DAY 1 & 2. Paris, France
Realising that I wanted to see so much of Europe without having a clue where to start, I decided to take another coach tour. This time, however, was much different to the rest home on wheels to the Lake District.
TopDeck was the company I chose, mostly due to the rave reviews from fellow peers, and because it was a tour for 18-39-year-olds (No oldies here!) through countries that were on my bucket list.
The itinerary included seven countries in 11 days beginning in London, then Paris, Swiss Alps, Venice, Munich, Rhine Valley, Amsterdam then Bruges. It was remarkable!
Paris: A beautiful city that lives up to its reputation.
Driving into the city, we suddenly realised why our tour was on sale – the EuroCup was on. The crowds were dense and the roads were gridlocked. Our driver, Willy, negotiated the traffic well despite all 46 of us gasping, clenching and wincing as impatient mopeds try to weave through traffic, and near-misses with oblivious drivers on the predominately unmarked cobble-stoned city streets.
Between the colourful football crowds was an entirely different group of people. Refugees who have fled Syria stood with their families on the pavements with signs reading ‘famille Syria SOS’.
The men and women begged on their knees beside stationery vehicles, while their children stood behind them pulling faces at drivers. Another little girl was sweeping the road-side pavement of their make-shift home around where her mother was sitting with their belongings. The elderly were leaning against walls fanning themselves and washing their faces with bottled water.
It was shocking to see such desperation in real life rather than on a television screen.
The horns and yelling eventually subsided once we made it through the city to our hostel. It was nice enough with bunks and shared bathrooms. Something I always felt I should experience in order to call myself a seasoned traveller one day!
We ate snails and boeuf bourguignon that evening, and drank wine.
DAY 2. Paris, France
After a quick night tour through Paris, the next morning we began working through a list of things we wanted to see:
And of course the Eiffel Tower:
And boy did we walk! 15 kilometres including the 600+ stairs up the Eiffel Tower. Myself, and the group of girls I buddied-up with were proud of our achievement. The view from the tower was incredible. It’s interesting to see the symmetry of the city.
After a full day of sightseeing and dodging cars on chaotic roads, we were excited to get to the meeting place to join the others at the coach.
We got to the meeting point with plenty of time to ensure we didn’t miss our transport to a group dinner, and the cabaret that night.
Unfortunately, after a couple of hours running around Parisian parks like headless chooks, we realised we got the meeting point wrong.
Almost in tears, we spoke broken-French to a woman selling crepes. Despite her not lending us her phone to call the tour guide, we ate our body weight in savoury and sweet crepes after accepting the fact that we missed dinner and a show.
It was getting dark and the subway stations would be closing soon; we needed to find our way back to the hostel. Once we realised there was a taxi strike, we made the decision to dash to the subway to catch two trains out of the city centre.
It was easy enough – but only because one of us girls spoke French (we all thanked our lucky stars for having Jordan with us!). We got to the hostel and drowned ourselves in Rose` during Happy Hour, making sure we still had fun despite missing what turned out to be an amazing show…
I’m not bitter about it at all.
Despite this, Paris was definitely the most beautiful and most romantic city I’ve ever seen – particularly in the afternoon where the sunlight made the beige buildings glow (cheesy, I know).
The people were friendly yet bold – which I liked. Such as when a Parisian woman angrily scolded a man on the street for following me – he was pressuring me to give money to a charity. She came out of nowhere, told him off (which worked), then continued on. So sassy. So staunch. So cool.
Parisians are so expressive. No one thought twice about having a snog on a bridge, or people-watching from a cafe`. Compared to London where everyone wears a serious expression, French people were charismatic and took advantage of every emotion in public without shame. So refreshing!
Paris: I’m coming back. I’m learning French and I will return to enjoy your carbs and wine, relaxed atmosphere and elegant, bold people.
Off to watch Midnight in Paris now, to marvel at all the landmarks I’ve been to 🙂
“Paris is the most beautiful in the rain”