Grandma Grey Surfs to Paris

Grandma Grey is a fictional character who has recently discovered the art of travel. Since there is no stopping her now, I would like to introduce you to her first blog. She is a new-comer to blogging and to travel so I hope you will follow her on her adventures

Grandma Grey

It was my father who came to my aid when I was last in Paris. Now it’s going to be my son John. “It’s outrageous”, he yells.  “It’s gone viral” he splutters before slamming down the phone.  Actually with these mobile things you can’t really slam down the phone can you? Which is a shame really, I do enjoy a bit of drama. As for going viral I’m almost certain that I haven’t contaminated any part of Paris, either unintentionally or on purpose. He’s “coming to get me”, like I need rescuing or something. Well, I don’t. I might be drawing my pension, but I’m not drawing my last breath. And another thing, if he hadn’t insisted I have a mobile phone I wouldn’t be in this pickle! It’s called a smart phone: a G something or another. It comes in a pretty pink case and does everything bar cook the Sunday roast.

“You have to learn to text Mum”, he’d insisted. Even showed me how to do it, but really I wasn’t interested. Half-heartedly he showed me how to use the internet: surfing I think he called it. But it just fell on deaf ears. I thought what a palaver! Why couldn’t I just find a telephone box? In any case why does he have to know my every move? So in a way you could say this ‘fiasco’ as John will undoubtedly call it, is his fault.   Anyhow, what happened was this. Vera died and to pass the time on my way to her funeral I took the phone out of my bag and started fiddling with it. As the coach sped down the motorway towards London I really got into it. So since then I’ve texted John regularly just as he instructed. I haven’t exactly told him where I’m texting from, but so what? If I text him I must be okay. Those were his very words.

We’d been friends for years, Vera and me. We met at Art College in the early 60s.  Neither of us was any good at art. We barely scraped through our final year.  A right pair of idlers we were then. We were proper dreamers though. No boring jobs for us. We were going to travel, see the world. That’s how come we ended up in Paris, which was just about as far as we got on our round the world back-packing adventure.

We decided to camp out in Luxembourg Gardens the first night we arrived in Paris. It’s real Parisian. It was the favourite haunt of poets and writers like Hemmingway and Scott Fitzgerald. It sounded very romantic and very avant garde.  When we woke up though, the misty romantic morning revealed our belongings had up and disappeared along with the night.  My father came to our rescue. I don’t quite remember how we found the British Embassy but we stayed there until he arrived in his little grey Morris Minor, cussing and blinding, to drive us back home: me to work in a shoe shop and Vera to work in a library.  So long Paris then. I’d never been back.

That was until now. I must say Paris jails are surprising clean and tidy. And the extremely young Gendarme has just brought me a lovely cup of raspberry tea. It’s all a bit of a muddle really. Anyhow, there I was sitting in London’s Victoria Station waiting for the bus back to Birmingham after the funeral. I got a bit gloomy. Funerals do that don’t they? Had I done enough with my life I wondered? I decided I hadn’t. Had I done anything remotely daring and exciting? No, I couldn’t think of one solitary thing. Okay, my Jim had taken good care of me and heaven forbid I should speak ill of my dead husband, but really he was as dull as dish water, always was. I studied the passengers getting on buses going to who knew where. I bet their lives were exciting. I pondered this as I idled with my new phone. I was far too early for my bus, but what can you do after a funeral? I’d lingered over the tea and cake provided by Vera’s daughter but there’s only so long you can make a slice of Battenberg last.

Grandma Discovers the Net

They call it surfing the net, this idling with different internet pictures. What a ridiculous term, but I can definitely see the attraction. My grandson said the phone knows my location. At first I didn’t believe it. “What rubbish,” I remarked.  But, believe it or not as I was sitting there in the coach station, the internet on my phone began offering me all sorts of fascinating travel destinations from right there at Victoria Station. Now that’s clever, very clever indeed. It seemed I could go to Paris from Victoria on a bus for £39 if I booked online now! So I booked it. Why not? By 6.30am the very next morning I would be in Paris instead of watching the telly in my little house in Birmingham. All I had to do was check in when I got on the bus: just waved my phone at driver and hey presto, he even helped me on with my overnight case.  Good job I always carry my passport. Vera would have laughed her socks off.

The bus pulled in at Bercy railway station in Paris right on the dot. Being the middle of August the station was already pretty busy. Even as I stepped onto the pavement I felt a tingle of excitement. Fancy? Me in Paris! My new phone had served me well over night. The pretty French girl, who’d sat next to me on the journey, showed me how to connect to the bus’s WiFi. With her help, I downloaded a map of the Paris metro and I memorised a YouTube video of how to use the metro ticket machines. Not bad for a Grandma! But, before starting on my pilgrimage to the gardens, I texted John: “Staying a little longer in London met some old friends at funeral”.  Popping the phone back inside its little pink leather case I marvelled at how easy it was to lie by text.

I suppose the trouble began when I arrived at Luxembourg Gardens. Dropping my bag on the grass by the Medicis Fountain I cleared my throat and began to sing Old Shep. Two young French men ambled over and joined in on the chorus.  You might say Old Shep was mine and Vera’s swan song. After we’d had our money stolen, we decided to busk by this very fountain for the price of a cup of coffee and a croissant. We made 5 Francs!

Anyhow, after I’d finished singing I shouted “That was for you Vera, love”. An elderly gentleman sitting on a nearby bench started with fright. That was when everything got a bit muddled. You see, I’d attracted a bit of a crowd and they were cheering me on. So, I got into the spirit of things and started singing Slow Boat to China. Just then a policeman broke through the crowd and started remonstrating throwing his arms this way and that like a mad thing. Well, I wasn’t doing any harm so I carried on singing. Then it happened. As I swung my arms out to hit my final note, I somehow managed to whack the policeman right on the nose. I watched in horror. It was like slow motion. His fingers clutched at the air as he tried to save himself. I grabbed at him but I knew he’d reached a point of no return. Toppling backwards, arms and legs flaying, he fell, full length into the fountain.

So here we are: me and my handsome boy band, waiting to pay our fines for causing an affray. Apparently there’s a major chess tournament going on in the Gardens this week and the policeman was simply asking us to move on. The two young men, Louis and Christian, are looking at their phones now and laughing hysterically. I frown at them. They should at least show some remorse I think. The younger of the two men, Louis, hands me his phone. I stare at the screen. I can hardly believe my eyes. That’s me, singing my little heart out. Then oops there goes the policeman! Stunned I hand the phone back. The boys are trying to explain that this video is showing all around the world. But I’m not listening. I’ve just received an email telling me I can go from Paris to Morocco by bus for as little as 150 Euros including the ferry crossing.  I’ve never been to Morocco.



Published by shirleyjustwrites

I have been writing for many years as a lecturer in history and health and social care. I now specialise in travel with a focus on solo travel for women 60 years and over. I have travelled extensively in Europe and visited New York for the first time in 2016. It was love at first sight, although, I have to say I do love Paris and spend quite a lot of time there looking for writing inspiration. I ive in the Midlands and have a second home in Central France The aim of my travel writing is to encourage older women to be confident in their solo travels, whether by plane, train or bus.

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