Woo. This has been an adventure so far. Unfortunately, the wifi on this Contiki tour has been limited, so I will not be able to post everything until it’s done, but for now, I will post whenever I get a chance.
I’m exhausted. I’m four days into the tour and want nothing more than a clean, warm bed and a glass of water. But I’m not having a bad time!
It’s now Friday and we’re on the bus headed toward Bordeaux. I’ll start this post from day one.
On Monday the 16th I parted ways with Sarah as she headed to the airport and I got myself to the hotel for the start of the Contiki tour. I checked into my room at the hotel at 2 p.m. and worked on my Dublin post to pass the time until my roommate arrived.
My roommate, Jess, was a sweet Australian girl. Though we couldn’t become great friends in the short amount of time we had together (she is on a different Contiki tour that also left from London), we got dinner together and went shopping . We had to be back at the hotel for our welcome meeting at 7 p.m., so we headed in early and got our seats in a huge conference room with about 100 people. There were four Contiki groups leaving from London that day, so we all met our tour managers and learned some basic rules and regs for Contiki tours.
My tour manager, Josie, is a freaking awesome Canadian chick who has a fantastic attitude and an effervescent love for travel. She made all 45 people in my group feel welcome and initiated our group unity with little effort. Most of the people on the tour are from Australia, with a third of the remainder from New Zealand, six from South Africa, three from Canada, three from America and six from Asia.
After the meeting Monday night, we went to a pub next to the hotel and got to know each other. They are all crazy. Well mostly the Aussies and Kiwis, but the South Africans are up there too. I’ve never met a group of people who can drink so much and get so little sleep and still function.
On Tuesday, we rose bright and early to make our way to France. We took a ferry from the white cliffs of Dover to the French coast, went through the fastest customs check I’ve ever experienced, and then stayed on the coach bus until we got to our campsite on the outskirts of Paris. We set up our camp of little blue twin share tents, and then hopped back on the bus to do a quick tour of Paris.
I was blown away by the beauty permeating throughout the city streets and buildings. Of course, I knew from countless movies and photos that Paris was beautiful, but it honestly took my breath away when we drove through that night. Every building is so intricately furnished with immaculate sculpting on every side, from the entryways to the trim to the gutters. I couldn’t believe that these building were all sculpted by hand and have stayed this beautiful since medieval times.
But our tour of the city was short lived as we had to return to the campsite so our bus driver could sleep (there are very strict laws governing how many hours the bus driver can work daily). And of course, that night, everyone got super drunk and stayed up into the wee hours of the night getting to know each other.
We rose early the next day to drive into the city for some free time. We were dropped off at the Arc de Triomphe, and had plenty of time to get some good photos. Afterward, with a group of girls, I walked up and down the Champs Élysées, Paris’ main shopping district. We visited the Louis Vutton store, a Mercedes dealer show room, a Tiffany’s store, and then went to H&M so that we could actually buy something. Parisians are so well dressed and vogue I could barely handle it. I loved it!
After shopping, two girls and I rented bikes and rode up and down the Seine River. It was one of the most magical things I’ve ever done. The river is beautiful despite the somewhat cloudy water and riding through the streets and gazing at the buildings was unforgettable.
Along the way, we visited the Pont des Arts, or the Love Lock bridge. Legend has it, if you put a lock on the bridge, write yours and your lovers’ names on it, and throw the key into the river, then you and your lover will be together eternally. Romantic, but pretty intense, huh? So….that sort of commitment scared me and I didn’t put a lock on the bridge. But one girl I was with put her best friends’ and her name on the lock, which I though was a cute idea. The area was pretty toursity, and the bridge pretty crowded, so soon after we got to the bridge, we again headed off on our bikes back along the river.
Later that night, we met back up with the full group at the Louvre and then headed to a restaurant for dinner. The food was amazing, though many other people in my group did not fancy the snails or French wine, but I was down to try everything that would add to my true Parisian experience. But the best part of dinner was the waiters. I’ve never been flirted with so much than by the old men waiting our tables at the French restaurant. They grabbed all of the women’s arms and shoulders when they talked and did a lot of cheek (and sometimes lip) kissing. It was, uh, enlightening.
After dinner, we headed to a cabaret show where we watched dancers perform traditional French dances with a few modern twists. The show was absolutely fabulous, but I’m a little regretful that I spent 80 euros on it.
Wednesday night was again full of drinking and staying up later at the camp site, which is how every night of this tour is going to be — apparently. I don’t like it very much, but since we are tent camping, there is no quiet place to go escape the loud noises. And the lack of sleep caused by the rowdy partiers definitely contributed to my awful, awful day on Thursday. For that, I will need to start a new post.