Bonjour, Paris!

It’s 6am and the struggle is real. Having gotten back from the pub last night about 1am, quietly snuck into my hostel room and had to set the alarm for 5:30am, it’s safe to say that I’d rather still be in bed. But once I get downstairs, it becomes an entirely different story.

On level 2 I run into a guy standing at the power outlet, madly trying to charge his phone before the bus trip, and he immediately recognises me from the Facebook group that our tour made pre-trip: “Oh, are you David, ay?”- He’s Canadian. Friendship #1 complete. The next hour or so is spent chatting and meeting others on the trip, and the fact that half of us kind of recognise each other from Facebook makes it funny, weird and endearing all at the same time. We promise to ask each other their names at least another dozen times in the next 24 hours, and it’s onto the bus.


We drive from London to Dover, snap a pic at the white cliffs, and get on the ferry. It’s a great view as we sail away from the UK so I figure now is a great time to try out my new GoPro Fusion which records a full 360 degree view. I took way too much video, so it was a nightmare to edit, but the result is worth it.


Once in Paris, we check-in to our hostel and it's straight back on to the bus for the driving tour. It’s a pleasant way to see the main sights, as long as you’re not the one having to drive! Traffic is crazy in Paris and I feel like you may have to fail a sanity test in order to receive your license. From an outside opinion, it appears there is no French translation for “right of way”… you simply go when you feel like it and try not to hit other cars or people!


We stop at the Eiffel Tower to take a photo then have a picnic in the Champ de Mars. The picnic consists of a selection of French foods in bite sized pieces, and naturally the entrée is snails and frogs legs. As a tourist it is my job to propagate the myth that they are both highly disgusting, in fact, you should not even try them- leave them all for me! The snail tastes like a garlic mushroom (once you manage to get it out of its shell) and the frogs legs are a similar experience to eating a chicken wing (ie. small amounts of meat to pull off various small bones). At 8pm the Eiffel Tower sparkles and that’s our signal to get back on the bus.


At this point it's probably worth mentioning the Topdeck Fam. By the time we got to this picnic, pretty much everyone on the bus was starving, so when asked to form groups of 6 for each picnic set it was based entirely on proximity to each other and pushing one representative towards the people with the food. I’m not sure if it was the food, but our little picnic group seemed to bond immediately and we proceeded to make plans to stick together the next day- after all this was Paris and there were so many things to see and do in just one day!


The last stop for the evening was a river cruise on the Seine. Paris is lit up like a Christmas tree at night, so the view from the boat was quite enjoyable in its own right. However, I think what really made it was sitting down and chilling with your new food-bonded friends, over a 4euro bottle of wine!


Once the cruise was over, the Paris metro made a short task of getting home, but there is a caveat. Out Topdeck Fam seemed to contain those best versed in map reading, and it also contained Doug (the guy from the power point on the first day) who, it turns out, actually speaks French! So our group seemed to be impromptu leaders of the masses, and getting everyone on to a train then change trains, then home was somewhat like herding cats. We all got home in the end, but needless to say the experience was sobering…. Shame that we were not!


Now begins the crazy day in Paris. Our group decided to get up early and get to the city at a reasonable time, rather than wait for the bus to leave the hostel at 10am. Back to the metro which we are now well versed in thanks to our trip home last night, only to find, of course, that the train line directly to the city is closed for maintenance until…10am. Best laid plans of mice and men…and all that. So we find a new route, catch 2 trains, and still get to the city at 8.50am, perfect time to be first in line to visit the Saint Chappelle at 9am. The inside of this chapel is ornate and the stain glass windows are incredible. Each panel tells the story of a different bible verse, but words cannot do justice to the scale of this.


Next we head to the Notre Dame, a tourist trap for sure, but as it is now 10am on a Sunday we are lucky enough to be walking around the inside the cathedral while a church service resides in the middle. The vocal performance and acoustics of this space really make this experience for me and I can’t help but to capture some GoPro footage, as much for the music as for the visual experience of this incredible structure.


Our third stop brings us to the Lov’re museum, home to the world’s most famous tiny painting and most ‘armless statue. I am of course referring to the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. After seeing these 2 things we intentionally meander through some corridors and exhibitions on our way out and allow it to soak in. Although no one I am with is a particular art-lover, we all gain a sense of wonder and awe at the history we are walking through and the sheer scale of the Lov’re museum. I leave the museum, but with one question still unanswered, “where are the louvers?”.


Continuing the art theme, there is one more statue I would like to see while in Paris. We visit the Rodin museum to see “The Thinker” and ensure we are culturally sensitive around this icon by not just posing in front of the statue, but rather doing it as a group.


We sit down to lunch at an authentic French restaurant and make full use of our French speaking Canadian friend as he translates between us and the poor waiter. We all agree this feels like the end of a great day, but its 12:30pm and we’ve still got so much more on the agenda!


After lunch we head back to the fountain at Champ de Mars to meet our bike tour guide. No city exploration is complete without a tour on the ground, and no holiday of mine is complete without getting on a bike. There is one slight drawback, it's pouring with rain and forecast to thunderstorm. Thankfully the group decides this will either be fun,… or at least make a good story… so we go anyway, but boy is it wet. Within minutes we are all soaked through, but it’s one hell of an adventure! #noregrets


Now that we are soaked we figure might as well visit the Eiffel tower now while most (sensible) people have decided to stay home. I opt to walk up the stairs, and it’s an enjoyable experience despite the rain. The views both inside the metal structure and out are spectacular and you appreciate the labour hours and treacherous conditions that would have gone in to building this at the turn of the 20th century.


Finally we make our way home to the hostel, feeling like the end of the 2nd day…of today… and take a much needed shower. It’s time to scrub up and dress for the ritz as we visit a traditional French cabaret show. I’ve go no photos to share from this one, for obvious reasons, but it was another great night. Yes, okay, the dancers were pretty great (in more ways than one) but my MVP award actually goes to an old man on a unicycle. It was an extension unicycle, at least 1.5m higher than usual and his tricks included throwing plates and cups on to his head and piling them up 6 high… before flicking a spoon from a stick in his mouth into the top cup. The crowd exploded with applause when he caught it, and he certainly my favourite act.


So it’s back to the hostel and we are all on such a high from the show that we finish today’s “3rd day” by hitting the hostel nightclub for a dance. It may or may not have been 3:30am by the time we stopped partying. Let’s just say that it’s a good thing tomorrow has plenty of bus time to catch up on sleep… and also thankful that none of us are driving the bus.

Comments

  1. C’est magnifique! Quel début incroyable pour une aventure aussi excitante.

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  2. Da Vinci's Mona Lisa and Rodin's Thinker brings back fond memories of my trip to Paris. Loving your trip blogs.

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  3. Awesome videos and post David, keep them coming!

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