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We were wide awake at 3.30am and we both decided we were not going back to sleep so got up and packed our bags.  Our intention was to see if we could get onto the overnight bus to Edinburgh after getting home from Paris, so we would take our cases to the airport and stow them in a locker.  We  had no room booked that night but that was okay as we were sure we’d be able to take the overnighter to Scotland.  But more about that later.. most importantly, we were off to Paris.  We were dressed and ready for the taxi well before the 4.50am time it was booked for.

A lovely taxi driver got us to the airport where we stowed our “heavier by the minute” luggage into the baggage area, ready to be picked up on our return from the city of love.   We were stunned by the amount of people having a beer or a wine at the airport.  This place was packed and every second person was having an alcoholic beverage.  We ordered bacon and eggs and a cuppa and sat patiently until our flight was ready to board.

We were flying Easyjet.  You know that airline that is on the show Airport.. the one where people get bumped off planes and they all yell and scream and threaten to sue.. The one where proposals take place and luggage is lost etc..  Well none of that took place with us.  It was pretty straightforward, except for the fact that they call you to board well before your plane is ready so you end up standing in these long long queues waiting.  After what felt like an eternity, we boarded and although we were right up the back in the squeeziest seats I’ve ever sat in, we were ready for take off to Paris.

The flight went quickly.  I was so tired that I almost dozed off to sleep but  there was no way Wendy was going to let me do that.   In no time we had landed, cleared customs and were out on French soil.  We found our way to the train and rode it into San Michael station where the Notre Dame cathedral is.  Coming up from the underground, we stood in awe at Notre Dame.  Here was this imposing, ornate, historical church that we have known about all our lives and we were standing in front of it.  Pinch me now.. this surely isn’t real.

I didn’t expect to love Notre Dame but I did.  The whole place is amazing.  People out the front all taking photos and standing in the same awe we were.  We hadn’t planned on going into the cathedral but when it came time, we did.  The place is packed with          tourists but the noise is minimal.  Everyone walked around in silence and those who did speak, did so in hushed whispers.  We emptied our purse out of british coin as we had no euro to buy a candle to light.  We lit one each saying a silent prayer of thanks for this experience.  We also said a prayer for our Aunty Grace who had had a stroke a few days before.

I took a lot of photos in the cathedral along with all the other tourists.  I was surprised at how serene it was in there even alongside the hundreds of people walking through with us.  The works of art, the architecture and the stained glass windows were all jaw droppingly beautiful.  I had a few tears by this stage, as the whole experience was quite overwhelming emotionally.  I still couldn’t believe I was in this beautiful cathedral that I had only seen in movies and magazines.  I felt very humble indeed.  One of the works of art was of a cardinal and I felt a real aversion to it immediately.  This is a story for another time when I’ve done some more research.

From Notre Dame, we went out and caught the hop on hop off bus around Paris.  I was gobsmacked by the beauty all around me.  I knew Paris would be beautiful but I didn’t expect to fall so deeply in love with it.  It has so much history which in itself is awe inspiring when you come from a country with such a short modern history.  But it was more than the history.  The buildings are ornate and delicate.  Great thundering stone pillars, weighing tonnes and rearing up high into the sky, are still able to give off a delicate and fragile air.  They are elegant and graceful, belying their size.  I could have sat and gazed at them all day long.  We passed through a square where I had another uneasy feeling and then the tour  guide told us that it was the site of many executions.  That too is part of the earlier story I will write about later.

Driving down the road, suddenly in the far distance, the Arch de Triomphe came into sight.  Now tears were welling up big time.  I don’t know why but I have had a fascination for this structure since I was a kid.  I had always wanted to see it and the Eiffel Tower and here I was, finally seeing it for the first time.  We drove up the Champs Elysees and our eyes were darting everywhere.   We didn’t manage to get back to it as we were held up in other places which I regret but I will get back there.. and I did drive along the Champs Elysees so I still feel extremely blessed.

We drove past the Louvre, another place I would have loved to have gone into but we just didn’t have the time to do all the things we wanted to do.  Suddenly, the beautiful   Eiffel Tower came into view.  Oh what a sight.  It was in the distance but I was so excited to see her. We didn’t get off at the stop first time around as we wanted to be there later in the afternoon.  So we stayed on the bus and kept going until we reached the Opera.  We were ravenous by this time so we went into a restaurant and ordered a steak and a champagne.  I mean, can a girl go to Paris and not have a champagne?  Well, it was exceptionally expensive but we had one anyway, as we knew we weren’t going to get back to the Champs Elysees to do it as we wanted.

