just bought. Neen tried arguing it was just water, but the woman binned it. Not just confiscated. Binned. We spent €1.65 on that! Luckily, Neen had instructed us to pour some into the bottles we’d used for our squash, so some was saved. That wasn’t taken off us. Either the woman didn’t believe it was water, or she thought Neen looked the type to lob it at unsuspecting tourists. The top of the tower was closed unfortunately. We got the lift to the second floor then video called our mum and sister.
Eiffel TowerIt was so beautiful up there. It didn’t matter that we didn’t make it to the top. To be honest, we would’ve been terrified up there. A man behind us proposed to his girlfriend and we’re guessing by the applause that she said yes. Neen did a fake proposal to Lynx and people thought it was real. We had to explain it was just for photos and Neen is married. Quite frankly, we’re surprised nobody thought the others were real. The Eiffel Tower is seen as a romantic place to propose, even though it’s a popular suicide spot. Over 400 people have plunged to their deaths from it and most of them were distraught lovers. A famous story is about a couple who met at the tower. At the top, he proposed. She said no so he pushed her off. Apparently, you can hear her laugh then scream. Not so romantic now.

Eiffel TowerWe decided to get the full Eiffel Tower experience and walked down to the next floor. Big mistake. There were so many steps that by the time we reached the first floor, our feet were in agony. So we queued to take the lift down but had to wait ages with our feet feeling as though we were standing in lava. It was gone midnight by the time we got down but there was a sorbet place open so us and Neen had sorbet as we ambled to the metro. We had strawberry and raspberry. It was the best sorbet we’ve ever had and was the perfect way to end our last night in Paris. Then on the Metro was a hot guy. He looked like Ed Skrein from Deadpool. The views in Paris were just getting better. And he kept looking at us. So we played it cool. By ‘played it cool’, we mean we avoided eye contact and turned around. Winning.Eiffel Tower

Empire of the Dead

Conciergerie

Conciergerie

Going to jail, hanging out with the dead and again exposing ourselves to Paris. Day three went well.

P1170459We got an “ooh la la” from a guy as we headed for the bike stop. An actual ooh la la. Neen told him to be more original. The guy was actually good looking but his cliched line put an immediate black mark against him. Be original or be gone with you, good sir! We hired bikes again and cycled our way down to the Conciergerie. We went the wrong way down one way streets, cycled on pavements, nearly mowed down pedestrians and got applause from a guy as we cycled past a cafe. Basically, we fitted in with other road users. When in Rome…Conciergerie

Conciergerie

inside the conciergerie

We figured this was the perfect time to use our action cam as it was intended. It was going well until Lynx went over a bump and the action cam sailed out of her bike’s basket. We have a chest strap for it but left it at home. We earned our second “ooh la la” from a Japanese tourist. Our plan to ride the bikes for free was foiled when there was police presence at the Notre Dame, so they sealed the roads and wouldn’t let us take our bikes to the stands. Then every other stand was full. We were following a French guy who had the same problem. Neen commented on the craziness of it. Man “It’s France.” We were 9 minutes over our time when we managed to park. Neen had a crepe then we went to the Conciergerie.

ConciergerieIt used to be palace for the Capetian dynasty but Charles V stopped using it as a palace in the 14th century and used it to house his law courts. At the end of the 18th century, it was the prison for the prisoners of the Revolution before they were tried and executed. Marie Antoinette was held there for two months. It was a lovely place and it was good to see somewhere historical that wasn’t on our list. Cells depicted how rich or poor prisoners were treated and there was loads of information. Marie Antoinette’s cell has a mannequin of her with guards as she tried to escape.

Conciergerie

Marie Antoinette’s cell

We cycled to the Place de la Bastille monument, where the fort was, then walked down to the ruins of the Bastille prison, where the Revolution started when they stormed it and freed the prisoners. Construction began in 1357 and it increased until the 1600s. It started as a battle fortress but then became a prison. Famous prisoners included the Man in the Iron Mask and the Marquis de Sade. The ruins are right beside a children’s playground. Both locations are rumoured to be haunted by strange smells and sightings. But we’re guessing this might be the kids.

