Thursday, September 8, 2011

Tales from the TRIP - Day 11!

The day began with us learning that Stefano, our bus driver, and Simone had spent the night in the Emergency Room being treated for a problem with his back. Simone was searching diligently for another driver who could drive us to Paris, but since it was Sunday, she wasn't able to reach anyone at the Globus offices. I suggested that perhaps we should take the train to Paris since our hotel was about two blocks from the train station. Simone's response was, "it's really not a humorous situation." Can someone explain how my very reasonable solution to the problem seemed humorous? Maybe it didn't translate well.

Shortly after we were scheduled to leave, Stefano appeared and said he believed he could at least make it two hours to the French border. The gentlemen in our group quickly stepped up and loaded all our luggage in order to spare Stefano's back and we were off just a little later than originally planned.

So far on our trip, we had not seen any rain, so the timing was perfect when it rained virtually all day as we drove to Paris. When we reached the border, Stefano said he was feeling better and would finish the trip to the French capital. The countryside looked a lot like the Piedmont of North Carolina with rolling hills and farmland. The only distinction was the regular appearance of small villages, each with a single church steeple.

It was quite a long trip, about eight hours on the bus, with an hour at the AutoGrill for lunch. The cafeteria-style restaurant was pretty good. After lunch, Simone spent the afternoon telling us about the history of France. She also explained that our full day in Paris was on Bastille Day which meant that some of the sights, including the Louvre, would be closed, and our tour schedule would be the reverse of their usual schedule in order to avoid the crowds and the parade. I was disappointed to think that we would miss getting to see the Louvre, which was one of the top things I wanted to do in Paris.

Note: I really was amazed not only at Simone's ability to talk for 8 hours a day, but also her ability to maneuver the aisle of the bus as it sped down the highway without landing in anyone's lap.

We arrived in Paris around 5pm and the gentleman once again took care of our luggage - what a wonderful group they were! Everyone thanked Stefano profusely for suffering through a long day behind the wheel despite his condition. The hotel in Paris was the Paris Bercy Pullman - which was away from all the activity of Bastille Day, but was a beautiful and very modern hotel. We decided to join the group for the dinner and Paris by night tour after all, and we really enjoyed ourselves. Our group was given a private room and that was probably a good thing, since we got a little rowdy! One of the couples on our tour were newlyweds and so we had the waiter bring her cake with a candle to celebrate. When the obligatory musicians came into the room, they got up and danced. The next thing we knew, some of the young guys had picked up her chair and were carrying her around the room!

The dinner was delicious and I even had the opportunity to try escargot and liver pate - notice I said, I had the opportunity. I chose to let opportunity keep right on knocking. I enjoyed a salad, beef bourguignon and a scrumptious slice of chocolate cake instead. Afterward, we piled back into the bus for the tour of Paris (courtesy of a new driver).

We ran into a few roadblocks as they were already beginning to block traffic for the Bastille Day parade scheduled for the next morning, but were able to arrive at the Eiffel Tower in time to quickly pull to the side of the road (blocking traffic) and get off the bus and take pictures for a few minutes. The tower was quite amazing, especially all lit up at night and each hour they set off lights that looked as if they'd attached a million + firecrackers to the frame. It was dazzling. As we drove back to the hotel, Simone pointed out various points of interest including the Louvre, Champs Elysee, and the tunnel where Princess Di was killed.

Even with the majority of the day spent on the bus traveling across most of France, we enjoyed ourselves and were thankful that we hadn't had to spend the day waiting for a bus driver to arrive - although honestly, I think Mom and I both would have been perfectly happy to be 'stuck' in Lucerne!

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