Day 12 – Saturday 2nd July, 2005
Paris, France – London, UK
After a way too early wake up call (probably wasn’t any earlier than the rest of the tour, but less sleep equals early feeling really early), we all packed up very quickly and loaded our stuff onto the bus for the last time.
What I didn’t even know until after we’d left the hotel was that some people had opted to leave the tour there, they’d booked themselves a few extra nights accommodation in the same place and chosen to have more time there. We pretty much drove straight to the airport, and dropped off some more people, which left the bus a lot emptier than it had been all tour. I think we all had two seats to ourselves, and most people were a bit sleepy. I was a little disappointed that we didn’t know people were staying in Paris or leaving from the airport there; drop-off zones don’t really allow you to give people a good good- bye, so that was a shame. You don’t really end up discussing your travel plans on tour, you’re too busy telling people about yourself and learning about them, not to mention talking about the amazing places you’re seeing, so that was a little disappointing.
On the way to the ferry back to England, we stopped off for a little break at a Canadian war memorial in the Valley of the Somme. I didn’t see a great amount of the place, we were only there for something like half an hour, and I ran straight to join the queue for the ladies toilets. I remember Mary-Helen jumping a queue of about ten of us waiting for the public toilets, and with the sleeplessness I had, not just from the night before but from the entire tour catching up with me, I don’t think I had a polite response. By the time I got to use the toilets, we didn’t have more than a few minutes left before the bus was leaving. There were lots of signs around the place warning visitors to stay on the paths, just in the off-chance of any unknown, unexploded bombs in the ground. I wanted to have a quick wander in the trenches at least before I got back on the bus, but I think people were already heading to the bus at this point, so I started to take a short cut across the grass towards an opening in the trench – then as I was a step off the path on the grass, I remember the signs and jumped right back onto the path. One of the guys was there at the time, walking the opposite direction to me, and seeing what happened, and it was pretty obvious that I’d forgotten and suddenly remember the mines/bombs, he said something like “I think you’re safe.” That’s good coming from someone who was safely sticking to the paths! I managed to have a quick (as in under a minute) walk through one of the trenches, snapped a few quick pictures, and ran back onto the bus.
After that I think most people slept until we got to Calais, and I don’t remember much of what we did on the ferry, I think I was with Alison most of the time, and I have a feeling we spent most of the time grabbing something to eat and just relaxing in the cafeteria most of the way back. It was quite a rough ride back, I do remember walking out of the cafeteria and just walking in a straight line, you walked into other people and into the backs of seats. I found it fun, actually. We were waiting at the back of the ferry, near the exit to where the bus was parked, as it was coming into Dover, and it was shaking so, so much. I’d never felt anything like it in my life, not even earthquakes felt like that.
Once again, we had to go through immigration, which was getting frustrating by that time. Not for me or Emma, who also had a British passport, we were whizzed right through and finished before everyone had even gotten off the bus. I felt sorry for the people who were in the UK on working or ancestry visas, they were getting questioned about their funds, where they were staying, all that sort of thing.
The ride back up the coast to London was quiet as well, once we were underway, I think I messaged my parents when we were back officially in the UK, as they wanted to come and meet me at the drop off area, just off of Russell Square. When we were just coming into London, Amanda started to thank us, just giving a little bit of a wind-up to the tour. I missed a lot of it as my parents kept trying to call me to find out where I was and how far away we were. I think as we were pulling into the last few streets, our tour song was played for the last time.
I found two envelopes and put the last of my money in them, to give to Amanda and Reuben as tips – the suggested rate I think is €1 or €2 per day, as they don’t get paid a great deal, I think mine came out under that, as I didn’t have any money left, but I gave Amanda the last bits of my money from Switzerland, as you can’t change coins back, and it was just enough for her to buy herself a drink next time she was through there.
I got my bags off the bus, left them with my parents (and an uncle I hadn’t seen in ten or so years who happened to turn up) and went to say goodbye to a few people. Most people were quite distracted, tired, wanting to get bags and go to a hotel room, so I left the drop off area quite quickly, headed for a quick catch up in Starbucks, and then went on home.