Cheery cheers to the English coast in the icy wind of the White Cliffs of Dover, and welcome to Dunkirk, France!
After a long drive through countryside that looked disappointingly like the English midlands, we reached Paris, the city of love and lights, not to mention graffiti and plenty of litter. We checked into the first hotel of the tour, Hotel La Villette, and found ourselves pleasantly surprised by the level of accommodation. It was quaint and comfortable and clean.
A driving tour of Paris showed us why it was referred to as the City of Lights. We learnt that there really is an underground lake below the Opera House of Phantom of the Opera, and that there is a 3-year waiting list for a cruise down there. 2 rounds on the 6-lane traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe showed us why there was, on average, an accident every few seconds. The Eiffel Tower by night was spectacular, although for some reason, as huge as it was, I expected it to be bigger.
After our walking tour that ended at the Notre Dame, we had dinner at an Italian restaurant in the Latin Quarter, where our new friends tried snails; while somewhat rubbery, apparently they weren’t too bad (thank goodness for all the salt and other seasonings). I was fortunate to earn myself a free fruit salad dessert.
Our free day in Paris took us up over 2000 steps as we climbed to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower where we caught the elevator to the top; champagne atop the Eiffel Tower? Yes please! French McDonald’s for lunch proved to be the most expensive of the European McDonald’s, but they at least had eye candy working behind the counter, a very weird phenomenon.
Mona Lisa awaited us in the Louvre, but she definitely did not capture the most of our attention. I can now say that I’ve seen it, but other than that there was far more exciting artwork to see. Kirsten was once again in her element, and it was far more beneficial to view the art with her as she educated me in the meaning and her passion for it was contagious.
We strolled up the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe, and I even bought something, making me feel very upper class, never mind that it was just a 50% off, H&M item. We took a walk (that was substantially longer than what it looked like on the map) to Place de Clichy, Pigalle, Red Light District and the Moulin Rouge. We got booted out of the dirtiest looking sex shop on the street when one of the boys hoisted up the biggest dildo in the shop like some kind of weapon.
It was surreal going from such shops up a million more stairs in just the next street to reach the best view of Paris by night, as seen from the Sacre Coeur (a church, hence the surrealism). A ride home on the dodgiest underground system ever, French Metro, where gutters run along the walls, convenient for the many people who are too lazy to find a toilet, very luckily for us got us to our station as it’s last stop.
Paris was definitely top of the most tourist-y destinations of the tour, but it was rather disappointing to see the scruffiness just outside of the major city-centre, it detracted a lot from the full beauty of the whole city.