Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day Three - Paris

   We began day three boarding the Eurostar train for the Chunnel crossing, which connects the United Kingdom with France.  It travels at a top speed of 186 mph! I can tell you that it most certainly did NOT feel that fast.  What was most notable was how smooth the ride was.  Maybe that's why it didn't feel so fast? Regardless, it was really a pleasant way to travel from London to Paris and it only took just over two hours. It was so nice to sit back and watch the French countryside go by - even though it still looked like winter.  I could imagine what it would look like all green and beautiful.
I have to admit I had no clue when we were actually under the English Channel - we all dozed off quite a bit here and there, and there were many tunnels, so it was kind of disappointing to miss the actual Chunnel - oh well. 

Hello Paris train station! 
 We took a bus to our hotel, dropped our luggage again, and headed for the Paris metro.  Seriously my least favorite part of the entire trip.  The Paris metro (underground subway) was very stressful.  

 This was the metro stop for our hotel - we had to memorize it in case of separation, but I could NOT pronounce anything in French, to me it all sounded the same.  The word that I would pronounce "long-champ", was actually more like "lau-chau".  But after a few days, the words stopped running together and I was able to make out quite well.  It made me realize how quickly one could pick up a foreign language through immersion. 
 We started our day with a Paris City Walk - it really is a  beautiful city! 

 We ALL enjoyed this lovely little french bakery - it was our first experience at ordering something in French - there was no speaking English here - we did quite a bit of pointing and all were able to eat something scrumptious!  Also - switching over our money from pounds to euros and acquainting ourselves with another new currency was enough to keep our brains quite occupied. 

 The beautiful Seine river running through Paris.

 Haha - Hunter and his dad both took a quick snooze while I snapped this shot!

 Paris had the BEST flowers!  There were flower shops all over the place.
 The streets were all very narrow and the cars drove FAST!  There was very little margin of error when it came to pedestrians and vehicles.

 We made our way over to Notre Dame Cathedral - there are no words to describe it's magnificence.  It was even hard to capture it's beauty with a camera. 

 Sitting inside the cathedral was awe-inspiring - thinking of the architecture and how it was built so long ago - the reverence in such a beautiful cathedral, so much to take in all at once...

 Then we took off on our own for a bit to explore the streets of Paris - I think this was my favorite part of Paris.
 We went down a few out of the way streets to see what we could see...

 Whatever it takes to get the shot - even if it means lying in the Paris streets.

 A group shot back in front of Notre Dame before heading off to explore the Latin quarter.
 Along the way Kirky discovered this little street vendor selling used books - in French of course.  She had difficulty pulling herself away when it was time to cross the street.

 This is where we had dinner - it was wonderful!
 Kirky and Momma T - One of the things I loved most about this trip was seeing all the deep-seated relationships all around me.  These kids have simply "done life" together - all the parents look at these kids as their own.  Even our tour guide took note of this and said to us how we all seemed like one large family to her. Every time you looked around you would see two or more of our crowd walking arm in arm..... so sweet.
 keepin it real in Paris....

We stopped for a while at this incredible bakery and enjoyed the warmth and the lovely aroma while we waited to  be seated at dinner.

 During dinner we all had a good laugh at Joanne's plethora of lists she had created on her phone for Europe.  She had a list of what she wanted to see at each museum, building or place of interest, what to eat in what country, quotes, insurance lists, gifts she wanted to buy, etc...  She is quite the list maker!
 Kirky had in mind to visit a small out of way book shop that her friends had discovered when they were in Paris.  Our tour guide got the address, and drew her a map on a napkin! haha!  She followed the map and we found our way to the store - Shakepeare and Company.  It was one of the highlights of her trip I think.  She picked up a copy of Dante in Italian.  That's my girl.

On our way back from dinner on the Metro - we got to experience Paris underground first hand. We had  been on and off the metro several times that day and had a VERY stressful ride during rush hour before dinner.  We literally were packed in like sardines, people would just shove themselves tighter and tighter until they actually had to mold themselves into the shape of the door so the doors would close properly.  These doors were only open about 10 seconds, so trying to make sure all 26 of us got on and off at the same time, and make all our connections was quite stressful. After dinner and heading back to our hotel, some very small orphan children (we assume) caused quite a scene and much pushing and shoving acting as if the doors had closed and separated them from their parents.  Then in two seconds flat, three adults from our group had been pick-pocketed.  Fortunately, most of us had all money in money belts, or money pouches under our clothes, but one in our group had quite a bit of money taken right out of her purse which she had cross-shouldered, in front of her and zipped up tight.   Everything happens so quickly underground - the trains come and go at lightening speed, getting on and off was a blur, and making sure all were accounted for left my poor nervous system twitching! But we survived and lived to tell the story! :)  It was certainly a growing experience for our students - and adults as well.

And that was the end of Day Three - Day four was a big disappointment for myself and Joanne.  We both woke up sick the next day with a terrible respiratory flu type of thing and stayed back at the hotel to rest and try and recover.  It was a wise choice, as we were able to pick right back up the next day, but we missed out on seeing the Eiffel tower (the MAIN thing I couldn't wait to photograph), the Seine river cruise, and also a visit to Versailles.  On our way out of Paris the next evening, I was able to snap a shot with my Iphone from the bus window - it's better than nothing and it was thrilling to see it in person! Even from the bus.