Bicycles, Bridges, Coach, Crepes, E.F. Tours, King Louis XIV, King Louis XV, King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Napoleon, Notre Dame, Paris, The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre, The Seine, The Treaty of Versailles, Versailles
Day 18 and 19 – Drive to Paris and Paris
Drive to Paris
Today was pretty crappy. It wasn’t a total failure, but it was about an inch away from being a catastrophe. We started our long journey extremely early in the morning, and I was able to take a nap until the bus got so hot that I woke up sweating and couldn’t go back to sleep. The air conditioning definitely isn’t working all the way, because no matter how much we asked for it to be turned up, we are all still miserable.
While Pauline (sitting behind me, after days of Coach moving her stuff to take her seat and other P.R.s sitting there, regardless of me asking them to move so the three of us can sit together) and I were leaning our head against the window, a rock was spit up from the tire of another truck and hit our window, immediately shattering it into a million little pieces that somehow still managed to cling together. At the time we didn’t know if touching the window would cause it to explode, so Rodolfo and Mamet told us to move to empty seats while they figured it out. Well, the only open seats were in the front, next to the P.R. group leader (Eda), next to Coach, and next to Beate and Bill in the back. Rodolfo even pointed to the empty seats next to them, saying our names on where to sit. However, when we all got up, no one would move for us. They even ignored us, pretending we were standing there waiting for the seat. I was saying loudly that one of us needed to sit there, and was a little shocked that these people are so selfish that I didn’t know what to say, and Mom told me to go to the back. Finally, Eda “let” Pauline sit by her, but didn’t get up to let her in and instead made Pauline crawl over both her and her stuff to get to the seat. However, Coach wouldn’t budge. Mamet was yelling at Mom to sit down, all Mom could do was reply, “Where? No one is moving…” Rodolfo came up and asked if Coach understood, and she nodded, staring straight ahead. Still not moving, he asked if she was going to move, and she shook her head no, and looked back out the window, with her foot up on the other seat. Finally Rodolfo told her she had to move because there was nowhere else for Mom to go! She finally moved, but Eda had her seat reclined, so Mom still couldn’t get into the seat. Rodolfo was so frustrated that he just moved her seat back while asking so he wouldn’t have to deal with their bullshit. This was all so ridiculous, and if it wasn’t for the fact that it the window was double paned making it safe for us to move back, Mom would have definitely exploded at this psycho lady. I wish I would have exploded earlier, but I was a little shocked that even with a broken window nowhere else to sit, she still insisted that her feet were more important.
This was a great start to the day. It became even better when we had to stop in Germany for what we thought was to fix the window for safety, only to find out that Mamet had run out of money again and had to find a bank to have it wired to him. At first the stop was supposed to be 10 to 15 minutes, which turned into two hours, which turned into three hours. It wasn’t a complete loss because Mom and I were able to walk to a bridge nearby to see a bridge that connects Germany and France, but where one can also see Switzerland. It is also the longest pedestrian/bicycle bridge in the world. That was fun to see, and also killed some time since it was about a 30 minute walk from where the bus was parked. We also had some delicious Turkish pizza during the wait, but even after all that we were sitting around waiting…again. It was even worse when we found out that Mamet had been wired the money a half hour after Rodolfo sent everyone off with a meeting time for 2:00, so even though he had the money, we couldn’t leave until everyone was back.
Finally, we got on the bus to go, only to hear that our dinner in Paris was cancelled, and that Rodolfo would reimburse us for the meal. This is the third time we haven’t had our planned meal, and only the second time we have been reimbursed for it. And, don’t you know it, our stop for dinner was at a gas station, so all there was to have was either a salad bar that was covered with flies, or packaged sandwiches. I figured from what Jake had said about his experience in Europe and getting sick of the foreign foods that I would be right now. Instead, I wish that we could actually eat the local dishes instead of gas station food! Even when we were in Amsterdam we went to a Hard Rock Café. Why not take us somewhere for something authentic? I am also disappointed because I want to experience Paris as much as I can, and now we will only be eating there one night.
To top off the day, we got to our hotel (which is in the ghetto) and found out that our key card doesn’t work to our door. It had taken us forever to get up to the 6th floor to our room, and now we had to go back down to the front desk. They looked at us in confusion, partly from our English, and partly because they couldn’t believe that our key didn’t work. Finally someone came up and, in surprise, couldn’t open the door, so had to use their real key. Then, when we got into the room, it is 100 degrees—even hotter than it is outside. There is no air conditioner. What a day.
We woke up in a sweat, but to a surprisingly good breakfast. That made us feel a little better. However, it was a very, very hot day—hotter than our hotel room last night. We were glad to leave the hotel nonetheless. We met our tour guide at the bus for our city tour, and were introduced to the historical parts of the city (which is most everything, as Paris was established by the Romans in 23 A.D.). The medieval part of the city is gorgeous, and is all intact since nothing was destroyed in WWII, unlike many other European cities. It was hard to pass by without stopping to take a closer look, knowing that there is no way we are going to have time in the next 30 hours to back to it all.
