"I happened to have a beret with me, and shamelessly wore it all day"Anika Goddard with permission for Varsity

In spite of the fact that I spent my last article extolling the joys of the British camping holiday, I rounded off this summer with a trip to Florence, Italy. Funded by college on the basis that it would contribute in some vague way to my artistic education, the trip was four nights long and involved a lot of walking around and even more standing around, staring at sixteenth-century paintings and making completely unqualified judgements. My boyfriend Hugh, also a Cambridge English student, coincidentally booked the exact same holiday – I mean, research trip – for the exact same reasons. We were even coincidentally sharing a hotel room.

“I was looking at a gruelling eleven-hour Parisian layover”

On Friday evening, having eaten our last pizza lunch, we headed to the airport to find that our flight home had been cancelled. Initially Hugh remained chirpy, but I had recently read a Patrick Collinson article in the Guardian (ominously titled “Be Very Afraid”) about a 26-hour Ryanair delays and consequently was less robust. As we queued up with hundreds of other passengers at the check-in desk, I suspected that we were about to face something similar.

I was rebooked on two separate flights: first from Florence to Paris, then Paris to Gatwick, and I was looking at a gruelling eleven-hour Parisian layover. We’d also been split up, and Hugh had scored a direct flight. After several hours of sitting around the airport in radio silence, I took my two tickets back up to the check-in desk to see whether I could sweet-talk myself onto Hugh’s flight. I found a group of passengers arguing with a staff member: some of them had been given flights that didn’t land until Monday. A furious businessman was complaining that “My company will lose five thousand pounds if I don’t get back to London tomorrow”. I decided that maybe my Paris tickets weren’t so bad after all, and quietly retreated.

“We treated the Parisian sights like shots, not pints”

After being shuttled to a hotel one-and-a-half hours away, I had three hours before my taxi back to the airport left at 3am. Anxious about missing my alarm, I barely slept. By the time I got up I was angry, exhausted and had acquired a rapidly-developing cold. But in the taxi, I finally had a stroke of luck. I was with three other people, all total strangers: Amy, a renewable energy engineering consultant; Sam, a journalist; and Charles, a PhD student from Cambridge – somehow, there’s always someone from Cambridge. In spite of our tiredness, we all agreed that taking a sightseeing trip into Paris was the best way to handle our mammoth layover. It would be better than sitting miserably around the airport, at least.

A rare sighting of the Eiffel DuckAnika Goddard with permission for Varsity

And it was so worthwhile! We treated the Parisian sights like shots, not pints – there to be seen, rapidly consumed and moved on from. Did we climb the Eiffel Tower? No, but we saw it. Did we go inside the Louvre? No, but there’s proof that I made it there. The only thing we really interacted with was the cheese market, where Charles went on a cheese spree and tried endless samples, which he shared with us. I happened to have a beret with me, and shamelessly wore it all day.

One of the highlights of the day was our trip to the Bastille. I’ve always wanted to see the Bastille square, formerly a political prison stormed by revolutionaries in 1789. I thought we’d find a monument, perhaps a sombre museum to this iconic site of French history. Instead, we found a daytime rave, and buses packed with partygoers. By that point we were all pretty much zombified with exhaustion, and shockingly no one was up for joining. Perhaps another time.

“Boyfriendless in the Ville D’amour, I drank three double espressos just to stay upright”

It was not exactly the situation in which I’d always imagined I’d visit Paris. Boyfriendless in the Ville D’amour, I drank three double espressos just to stay upright. But wandering around with such friendly and interesting people made the whole surreal experience feel less like a nightmare and more like a movie – at least, a dodgy stop-motion animation kind of movie. It would have been so much easier to stay in the airport and try to snaffle a few hours of sleep. Sometimes, though, the Cambridge-given ability to just grit your teeth and power through what your body is telling you to do (which is definitely a healthy way of living, right, guys?) does come in handy.


Mountain View

Ode to Cryanair: a love letter to budget travel

So thank you Jesus (the college, not the son of God) for funding my Grand Tour from the highs of Botticelli to the lows of a paper-cup espresso, feverishly downed on the floor of an airport McCafé. And thank you Vueling for screwing up so badly that I accidentally got a free holiday. But most of all, my Ani in Paris experience (a term coined by Hugh) was enjoyable purely because I had the good luck to be spending my day with three surprise friends. In the loveliest way, it turns out that misery does love company.