Bastille

Place de la Bastille

As we passed a row of shops, there were huge air vents. Neen was disappointed Cat hadn’t been photographed with the vent from the Louvre so made her stand on them. Cat held most of her skirt down, managing to retain her dignity. The shop assistant applauded her. P1170461Then as she ran across the road to photograph a fountain, Neen said “you showed your arse again when you went down. And your boobs do jiggle when you run. You’ve made Paris very happy today.” It’s a good job we always wear our Ann Summers finest. Poor Paris. It needs therapy now.

Bastille

Bastille ruins

As we were close to Ile St Louis and hadn’t gone there the other day, we walked across and had sorbet before crossing back over the haunted Pont Marie. Two lovers used to meet there, but the man was a spy and one day, he never returned, so the woman wanders the bridge, still waiting for him. You never find male ghosts pining for their lost loves. We’d put off using the metro all holiday but it was time to be brave and we caught the metro to the catacombs. Except we got off at the wrong stop and had to hobble a mile to the catacombs. We suffer from callouses and heel spurs caused by plantar faciitis. Walking long distances is excruciating.

Paris Catacombs

Catacombs

It turned out that we’d paid for the audio tour. We weren’t given the option of not having it. The queue to get in was incredibly long. People can queue for about three hours. If you go, book in advance. We only had to wait fifteen minutes. The catacombs were fantastic. We could’ve spent hours in there. Hell, we could’ve lived there. We’ve wanted to visit the catacombs for years. It’s the whole reason we went to Paris. Unfortunately, once we were in the Empire of Bones, we didn’t get to listen to the audio tour because we didn’t have enough hands to hold it. Lynx was videoing and using one phone as a torch, the other as a camera while Cat was using the Panasonic camera and as flash photography and tripods were forbidden, the dim light made photography hard.

Paris CatacombsNeen said it was very interesting and well worth a listen. She said we could’ve taken photos then listened to it, but we were so conscious of keeping the others waiting, that we didn’t want to hang around too long. Though we did manage to have sections of the catacombs to ourselves for a lot of time, proving once again, our superpower is losing people on tours. Next time, we’re doing the audio tour, even if we have to stay there all night.

Paris CatacombsAnd this time Neen proposed to Cat in front of a heart from made skulls. Now we’re not romantic people but if guys should propose in that spot, we would likely say yes. There is nothing more romantic than a heart made from skulls. You can keep your love lock bridge and sunset meal proposals. Give us the dead any day.
Paris CatacombsAcross the road was a gift shop. In a repeat of the Alcatraz gift shop, we spent a lot of money in there. If we hadn’t been conscious of luggage weight limit, we would’ve bought the entire shop. Except it’s expensive and as we tell Neen – you don’t get rich by spending. Our feet hadn’t hurt the whole time we were in the catacombs, so either we were too distracted to notice, or the dead have healing powers.
Paris CatacombsWe wandered the streets for a while before getting back on the metro and heading to the main street near ours. We stopped in a bar for cocktails before deciding to find somewhere to eat. We walked all the way to one end of the street, but the places we stopped at weren’t gluten free, so we turned around and walked all the way back, only to go to the first place Neen spotted – right across the road from the bar we were in. The whole time it felt like walking on hot coals and knives. By this point, we’d decided that if the chips weren’t vegan, we were going to sit outside and eat shortbread. There was no way we were walking any further. We always feel sorry for the waiting staff when they say they can speak English, because not only do they have to contend with us trying to explain what makes chips vegan (cooked separately from the meat) but also with Jules being gluten free. Our poor waiter earned his tip. But we got to practise the French we’d learned. “L’addition si’l vous plait.” Bill please.
Paris CatacombsWe can only stay out drinking for so long before we get bored so we headed back to our apartment at 11 while the others stayed out. It was our first time of navigating Paris alone and our SatNav froze, only piping up when we reached the road by ours. Thanks, Helen, good to see you’re as helpful in France as you are in Britain. But at least we got to see streets we hadn’t seen before.