Our first stop was a place where beautiful pictures can be taken of the Eiffel Tower. Though it was very hot, we were lucky that it was a clear sunny day. After this short stop, the group going to Versailles met to leave.
We got to Versailles, and the first thing we see are the bright golden gates and courtyard. We found out later that it has all just been restored two weeks ago, and we were able to see what the courtyard looked like in the time of the kings, as well as what they look like now.
Our tour through the palace (which was originally a hunting lodge for King Louis XIV, but expanded after the king no longer wanted to live in The Louvre) was surreal, just as walking through the other castles and palaces of been. This time, though, I had a really bad headset for the tour and couldn’t hear a thing that was said about it, other than people back then though water would contaminate them, so they would only wipe themselves clean with a towel. Not the greatest fact I was listening for, but it will do. I did catch some information about how the king used to sleep in a public room, and even use a public bathroom, so that he could keep track of what was going on. That is also a little weird. We were also able to see Marie Antoinette’s bedroom, as well as some paintings of her and all the Louis’ (XIV-XVI).
There is one room in particular that I’m sure stands out to all who visit, which is the chandelier room. It is a long hall with colorful paintings on the ceilings, magnificent gold borders, and chandeliers hanging three in a row about every twenty feet. There are mirrors down one wall and windows down the other, revealing the garden, facing west so that the setting sun reflects on the opposite side. This is also the hall where the Treaty of Versailles was signed. This room was by far my favorite.
When we were done with the tour, Mom realized that she had dropped her sunglasses somewhere along the way, and said she was going to go back and look for them, and it would only take a few minutes. A little over a half hour later, I was still waiting in the courtyard wondering where she was and if she could get back through the door. Turns out she couldn’t, and I soon heard my name being called from the other side of the golden gate. I’m positive that all the other visitors in the palace knew who I was after that.
We quickly visited the gardens where there are fountains everywhere that have beautiful statues all around and inside them. The piping is the original, so the fountains are only on for one hour per week in order to preserve them. I sure wish they had been on when we were there. It was so hot, a little mist would have improved everyone’s mood. We only stayed for a few minutes because of the heat, and decided we needed something to eat and drink, fast.
We went across the street to a little café that had smoothies, crepes and sandwiches. We got a sandwich and, of course, a crepe to split. One has to get a crepe in France. It’s just the law. Both were delicious, and though one of the points of buying anything from a café is so that you can use their bathroom for free, it still cost money. And, when I went down there, an Australian girl was yelling for help out of the stall over because she was stuck in the stall, and I had just put my money in the other one (which got jammed), so I couldn’t get her out. I had to go get someone for help, but she had somehow figured out a way out by then, and I at least got to use her stall. Man, these European bathrooms are a hassle. I wish they would just convert to our way where peeing is free.
Sadly, a bunch of people came in right when we were about to order a delicious smoothie to go, and we would have been “late” (by definition of actual time, rather than the rest of our groups perception of the word), so we left to meet the group. The whole group didn’t arrive until a half an hour later. Finally, the tour guide mentioned how it was rude, and that now there was a fine for the driver, and how people should respect set times. Why is this the first time we have heard this? Maybe it will make a difference in the future… most likely not.
We finished our tour at the old Army hospital, and got to see the chapel where many different flags are displayed, all taken by soldiers. The tomb of Napoleon is also nearby, but costs quite a bit to get in if you are over 17, so Mom and decided to pass. Luckily, it began to rain. It is the third time after a hot day that a storm has come in, drenching us in a cool shower. It felt amazing, and the thunder and lightning were so close!
We left after this for our river cruise on the Seine. We got to see everything we learned about earlier, given a little more history, but in the evening where they clouds were parting from the storm to show a gorgeous orange sunset. Paris really is an ideal romantic place, and I was jealous of all those who had their special someone with them on such a perfect evening.
Finally, it was what all of us had been waiting for—our trip up the Eiffel Tower. I can’t even describe how amazing it was to be on the second tier of the tower, and even more on the very top. The whole city was dressed in white, glowing in the shade of the sunset. We also saw the platform where we had been earlier to take pictures of the towers, amazed at how long ago that seemed. Then, if it couldn’t get any better, the tower started to light up and sparkle as we rose to the top, and got a wonderful view of the city lighting up after the sun went down.
Sadly, we had to leave, and though it was tempting to stay, we knew it would be best if we met with the group in taking the metro back to the hotel. Some people went to the Moulin Rouge instead, and at this point I don’t know how they could possibly still be awake. Our feet ached and our eyes were drooping on our walk to the underground. Then, when we got to the station, we realized that one of the Utah students was missing and Bill had to retrace the steps to the tower to find her. We felt badly, but we were so exhausted that we went on anyway, longing for a shower and a bed.
Of course, when we got back, we had to ask someone to open our door because they told us this morning that it was not the key that didn’t work, it was our door. The man at the front desk apparently didn’t have a master key, and he was busy with a huge group of other people, so we just said screw it, we would try our key again. After some jamming and maneuvering we got it, and our room was as hot as ever and a window that won’t open.