We wake up at 6am, quickly get ready and pack and head down stairs to join our group and start our 21 day long Contiki trip. We get on the bus which will become our home for the next 3 weeks. The seats are quite comfy and spacious, with good air conditioning, power points, tv screen and more.
We drive to Dover which has a lot of history behind it, but will be our port that we disembark to France. Colin gets through customs with no hassle which was a relief as there should be no more passport checks until we return home to Australia. Our bus drives onto a massive P&O ferry which will cross the English Channel over a 90 minute journey. We go up to the food court deck and get to know some of our tour-peers a bit better.
We dock in France, at Calais, an unappealing conglomerate of ships and crates. After about 5 minutes of driving we start to pass very beautiful and green fields and farms. The terrain is really flat compared to back home but it makes the drive more comfortable. We finally arrive at Hotel Campanile (also the name of one of my Roster Portal customers) in Port de Italy, Paris.
We take a look at the ‘Day Sheet’, a more detailed itinerary of the activities planned as well as tips and helpful suggestions that may be useful to us. We get a delectable three course meal at the hotel and enjoyed it with some good company and a lot of laughs. We then headed back on the bus and out to the heart of the city.
We drive past many of the unique and magnificent wonders Paris has to offer. I am into architecture as much as I am into the Notebook, but the stuff here is on another level completely. Each statue (and they are plentiful) is not only beautiful and detailed, but has a unique story behind it. The city has a depth to the culture that as an Australian, I can not truly comprehend, lucky I’m 3/4 Scottish. Seriously though, everything was magnificent and breath taking and I only wished I had more time. I promise that I will be back soon, but on my own pace, to explore and uncover more of what there is to do and see.
One of the places we drove past was the ‘Love Bridge’, made famous in Sex & the City. In case you are like me and have never watched an episode, the idea is that people attach padlocks with their partners name on it to symbolise their eternal love. I don’t often admit it but I am a sucker for over the top romantic gestures, and this was genuinely beautiful. It was a bridge over the beautiful Parisian river, glowing gold solely by the collective combination of peoples love, in the physical manifestation of a padlock.
The buses destination was the Eiffel Tower where we were planning to ascend to the top. However due to the most awesomest (patent pending) weather Europe has ever known, in addition to the holidays, we were unable to secure a group booking. This meant that we were stranded at ground level, but we were able to go out & explore. My first destination was a food stand, where they produce, possibly the yummiest desert in existence, the awesomeness (patent pending) that is Nutella and Strawberry crepes.
Being as good as languages as I am, I was ultra proud of myself when I ordered my food, complete with hellos, thankyous and goodbyes. I wait in line to collect it and witness them making the modern day mana from heaven before my very eyes (youtube video pending). However I was surprised and a little disapoionted when I received a Nutella and Cream crepe instead. It did not disappoint. However, being as spoiled as I am back home with home made crepes, I couldn’t say it was better but it was different (being much thicker for one).
We then headed back to the majestic gardens that lay in front of the Tower de Eiffel with some of our new friends. Whilst sitting there soaking up the ambience of a Parisian twilight, we were approached by people we affectionally called ‘Little Thieves’. These people try and sell you souvenirs and knick-knaks at an artificially inflated price. These men however were selling alcohol, and as any true Australians, we needed some. However, our tour manager had advised us that we should pay no more than 5 Euro for any bottles of wine the ‘entrepreneurs’ (his name for them, though I prefer ours).
So when they approached me I asked if I wanted to purchase some, I asked how much? They replied 20, which I promptly said no to, which in-turn reduced the price to 10 almost instantly, breaking the world record for quickest 50% reduction. We countered with 5 and they just left, no haggling or bartering, just gone as quickly as they had came. Disappointed because we hadn’t had a drink in 24 hours, we continued chatting away. We noticed that the little thieves were still walking around approaching people, just not us. Maybe we had been blacklisted or maybe it was just bad luck. Eventually we managed to make contact with one, and a guy on our group offered their demand of 10 straight away and the deal was struck. I was a little disappointed as I felt we had lost, but I guess that is the genuine French experience.
I am no wine drinking – not even close, but the wine was surprising palatable, even enjoyable. We demolished the bottle in minutes and soon needed another. Grace, a friend we have made on the tour, had early managed to spill strawberry juice from her crepe all over her white dress, which was a source of entertainment for us as we joked it was red wine and she was a drunkard. We made our way back to the bus, and just as we were departing, they turned on all 5 million light bulbs on the Eiffel Tower, which was extremely lucky for us as it was the earliest they have done so in months. Man was it beautiful.
We return home for a few beers in the lobby lounge and then to bed, for a big day of exploring Paris Part 2 tomorrow.