Day 10 – Thursday 30th June, 2005
Lucerne – Paris, France
Once again I think we had an early wake-up, around 6am. I don’t remember a lot of this day, we just did a rather large amount of driving, and it was one of those days where most people just caught up on sleep, lucky for them that they can sleep on buses.
Unfortunately, one thing that stands out more than most was the Swiss-French border. We had to stop there to hand in forms for those who’d bought expensive items, so they could get their tax back before re-entering the EU. There wasn’t any border control going in to the EU, so that wasn’t horrible. The bad part was that I was absolutely desperate for the toilet by this time, so along with some others we ran over to the little toilet block. I really don’t want to go into much detail, but that was probably the most disgusting place I’d ever been in. And the guy’s toilets weren’t any nicer (they were empty and there was a big line for the ladies … one of the guys checked for me before I went in), and probably needless to say, there was no toilet paper. But after that it was another 2 hours or so until the lunch stop, so I didn’t have much choice.
A couple nicer of things do stand out, one being the place we stopped for lunch. The restaurant was actually on the other side of the highway, so we had to take about 5 minutes off our lunch break to allow for us to climb the stairs to go over the highway on the overpass. But this was the first chance I’d had on the trip to use what little French I remembered from school. Didn’t go too well as it’s hard to remember a language you haven’t spoken in five years at the same time as reading French menus and deciding what you wanted. Once again the road stop was quite nice, and nicer still that it wasn’t one of those Italian chains we’d been quickly used to for the time in Italy.
Anyway, we had a nice, although slightly more expensive than usual, lunch.
So after we’d finished our lunches, made the junk food stop (Pringles were a very popular choice on this trip!) and headed back over the bridge, there was a few minutes to spare, and as this was a day nearly all on the bus, we spent it outside. I took the opportunity to call my sister and say happy birthday from France. Only for about 30 seconds though.
I actually slept part of this day on the bus (I guess the late nights and early starts started to get me really tired), and randomly at one point I woke up from my sleep/doze and I happened to look out of the window just as we were passing the Renault Formula 1 factory. So that woke me up pretty damn fast, and I was pleased with my timing then too!
Apart from that, I don’t remember a lot of this day, just more and more highway. I think we got caught up in a traffic jam when we were nearing the centre of Paris, bad enough that I think Amanda called our hotel to warn them that dinner wasn’t likely to be on time. I have a feeling we got to the hotel around 7pm, possibly later than that. We had a very rushed check-in, more so than usual, we just had enough time to use the toilet, grab a jacket, and then run downstairs to dinner.
Dinner wasn’t too bad, although once again I’ll admit I don’t really remember it. I think we had very long bench tables so it was difficult to get up and down from your seat. But afterwards we all piled back onto the bus for our tour of Paris by night. This was definitely one of the most memorable things from our tour. We were taken around all of the main places that we were likely to want to go see the next day… the Louvre I think was our first main sight. Of course the most entertaining part of the night was Parisian driving!!! At best it’s lunacy! But a fun type, when you’re high up on a bus, and probably safer than those who are driving a little car.
After that I think we drove around to the Eiffel Tower. We were all totally excited when we got there. As soon as we got off, Amanda ushered us across the road from it and got us to wait there and watch the tower at 9pm while she went to get our tickets. We weren’t sure what it was we were looking for, but in the end it didn’t matter, as 9pm came and went with nothing going on!! So when Amanda came back with the tickets for us all, she told us it was now going to be happening at 10pm instead. Not that we minded, we were all just thrilled to be there! We all showed our tickets and went to line up at the lift to the first level. Now I don’t particularly like lifts, I’m not terrified of them, I just don’t like them. But given a choice of climbing MANY stairs and taking a lift, I will always take the lift. So we got into the large, two-story lifts and went up! Even the first level looks incredibly high when you get up there.
