Samantha David is a freelance journalist and writes for various publications including BBC Online, the Sunday Times, the FT, Living France, everything France, and France Magazine

Samantha David, writer

Le Dernier Mot - articles by Samantha David



      The Junior Members are off to Paris with the school.  They're going by coach to Montpellier, where they're taking the TGV to Paris and then in just five days, they're doing everything: climbing the Eiffel Tour, enjoying a moonlit cruise up the Seine, visiting Versailles, La Stade de France, La Cité des Sciences, the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, Notre-Dame, Sacré Coeur and taking walking tours around areas of historical interest before heading south on the TGV again.  I think the only omission from the list is dinner and a girlie show at the Moulin Rouge. 

      They're also going shopping in Parisian markets for bread and ham so they can make their own lunches, gadding out to eat in restaurants every evening, having a disco on the fourth and final night and of course, having an Olympic pillow fight in the dorm. 

      Actually I don't think that last one is an official activity, but the JMs are sublimely confident on this point and swear blind they had one last year in Carcassonne.

      The saintly (and clearly insane) group of teachers who have volunteered to lead this expedition have been planning it since last autumn.  The parents have already been to a meeting, watched a PowerPoint display, asked idiot questions ("Won't it be tiring?") and received detailed timetables, costs break-downs and demands for multiple cheques.  All we have to do now is get our little darlings to the coach on time.

      Naturally, the school have issued packing lists.  Walking shoes, warm clothes, waterproof coat, slippers.  (I don't know why slippers always appear on French school packing lists but they always do, along with a washing gong.)*  Hmmm, let me see.  No valuables, no mobile phones, no digital cameras, no MP3 players or iPods.  No large quantities of ready cash.  (Are they mad?)  No portable dvd players, laptops, credit cards, cheque books, or sat-nav systems. 

      "Can't I take Hammy?"

      "You're joking, right?"

      "Marie-Rose is taking her hamster."

      "Not on this trip, she won't.  No chance.  Rodin but no rodents.  There will be no hamsters.  Put him back in his cage.  Now!"

      "What about a horse?"

      "You haven't got a horse."

      "But you could give me one..."

      "Nope.  What's that?  There's something moving in there..."

      "The dog."

      "Come out of that bag, Maggot!  You're not going to Paris!"

      "What about my red trousers?  I can't go without them.  If I have to wear my black jeans I'll look like a drongo."

      "A what?"


      "Mum, there is no way I'm taking Mickey Mouse pjs."

      Oh dear.  I can see it's a good job we started this packing lark well in advance: it's obviously going to mean a trip into town.  Apart from suitably trendy pjs, we're going to need an alarm clock that isn't done up with sellotape, a pack of disposable cameras and a selection of weird safe-n-secure money-carriers so the kids don't get pick-pocketed on the Paris metro.   

      But I'm not getting on very fast.  I keep getting distracted by the prospect of five whole child-free days.

      "What are we going to do?" I asked the Senior Partner.  "We ought to make the most of it..."

      He nodded enthusiastically.  "Absolutely!" 

      "Perhaps we could nip over the border to Barcelona, check out the Magic Fountain, the Picasso museum, Las Ramblas... those wavy apartments..."

      "Or lie in every morning, go out to lunch with friends, and then come home and enjoy having the sofa to ourselves..." he said with a husky catch in his throat.

      "Ooh well... there's a thought..." I murmured seductively.

      "Yep, and bags I the TV remote," he said. 

* A "gant de toilette" - a washing mitten used in place of a flannel, which is unknown in France.





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