Paris & Versailles
To begin our tour of France, 5 of us departed Cambridge at 4:00 AM in the morning from to London, then Paris. We were confused to see a van with a luggage trailer ready to drive us instead of a coach bus, but our real bus was awaiting us in London. We got as much sleep as we could on the way to London, and when we arrived, we switched to a much larger, and more comfortable coach bus that would become our bus for all the driving tours. One thing I noticed about London was that despite how early it was, it was still very congested and busy; something I have seen a lot in cities like Chicago and New York.
The driver of this bus had a strange resemblance to Jean Claude Van Damme, only he was slightly balder. We left London and headed east to the coast port city of Dover. All along the way were vast farms and grassy fields, but when we arrived at the coast we were welcomed by a beautiful castle right on the edge of the famous White Cliffs. The cliffs were cool to see from afar, but unfortunately we did not have time to go explore them. The bus then drove onto the large ferry that would cross the channel.
Aboard the ferry, we walked around to kill some time as we sailed away from England. I was surprised to see Vegas-like slot machines scattered throughout the ferry. Being the degenerate gambler that I am, I had to play at least one spin of the slots. Luckily for me, on the very first pound that I gambled, I won 9 pounds. Quitting while I was ahead, I took my winnings and bought myself some lunch and Oreos, something I haven't seen since leaving the states. The ride to the coast of France took about 40-50 minutes, and when we arrived we were all eager to get to Paris.
The next leg of the trip to Paris took roughly 3 hours by coach. Again, similar to England, there wasn’t much to see on the way there except farms and grassy fields. But before we knew it, the beautiful city of Paris was in our midst, and we met our trilingual tour guide Yan, who strangely looked like Wayne Brady from Whose Line is it Anyways?. The coach bus drove throughout many of the city sights until it arrived at the tour boats on the River Seine, right in front of the Eiffel Tower. It was so awe-inspiring to see the Eiffel Tower in person for the first time, but I couldn’t wait to see it at night and eventually climb it. The boat tour on the River Seine started and looped around to end at the Eiffel Tower. I was slightly frustrated while aboard to see no way to take photos outside of the boat as opposed through a dirty reflective glass panel. Despite this, I listened to the English commentary as it explained many of the backgrounds of the buildings up and down the river. By the time we approached the end of the route, we were in front of the Eiffel Tower. Because it was the first 5 minutes of the new hour, and it was dark enough outside, we all got to witness the tower sparkling for the first time. We did not go up the tower at this time, but we would later in the weekend.
The coach bus drove past the Arc De Triumphe and down the Champs Elysees to Place de la Concorde many times during the weekend during the day and night. Then the bus drove past the La Madeleine, the Opera Garnier, and the world-famous Louvre Museum. But after a long day of travel, we were anxious to sleep and refuel our energy for the days to come.
On Saturday after breakfast, we departed for another full day of sightseeing. We first arrived atop the beautiful Montmartre that overlooks the entire city. On it are two churches, the Sacre Coeur and the Place du Tetre. Then on to the Ille De La Terte, and the famous Moulin Rouge. I had heard of Moulin Rouge before, but didn’t know what it referred to. Apparently, as someone was explaining it to me, it’s a movie about a writer and a prostitute who fall in love with each other, but then she dies. It was also said that the area around this theatre is their "red light district." This would explain the vast number of consecutive sex shops that lined both sides of the street, some of which advertised bizarre sounding acts of pleasure. It was not shocking to see these stores necessarily, but after just being in two beautiful churches very close by, it was definitely a polar opposite city sight. On that day, 200 Scottish people were parading the streets, dressed in their appropriate attire, playing the bagpipes, and marching in unison. It was a random, but cool thing to see.
Next on the itinerary was the world famous Notre Dame Cathedral. I remember seeing the sister Cathedral in Montreal the few times I was there, but it was great to see the original, and much larger, Cathedral in person. Sadly I could not find Quasimodo, but the Church was so beautiful on both the inside and outside, and it was right next to the river. After the cathedral, we ate lunch nearby before we left for the Palace of Versailles. One quick note on French food; cheap French food is sometimes better than expensive French food, and we were stunned on how quick it takes them to cook the food too. We also made sure to get freshly made crepes too!
Our half day trip to the Palace of Versailles was my favorite part of the weekend by far. Even though it is winter time and most of the vegetation was not as green as it is during warmer months, it was still a spectacle to see. We started by walking around the big golden front gates and courtyard of the Palace. While inside, we made sure we saw every single room. The rooms in the palace were by far the most lavish rooms I have ever seen, with the one exception being the rooms in the Vatican. Each bedroom, hallway, or living room was decked out in the most exquisite ceiling art décor imaginable. Some of the highlights of the Palace include: the King and Queen’s bedrooms, the Hall of Mirrors, and all the marvelous artwork.
As grand as it was inside the palace, no description can give a justice to the outside gardens that go on for as far as the eye can see. Because it was winter time, we were able to explore the gardens for free. We barely covered a tiny bit of the gardens, and I was amazed at everything I saw. I plan on visiting France again just to see the gardens in full bloom to see all the fountains, vegetation, and statues uncovered.
Sadly, we had a bus to catch so we departed the gardens and headed back to Paris. We made our final stop of the day at the Eiffel Tower. By this time, it was nighttime and the city was illuminated by the golden haze of the Tower. We decided to be adventurous and climb to the top of the tower as opposed to taking an elevator. I took many pictures on the way up, but my legs and I were relieved to arrive at the top platform. Some of the photos I got of both the city and tower were incredible, and the walk up was well worth it.
Before we know it, Day 3 was upon us; the last day of our trip. The last sightseeing adventure we would have for this trip was of the massive Louvre Museum. To spare you from another long detail of a tour, I will sum up the highlights of the museum with some pictures of the famous pieces I saw, along with a few of my favorite pieces. Included are the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo statue, the Code of Hammurabi Stone, the Wedding at Cana Painting, The Consecration of Napoleon Painting, a real Mummy, a Pharaohs’ tomb, and many other beautiful pieces.
Sadly, the tour was over, and we headed back to Calais to take the ferry back to Dover, and then back to London. We were dropped off at the King's Cross Train Station that has the iconic 9 and 3/4th Platform from Harry Potter, and then we took our train back to Cambridge. On the ferry back across the channel however, we were in the middle of a storm. I was convinced that the boat was going to flip upside down like the Poseidon and would we all die. I have never been sea sick before in my life, and I have been on some big boats, but I honestly could not stomach the choppy and violent waves. Despite this near death experience (which I probably embellished on), I am so happy I took this trip, and I really wish to return to France again in the springtime.
I hope you have enjoyed these experiences I have shared with you along with my pictures. Please view the "Paris & Versailles" gallery to see all my pictures that were used in this blog, as well as many more pictures not mentioned. Also, any picture I have that was has anyone in our group in it can be seen on Facebook, so those who are my friends can see them on my Facebook page very soon!
Thanks for reading. Until next time!
Coming Up: Quick weekend trip to London! Pub crawl Friday night, and some sightseeing on Saturday before returning. Sunday will be my first Cambridge Pythons football game, pending weather, and it will be SUPER BOWL Sunday!