Well this blog post is a few days late since internet is scarce, mais voila!
Rebecca and I woke up at the crack of dawn to go meet our tour group at the train station to take the chunnel. We were kind of confused, because at the tour office, they had told us we would be leaving from king's cross station, but then the taxi driver, hired by the office, took us to another train station that was next door to king's cross. We were a little bit stressed then, because forget about finding our platform, we didn't even know which station we were supposed to be at! Luckily, we found someone to ask, and we were in the right station. Apparently everyone knows that when your ticket says you are leaving from platform 5 at king's cross, you are actually leaving from platorm 5 at st. pancras. Makes total sense - our bad! After that confusion was dealt with, and we were comfortably sipping our lattes, we were off to Paris!
The Chunnel is really cool and efficient! We were told that you don't even know you're under water, and I have to say that I didn't believe anyone, but it's true! It actually took me almost halfway through the Chunnel to realize that it had been dark for quite some time, and that we were almost through!
Our actual time in Paris was an interesting experience. In our tour group, we had an older gentleman who is Scottish, but now lives in the US, a young man from Vegas, two girls from Japan who spoke little to no English and less French, and Rebecca and me!
Our first stop of the trip was the Eiffle tower. First, we drove past the arc de triomphe, which was really impressive! I have seen pictures of course, but it is much larger than I had imagined somehow, and the pure artistry was beautiful. Having driven through Paris, and seen the gorgeous buildings and balconies, I could understand upon our arrival to the eiffle tower why the french think it is so ugly. Compared to the rest of Paris, it really is! The height and sheer mass of iron are pretty interesting though, but that foreigners come to see that instead of appreciating the beauty of the city itself must be frustrating. We also learned, upon exiting the car, that the eiffle tower is the coldest and windiest location in Paris! Lucky us! Keep in mind that it was -8 celcius, which is around 17 degrees f, and the wind chill made it about -13, which is 8 degrees f. Needless to say, we were absolutely freezing!! Our hands were bright red, my feet went totally numb (and the re-heating process of my feet was actually really painful), and the Scottlish gentleman kindly told me "your nose is the most incredible shade of blue!". But, we carried on, and Rebecca and I ventured outside to the FREEZING outdoor section at the top for a picture at the top. Hopefully that picture will be posted soon on facebook, when we can combine photos. That picture was a true sacrifice of everything we had left haha! I really cannot convey how cold we were. So that is my memory of the eiffle tower!
Next, we took a cruise of the seine, which was really enjoyable! The boat was enclosed, thank god! It was so fun to be able to see all of the buildings upon the river, and I mostly enjoyed the bridges! They are so ornate, and are really pieces of art! It was also cool that some of the bridges were covered in locks. I read in my handy dandy Rick Steve's book that the locks are placed there by lovers in Paris. They put the lock on the bridge, and throw the key into the river to symbolize that even if they part ways eventually, their time and experiences together can never be taken away. I think it's a really beautiful sentiment.
After the river cruise, we went to the notre dame. I have to admit that I probably didn't appreciate the notre dame as much as I should have. From the outside, the cathedral is absolutely beautiful, and I wish we had been able to spend more time looking at it from that perspective. As previously outlined by my weather report however, that was not about to happen. So, from the inside, it really looked just like any other cathedral. The strained glass though was beautiful.
After the notre dame, the Scottish man, the Vegas man, and Rebecca and I went to get lunch at a cafe. Out of pure devotion for their nicotine habits, some parisiens were sitting outside. We chose not to partake in that Paris experience and sit inside and drank lots of tea in an effort to raise our body temperatures. The food at the cafe was sooooo yummy! I ordered a croque monsieur, which was the most intense comfort food ever with the exception of Pullman Southfork's cougar gold mac and cheese. Sorry Paris. But regardless, it was really good! That is first on my list to cook for myself once I finally get into my flat in Scotland. I'm fairly certain that I would be shot if someone from France reads this, or at least would receive a good upturned nose, but that croque monsieur was the best cheesy bread of my life!
After lunch, we had a few hours to tour the city before catching the train home. I was on a mission for a pain au chocolat, but in typical fashion, the minute you need a boulangerie or a pâtisserie, they all disappear! Eventually, after wandering the freezing and rather unfriendly streets of Paris, I saw one! Unfortunately, the place looked a little bit commercial, but it was worth a shot I thought. So wrong. It was hard, with zero flavor. So we threw it away and continued to walk down the street, when we saw a cafe which listed pain au chocolat on the menu. Eureka! But the response upon ordering? "Nous n'avons pas le pain au chocolat, mais je peux vous servir un croissant avec nutella": Epic fail. Rebecca put our pain au chocolat quest nicely, by saying that we were really experiencing the "pain" in pain au chocolat.
So, we began the trek back to the train, defeated by the weather, rude parisiens, and a lack of pain au chocolat. We were so excited to re-enter the UK! And then of course, in the train station cafe, they had a plethora of pain au chocolat. At that point, I was just too put out and couldn't order one, deciding to give it a try in Brussels.
I need to spend more time in Paris to be able to give it a fair assessment, but Rebecca and I agreed that London, although it's a bit city, still gives you an impression of class and courtesy. Paris, on the other hand, seems to inspire an "every man for himself" mentality. Like I said, I would like to go back, but I would also like to see other areas of France, where maybe it's a little bit different.