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It’s nice to have a new name, to start with.  One that is not all worn out from being called so much… Natalie Babbit

I’m very slow in getting these up at the moment as the tour is a complete whirlwind.  We just get somewhere and it seems it’s time to leave and another day has passed where I haven’t had time to write about the daily activities.  Tomorrow is our last day with the group before we go our separate ways so I’ll be able to catch up properly, but better late than never.. Here is the first day of traveling with the group tour!

We were up bright and early to meet the  tour coach out the front of the hotel   in Greenwich.  All packed, we waited out the front for 6.30 am.  There was a few tours going that morning, so we all stood around, waiting to see what would happen.  Our tour guide Perci showed up (we’d been sent his details already) and eventually our luggage was stowed underneath and we went on our way to the Holiday Inn to grab the rest of the tour.

With the exception of one couple who missed both stops and had to make their own way to Paris and another meeting us in Paris, we were all ready to start the adventure and we headed off down to Dover to get the ferry to Paris.  I have to say I was a bit relieved that we were going by ferry and not through the Channel tunnel as I really don’t like tunnels very much.  There wasn’t heaps of talking to each other as it’s always a bit difficult when you get a heap of strangers on  a bus and expect them to interact but everyone seemed friendly enough and it seemed a good mix of ages, nationalities and personalities.  Something for everyone I think.

We got down to Dover and another of my bucket list items was ticked off.  I’ve wanted to see the white cliffs of Dover since I first heard Vera Lynn singing about them.  And they didn’t disappoint.  They were very majestic.  So was the port of Dover.  It’s a huge port with cars, trucks and buses all waiting in line to cross the English Channel to  reach France.

We didn’t have to wait long to board and parked the huge bus downstairs while we went upstairs for a wander around.  There we started talking to another of the girls from the trip, also an Australian.  While we were talking to her, another Aussie couple came over and we both felt a bit better about the coming 11 days spent in the company of strangers. It seems there are quite a few Aussies on board, mostly from NSW, so we’ll definitely have people to talk to.

The channel crossing was beautiful and we spent a lot of the time out on the blustery deck, watching Dover disappear behind us while France loomed large and majestic in     front of us. There were a few huge seagulls hovering above the boat, waiting for some tempting morsel from the passengers.  Kirsty commented on the “seagulls on steroids” as they are so much bigger than ours.  Before we knew it, we were back on the coach, driving toward Paris.

We arrived in the afternoon and went on a driving tour of Paris with our driver James, taking in some of the main attractions.  Fortunately, or unfortunately, we couldn’t see too much as it happened to be Bastille Day, which meant many streets were blocked off due to the celebrations.  I was still pretty thrilled to be in Paris on Bastille Day, although it did mean that Donald “Small Hands” Trump was also in Paris.  That was a bit scary as he isn’t exactly known for his ability to play nicely with others, so we probably felt a bit uncomfortable with hanging out in the city but we quickly got over any insecurity we felt.

We then proceeded to the Latin Quarter to have our first dinner together as a group.  Wow, what a night.  We had good French food and great conversation at our table.  There was some musicians playing while we ate and they were brilliant.  When they found out there were Aussies there, they burst out into a rousing rendition of Waltzing Matilda for us and a few other songs for the other nationalities joining us.

We were all a bit sleepy after the long day and some large carafes of wine so headed back to the hotel to get a good sleep ready for the next day.  Some of the group decided they were going in to the Eiffel Tower to see the fireworks and as much as we wanted to go too, we were really too tired and a bit unsure of wandering around a city that we don’t know well in the middle of the night.  We’d had enough of that in London, so we went back by Metro with the rest of the group.  As we were nearly at our hotel, we heard the fireworks and looked up and could see them,  though only the high ones which meant we missed the tower itself.  Ahhh well… It felt good to see some of them at least.

In the morning, we went back into Paris to begin some sightseeing.  Ahhh Paris.  Beautiful one day, perfect the next.  We started at the Opera House and had a good wander around there before heading off on a bit of a walking tour around.  We spent some time in the park near the Louvre and then went to a macaron shop for some tasting of these pretty little morsels.   I have to be honest, they aren’t my favourite sweet in the world but it was great to have a taste anyway.  I really just wanted to try a black licorice one as did our new Canadian friends on board, but one person decided they were taking the only two that were there so that idea went down the gurgler.

