Saturday, September 7, 2019

London & Paris 2019 - Day 4 (9/4/2019) - To Paris

We needed to have our luggage packed and ready for pick-up by 6:45am, at which time ours was promptly collected.  We then headed down to have breakfast before meeting for the 8:10am departure.  We were taken by coach to St. Pancras station where we caught the 10:24am Eurostar train to Paris Gare du Nord (North Station).  We had assigned seats for the 2.25 hour train ride, with the entire tour group in the same car.  The train ride was comfortable enough, though I couldn't quite get into a great sleeping position.  One neat treat (pun intended) was that Doug (the tour director) came around with a small package of chocolates for each guest.

Our arrival train station was a bit run down, and didn't give my mom the best first impression of Paris.  Outside the station the group boarded a new coach which would be our transportation for the rest of the tour - also with the same driver, Philippe, for the duration.  We drove through the Paris traffic into the city center, where we met a local guide for a walking tour of the City Island.  My mom wasn't particularly impressed by this tour (nor the guide, young Anna), and I wouldn't disagree.  It didn't help that Notre Dame is still inaccessible while in the early stages of being restored after the fire.

After the tour we boarded the coach to be taken to our hotel for the next 3 nights, Les Jardins du Marais.  Doug distributed packets with our room keys, and we were able to reunite with our luggage waiting for us in our room.  We decided to join the optional excursion that evening (which we hadn't pre-registered for, unlike the other excursions we took), dinner and an "illuminated drive" of Paris at night.

The excursion departed at 5:45pm, with dinner at a restaurant called Les Noces des Jeannette.  Dinner consisted of 3 courses - I selected the only vegetarian options of onion soup and the seasonal vegetable plate for my starter and main, and then meringue vacherin for dessert.  The soup was yet another disappointment for my mom, who was expecting significantly more cheese on top.  The vegetable plate was actually pretty solid, with about 6 different things on it - the best were the little  balls that I presume were some type of hushpuppy.  The meal also featured performances by an accordion player, which I could have done without.  One table of 5 women traveling together (plus the son of one of them) seemed to enjoy the accordion music, though a couple of them were buzzed enough off the included wine (plus wine donated from other tables) that they could have made a good time regardless of the surrounding.

After dinner we took off on the drive around the city.  We went by/through/over several of the most notable buildings, squares, and bridges, culminating with a stop at the Eiffel Tower for the 10pm flashing light show.  The only minor disappointment was that the Arc de Triomphe was for some reason not lit up.  But despite this, my mom got over her initial impressions and began to appreciate the city.  The traffic wasn't too bad that night, and we were able to get back to the hotel somewhere around 10:30pm.



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