Friday, September 13, 2013

Day 112 to 118 - Paris & The Tour De France

Day 1

We set off in the early hours of Sunday morning to make our trip up towards Paris. The journey is about six hours and we were all very eager to get to Paris for the final day of the Tour De France. Ash showed her excitement by sleeping the entire six hours to Paris. We stopped in a small French town along the way for a pit stop with espresso's and croissants before changing drivers. I drove for 3 hours but didn't brave driving in Paris mainly because everyone was driving on the wrong side of the road.

After arriving at our small hotel on the outskirts of Paris we had to strategically check in as Anthony only had a room booked for our second night in Paris and not our first. The plan was for him to sleep in our room which turned out to be a challenge as the hotel had a small reception and even smaller rooms, with barely any space for the bags. However, we decided our sleeping arrangements could wait until after the Tour De France.

Our little hotel room in Paris, with no aircon - just a table fan during a heat wave! 

We had been bitten properly by cycling fever and decided it was very important to all be wearing Tour De France supporters t-shirts. Having brought along our own French guide in the form of Anthony, we were surprised at how long it took us to find a good spot on the route. Our eagerness had landed us on the tour route 2 hours before the cyclists were expected. We had planned to meet up with my Dad who had been cycling some of the stages of the tour and spectating. But he was not sure exactly what time he would arrive in Paris and didn't want us to miss any of the racing. 

Finally we received a call from him and he gave us an address to meet him at on the Champs Élysées. As we were about to find out on the final day of the Tour that many of the streets were closed, we had to run around like mad and then take a short cut through the Louvre - all made possible by Anthony's ability to understand French. After what seemed like our final stage of the Tour De France, we arrived on the Champs Élysées to meet my Dad and a cold Hieneken - making all the running worth it!

It was great to see my Dad who had managed to secure us a spot right alongside the race track. What preceded was an action packed afternoon of watching the tour race on the Champs Élysées while we shared a few stories with a bottle of wine. After the racing had finished, we headed up to my Dads hotel to meet up with the rest of his cycling tour. We agreed to meet up the following morning at 9am for breakfast. To end off our perfect first day in Paris, Anthony took us for a night drive around the traffic free streets of the French Capital. We soon realized after arriving back in the hotel around three in the morning that there was so much to see in Paris. Dont expect much sleep in Paris! We also were fortunate enough to see the South African flag on the Eiffel Tower especially for Madiba's birthday. 

Getting ready for the race 
Running to find Sam 

Driving around Paris at night 
The SA flag on the Eiffel Tower for Madibas birthday - during the Tour De France. Proud!

Day 2

The following morning we snuck down individually hoping that the hotel reception wouldn't notice that there were three of us coming down from our room. I was last down and ambushed with the question, and I battle to lie. Acting as slow as humanly possible we were eventually fined five Euros after I crumbled, a massive discount on the 40 Euros we would have had to pay for an extra room. My Dad had a free day with us before his flight so we decided to do a boat cruise along the Seine, allowing him to get a quick look at the whole of Paris before he had to head home. Before that though, anyone who knows me well knows I need breakfast before I do anything. Lucky for us, we had my Dad with us so we were spoilt to a traditional French breakfast with croissants and coffee on the Champs Élysées.

Having finished breakfast we walked down to the bank of the Seine, past some of Paris' more exclusive hotels. Once we had boarded our river cruise we started to become truly blown away! We then walked through Paris with our French guide and google maps until it was time for lunch. For lunch we were lucky to be able to head back to the Champs Élysées, to a restaurant with 'all can eat beef and salmon carpaccio.' We set our minds to getting maximum value, and so we must've ordered at least 5 plates each. Our lengthy lunch left us ready to stroll (or roll) down the Champs Élysées exploring all the car shops before my Dad sadly left us for his flight. We headed back to the hotel to pack a picnic dinner for the park.

Breakfast on the champs-élysées 
Admiring all the cars outside the hotels 

You cant not have a kiss by the Eiffel-Tower! 

Exploring the car shops on the champs-élysées - The BMW store 

The all-you-can-eat carpaccio! 
The Peugeot store 

The Merc store 
The Toyota store 
Testing our eye coordination and reaction rate 

The best macaroons in the world on the champs-élysées: La Duree 
Macaroon icecreams 
Choc macaroon icecream 

Anthony had suggested we head for dinner under the Eiffel tower which turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip. We spent the the evening under the Eiffel tower sharing our dinner and a few bottles of wine. The Eiffel Tower on a hot Parisian evening was the perfect ending to two busy busy days in Paris! 

Ant and Bruce 

MAC makeup signature store on champs-élysées 
On the underground 
Pole dancing on the underground?

Day 3

We woke up early and Ant and I used some team work to get Ash up and ready in time to get to the Eiffel Tower by 8:30. The Eiffel Tower opened at 9:00am and after seeing the queue the day before, we were determined to get there early! We thought our plan had worked perfectly, arriving to a short queue that had already formed at the base of the Eiffel tower. However, just before the Eiffel Tower was supposed to open, chaos broke out as a French speaking official tried to explain to the 50 meter line: "The lift was broken." We didn't hang around for long to complain, so we ran off to another entrance as fast as we could. Luckily, we found a side entrance with a really small queue. We ran straight to the ticket office and only realized after paying that we had bought tickets to CLIMB up the tower. Yes, NO LIFT! No wonder why the line was short!? Ash was extremely upset with this development but we managed to offer her lots of encouragement to get to the top. The 1665 steps were definitely worth it as the view from the top is very special and hard to describe.

If 1665 steps were not enough, we then walked over to the Arc de Triumph and then jumped on the train to Notre Dame. An early start to the day had allowed us to fit in lots of different sights, and it was cool showing Anthony how to be a tourist... In his home country! 

The view 

Absolutely exhausted! 

When driving around here, the only rule is - LOOK TO YOUR RIGHT! It doesn't matter how fast you go. Rather scary! 

Notre Dame 

Lovers bridge 
Saying goodbye to Ant! 

Day 4

We woke up to our final day in Paris and were left to guide ourselves around the French capital as Anthony headed back to Toulouse. We spent the morning and most of the afternoon walking the streets and parks before getting a dinner together for the evening. We even stopped off at the world famous La Duree macaroon shop on the Champs Élysées to get some delicious macaroons for our dinner. We decided to sit in the park outside the Louvre and watch the sun set.

The signature LV shop! 

Back to La Duree 

Finding the new Man City kit in the Nike Store on the Champs-Élysées 

Our picnic by the Louvre 

8 different flavours 

The incredible sunset 

The Eiffel Tower sparkling 

The reflection in the water 

Day 5

Today we went to Euro Disney, please see seperate post after this one.

Day 6

We were sad to be leaving Paris even though we had seen and done so much! It felt as if we had so much more to do, so we'll definitely have to return. On our final morning before our flight we were up early to tick one more thing off... The Mona Lisa. Luckily for me, Ash studied art at school and had been on an Art tour to the Louvre before, so she was able to put some meaning and explanations to some of the very impressive paintings in the Museum. I was blown away by the Mona Lisa but also by all the tourists crowding around and pushing each other to get a better view point. Once we had braved the stampede of the Mona Lisa (which was probably more dangerous than running with the bulls in Pamplona) we jumped on the train and headed for the airport to make our much anticipated flight to Heathrow Airport, LONDON! 

The Louvre

Goodbye Paris!