Day 4 December 13th.: Golden Tours Day Trip to Paris
Sleep does not come easily to me. I wake up frequently, fearful that I will somehow sleep through the wake-up call and two alarms that I have set. As soon as the clock hits 4:30 am I fling myself out of bed and into the shower. At five I go downstairs to catch my cab to London Waterloo. The cost is 17 pounds sterling and I’m not too sure it should be that much until two people I meet later in the day, who are also staying in the same are of Hyde Park, tell me they paid fifty pence more.
I have booked a day tour through Golden Tours as I want a panoramic view of the city. The Golden representative shows up right at 5:30 to give us our tour materials. Then it’s off to wait for boarding. BTW, I am extremely thrilled to find that the border agent does indeed stamp my passport with a Paris stamp (not to mention an additional London stamp on the return trip).
I’ve booked leisure select and it’s definitely worth the money. I can rest my feet on the foot rest and recline my seat. And no arguments about seat reclining here as there is plenty of space and not many people on the train. Unfortunately, I can’t get far enough away from a father traveling with his two very rambunctious children (and wouldn’t you know it, they sit near me on the way back to London too!)
The three hour train ride passes fairly quickly and when the train arrives the tour guide is at the one exit. Being that it’s off-season there’s not too many people on the tour which makes it nice. The tour starts with a one hour bus ride around the city. The balconies on the windows make me feel like I’m in Paris—wait—I am in Paris! I feel a giddy sense of happiness seeing the Notre Dame, Arc-de-triomphe, the louvre, and so many others. I also decide I’ll never drive in Paris.
Following the one hour bus tour, we go on a one hour cruise on the river Seine. Thank goodness half the boat is heated. I can’t believe how cold Paris feels. We pass under 22 bridges, including one that is supposed to make your wish come true if you close your eyes and make your wish as you pass under the bridge. I wish I could remember the name of that bridge.
We also pass by the Orsay—such beautiful architecture. I know I won’t have time for museums today, but I also know that I’ll be back.
When the cruise is over, we walk over to the Eiffel tower for our trip up to the second level. I do not know, until a casual conversation with a fellow tour member, that on the first level of the Eiffel Tower there is a post office where you can mail postcards and letters and they will be stamped with a special Tour Eiffel postmark. I hurriedly buy and fill out two postcards and send one to myself and one to my parents. I got mine—mum and dad are still waiting for theirs.
The views from the second level of the Eiffel Tower defy description, almost. It’s a cool crisp clear day so I can see forever. I am surprised to see how crowded Paris is with buildings. It looks as though there is no room to breathe.
Then it’s off to Versailles. I am enamored of this place the second I see it. The gilded gates and the cobblestone walkway add to the magic. Our tour guide takes us around part of the gardens where the trees are shaped quite artistically, as is the grass. The fountains (non-functional at this time of year) are surrounded by sculptures that provide a serene romantic atmosphere. Then we are set loose in the King’s apartments. The room of mirrors has a natural opulence to it, with all the gold and glitter. Marie Antoinette’s boudoir has a dreamy elegance to it, with its light green and gold canopy bed—to imagine that she once escaped insurgents through a door in this very bedroom! I delight in being able to take the time to absorb the magnificent colors in each room.
We make our way back to the city at dark and have the opportunity to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. I have never felt so in love with lights as I am at this moment.
I have an hour before we have to return to the Eurostar station, so I walk over to the louvre to see the outside, specifically to see the glass pyramid utilized so vividly in The Da Vinci Code. It seems smaller and less majestic than I imagined, but still a magical experience.
Back on the Eurostar I have a bite for dinner and then (with the help of some wine) I sleep for a couple of hours. I arrive back in London around 11 pm and take the tube back to my hotel. I feel completely safe taking the tube as many people are on it at this hour.
A couple of side notes: 1) I forget to bring cash to tip our guide. I feel horrible about this as she is such an excellent guide, but I have her name and the location of tour agency she works out of. 2) Paris Las Vegas really does manage to capture some of the flavor of the real Paris.
Next Stop: Dickens’ House; Platform 9 3/4; a TALF meet