Nearly all of us went straight around to the next bank of lifts, and lined up there. It’s pretty hard to get onto them, because although there is a line to get to the lifts, once you’re past that line, there is no order at all. It took about five lifts for us to be able to get onto one of them, just because of people pushing and shoving. It was one of those times when you had to make use of elbows, or else you would have been there on that level for a few hours. Or longer. Anyway, I think in the end we each grabbed someone from our tour and pushed our way into a lift whenever we could. I think Alison and I grabbed on to each other and ended up on the same lift. Then if we’d thought we were high before, that was nothing compared to getting off the lift at the top. We had a quick wander around the enclosed area, then headed up the flight of stairs to the very top. Surprisingly, it wasn’t too busy up there, although once again we did have problems taking photos without other people in them. For at least the first 15 minutes that we were up there, we basically stood there in shock, and just taking in the view of Paris. It was one of those things that none of us could describe, it was just incredible. I started to try and call my parents, but for some reason it wasn’t working, so I gave up on them and called my friend Jaina (even though it was 3 or 4am in Australia at the time), because she’s one of the few people I know who has her phone on all night! So I called her and said something like “I’m at the top of the Eiffel Tower!!” I’m sure I said something else, but I really don’t remember, I was too excited, and I wasn’t going to stay on a mobile-to-mobile call from France to Australia for too long! Then I tried my parents once more, called them and said the same thing pretty much, and then just wandered around the top of the Tower, enjoying it, taking photos (using the toilet, in which I bashed my head on a coat rack, as they’re very small spaces to get in and out of, and I could hardly fit!) and just taking in the experience. During the time we were up there, the event that was supposed to happen at 9pm happened. As most of us had correctly guessed, it was a lights show on the tower. Not all that great when you’re at the top of the thing and can’t see any of it!!
After what I think was about an hour up at the top level, we decided that if we were going to make it back to the bus on time, and not be left behind, we’d better start making our way back down. So we got down to the first level without too much trouble, had a quick look in the gift store, and then joined the back of the massive line to get down to the bottom. Some people had chosen to walk down from the first level to the ground, and I had wanted to, but at the same time I was getting tired, so chose not to.
After we’d finally gotten to the bottom (with Mary-Helen following Alison and I, trying to tag along and join in our conversation), we had probably about 10 mins or so until our meeting time on the bus, so I ran below the Tower, right in the middle. If you’ve ever wondered, its like loose dirt/sand underneath it, and where the centre of the tower is, there is a little square kind of like a baseball plate (is that what they’re called?). So I stood on that little square and looked directly up, and took a photo up the centre of the Eiffel Tower from the bottom. I’d read that in a magazine or somewhere quite a while before this trip, but I can’t remember where.
So after that, we still had some time left before we had to be back on the bus, so we ran back to the place just across the road where we’d been waiting when Amanda got our tickets, and started taking more photos from there. We ended up going quite a way back up that street/park to try and get the whole tower in. Somewhere at this point Mary-Helen realized we were ignoring her, and left. I got a couple of shots, then we started half-running back to the bus. On the way I took a couple from the legs of the tower looking up, and I think those are some of my favorite pictures from the whole trip. I would love to go back and re-take them, as the very old point & shoot camera I had with me on this trip really doesn’t do the shots justice.
After that we carried on with our tour, and as we were driving towards the Champs Eleysees we saw the Eiffel Tower from a way away when the light show was going on. Most definitely an impressive sight, it was just a shame we couldn’t stay still and look at it for longer.
However, we soon forgot the Eiffel Tower, shockingly enough. I have no idea if this is something they always do (I would assume it is) but we then found ourselves on the Arc De Triomphe roundabout. Wow. Talk about a scary experience. We weren’t really given much warning by Amanda (who was still doing a commentary for us) that we were there, so we knew about 5 seconds before – that is the craziest place on earth!! Reuben just put his foot down and screamed onto the roundabout. Screamed literally, as half the bus did as we went on!! I kid you not. So he drove around one full circuit for us, then went around like a normal person, actually taking the exit that was the Champs Eleysees.
It was a nice place to have a drive down, despite Kirsten and her “look out for …. Store!!” the whole way! It was some cheap perfume store, and by cheap I don’t mean imitation perfumes, I mean the real brands just at very cheap prices. Anyway, her getting a few of us to look out of windows for her was pointless as Amanda pointed it out anyway in her commentary!
After that I think we pretty much drove back to the hotel for the night, it was getting fairly late by then, and we had a full day in Paris the next day (read: no sleeping on busses to be had).
Not sure if anyone went to the bar or anything that night, I don’t remember doing anything so I’d just assume that I went up to bed. I think on the way back through Paris we all started planning what we were going to go see the next day.