The following morning provided Sarah and me with a series of disappointments with regard to our “hotel”. The first was the lack of hot water for showers, reducing me to scrub myself in the tiny tub with the tepid liquid issuing from the taps, which was also worryingly opaque. [In the hostel we were met with a different but similarly frustrating struggle, although our reward for the 20 minute wait for two Australians to vacate the two showers was at least rewarded with warm water and relatively satisfying water pressure.] The second was the breakfast, which cost us each ten euros a day and which consisted of a yoghurt, half a microwaved baguette and a small jug of coffee. [Again, our (included) breakfast consisted of leftover (cold) baguette, extremely questionable meat of some description, cheese, reassuringly British cereal choices, and tepid and equally questionable tea and coffee. Needless to say many of us resorted to a second breakfast (think Lord of the Rings) of authentic and delicious pastries from the boulangerie across the road from the hotel.]
Our day’s disappointments over, we met the gang at their considerably nicer hostel and headed over to the Louvre for a morning of classic touristy funsies. We then went for a brisk walk through the Tuileries, grabbed a ludicrously expensive lunch (€3.10 for a can of coke) then accompanied the tenors to the Champs-Élysées to purchase the clothes they’d forgotten to pack for the concert (#classic). [The other half of the group opted to walk through the misty morning Paris streets to the Louvre, arriving in time to see the rest of the MadLads being resolutely British and teaching the French a thing or two about queuing. "The walkers" decided that the crowds were too much for that time in the morning, and instead hopped across the Seine to the Musée d'Orsay for €5 coffees, other famous paintings and pictures with huge clocks (yes, CLOCKS, don't think I don't know what you think I wrote...)]
Whilst they readied themselves for the performance, [mainly eating more pastries and exploring the under-belly of La Madeleine, of course interspersed with some rehearsing], Sarah and I boshed off to Shakespeare and Company, the renowned bookstore near the Île de la Cité to purchase a couple of lovely books, mostly so we could then say, “OH YES I ACTUALLY BOUGHT THAT AT SHAKESPEARE AND CO,” whenever anyone goes near one.
4pm heralded the start of one of the most beautiful concerts I’ve ever heard MadGroup perform. They really are some of the most talented singers I’ve ever encountered, and it was such a treat to hear some of the old favourites as well as some new numbers, and to get to hear how well the new voices were blending with the old-timers. Hats off to them. [Thanks must be extended to Edwin for stepping in as recorder-and-filmographer-extraordinaire. Seeing his face beaming up at us from behind the camera definitely helped to make the vastness of our venue seem less intimidating!]
As any Old Madrigalian will testify, the end of a concert means the start of an evening of merriment, and yet again, the freshers performed. First, we had to endure our semi-disastrous meal, in which our charming waiter explained that they’d run out of all food except the three most expensive items on the menu, then suddenly remembered it was all available once we’d begun to leave, then left me with the bill, a pen, a calculator and the phrase “good luck” and finally charged me €25 for the water, but when that nightmare was all over, the festivities could finally begin. [Thank you for persevering Edwin!] Having aged in spirit over our year abroad, Sarah and I elected to have a more refined glass of wine with half of the group at a lovely restaurant near Notre-Dame. I wish I were able to recount all that the boys got up to, but I’m not sure they remember. [We were later informed that they had spent an eventful night putting the ‘ass’ in bass, and sampling the delights of the club which mysteriously opened up under the hostel at about 2am. I don’t think we want to know much more…]