At 5am on Saturday 17th March the Lewis Society of Medicine departed Cambridge and headed to London St Pancras to traverse the Channel Tunnel to Paris. Corpus medics, fuelled by caffeine and excitement, remained ebouillent as we approached a snowy Paris, despite the exhaustion of a long term culminating with ISBM, SCHI and Head and Neck exams.
Arriving in Gard du Nord at 11am we quickly made our way into the city’s Latin Quarter (in true scholars fashion) searching for great students eats along side streets oozing Bohemian charm. Keen to sample to French cuisine and take shelter from the rain we bundled into a little café tabac in search of croque-monsieurs & steak-frites; however intimidated by our large size and touristy vibe the proprietor turned us away.
We dashed through the rain to a welcoming little Turkish restaurant nearby and utilising my rusty GCSE French managed to convince the proprietor to host all 19 of us in a space laid out of 10. It was a tight squeeze but their hospitality, mezze & koftas were exactly what we needed. Hunger satiated we made our way to the Paris Descartes University for a tour of the Musée de l’histoire de la médecine. The hallways were lined with busts of the various physicians and scientists who were integral to the development of medicine from the 1500’s onward. The museum’s collections are among the oldest in Europe. Our tour guide showed us anatomical models dating from medieval times focusing purely on surface anatomy some rather primitive and brutal devices to remove kidney stones and the autopsy kit used for Napoleon! The range of trephination and amputation devices on display made the modern day armamentarium of NHS theatres look very tame. The medical historian told us tales of French barber surgeon and father of modern surgery Ambroise Paré who extolled the merits of “l’huile de Petits Chiens”, oils from newborn puppies boiled in oil! The mixture was used in the cauterization of wounds and was even thought to aid lactation in nursing mothers!
With heads full to bursting with medical history we checked in to our hotel, a few hundred metres from the Eiffel Tower. After freshening up we made our way to dinner at a crêperie and braving the elements assemble at the foot of the illuminated Effile Tower for an 11pm photocall. After a night cap (or two) we closed our eyes on an action packed day.
For our final day in Paris we rose bright and early to enjoy a French breakfast before our walking tour. Basking in the neoclassical architecture of the Latin Quarter and the modern majesty of the Eiffel Tower we learnt the history of Paris’ key sites. Many kilometres later our tour concluded outside the Louvre. Hungry for culture (and carbs) we stopped here for lunch. Enjoying the last of post- Brexit free museum entry; the group decided the some of the Louvre’s collections. Firm favourites of the group were the original Greek statues of “Venus de Milo” and The winged victory of Samothace. Fighting through crowds of over zealous tourists we managed to get the obligatory pictures beside the Mona Lisa. Having seen one of Van Leeuwenhoek’s early microscopes at the museum the previous day we also took time to appreciate Vermeer’s “The Astronomer” and debated whether the subject of which was actually Van Leeuwenhoek himself.
Determined to end the weekend on a high we marched along the Champs-Élysées and asceneded the Arc de Triomphe to get snow capped views of Paris. While some cultures vultures finished off their weekend in Paris by appreciating the gothic architecture of Notre Dame, others soaked up the last of the snowy Parisian charm from the warmth of a patesseie.
Everyone from Freshers to MB-PhD students bonded in the French capital sharing wine & wisdom. The LSM trips to Europe have become a much loved & anticipated LSM institution, with eager suggestions for 2019 destinations being discussed on the Eurostar home.
The ties which bind our close knit medical society grow ever stronger.