Hôtel National des Invalides – Musée de l’Armée.
highlights: Smelly dorm mate; Grand palais; Petit palais and a art exhibition; Pont Alexandre III; getting lost; Polo on bicycles; Repository of arsenal and armour, WWI and WWII exhibition, Tombeau de Napoleon II.
Last night, two German guys stayed in my dorm. They, too, complained of the rancid aroma that emanated from the heap of clothing in the corner andfrom the scrunched up linen of the lower bunk across from mine.
The windows were opened, though cold, to allow fresh air to enter the room and ventilate the stench. The two Germans headed down to the bar for a drink, they did invite me but I politely declined.
I decided to head up to the Basilica again. This time, I left only a matter of minutes before the Complies would start. I took the stairs to the top of Montmartre, this time it was the set adjacent to the funicular. I counted each step, all 267 of them. The night was cold and I was smoking a cigarette, but that did not shake me from my determination to climb the stairs in one steady pace, fast and strong. All those that passed me on their way down must have seen the determination on my face as I squeezed the cigarette into my mouth and breathed in hard.
I sat at the back of the basilica, this time. The nuns were just coming out with the prayer booklets. I could just sit there all night listening to the beautiful sounds of the sisters’ voices. One line I remember: Si j’offre un holocaust, tu n’en veux pas. I think it means: If I offer you a holocaust, you must not be angry. How strange!
In each hymn, people stood and sat in a syncopated rhythm. During some long passages they would sit, then at a passage which mentioned Le seigneur, Le Fils et Le Saint Esprit, they would stand. I remained seated the whole time.
Unlike the night before, I stayed around after the sisters finished singing and left the basilica. The church organ was being played. It really sounded like a rock opera- something straight out of Rocky Horror Picture Show. The music changed and then the Priest and his acolytes entered the Basilica. This was now La Messe, what we call Mass in English.
The mass was delivered in French. I could make sense of what the Father was preaching, though I could not understand everything. I did know when the make the sign of the cross, when to offer peace to those around me La paix du Christ, and when it was time to accept Le corps du Christ.
So that was last night.
Today, however, I had a bit of a delayed start to my day. As I mentioned before, the dormitory reeked, something like a sour, sweaty and dirty aroma. Well, I woke up at 9AM, just in time to make it downstairs for breakfast. I came back and watched some Game of Thrones to pass the time. The German guys were leaving this morning, so I didn’t rush to have a shower, I would let them first have their turn and then take my time after. They woke up late enough that the Femme de ménage, cleaning lady, came and wanted to clean our bathroom. This was when we had our opportunity to mention the rancid smell- she quickly agreed it was putrid.
I hung around on the roof terrace with Daniel to have smoke while his friend had a shower and go ready to check-out. Old smelly French guy was still sleeping in his bed.
Anyway, they left and then it was me and the French guy. I was just about to go get ready to shower and then head out, but then he started chatting with me. I thought, “Oh cool, a French person who speaks French, I’ll practise with him!”. Nope. He wanted to speak English so he could practise. AND HE WAS FUCKING WEIRD.
So, this 35+ something year old guy has been living in the hostel for about 2 weeks on holiday from his job as a Douane, customs officer. In ten years, this is his first opportunity to take annual leave, and he spends it away from his home in a hostel (he literally doesn’t leave the hostel much).
He first started talking to me about his job and how stressful it is. Through his job he has gathered information about the “Mafia” in France, which apparently controls the Medical/Pharmaceutical community as well as the Government. What he believes to be true, I call conspiracy theories. I let him speak about his beliefs. I let him speak for nearly 2 hours! This guy just does not want to stop speaking, I barely even get to say a word. He doesn’t even notice that I am no longer looking at him while he speaks, I am snapchatting and facebooking in an attempt to show my ambivalence towards this subject.
He accuses the Pope of being the mastermind behind all Mafia of the world. All problems in the world fall upon the responsibility of the Pope, apparently. There are many crimes to which I believe the Pope should answer, but Medical/Pharamaceutical conspiracies is not his domain.
Once I was able to free myself from this abyss of a discussion, I went out into the world, outside of the hostel into Paris.
I took the metro from Anvers and changed over at Place de Clichy. I find the travel to be so easy here, and I am already such an expert. Another 6 stops takes me to Invalides metro stop. I surface from the underground metro and head towards the direction that I think the Musée de l’Armée is.
There are large columns with golden statues sitting atop. I follow them and find myself on Pont Alexandre III, a beautiful bridge. I keep walking and stumble upon the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. Now the Grand one is used for performing arts and the Petit one is a free museum. I quickly got bored of the sculptures and period artwork, so I once again started to march towards where I thought everything was.
I could see the Arc de Triomphe and realised quickly that I was not in Kansas anymore. I had walked too far. I said to myself that I would not pull out the map like a tourist in the middle of the street, but luck was not on my side. I had been walking in the complete opposite direction. I found my bearings and with determined feet took myself back on to the correct route.
I passed both Palais again, and crossed the Pont Alexandre III. On the otherside of the bridge there was a small paved area where I bore witness to a group of young men playing polo on bicycles. Interesting, I thought! Pity I was not close enough to take photos. As I walked, I saw a group of young men playing football in the grass- where clearly signed was “Interdiction de jouer sur le pélouse”.
I was a conscientious pedestrian, always waiting for the light signal to cross the road and looking both ways before stepping out onto the asphalt. There was a stupidly oblivious girl who stepped out into the road with a car speeding towards her. The driver was able to react quick enough to stop, but did not make use of their horn to alert this pauvre piéton. Stupid!
The Musée de l’Armée was rather interesting. With my visa, I got in for free again, yay! The complex is quite large, there are many different Salles d’histoire. I saw swords and double-handed sabres, amongst an array of other medieval arsenal and armory. Chain mail and plated-armour featured well in there too. It was cool to see examples of how war horses would be suited up in armour, though I really wondered what the mobility would have been like for such a large animal.
Je suis canon, it means I’m hot. There were so many cannons around and I tried so hard to get a selfie with one so I could post it up on Instagram and declare myself a gun.
I saw Napoleon’s tomb. It is a grand place and awe-inspiring monument. This emperor of France really did leave quite an amazing legacy:
- Government and Policy
- Military Prowess
- Freedom, Equality and Brotherhood
The tomb itself houses the giant red marble sarcophagus, which I assume carries his remains. Surrounding the sarcophagus on the walls are carvings of Napoleon himself, stating each of his legacies to France, as mentioned above plus some more.
There are also angels standing watch over the final resting place of this emperor, the sun-king. You can see where visitors have touched the statues as there are areas which are darker than the rest of the white marble. In fact, I think some visitors try to see how far around the angels they can reach, because there are some parts where it is not s dark but obvious that people have placed their grubby hands on it.
I checked out the World War I and World War II museum, this did not really interest me a lot. Neither was the history of Louis and Napoleon’s.
There was a wedding that was held at the Hôtel des Invalides(just another name for the Musée de l’armée).
I walked back to Invalides metro station and headed back home for the night.