That strange animal, adolescent male human (or nearly)
is my idea of a teenage mutant Ninja turtle.
Take him to Paris for the first time in his life and what does he do?
He does Sudoku on an i-phone throughout the train journeys,
responding politely when his grandmother points out places of passing interest
then back to eyes down, thumbs twitching,
Everything else is seen through the viewfinder of a camera.
Arrival in pouring rain: make for the Metro, queue for day tickets,
i-phone used to find Metro map, ignoring those on the walls.
You don’t see much from deep underground,
if you except the river of bodies seething on and off at every stop.
Emerge near the Ile de la Cité and make for the nearest bridge.
Stop at a handy shop to buy two cheap umbrellas and a cagoule.
Grandmother turns into a blue tent.
Son and grandson poke a few eyes out. the spots are rain
First tourist destination, majestic Notre Dame.
A shuffling snake of a queue deters us from entering –
we’re only here for a very short day.
The outside is photographed – every detail, every angle.
i-phones consulted for map of Paris: circuitous route to the Louvre
via alleyways, byways and highways.
Dripping stoically, grandmother trudges behind.
A welcome break for a bistro lunch, pizza, croque Madame and chips –
no Parisian haute cuisine for this impoverished trio.
As we gaze out at damp shuffling tourists,
a miracle occurs: blue sky, sunshine, smiling faces.
Cagoule and brollies packed away, the rejuvenated caravan resumes its trek.
Another serpentine two-hour queue for the art-filled home of many kings,
but all the boys want to see and capture is the pyramid excrescence.
Grandmother is left to rest on the steps, back against a pillar, while they explore.
She uses the time to recce the bus routes, using her eyes,
no electronics for her.
Reunited, a concerted dash for a ninety-five bus,
Montmartre our target.
The bus crawled past countless celebrated sites,
the boys clicking away as if possessed.
The driver announces the nearest stop for Sacré Coeur –
which turns out to be further away than it should have been. first glimpse of Sacré Coeur
Climbing steadily, steps upon steps upon steps, r
emorseless incline eternally teasing, hiding wedding cake basilica,.
Lucky old grandmother,
the boys kept stopping to ooh and ah
and photograph quirky signs and flowery balconies
until at last the gleaming white dome is dead ahead.
Jostled by tour groups we shuffle inside to more oohs and ahs.
No photography allowed to boys’ chagrin,
They inch their way round while grandmother sits in a pew and thinks.
Grateful to regain the world outside,
the whole of Paris is spread below to delight the eye. Grandson in the Place du Tertre
Our next shuffle-round is the artist’s commercial bonanza
which is La Place du Tertre.
Enough I cry and march us to a café, to refresh ourselves,
watch the creeping caucus race go by.
Descent – easier on the heart but harder on the knees –
brings us safely through a maze of passages and stairways,
to the evocative art nouveau Metro sign, our goal.
Tense moments, time running out,
but we make it by the skin of our teeth,
running up escalators and stairs.
Collapse onto the comforting velvety seats of the train.
Net gain: aching calf muscles and back for me,
For the boys, just a glimpse of the glory that is Paris,
and hundreds of digital photographs.