Caiti and I are safely back from our whirlwind trip to Paris which has left us culturally elevated but exhausted! OK, that could also be this afternoon’s post-trip gentle tree lugging session, but it’s mainly Saturday’s long day out in the City of Light. Also known as the Extremely Chilly City, the City of Police (we saw armies of them!) and also sadly the City of Public Phone Boxes Full of Homeless Families (about which more presently).

I’ll blog in more detail later in the week about our adventures since I haven’t yet sorted through my 95 photos and I’m on the weary side, but I wanted to touch base and give you a quick idea of what we got up to.

We walked a lot, went on metros and double-decker RER trains a lot (just how cool is a two-storey train? I never even knew they existed!), saw the Pont Alexandre III, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Latin quarter, Rue Rivoli, two different branches of Quick fast food restaurants, the Louvre, the Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Assemblé Nationale, the Arc de Triomphe and the étoile, Montmatre and the Bastille area, plus several more churches, towers and pointy monuments! And we fitted in the JPO (open day) at the Université de Pierre et Marie Curie which is where Caiti is thinking of going, and which was the main focus of the trip. Pas mal.

We had a few technical problems with Caiti’s phone which meant we were out of touch with Dagg base at Les Fragnes for eight hours. Knowing our silence would be a cause for concern, we looked for public phones to use during the afternoon but each and every one was occupied by families, I’m guessing eastern European, consisting of desperate looking women and an assortment of young children amidst piles of bedding and sacks of clothes. There were several tiny babies in evidence. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t need to be there. I don’t think any shelter would turn away small children in this weather, even if the families were sans papiers i.e. illegal immigrants. At least, I really, really hope not.

The JPO was disappointing. It’s the third one I’ve been to, and by far the worst. It gave every impression of having been organised at the very last minute, and I use the word ‘organised’ loosely. There were some students handing out a badly photocopied schematic plan of the Uni which blurrily highlighted the three areas where things were actually happening. This is a huge campus, admittedly with quite a lot of it being rebuilt, but there was still plenty of room to spread things out in. However, the stands of all four major scientific disciplines were packed into a couple of small ‘caves’ with squeezing through room only. There were no displays, no labs open to have a look round, no advice about student life in general and accommodation in particular, no friendly profs chatting to kids – practically nothing at all. Caiti asked a girl student about finding out about logements and was helpfully told to come back during the week and go to the scolarité office! I tried to probe and asked if she’d had any problems finding somewhere to live, but this was met with a fixed but panic struck smile. Does not compute! This may be part of the Sorbonne and allegedly the best science university in the country, but the people that run it couldn’t organise the proverbial event involving too much drink in a brewery. Caits wasn’t impressed, but the course is the one that she really wants to do. I guess we’ll see.

Enough for now. Youngest son is slowly dissolving in the bath and Muscly Men In Lycra (Ski Sunday) is about to start on the telly, the one programme I don’t like to miss each week, for obvious reasons! More about Paris soon …