So the next morning, we needed to take the Chunnel at 5:25 am. We all decided that if we were up and ready to go at 3:30 that would be plenty of time. We were all surprisingly ready around 3:35 and were ready to go! We were told that we needed to take a bus to a bus station that was close to where the train station was and then take another bus to take us directly to the station, but we figured we could just walk so we would only have to pay for one bus.
We went to the bus stop which was conveniently right across the street from our hostel and there was a bus waiting, but we decided we would take our time since they came every 7-8 minutes. As we were waiting for the next one, we were all making sure we had our passports and Chunnel tickets when one of my friends couldn’t find hers. She and I ran back to the hostel (since all of the tickets were on my email) so we could use the computer and printer in the lobby. I tried downloading the ticket, but the computer didn’t have Adobe Flash Player or whatever that thing is called so it wouldn’t let us download it. Luckily, the woman who was on duty let me put in my email account information in her computer and she printed off the ticket for us! Then we ran back to the bus stop just in time for the next bus. Well, this next bus comes along and drives right by us without stopping. We had forgotten that in Europe, you need to flag down the buses… they don’t stop at all bus stops just because there are people there. So we wait another 15 minutes and a bus still hadn’t come. It was now almost 4:30 and this is when I read on my ticket that we needed to be at the gate at least a half an hour before the train leaves. At this point, we all start getting a little nervous because we didn’t know how strict they were about that. If they were anything like RyanAir, then we might as well have given up. When we were deciding whether or not to call for a taxi, another bus started heading towards us. Out of the 6 of us, I don’t think there was one person who WASN’T waving their arms up and down like a crazy person. When we got on the bus, we made sure it was going to the right place, and we also double checked that it wasn’t going directly to Pancras Station. Then someone asked the bus driver how long it would take to walk from the bus stop to Pancras Station and he replied, “oh, you’ll make it” which I thought was strange… how did he know what time our train left? 20 minutes later, we got off the bus at this huge intersection and had no idea where to go from there. At this point, it’s 5 am and our train leaves in 25 minutes. Also, as you’ve probably figured out, we missed the half an hour before point. Anyways, we must have looked clueless because our bus driver who was stopped at a red light honked his horn at us and pointed us in the right direction. He pointed for us to go in front of him at the crosswalk and since he knew we were in a hurry, he was going to wait for us to cross even though his light had turned green. So we started running, but little did we know that there was another lane on the other side of the bus. All of a sudden, a motorcycle slams on his brakes to avoid hitting a couple of us. We all scream while the motorcyclist yells out… well… some profanity (with a British accent which made it even funnier.) We then continue to run to the station, quickly went through security, and got to our platform at 5:17 with 8 minutes to spare.
|We were all so excited that we made it!|
Riding the Chunnel wasn’t as exciting as I thought it was going to be, but it was still a fun experience. It was a little uncomfortable when we would go underground at such a fast speed because my ears kept popping, but eventually it must have stopped bothering me enough to fall asleep because I think slept for most of the 2-3 hour train ride. Before I knew it, the countryside of France was right outside my window.
Around 8am Monday morning, we arrived in Paris! Our hostel was only a few blocks from the station so we went to drop our bags off, got some breakfast at a nearby McDonald’s, and headed for the center city of Paris.
|Our amazing tour guide!|
Since we loved the free walking tour in London so much, we decided to do another free walking tour in Paris. We walked about an hour to get to the meeting point of the walking tour, and then we walked on our walking tour for over four hours! We saw many touristy sights including Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, the Parliament, Arc of Triumph (from a distance), The Louvre, the Seine River, Notre Dame, Musee D’Orsay, and last but not least, the Eiffel Tower. After our walking tour, we found a grocery store, bought some food to make sandwiches, and had a lovely little picnic in the Champ de Mars, right next to the Eiffel Tower. Then we made our way back to the hostel and called it a night.
|After our picnic under the Eiffel Tower.|
|Arc of Triumph|
On Tuesday, we went to go see the Arc of Triumph up close and personal. Here is some interesting information about the Arc of Triumph that I learned in my walking tour the day before: 1. The Arc of Triumph is basically one big roundabout, but instead of just having four streets meet, there are twelve. 2. When the cars are in the roundabout, there are NO lanes; they just drive wherever they want. 3. When you enter the roundabout with your car, your car insurance is automatically cancelled until you leave the roundabout. 4. There is a car accident in the roundabout approximately every 30 minutes. Needless to say, we took an underpass to get to the Arc of Triumph.
