Overall the trip was fantastic, the students were lovely, one of the best groups we’ve ever taken; the hotel staff even complimented us about them when we left, which has never happened before.
We met up at penrith railway station at 5.40a.m. on Tuesday 10th November. A quickish journey to London Euston and then a short walk to London St. Pancras, we had a little time before check in, but just enough for a quick wander round the shops and a toilet stop. Checking in was easy, but passport control was a bit of a nightmare for Diana Wokhukukwa; they didn’t like her passport so hauled both her and me off to a room which lots of people speaking French and making telephone calls. At one point I didn’t think they were going to let her through and I was thinking how I could pay for her to get back on the train up to Penrith. Thankfully, eventually they let her through.
The Eurostar is fantastic; it’s pretty unbelievable that it only takes 2 hours 20 minutes. Another shortish walk to the hotel from Gare du Nord, students given a bit of time to settle and then straight back out on the metro. I’d already pre-bought 5 day travel cards for everyone so it was easy for us all to use the metro. We went down to the Latin Quarter to soak up a bit of the Parisian atmosphere and to eat out. We also met up with an old student Joe James, who’s younger sister Megan James was on our trip. It was great to meet up that evening to have a meal as it was there birthday that day, they unusually share the same birthday, and by some quirk it was Megan’s 18th birthday and Joe’s 21st; quite a night to remember for them.
The next day we started off drawing at Notre Dame and then walked up to Musee Picasso. It was a beautiful sunny day. It was a bit of a coup getting into the Picasso; it only re-opened last October after being shut for 6 years. When planning back in England, they refused us entry as a group several times, but I found a loophole on their website, so I posed as three different people and managed to get enough tickets for us to all get in. It was outstanding; you could easily spend several days there, the range and quality of work and display is pretty exceptional. Back on the metro to the next gallery, Musee de l’Orangerie. The Orangerie holds the 360 degree massive Monet paintings and also a great collection of post-impressionist works, all set in a beautiful building in the Tuileries. Back to the hotel and then out again for the evening to Sacre Coeur and up the steep and numerous steps. The view at night of Paris from Sacre Coeur is wonderful and gives the students a great experience of looking down and across at Paris. A quick walk round the corner to Montmatre to eat out and see where the post-impressionists used to meet.
The next day started with a visit to Galeries Lafayette and then on to the Brancusi studio outside the Pompidou Centre. Then into the main galleries at the Pompidou Centre which hold a vast collection of contemporary art. We left late afternoon and took a short metro journey to Musee des Arts Decoratifs and the Musee de la Mode et du Textile which had a stunning fashion exhibition focused around buttons. They had pulled together costumes from the last 200 years with particularly interesting button detailing. It was also special because they hold many original drawings by a whole host of couturier designers which they were then able to display next to the actual item of clothing. We then took a quick trip to the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Elysees to see them at night, and then back to the hotel to eat locally and collapse.
Another beautiful sunny day on Friday and a start at Musee Rodin; students are always surprised just how contemporary Rodin is and how much then enjoy seeing his work set in beautiful surroundings. Another shortish walk to the Eiffel tower to go up and eat locally. In the afternoon we walked from the Eiffel tower along and over the Seine to Musee d’Art Moderne, our last gallery visit. This gallery is huge and houses a very strong collection of major 20th and 21st century artist’s work.
The last day in Paris on Saturday was a little damp but we started by revisiting Notre Dame so we could climb to the top and see the view. Although it was wet, a bonus of the weather is that we saw the famous Notre Dame gargoyles working, spouting the water away from the building. Our last trip was then on to the flea market area in the north of Paris. It was visually stunning and stylistically very French but unfortunately horrendously expensive.
Back to the hotel, and on to Gare du Nord and a quick journey back to London. Laughably we then had to transfer to a coach as there were rail works that weekend. The coach journey from London to Penrith took almost 3 times as long as getting from Paris to London, and we arrived back at UIlswater at quarter to one Sunday morning.
Head of the Creative Arts Faculty