Paris was one of those places that I’ve just always dreamed about. The Eiffel Tower, the Parisian streets, the food, the culture, the buildings – just the plain sophistication of it all. It has always been a must-do of mine, and all of the negative reviews were not going to get in my way.
I’d heard a lot about ‘rude’ Parisians. You know, those that don’t like tourists and enjoy making life difficult for them. Having lived in a city that attracted a decent amount of tourists, I understand that, but Paris has to deal with it on a huge scale – being the third most visited city in the world. Let me elaborate on that further – I don’t know or understand French. Thankfully Keila had taken basic French at high school. With friendly a ‘bonjour’ ‘merci’ and ‘au revior,’ we didn’t experience any nasty Parisians at all – in fact, quite the opposite! (Apart from a tourist who took photos of a woman’s art for sale and ended up with a very angry Frenchwoman staring down her lens.) If that’s all you will read in this blog, then let it be that! I know that I too used to get frustrated at people not trying to communicate in English with me!
We booked our day trip through a tour company. It was around $120 I believe. Nick couldn’t come because he was working every weekend that the trip fell, so Keila and I did a girls trip together, since her husband couldn’t make it either. Would I do it again? Probably not. The bus left at 4am and returned at 4am the next morning – a pretty draining day and after being rained on during the afternoon, and relying too much on the weather forecast, made for a grumpy Emma by the end of the 24 hours. That, and I’m not lucky enough to be able to sleep on a 6 hour bus journey! However, had I been pretty prepared with a pillow, an extra set of clothes, and wet/warm weather gear, then maybe.
Four hours into the bus ride, we stopped for ‘breakfast’ at a rest stop in France. The German bus drivers are required by law to have a rest every four hours. I ended up having a pain au chocolat (we’re in France of course!) and a drink. The options weren’t great at that time of the day.
Eventually we rolled into Paris. The traffic was a little chaotic, even early on Saturday morning. The bus driver got pulled over by the Police, but when no one on the bus spoke French (and the Police officers didn’t speak English or German), we were free to go. No one knows what went on, haha.
The Eiffel Tower was the first stop. Our tour guide was the same as the one I had for the Kaiserslautern Downtown tour. We were left to our own devices, so we wandered off to get some good photos. It was interesting interacting with the locals. First off – there’s scammers everywhere in Paris, targeting English speakers. The first people we dodged were Romanian scammers, trying to get people to sign a petition. This is a great time to feign another nationality. The second people were African guys trying to put a bracelet on Keila. Turns out that a guy in our group ended up with a bracelet and didn’t pay anything. Who knows what that was about, but I was vocal about saying ‘no’ haha. As we walked off from a second group of these guys, we got a “Hakuna matata!” which was interesting. Turns out this is a scam, just like I thought: http://www.outandaboutinparis.com/2011/06/bracelet-guys-near-sacre-coeur.html
Another ‘friendly local’ gave Keila some ‘compliments’ in French, which, although we couldn’t understand what he was saying, we had a good guess on what it was about. He motioned with a squeezing motion, patted his backside and ‘boom boom’ may or may not have been in his vocabulary. Lovely! After a lot of laughing, we headed back towards the bus, feeling a little violated, but ready for the rest of the day.
Third stop was Champ de Elysses. We were given a lot of free time to wander around, as it’s the shopping area, has the Arc de Triomphe, and also it was lunch time. We stopped at a cute little Italian café (haha) and ordered some delicious food! It was extremely tasty, I had a pesto pasta as usual and it filled me up all the way until dinner time, despite all of the walking.
It was time to head off to Notre Dame. It was here that the tour guide suggested to do our souvenir shopping done, so that we did! Keila attracted the attention of a shop owner, who spoke Spanish, so that was interesting. A Hispanic souvenir shop owner in Paris. We headed off in search of the local Starbucks, and it was then that the weather packed in. Pretty much out of nowhere, it started pouring, and we got stuck right in it. Sudden purchases of umbrellas were made after the Starbucks fix was satiated, and we headed back in the downpour, weaving through souvenir shops for some relief.
Eventually the group reassembled, and it was time to head to dinner. We walked up through narrow streets to a French restaurant, which greeted us with unlimited wine and great entertainment on the accordion (my most hated of all instruments – but it worked in this environment). We had the choice of an appetizer, main and dessert, plus unlimited bread and drinks. It was nice getting to know the other people at our table (a Vietnam veteran for example) and the atmosphere in the restaurant was great.
The food wasn’t the best, but it was very much welcomed after the busy day. One of the highlights of the dinner was when the French guys start playing ‘La Bumba’. Suddenly, one of the guys on our tour group, returning from the bathroom, starts breaking out into song. It turns out this guy speaks Spanish, knew all the words, and was almost a better performer than the Frenchmen! Talk about steal the show! I could have fallen asleep straight after the dinner, drinks and entertainment, but there was still one more stop before the day was done.
The cruise. By 9pm it was pretty cold, and everyone had full bellies and were ready for bed. The cruise was yet to come. I actually wrote on the suggestions form that the cruise should either be done earlier in the day, or not at all. It was a nice trip through the river though, and it was great seeing the Eiffel Tower light up on the hour at 10pm. That was pretty magical! I think if we were to go again, I’d probably do the cruise again – but only if we were there at least an overnighter so everything wasn’t packed in so tightly. The cruise was a little overcrowded and Keila spent ¼ of the cruise waiting for the one toilet! I may or may not have got into an elbow warfare with someone who got way too close to my bubble and was physically leaning on me. I may or may not have pushed them into their friends. #lethal
It was time for the bus home, and it was amazing how many people were snoring away. The guy across from me and I pretty much sat the whole time. There was a point where the bus couldn’t get out of the rest stop because the turn was too tight, and I sat for half an hour wondering if we’d ever get out, while everyone else was asleep oblivious!
I’m nevertheless looking forward to the next time that we go to Paris. I think Nick and I will go for an overnighter, maybe taking the train in and explore at our own pace. It was a great introduction to the city though, and definitely worth the money!