Yup, saw Paris in a day.
To start this adventure, I was required to get up at 3 am. That in itself isn't a huge deal, since that is what time I often wake up for work at home. Unfortunately, I had been suffering from insomnia the past few days leading up to the trip, so I spent the whole night pre-Paris laying in bed, staring at the ceiling. Around 2:30 am, I gave up, jumped in the shower, and got ready to leave.
The tube doesn't run until around 6 am, and I needed to be at St Pancras International Rail Station by 5:30 am. This meant that for the first time, I would have figure out and ride the "night bus". That was an adventure all by itself. The night bus is notorious for its drunk patrons, and seeing that this was a Saturday morning, there were plenty of drunks around.
I got one one bus right outside my door, then had to get off in front of Hyde Park and wait over ten minutes for the second bus to come. Only in London would I feel totally safe sitting outside, at 4 am, in front of a large, dark park.
The bus reminded me of the night bus in Harry Potter. The driver whipped around the streets like nobody's business.
I was the first to arrive at the station, and soon my friends joined me. We realized that none of us got much sleep. We checked in, got our tickets, and boarded the train. Our train seats were all in sequential order, but upon closer inspection we discovered that Ryan and Erika were in a car towards the back of the train, while Matt and I were in a car towards the front. So much for socializing as a group during the two hour trip.
We met up once we arrived in Paris and were greeted by a woman who worked with the tour company we booked the trip with. She stuck us on a hop-on-hop-off bus, and we were whisked through the city.
I fought the zombie feeling the best I could and was pretty excited to be in Paris.
Apparently though, this is my "I need coffee face" according to Erika
And classic group shot! Erika is making that face because of Matt's typical lack of smile (which then makes our pictures not as fun). She didn't realize that he wasn't being a frowny-Floyd this go-round. Why Ryan chose to be a creeper, I don't know.
It was pretty exciting when I got my first peak at the Eiffel Tower.
And we drove through some pretty spectacular areas
We decided to make the Eiffel Tower our first stop.
We were all starving and decided that a crepe sounded like the best thing to eat, so we found a stand across the street from the Eiffel Tower.
Rather than get a sensible crepe, Erika and I opted for one that had bananas and chocolate and creme.
I do not regret that decision.
We took loads of pictures.
Erika wanted one of us "being romantic" We both took that to mean doing a "foot pop". We didn't communicate this though, and only realized the other did it after we had taken the picture.
Want to know what it looks like underneath the Eiffel Tower (looking straight up)?
Here is a random story about a trip to the bathroom. First of all, the bathrooms were mostly free in Paris, which is unheard of in Europe. Secondly, while I was in the stall, I heard a loud crash coming from outside the door, like something in the restroom had fallen over. When I went to leave, I couldn't open my door. Mild panic set in and I realized that crash I heard was a bunch of cleaning supplies toppling over and perfectly preventing me from opening my door more than a crack. Thankfully the bathroom was crowded enough that someone helped me out.
Any plans to go up inside the Eiffel Tower were squashed when we saw the epic amounts of people waiting to do the same.
We jumped back on our bus and decided to check out the Louvre.
Sadly, as gorgeous as the outside was, we didn't have a chance to go inside because the line was so long.
I am going to now share the evolution of a photo bomb. Photo bombing is something the boys love to do (especially Matt) so of course they were going to use this opportunity to ruin my shot. This time, Erika had the brilliant plan of taking pictures as it happened, rather than putting the camera down to yell at them with me (so this is 100% legit).
1. Notice me sitting, getting in pose, when the two boys stumble up.
2. They usually then decide to either a) look around like they are lost, b) act like they are looking at something off camera, or b) they pull out a map or a similar object to study.
3. At this point, I usually yell, express frustration, and physically remove them from my shot. This time however...
4. I chose to drag them into the picture with me. If you can't beat them, make them join you.
Erika and I try to repay the favor when possible.
There is a bridge near the Louvre that is covered in locks. These locks are often written on or engraved in some ways with initials and dates. Apparently couples write their name and the date on the lock, and lock it to the bridge and it is supposed to bring luck. It was pretty cool.
The next stop was Notre Dame.
Now to continue the theme of the day, it was way too crowded to even come close to going inside of it, so we would have to be content with just taking pictures of the outside.
At least we could still see the famous gargoyles.
No sign of Qausimodo though.
I would also like to mention that something happened with our tour company. We were given tickets to show the drivers of the hop-on-hop-off buses that we paid for the day. Unfortunately, the driver who printed these tickets, put a bogus date on them. Most drivers didn't care about this, but one super rude driver shoved us off his bus as soon as we got on. He physically pushed us and told us to go away and get off his bus. He was french, and very rude. It was pretty jarring.
It was starting to get late at this point (the traffic in Paris was awful) so we decided to make out last stop the Arc de Triomphe . We snapped some pictures of it.
I freaked when I realized that the tiny dots at the top were people (just one more thing to add to my "things to do when I go back to Paris" list).
There is also this huge roundabout circling it. It is the perfect example of the roads in Paris. There aren't many road signs, virtually no traffic lights, and a lack of lines dividing lanes. It was literally a free-for-all, as this picture shows.
Driving around the city in the bus was a bit hair-raising.
Erika and I wanted to go to the Disney Store we saw, so we rushed over there, bought some Disney Paris items, and rushed down to the Metro, after struggling to find it. We managed to make it back to the train station with time to spare. Once again, Matt and I were together in one car, while Ryan and Erika sat together in another.
Some things about Paris:
The stereotypes seemed to mostly hold true. We ran into some pretty rude Parisians. A lot of times, it felt like people didn't care about you the second they heard English words come out of your mouth. The whole city seemed to not care about tourists, and there wasn't a whole lot of help for English speakers. Our buses touted having "an English speaker" on board, but this was usually not actually true. Most of the signs (even important ones) were only in French. It was surprising, considering how much Paris draws on tourism. Other, lesser visited places I have been to were more English friendly.
There were nice people there, it wasn't all bad. The man who made us our crepes was very nice, and joked around with us. We also bought some souvenirs from a really nice man. Of course all of the employees in the Disney Store were ridiculously nice. That about does it though, but these people really stood out because so many others were so very not nice.
It also smells there, especially the underground. The underground was one of the dirtiest I have ever seen (and this includes New York's subway). At any given time it smelled like urine, vomit, weed, or B.O. Often it was a combination of these smells.
It was very crowded. There were huge lines for everything. There were even massive lines going into some of the higher end stores, like Louis Vuitton. We weren't sure if something special was going on, or if the city is always like that.
Overall, I would love to return to Paris someday. I really want to go up the Eiffel Tower, see the Louvre, climb the steps of Notre Dame. I don't have the desire to spend a copious amount of time there though. To me, it is more of a "get in, get things done, move on" kind of city. I wasn't too impressed with the culture, and there are so many other places I'd like to spend considerable amounts of time in.
I also realize that I spent a very hectic couple of hours there, and shouldn't judge it based on that, but I have done the same in other countries here and came to different conclusions.
It was fun, and it was definitely and experience that I do not regret.