We were looking forward to the next day – it was going to be a day of the dead.sorbet

Culture Shock

LouvreDoing fake proposals in romantic spots, exposing ourselves to tourists and cycling while drunk. Day two in Paris was certainly memorable.

LouvreWe’d booked a ghost walk for the evening, which started at the Notre Dame, so we decided to spend the day in that area. After breakfast in a café, (not for us – we brought cereals) us and Neen headed to the Louvre while Alex and Jules went shopping. The Louvre apparently has a 13th century dungeon, which is haunted and some locals believe some paintings were made with ink harvested from people’s hearts. The beginning of the St Bartholomew’s Day massacre began at the Louvre. It was the worst religious massacre in history. There have been sightings of old guards and the Red Man of Tuileries – a 16th century murderer whose ghost wanders the museum.

LouvreThe Louvre is enormous! You could spend several days there. Before going to Paris, Neen came up with a plan: as Paris is the city of love, we should do mock proposal photos. Well, people do say you should marry your best friend. Cat and Neen did the first proposal photo at the pyramid in the Louvre, with Cat offering Neen a heart shaped shortbread biscuit. It was magical.

LouvreIt didn’t take that long to get in to the Louvre and was only 15 Euros, which, considering the size of the place, is very reasonable. We wandered for a bit before heading to the Venus di Milo first. We don’t know why she’s famous, only that she is. We then amused ourselves by posing as the statues did. LouvreThis is how we culture. We admired the perfectly peachy arse of a naked male statue then Cat walked over a grate in the floor. Which turned out to be air vent. Cue a Marilyn Monroe impression as she battled to save her dignity but it was too late. Her flowy pinstripe skirt and pinstripe stockings were a bad combination as the people of Paris were treated to a rare sight of her sparkly Ann Summers finest and stark white arse cheeks. Cat “Well if that statue can get his arse out and call it art, so can I.” This wasn’t the last time a vent exposed her posterior to Paris.

LouvreWe made our way through the Egyptian bit to see the sarcophagi, which were brilliant. You can guarantee in any museum, we will hunt out the death section. We then worked our way through the Louvre to find the Mona Lisa. She and the Venus di Milo are the only pieces we know so we just looked at the other stuff as we passed through. We noticed a trend – all the female statues and paintings had really high, small nipples and all the male statues had tiny penises and large testicles. They must have all used the same model and changed the faces.

Louvre

Venus di Milo

You couldn’t get to the Mona Lisa. There were so many people crowding it and taking photos, we had to wait then push our way through. And so you were under pressure to just take a photo and leave, rather than take the time to actually look at the painting. We couldn’t even see it until we were at the front – people in Paris are tall! Still can’t believe we’ve seen two of the most famous pieces of art.

LouvreWe met up with Alex and Jules in a café and had a very expensive vodka and lemonade – 12 Euros! For that price, we want our ice cubes carved into famous statues and served by a Wentworth Miller lookalike. But it was strong vodka, so we stumbled our way towards the Notre Dame, stopping to look in gift shops. We found the love lock bridge on Pont Neuf where Lynx did a proposal photo to Neen. Neen had only been engaged to Cat for a few hours and was already marrying someone else! We couldn’t help thinking that the majority of couples who’d put locks on the bridge had probably split. Cynical? Maybe. But you know we’re right. The city actually discourages putting locks on because the weight of them damaged the original bridge so they were moved.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Female ghosts have been seen among the Notre Dame’s gargoyles and powerful French figures have been spotted inside. Legend states the gargoyles come to life to chase away evil spirits. But none of them came for us. The Notre Dame took over two hundred years to build and is stunning, but the queue to get in was stupidly long and it was hot, so we went to look for somewhere to eat and drink. Ours and Neen’s feet were killing us so we didn’t want to stray too far from the Notre Dame because that’s where the ghost walk was meeting at 7 p.m. We got to the Notre Dame just in time. LouvreBut the ghost walk guide didn’t show. Concerned, Neen checked her email. It wasn’t at 7 at the Notre Dame, it was at 9 on Pont Neuf. Lynx had booked the wrong ghost walk. We shuffled our way over and spent time in a café/diner/bar. Lynx needed the toilet, but a woman who’d tried to go in earlier when it was used, was blocking the door on her phone. The toilet became free, but the woman didn’t go in. Lynx waited a while before going to the woman and saying excuse moi. The woman went into the toilet. Bitch.

