It’s not as often as I’d like that I get the chance to do a random quick dash out to Europe based on a wafer-thin premise, however Big Pete’s insistence that we go to an Iron Maiden gig provided just that impetus! Admittedly we could have gone to Twickenham, but they only had shite seats left and it takes about the same time to get from Camden to Twickenham as it does to get to Paris, so the decision was practically made for us!
The whole getting up (extremely) early to get our train thing sucked a bit, as did the fact that I couldn’t get a marmite & cheese crepe at Crepe Affaire due to them being out of marmite. As a substitute Pete ordered me a Brazilian (ham, cheese, pineapple – not sure how that conjures up memories of Rio, but hey), and if nothing else I’ll always have the memory of the look on her face for that fleeting instant before she remembered a Brazilian was a flavour of crepe.
I’m torn on the Eurostar beer issue whether they simply dont stock enough, or whether I drink too much – as once again we drank the Eurostar out of beer.
After I’d pushed my conversational French to its very limits to facilitate checkin (“un chambre s’il vous plait – nous avons un reservation pour ce soir”) we legged it off to or first point of sightseeing interest – Pere Lachaise cemetery.
I’m not really into graveyard tourism in a big way, but Pete wanted to see the last & final resting place of Jim Morrison, and it seemed too nice-a day to be cooped up indoors, so off we set! It wasn’t so hard to find, and clearly it’s a big tourist attraction as there was a girl handing out maps standing outside the gate. Presumably it’s better to show people where to go than to leave them searching all over the place and possibly leaving markers for other pilgrims to follow. As it turned out we could have done without the map, and just followed the other people.
People are a bit funny, and different people seem to find certain behaviour appropriate for registering their enthusiasm for the works and significance of another. I tend to work more through the medium of procuring t-shirts with the individuals’ likeness or name emblazoned on them, and other people – so it seems – think it a more personal connection with their idols to jump the security fence around their tomb and graffiti their name and a message upon it. It didn’t seem the best or most properly thought out plan, to be honest – if it had been me I’d have stationed a lookout or two – and within next to no time the guy had been collared and frogmarched away, protesting loudly and enthusiastically in whatever language he was speaking.
Next port of call was Notre Dame Cathedral, which I’d visited before back in 2004 however didn’t actually go inside (favouring instead for some reason to sleep on a bench outside and read my book… righto). Ever have one of those moments where you discover what would have happened if you’d made a different decision at some point in your life and once you see what you could have had feel like kicking yourself repeatedly in the arse? Yeah, well, that. Dawkins was absolutely right in that you don’t get this kind of architecture in the name of atheism – wow. An awesome building, in the sense that it inspires awe to be inside.
Being a nice sunny day we thought the next thing to do would be to wander around an air-conditioned art gallery for a bit, and after hiking across to The Louvre we discovered an important fact: The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. As a substitute we walked up towards the Champs Elysees (which I thought I’d show Pete, and once we arrived at the start of it we discovered another important fact: my memory sucks, and it’s a lot further away than I think it is), and then got the Metro out to the Arc de Triomphe. Unsurprisingly, we couldn’t get near that either, as there was some kind of European ceremony going on and the whole area was blocked off. Beer o’clock.
There was still a couple of hours to kill until the gig and we were getting a bit peckish, so we couldn’t see any reason not to head across to Pigalle for a bite. Once again my recollection of Parisian layout was faulty, as there were fewer places to get food and far far more porno stores than I recalled. We ended up settling for an over the top looking American burger joint type of place opposite the Moulin Rouge, and it was only as our meals were arriving that we spotted a warning that a previous punter had felt so strongly about giving that he’d carved it into the tabletop with a knife. And he was absolutely right, too.
By now the pair of us were absolutely shattered, and it seemed silly to have to go and battle through a heavy metal gig… but that was why we were there, so off we went. It’s more or less a compulsory dress code at this thing that you wear a black band t-shirt, and in the absence of any others in my wardrobe I’d plumped for my faithful Spinal Tap shirt. In the queue to get into the venue this proved to be a source of amusement for 2 French metalheads – one waved at me and said “Speenal Tarp!”, and I nodded, unsure of how best to respond. His mate made rock-horns with his fingers and let loose with a very Gallic sounding cry of “HRrrrrock and hrrroll!”. Hilarious.
Say what you like about Iron Maiden, but you can’t deny that they put on a hell of a stage show. The next 2 hours were a masterclass in hard rock excess, and to their credit the energy level of the band (and therefore, the crowd) was electric throughout. Plenty of costume changes, plenty of amazing huge set changes and effects (including a massive animatronic mummy, which conjured up Spinal Tap-like mental images for me – then again, this sort of thing was what Spinal Tap was based on, so it’s probably wrong for me to describe it as Tap-esque), loads of fire effects and loads of bombastic guitar driven power. Far and away the number which grabbed me the most was the epic 13 minute “The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner”. From the minute the gig started to when the lights came up the front half of the floor level was a thrashing writhing morass of testosterone & violence, and I wondered as we all poured out of the doors at the end how in the hell they were ever going to shift that distinct smell from the venue.
That’s all there is to say really – the only other memorable thing was when a tramp came up & tried to bum a cigarette off Pete as we were reclining with a post-gig beer in the summer evening air at Gare de l’Est. Pete had taken to smoking Gitanes for the afternoon, and evidently this wasn’t to the fellow’s liking… “Cigarette monsieur? Oh… gitanes… merde… non monsieur, merci”.