It was the Easter before A-levels; my friends and I had just turned eighteen and wanted a classic coming-of-age trips.
There were four of us, and we soon realised we each had a specific role within the group. We had, for example, the ‘mother but not a role model’: she organised the entire trip, came with an itinerary in which every hour was accounted for and had everything from hand sanitiser to an entire map of Paris inside her bumbag – but you did not want to see her after eight glasses of complimentary ‘champagne’, grinding on a French man after throwing up in a club sink.
My title was ‘village idiot’: after leaving my suitcase in various locations (from a departing tube to a tesco-express) and getting stuck in (several) automatic doors, it was decided that I would not be consulted on matters that required a basic level of common sense. I got on and off public transportation when I was told to, and went the entire trip without knowing the name of the street we resided on.
This particular street was central and full of colourful houses with passive-aggressive signs telling tourists to stop taking Instagrams outside their family dwelling. Our Airbnb was on the uglier side of this street; painted grey rather than bright pink or sunshine yellow. We soon began referring to this four bedroom apartment as ‘the hell hole’. It was two rooms; the first a living room, kitchen and bedroom all in one, with a toilet behind a sliding cupboard door. The situation was worsened when on the first night someone brought a packet of ‘lion cereal’ because these chocolatey pellets ended up everywhere – the floor, the sheets, a sock I was wearing three weeks after my return. The acoustics of life in the hell-hole were adolescent laughter and the subtle crunch of lion cereal underfoot.
For our first night out we wobbled (half due to heels and half due to cheap-French-wine) to a nightclub ‘mother’ had cross-referenced in several tourist guides and chosen as the best. It was shut. Dejected, we meandered through the streets, hell-hole bound. Then we saw them: the multi-coloured lights at the end of the tunnel. Entry was €20, but after gasping and walking off we heard shouts from the door: ‘free entry for you ladies!’
We were given cups in the foyer: free drinks for us as it was ‘ladies night’. Problematic for my feminist principles? Yes. Did I still consume their free alcohol? Absolutely. That night is a blur of dancing and running up and down the club’s dramatic, baroque-style staircases, screaming with laughter. At the end of the night – after we had spilled enough vodka apple juice down our Zara crop-tops – someone passed around flares and we danced with fire in our hands, oblivious to the significant safety hazard.
We fell asleep in our hell-hole in the early hours but by midday, mother had dragged us out of bed to stick to our sight-seeing schedule. We spent an hour asleep on the sofas in the Louvre. With an announcement that it was ten minutes until close, we debated if we could make it to the next room down to see the Mona Lisa. We did. Mother puked on the Louvre floor while I thought, “Lisa was smaller than I expected”.
My first trip away with friends is one of my most treasured memories. Every year we go to another destination and have an increasingly shambolic experience together. I know we’ll talk about these trips until we’re old ladies.