Love Lock bridgeJules is a coeliac and the food she ate must’ve had had gluten in so it made her ill. She and Alex went back to the apartment so us and Neen found another bar. We didn’t feel like drinking, so Neen drank and we asked the barman about the city bikes we’d seen around. They’re free for the first half hour then you pay a Euro for the first hour. But if you get to a parking spot within the half hour and wait two minutes, you can take another bike for free. They’d save our feet. Even if our clothing wasn’t suitable for cycling.

the vampire of Paris's apartment

the vampire of Paris’s apartment

We made our way to Pont Neuf for the ghost walk, but again, didn’t see a guide. We spotted a guy with a clipboard but he was in a bright yellow t-shirt, not the usual black attire of ghost walk guides. But it turned out, he was part of the ghost walk. The guide was an American woman. It was less a ghost walk and more about French’s bloody history, which was interesting, because we don’t know a great deal about France’s past. So she pointed out where the gallows was, the church that was linked the St Bartholomew’s massacre, the spot where Henri IV was murdered, which is outside what is now the Heart and Crown cafe, and where the site of the public executions was. She also pointed out the Concierge building we passed on our way to the Notre Dame. It was where they held the prisoners of the Revolution before they were guillotined. We now had another place to add to our list. We stopped beneath the apartment of the vampire of Paris. He was in a documentary we watched on cannibals. He only killed one person, but had decorated his apartment with skin and body parts he’d stolen from the morgue he’d worked in. He’s now out of prison and apparently spends a lot of time in the catacombs.

love lock bridge

love lock bridge

We went to find somewhere for a drink and ended up in the gay district. We shared a sex on the beach because we wouldn’t manage one each. As our feet were hurting, it was gone midnight and we were tipsy, we decided it was the perfect time to try the city bikes. We found a bike spot and took a while reading the instructions, trying to figure it out. You needed 150 Euros in your bank to cover the deposit. We eventually figured out how to use the bikes and get them off their stands. You get a ticket with a subscriber number on and you have to enter a 4 digit passcode. You then put in the number of bike you want and have 60 seconds to get to it and get it off the stand.

city bikes

city bikes

We soon had our bikes and were on our wobbly way. We haven’t really ridden a bike since we were 17 and Lynx came off it, and cut her knee so badly, it’s still scarred. So we weren’t exactly confident on them. Neen rides regularly so she was fine. She also has a better sense of direction so was volunteered to be the leader. Lynx’s tight PVC skirt really wasn’t suitable for biking adventures and she’s pretty sure she flashed half of Paris. We made it back to our apartment and dropped our bikes off nearby. It was quicker and it saved our tortured feet. Though our shoulders did ache like bitches with the weight of our rucksacks. We’d tried putting them in the basket but that just unbalanced the bikes so we wore them. We accidentally rode on the left side of the road, but luckily there were no cars. Never mind the metro, we found a new mode of transport.Notre Dame

Bon Voyage!

planeYou know your first trip to Paris isn’t going to go well when two hours before you leave, you still haven’t got your Euros. (That stupid referendum weakening the pound is still a sore point). The panic stations were armed and ready for warfare. Cat had to make an emergency appointment to the doctors for her enormous tongue ulcers which sprung up on Wednesday, so Lynx and Neen walked Meg and Bandit. They returned to find Cat on the verge of a meltdown as our suitcase was too heavy. We were forced to switch our medium Red Bulls for smalls to save weight, and two cartons of soya milk were sacrificed. We’ll just have to eat chips instead and hope the Parisians don’t do what the Brits do and cook their chips in with the meat.

