For as long as I can remember – but it probably dates from the time I first read the Three Musketeers in 1972 – I have wanted to stay in Paris.
I have been through it, under it, across it, over it and around it – but never stayed for more than a few hours.
I have read books about it, studied its most famous citizens, from Marie Antoinette to Edith Piaf, and enjoyed the many films set there.
So it was with excitement and anticipation that last week I arrived in the city of light with my daughter, sister and niece – but as always, it’s the unexpected rather than the imagined that takes your breath away.
Notre-Dame was breathtaking, the Eiffel Tower was ‘in the flesh’ exquisite, seeing for the first time Renoir’s Moulin de la Galette or Monet’s Poppy field at the Musee D’Orsay was sublime.
The charming Shakespeare and Company English bookshop on the Left Bank specialises in English literature and has been visited by famous authors, including Allen Ginsberg and Henry Miller. Browsing and buying new or second hand books is a delight here in the unhurried and welcoming atmosphere the shop generates.
The unexpected moment of the first day came when we stumbled across the Pantheon, France’s 18th century mausoleum which contains the remains of some of its greatest citizens.
Here with many other distinguished names lie Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas.
It is also the final resting place of Marie and Pierre Curie.
The discoverers of Radium and Polonium, the work of this husband and wife transformed the way we treat cancer.
Years of hard, intensive (both physical and theoretical) work took their toll on this couple who suffered from radiation sickness, exhaustion and sores on their hands all caused by over-exposure to the very element that would cure and relieve the symptoms of millions in the years ahead.
Pierre was tragically knocked down and killed in 1906 by a horse and carriage, only three years after winning, alongside Marie, the Nobel Prize for Physics. After his death Marie went on to win a second Nobel prize – this time for chemistry.
Radiotherapy has over the last century become a cornerstone in the treatment of cancer. Almost half the people diagnosed with cancer have radiotherapy as part of their treatment plan. It can be used alone or with chemotherapy.
Marie Curie was the first woman awarded a final resting place in the Pantheon for her own achievements – and what an achievement.
Her work touches all of us in more ways than we know.
Travel does broaden the mind, but sometimes it also shows us how close and interconnected we all are and ultimately how what we do in life can impact positively on others for years to come.
* Mel Hewitt, Community Fundriaser for St John’s Hospice