Our group numbered sixteen total: 2 professors (Darin and Ken), four spouses, and ten students. Part of our travel plans included chartered bus tours with English-speaking tour guides. Our first tour guide was a petite and soft-spoken blond woman.
This French tour guide is sweet, and I like that her English accent is British. I like how she says city: "see-tay" (equal emphasis on both syllables)
One of the first things I noticed was the steering wheel on the bus, and how it had clips to hold a piece of paper, and how I would like one of those in my van.
The second thing I noticed was how the tour guide would drop, "But what can I say? We are French," into the conversation. I didn't realize that this phrase was not concocted solely for Disney's Ratatouille, but is actually said to justify things like not following rules of the road and such. Charming.
She explained that Paris is a city surrounded by a Ring Road and divided in half (sort of) by the Seine (just say "sen"). And it's just that simple. At some point we switched tour guides and after driving past some significant sites, we arrived at our hotel. We were early, but were hopeful that we could at least get our room assignments, get cleaned up, and maybe rest a bit before our tour was to continue in a couple hours' time. All but two rooms were ready, and one of them was ours. We dropped off our suitcase and decided to explore our neighborhood just a little bit.
Our first stop was a corner bakery where, in an attempt to be completely original, I purchased a pain au chocolat. We then explored a Sunday Market, which was beginning to close, so while we didn't purchase anything there, it was a good opportunity for me to try out my camera.
Darin and I kept mentioning to each other how surreal it was that we were actually there.
Arriving back at the hotel, we had a seat in the lobby while waiting for our room to be ready. I took a look around.
French maids? Wear crocs.
I did fall asleep briefly, and as our bus pulled up to the hotel, our room became ready for us. Realizing that only one of us could fit in The Elevator Which Takes Ten Years, we hiked up six flights of floors on a circular staircase.
In Europe, the buildings are numbered differently: our main floor, which would be floor 1 on an elevator in the U.S., is floor 0 in Europe. Go up one flight of stairs, and you're not on the second floor, you're on the first.
Back on our bus for the tour, we (as a group) opted to not go to the Louvre as part of the tour, but rather just be given our tickets so that we could use them during our free time. This meant more tour time on the bus where I both dozed off and took some pictures through the bus window.
The tour guide was very resourceful and apparently passionate about French history. As we drove by some department stores, she told us that it wasn't worth it for us to buy clothes in Paris. "We don't even buy clothes in Paris," she told us. "We fly to New York City to shop for clothes."
Armed to avoid the pickpockets, our bus stopped a plaza near the Eiffel Tower before finally bringing us to the tower itself.
One benefit of doing a bus tour is that you don't have to wait in line for tickets.
We looked, and felt, like zombies.
At the conclusion of our tour, we arrived back at our hotel, but had arranged to meet as a group to walk to a restaurant which was recommended by our tour guide. It was, essentially, French Applebee's, which was disappointing to me but I didn't care. I was hungry and tired, wanted to eat (I had the salmon), get back to the hotel, check in with the kids, and sleep.
So I did.