Cat and Neen went to the post office at midday. We’d gone the day before, but they didn’t have any Euros. We were promised them today. They hadn’t arrived. And the rate had dropped. They went to a different post office. They had the Euros, but Cat didn’t have her ID on her – it was already packed. After another near swearing meltdown in the post office, saved only by a note in a box saying “do you have a big one at home?” they returned, Cat fetched her ID and made another trip to the post office.

P1170146We made it to Cardiff airport on time, convinced after our mishaps, it could only go right from here on. How wrong we were. At home, our case weighed just under the 20KG limit. In the airport it was 20.9. We needed to get it down to 20.3. So we stuffed items in hand luggage. Then the lady uttered the fateful words: “you all need to weigh your hand luggage.” She’d obviously seen our clever ploy of moving stuff into our hand luggage and decided to stop it. We’ve never had to do this. Cat’s rucksack was under but Lynx, Neen, Alex and Jules’s hand luggage was over. We shifted a kilo from Lynx’s into Cat’s rucksack. But we couldn’t disperse anything else and there was no way we were leaving stuff behind. Lady “You could pay £40 and check one of the bags in.” Neen “Fuck that. I’m wearing everything.”

P1170148So we opened our cases and in the middle of check in, the three us started donning our heaviest clothes. Metal belt? That went on too. Hoodies went round the waist and jackets were donned. Neen stuffed her pockets with as much as she could. Neen’s hand luggage also contained a box of shortbread, so as we pulled skirts and tops over our dresses, we also shovelled the largest pieces of shortbread into our mouths to help reduce the weight. This is one of those comedy moments writers put in sitcoms. We personally don’t see the difference to our hand luggage being in the bags or us wearing it. We’ll be in the same place on the plane. And if anything, this was now dangerous, as should the plane land in the water, the extra weight on us would force us to drown. Is that what you want, Flybe? For us to drown by obeying your petty rules?

glasses 1Alex and Jules’s bags were weighed down by their makeup so Jules phoned her husband to come back and take some home. The bags then weighed 11 kilos and the lady allowed them through. Think she realised we were serious about wearing all our clothes and decided we’d made enough of a scene. And then Cat accidentally insulted the lady by saying as we’re only 7 and a half stone, we should be allowed two lots of hand luggage.  Us and our hand luggage combined weigh far less than an average man. Therefore, we should get away with heavier hand luggage. The lady uttered the words “so cos I’m fat, I don’t get hand luggage?” She wasn’t fat in the slightest and we’re pretty sure she was joking but Neen was silently willing Cat to stop talking. At this rate, we wouldn’t be getting on the plane.

glasses 2And from next month, Flybe are reducing the size of their hand luggage allowance, meaning our hand luggage will no longer be allowed. So this is the last time we’ll be flying with them. We’re not forking out buying on tiny bags just to abide by their rules. It’s probably to force people into paying for check-in luggage (which is more costly than other airlines’ check-in luggage). You have underestimated our stinginess, Flybe.

going to get our case

going to get our case

The moment we got upstairs, we whipped off our extra clothes and put them back in the bags before getting to security. We have enough trouble getting through there without the metal we were now wearing. The bags already had the approved label put on them. We could’ve loaded several bottles of duty free vodka in and no-one would’ve known. Our bags returned to being over the weight limit and guess what? The plane didn’t fall into the Channel with our cases bursting open and our clothes floating away on the waves. But at least now we’d stopped looking ridiculous. Well, until we all took selfies wearing comedy sunglasses. We weren’t sure which was funnier – the terrible styles or the prices. Some cost as much as our plane tickets!

P1170156But the flight went smoothly and Cat stopped accidentally insulting the staff. When we landed in Charles de Gaulle, we had to get on a train to be taken to baggage. This was the longest trip ever to get to baggage reclaim. We summoned a taxi and headed to our apartment. Except our street wasn’t coming up on the taxi driver’s SatNav. Uh oh. Neen found it on maps on her phone and had to direct our driver there. Paris seems to be a system of one way streets with a complete free for all on the roads and scooters riding on pavements. We got through the doorway of the building to find ourselves in some sort of narrow courtyard. We didn’t know which mailbox was ours for the key. Cat texted the apartment owner. He told us the number. None of the doors were numbered. We started trying random doors, until one guy appeared convinced we were trying to break in to his apartment. After assuring him we were tourists and not inept criminals, he relaxed a bit, though we were convinced he had the police on speed dial. Cat texted Allan again. The one with the brown door. We eventually got in.