After seeing the Arc, we walked our way down Champs-Élysées, the most famous street in Paris. After a good hour of walking, we found a restaurant so we could eat some lunch. I tried escargot and had a French omelette. I also tried a bite of my friend’s crème brulee and another bite of my other friend’s French onion soup. Everything I tried that day was delicious. Even the tiny expensive snail.
Once we were all full of wonderful French food, we made our way to Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coure. We spent some time taking pictures of the Moulin Rouge theatre, but there was really nothing else to do or see there, so we continued walking towards Sacre Coure. The Sacre Coure was very beautiful, but it was a quite a journey getting to the top; we had to walk through very crowded streets with some strange people, get through the part at the bottom of the hill where there were men trying to tie bracelets on your wrists and then ask you for money, then we had to climb a bunch of stairs to get to the top of hill so we could see the entire city of Paris as well as go inside the Sacre Coure. We spent most of our afternoon/evening here laying out on the hill of the Sacre Coure and listening to a pretty talented street performer sing songs in French, Spanish, and English. A couple hours later, we went back to our hostel and made some spaghetti and garlic bread (sound familiar?) for dinner.
|Excited for some spaghetti and garlic bread!|
On Wednesday, we woke up early and headed to The Louvre. We got there around the time that it opened, but we still had to wait a while to get inside. Once we were inside, just like everyone else, we ran straight for the Mona Lisa. After pushing through the huge crowd of tourists taking multiple photos of Mona, our group got separated. So for the rest of the time I was in the Louve, I spent it with two of my friends seeing famous works of art such as Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, The Wedding at Cana, The Seated Scribe, Mary Magdalene, Cupid’s Kiss, and Michelangelo’s Slave.
Once we were all museumed-out we spent some time in the gardens before we had to meet up with the group in the afternoon at Notre Dame. We toured the cathedral of Notre Dame, then three of my friends and I set out to find some crepes. We found a great place near Notre Dame and I had a hard time choosing between a nutella/banana crepe and a nutella/whipped cream crepe. So I did what any wise person would do, and I got the nutella/banana crepe and asked for whipped cream. Even with the extra charge for the whipped cream, I’d say it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
After eating the best crepe I’ve ever had in my life, we went to the Cimetiere Pere Lachaise which is a famous cemetery on the east side of Paris. Oscar Wilde, Chopin, and Jim Morrison are all buried there. Then we decided to walk back to our hostel… which was an interesting walk to say the least. Not only did it take us 2 hours, but we walked through probably 4 completely different neighborhoods. First we walked through a pretty “normal” neighborhood which was where the cemetery was. Next came what my friend described as “Hobo Hoedown.” For about two blocks, the streets were filled with trash, clothes, cardboard boxes, and mattresses. Then came Chinatown and after that was India. I swear, everyone in this part of town was Indian. Not only were we the only Caucasians, we were the only people of any kind of different ethnicity around. Eventually, we made it back to our hostel to get our bags.
Once we got our bags, we headed back to the Eiffel Tower where we spent the remainder of the night. We had another picnic, watched the lightshow that lasted 5 minutes every hour on the hour, took some fun pictures, and had a great time during our last night in Paris.
|Last night in Paris <3|
At about 11:30pm, we decided we should leave for the airport before the metro closed. We rode the metro for almost an hour and got off at what we thought was our stop. When we first looked at the map, we saw a little plane symbol that said CDG next to it with an arrow and a metro stop right next to it. This is where we got off. Makes sense, right? As we walked up the stairs, we didn’t see much except for a hotel and a McDonalds. We went into the McDonald’s to ask how to get to the airport and he asked, “what airport?” This is about the time where I had lost all hope. He said the Charles de Gaulle airport wasn’t anywhere near there and the metro had just shut down for the night. After asking about taxi prices, shuttle prices, and bus prices, we found out that the only possible way for us to get to the airport was to take a taxi. There were six of us so we had to take two taxis. Total cost of both taxis? 100 euro. This obviously put all of us in a great mood. We made it into the airport and slept on the cold, tile floor for 3 hours until we had to go through security and board our plane. So as you can see, our trip didn’t necessarily END very well…. but despite the last few hours, Paris was fantastic.
I slept almost the whole time on the plane back to Madrid, and the whole four hours on the bus back to Caceres. We arrived in Caceres in the afternoon where I spent exactly 12 hours until I left for southern Portugal with my roommate, who had been in Ireland visiting family this whole time! We had a great trip together, but those stories will come in Part 3!