It was then onto the Eiffel Tower… Oh boy!  It was so crowded you couldn’t move.  When I went a few years ago, we went in off season and on a week day.  This was Summer (peak season) and a weekend after a public holiday.  What a nightmare.  Still, we decided against climbing it as the lines were enormous and went for a walk around the side to get a few photos in.  Even this was difficult as it was almost completely surrounded by barriers but we found an opening and went for it.  Walking back to the meeting point by the River Seine, we were quite overwhelmed with the heat, crowds and noise.  I never thought I’d say I was glad to leave the beautiful tower but today I was.

We then went on a river cruise of the Seine which was really delightful.  We were supposed to have lunch on the boat but there had been a mix up so we were to have it on the bus afterwards.  The sun was so hot so being on the water was such a blessing.  We got to watch the hustle and bustle of Paris without any stress.  C’est magnifique.   As we passed under one of the many bridges, one of the guys from the tour pointed out the people who were living under the bridge within the struts supporting it.  I can’t even imagine what that must be like: too scared to go to sleep in case you roll over and fall into the water.

We moved from there to Tower Montparnasse which is quite an eyesore on the beautiful Paris cityscape.  It is said that it’s the best place to get a good view of Paris as it can’t be seen in the photos taken from there.. It really doesn’t fit in but it was great for a photo opportunity.  It was while we were sitting down having a wine after taking some shots, that we got to know a lovely couple from Canada who were just delightful.  We headed right up onto the roof and had another wine with them there and they were convinced that we had said Kirsty’s name was Tessy, so she’s got a new name.  I wonder how long it will be before we can let them know it’s not her name.  Oh well, they’re such good company, they can call her Tessy if they like.  I’m sure she’ll answer….. especially when there is wine involved.

Leaving there, we had a quick stop at Notre Dame Cathedral and again, the lines were so long.   We walked in where there was a break in the line beside another Aussie, not realising that the line just wasn’t moving as the next lot of people were too busy on their mobiles to see the line had moved.  When they looked up and realised, they ran forward screaming at us that they were Chinese and knew what was happening.  I’d normally have moved back to the back of the line when I’d realised but they were so rude, we ignored them and stayed where we were.

Going into the cathedral, I was again captured by it’s beauty but I have to say, I think she’s at her most beautiful in the morning sunlight.  It was late afternoon this time and the lighting wasn’t as spectacular as the first time I fell in love with her.  It was still beautiful though and I lit a candle for my Mum who would have loved to have seen Notre Dame.

From there, we headed toward Montmartre as we were going to take a walking tour through there and up to the Basilica del Sacro Cuore.  Now, as much as I was really excited to be seeing all of this, by this time, my poor swollen feet were the size of ten houses and my knee was screaming at me to sit down and give it a rest, but alas no time.  it’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling though, many others are finding the heat, the walking and the stairs really hard to cope with too.

But saying all that, the area of Montmartre is worth the pain.   Everywhere you look there is art.  If there isn’t art, there is amazing architecture and you know that some amazing pieces have had their origins there.  We saw the houses of artists such as Van Gogh and there are Banksy style protest art on every spare corner.  There is a large wall with I Love You written in every language on earth.  It is an artist’s paradise.  I was in awe.

After much huffing, puffing and aching, coupled with ooohhs and ahhhhhhs,  we made it to the top.  Instead of going through the church high at the top of Paris, we raced around to the souvenir shop to pick up a few things we saw along the way.  We raced back to the group where they waited in the shade, drinking beers.  The one thing there seems to be everywhere in Europe are vendors…   Some legal, some not so legal.  And sacred sights aren’t immune to them either.  We didn’t care how legal the guy  selling cold beer was.  We were hot, tired and thirsty.  He made a killing off us but we murdered those beers too, so it seemed to even itself out. I don’t even drink beer and I had one.

Walking back down the steep cobblestoned hills, we went for a late dinner even though the sky is still light.  I can’t believe how light it stays until well after 10pm.   When we got to the restaurant, Kirsty and many of the others had ordered their first escargot (snails) but I just couldn’t bring myself to order them.  I did try one of Kirsty’s but I really wasn’t that impressed.  What I am impressed in though, is her courage in trying so many new experiences.   In her words she said she s…nailed it.

We’ve really started to get to know the group by now and we’re both loving their company.  It’s always a bit hard to know if you’ll click with anyone on a tour but we’re clicking with just about everyone so this is an absolute bonus.  Some of the group have booked in to go to a french can-can night but we’ve decided to go back to the hotel for bed.  With the oppressive heat, the walking and these old legs,  I think an early night is called for.  Whoever said sleep is over rated has no idea what they are talking about……

PS.. excuse some of the photos… I’ve given up trying to edit properly until I get home.

Happy s….nailing it…. Livvy xxxx