P1170171We had about half an hour before we had to leave for food before the Moulin Rouge. We whipped off our flight clothes, yanked on our fancy dresses, touched up our makeup and were ready to go in ten minutes. Alex and Jules took a lot longer because of re-doing hair and makeup. We’re a bit lazy when it comes to makeup. If it takes longer than 15 minutes, it’s not worth our time. The Hard Rock Café was a ten minute walk from our apartment so we headed there for chips and Red Berry Press, dressed in our Moulin Rouge finery. We had half an hour to eat before we had to leave. After stuffing our faces as quickly as possible, we got a taxi to the Moulin Rouge. We had enough time to take two photos and to make a quick video call to Tom to taunt him that we were there and he wasn’t. The dress code for the Moulin Rouge was ‘elegant’, hence us forking out for new dresses, something we never do. As we queued, we scanned the crowds, expecting to see hundreds of beautifully dressed people. There were none. Everyone else was in jeans or shorts. Our corset dresses with the lace skirts really stood out. Since when has ‘elegant’ and ‘stonewash denim’ ever been used in the same sentence?

Moulin RougeWeirdly, there was a building beside the theatre for us to queue in, which kept the queue off the street. We eventually got in and were shown to our table. We were on a slight balcony so we had a great view. The show was phenomenal. The costumes were incredible, despite nothing being left to the imagination. First night in Paris and we were bombarded with perky naked boobs with high, tiny nipples. This would become a theme for our trip. As would one dance move that we repeatedly performed for the rest of our stay. Though whilst the women were all bare breasted and showing arses, the men remained fully clothed. Neen was very happy about this. There was one male dancer who was trying so hard to come across as manly and straight that he just ended up looking stiff and awkward. Dude, you’re in the Moulin Rouge in a pink outfit. Puffing your chest out like a toad isn’t going to help.

Moulin RougeOne dance involved a man and woman on rollerskates on a small platform. Theirs was by far the best dance. At one point, a strap attached her head to his neck and she corkscrewed while he spun. And then she landed smoothly and carried on dancing. Another time she held on simply with one skate hooked around his neck. When we went on the roundabout in the children’s park in Temple Newsam, the three of us couldn’t walk afterwards, yet she was able to dance. Another amazing dance had a man and woman dancing with a large hula hoop, at some points standing inside it and dancing. As people who have never master the art of hula hooping, we were mesmerised. Our least favourite bit were definitely the clowns. Nobody warned us there’d be clowns! There was also a strange part where a guy had puppets. Moulin RougeAlex and Jules later said he was from Britain’s Got Talent. It seemed odd to have that part in the middle but the crowd seemed to love him. We were just perplexed and not overly impressed. One thing we couldn’t understand was how the women’s boobs just did not jiggle. They were definitely real boobs. Yes, some were small, but we’re also small in the boob department and we still need sports bras for Zumba because of the shimmying and shaking your boobs like maracas. Yet theirs didn’t move. Witchcraft! We pondered the mystery of the anti-jiggle many times.

We’d had no idea what to expect from the Moulin Rouge. We hated the film but the show was absolutely incredible. But €17 for a vodka and lemonade? No thanks. We’d rather spend that on going up the Eiffel Tower. Afterwards, we headed for the eroticism museum. It was apparently open til 2 a.m but we got there at 1:30 and it was closed. So we went into a sex shop instead. Well the Pigalle is the red light district. They had really nice clothes in there! We were tempted, but not at that price. We returned to our apartment around 2 a.m and for the first time in a long while, actually had a good night’s sleep. Paris was definitely agreeing with us.Moulin Rouge