After a beautiful lunch, probably the nicest since we landed, we headed off in search of the cemetery that Jim Morrison from the Doors and Oscar Wilde were buried in.   We believed it to be the Mont Marte Cemetery.  We walked and walked and walked and walked.  My feet were throbbing and screaming for me to stop but I had to keep going.  I had wanted to find the Moulin Rouge but was running out of time.. Suddenly out of nowhere, the  red windmill was right in front of me and I got some shots of the Moulin Rouge before       continuing on to the cemetery.  We finally found it, wandered in on exhausted feet and looked around to see if there were signs anywhere.. When we couldn’t find signs, we asked someone.. Ummmmmm.. wrong cemetery.. Oh well.   Yet another thing to add onto my next visit lol.

We jumped in a cab back to the Eiffel Tower as we were now rapidly running out of time and I was not going to miss climbing the old girl.  As we got there, the  queues were  so long that my heart was dropping drastically.  On the other side was a shorter queue but this was for the steps, not the lift.. I didn’t care.. I had to go ..  There were signs saying that visibility was low at the top so we settled for climbing to the middle of the structure.  OMG. That’s a steep climb but we did it.  It was everything I’d ever imagined.  The views from there were stunning.  I took heaps of photos and knowing we were now on borrowed time, we reluctantly made our way to the lift down. (yes we could get a lift down but not up.. go figure lol)

As we lined up, we were second in line.. there was another younger family there first.. When the lift came, a few teenage  girls went to push past us all so I put an arm out and said.. this family were first.  Oh boy, did I get some death looks from these girls.. It was the first bit of nastiness and arrogance I had seen in all of Paris.  We had been warned about gypsy pickpockets but were extremely lucky to not encounter any.   A lot has always been made about the rudeness of Parisians to tourists but we found none of that either.  Everyone was helpful and lovely.   These young girls were such a tiny part of our day that we just laughed and the young mum who had been waiting mouthed a silent thank you to me.

Getting off, I raced across the road to the antique carousel there.  It was so beautiful and I got a few photos, and raced back to the bus stop.  We waited for a few minutes, then I checked the time table.  The last hop on hop off bus had left for the day.  We asked a taxi driver if he took credit card but he didn’t.  We had no more Euro on us and we were stuck.  Suddenly one of the bike taxi drivers came and asked us if we needed a lift.  We explained that we had no euro left and had to get back to San Michael to catch a train to the airport.  He looked to be an Indian guy and he said he’d take us to the ATM on his way.  We didn’t think twice, though we probably should have.  Up until this point, our angels had been watching out for us, so we trusted they would this time too.

And they did.  This lovely guy was true to his word and took us to the ATM before riding through the streets of Paris, lugging our bums as he went lol.  Although we were just in a hurry to get to the train, he gave us a running commentary of what we were looking at on the way.  It was a really delightful way of saying goodbye to Paris.  Yes it cost 30 Euro but seriously, that guy earned his money.   We  arrived at San Michael in time to get the train out to the airport.  Phew.  Relief!!

We lined up to get our boarding passes as although I’d checked in online, I couldn’t print the boarding passes as I didn’t have access to a printer.  There was a chinese lady and her son in front of us who couldn’t understand why they weren’t allowed to take their 5 bags on the airoplane with them.  We were starting to worry we wouldn’t make the boarding but another customer service officer stepped in and we made it in time.

Again we had the ridiculous waiting time, standing in line for a plane that hadn’t even arrived at the gate, so we watched it pull in, the passengers disembark and the flight crew cleaning before we could board.  By this time, my feet were so sore I wanted to scream but we finally boarded and we were winging our way home.  I think I fell asleep as soon as we took off and woke up as we landed.  Back at Luton, we went to the bus line to see if we could book on the overnight to Edinburgh leaving in 2 hours but no, it was all booked.  So we booked for the next morning and made our way back to the Stuart hotel and booked in there for another night.  This time, our room was much larger and we were able to fit in a bit better.

I turned on my computer and logged into facebook to find a message from my sister in law to let me know that my Aunty Grace had passed away earlier in the day.  I believe it was about the time we were lighting a candle for her in Notre Dame… rest in peace dear lady.. You will be sadly missed xxxx