On Tuesday, June 14, 2011, we boarded the bus and departed London headed for Paris.
The weather was quite nice.
We passed by Canary Wharf.
We were getting to France by taking a ferry from Dover across the English Channel.
In addition to being a fun way to travel (and one that could accommodate our bus), it also allowed us to see the famous White Cliffs of Dover.
We got off the bus, walked into this small shack, got our passports stamped, got back on the bus, and drove on to the ferry.
We had this very friendly seagull. You’ll see!
It really was very cool to actually see the White Cliffs of Dover.
There he is again. I’m sure that if I wanted to, I could have pet (or perhaps even caught) him.
I can’t remember when, prior to this trip, I was last on a boat larger than my neighbors’ two-person kayak. Boats are fun!
Another cool thing about this voyage was that, at the midpoint, you can see both England and France.
When we docked in Calais, France, we all went downstairs, boarded the bus, and drove off the boat. (There were hundreds of people on this ferry. Do I have to call it a ship?) As we drove off the boat in Calais, our tour manager Steve (a very friendly and likable Australian) played La Marseillaise – the French national anthem – over the bus speaker system. We all found this hilarious, for it is a grand piece of music, and the recording was also grand, but Calais reminds of Elizabeth, New Jersey (sans the Ikea). It is, after all, a port city.
Once the national anthem had finished, Steve gave us a primer on France and we made our way across the French countryside bound for Paris!
It was great having a bus with a back window.
I don’t know if these were just architecturally interesting silos or if they are something else entirely.
Another cool thing about taking the ferry was that we got to drive past the Canadian World War I monument at Vimy. We were told that it is technically Canadian territory. If that is so, what happens if you commit a crime there? Hmmm.
We eventually made it to Paris and checked into our hotel. Here is the view from my window (though you did have to pretty much press your face up against the glass to get this view that included the Eiffel Tower). I neglected to take any photos of the room. But here’s how I put things. When we got our paperwork for this trip in the mail, it was very specific about the acceptable dimensions of your suitcase. It insisted that conforming to the specifications was crucial to everybody’s luggage fitting on the coach. In truth, we had plenty of room for luggage on the coach, and it wasn’t like we had any spare seats. However, had my suitcase been any bigger, it would not have fit in the amusingly small room I was now sharing with my new Australian friend Greg. Though this is certainly not a complaint. The room was clean enough and had a functioning shower, sink, and toilet. And the bed was decent enough. After all, it wasn’t like we were spending a lot of time in our hotel rooms. They were there for sleeping and showering.
After getting settled into my room, I went out to get some cash (time to switch from Pounds to Euros). While out, I saw this.
We met for our second included dinner of the tour and then set off on an evening bus tour of Paris.
Here are the very friendly Kat and Mike again. Since returning from the trip, I have had them over for dinner and they brought their awesome scrapbook.
This is what the hotel looked like from the outside.
There are no lane markers, no traffic lights, no stop signs, and basically no rules for the Arc de Triomphe traffic circle. Essentially, you go in and hope for the best.
We all gave a round of applause to our driver Adam (a.k.a. Wiksy) who was a nice guy from New Zealand.
The Grand Palais was constructed for the Universal Exposition of 1900. It was not intended to be a permanent structure.
A lot of us got a kick out of this ad for Euro Disney on the back of a bus.
The destination of our bus tour was the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is one of those things that is just as impressive as you hope it will be, if not more! It was built for the 1889 World’s Fair and, like the Grand Palais, was not intended to be a permanent structure. You have to love French ‘temporary’ architecture!
Due to some maintenance issue, the top of Eiffel Tower was closed. So, we only got up to the second level, not the third.
If only a tripod were a practical thing to have brought on the trip.
It’s almost 9:00 p.m. at this point. I love how late it stays light out there!
At night, every hour on the hour, there is a five-minute-long sparkly light show on the Eiffel Tower.
We were told to make our descent from the tower before 11:00 p.m.
Why were we told to descend before 11:00 p.m.? So we could see the light show from the ground.
I would learn the next day that, during the 11:00 p.m. light show, Norm had proposed to his girlfriend Kim. They were another friendly Canadian couple on the trip.
After the light show, we all met up and headed for our first trip on the Paris Metro and a walk from the Metro back to our hotel.
I know how blurry these next two photos are, but I still think they look very cool. Of course, if I had a tripod, they would have been much clearer.
One of the interesting things that sets the Paris subway system apart from the other subway systems on which I’ve traveled (Washington, Boston, New York City, and London) is that on much of it, the doors don’t open automatically. So, if you want to get on or off, you have to turn a lever or press a button.
If you’re a Star Trek fan, you might get this. I have no idea who wrote it or if it actually has to do with Star Trek character, but there it was on the inside of a door on the Paris Metro. If you’re wondering, Sarek is Spock’s father.
– Evan Bindelglass