We were up at 5:15 this morning! Less than 5 hours sleep... It gets light in London at crazy hours. At 5:15 it was broad daylight, which at least made it easier to get up, but Stacey reckons it was getting light at 3am this morning when she woke up. We had to head down to the courtyard at 6am and check into Contiki, plus get our bags weighed. We're only allowed 20kgs in our suitcase and if it's over they make you take it out. So I was a bit worried as it was 22kgs coming over. So I crammed a whole lot of stuff into my carryon luggage and then weighed it. Thankfully, it was 19.8kgs! I was so glad because I didn't see anyone else having to change stuff over, so I didn't want to be the only one. Our bags were loaded onto the bus and then we were off on a 2 hour trip to Dover to catch the ferry to France. Our Contiki driver is Steve from Otago, and the tour manager is Andreanne from (French) Canada, and she is also a teacher. There are 51 of us altogether, and as far as I'm aware, there's me, Stacey and 1 other Kiwi, an American, a Canadian, a South African, and the rest are all Aussies!
We saw the White Cliffs of Dover and I took a few photos. We had to go through customs and get our passports stamped, as well as have a few random suitcases checked - not mine though. They just do random checks on vehicles, and not everyone has to go through customs. The ferry over to France was about 90 minutes. We didn't do too much. Just had a quick wander around and had some lunch. I didn't have any pounds left, which was good because I don't need any anymore, so I bought a sandwich in Euros, but then she gave me pounds back. I was so annoyed. So one small sandwich just cost me $10 NZ! I owed Stacey some money anyway at least because she bought my sleeping bag when I ran out of pounds, so I was just going to pay her back in Euros.
Once we got off the ferry, it was about another 4 hours drive to Paris. We stopped at a mini mall for a break along the way and I bought my first thing in France which was a little scary! Just a bottle of water, but I was nervous doing so because of the language barrier. We got to Paris at 5:45pm and had about 15 mins to get our bags to our rooms, and get dressed for dinner. Everything is always so rushed! The shower in our room isn't in a bathroom, it's just in the bedroom with a clear and half frosted door. Very weird and makes us both feel very self conscious.
The restaurant luckily was only about 10 meters down the road. We had a bread platter as an entree and then some chicken for the main. We started getting to know a few of the Contiki people, mainly the ones from the Facebook page. From there we headed out on the bus on a city sightseeing tour. First we went for a taste testing session at another restaurant where we had real French champagne (champagne must come from the Champagne region of France to be real), French cheese, and we ate escargot (snails), which were surprisingly nice. However I was happy just trying one. Apparently you can just buy snails in a can at the supermarket over here, but the ones in the restaurant were all fried and covered in garlic. I burnt my thumb really bad on the metal dish which the snails came out on and I'm pretty sure it's going to blister tomorrow.
From this restaurant, we went and saw the Arc de Triomphe which was amazing. There are 12 roads coming off one round about and there are no lines on the road. The cars literally just cut each other off, cyclists hoon in front of speeding cars. It's so crazy. I would be terrified to drive around it! The way cars park here absolutely crack me up. Because so many of the cars are so small, they park in parallel parks but just face the curb, and they still don't stick out any further than any normal parallel parked car. They also just park all over the place, on street corners (where we would so get ticketed if we did so - no '6 metres from the corner' rule here). I even saw a small car parked in front of a street light, in the middle of a 4 way intersection!
The actual Arc was a lot bigger than I had imagined too. We saw a few more sights around the place and then we went to the Eiffel Tower. We took some photos from a far, in the rain, and then we drove up under it. It is a lot bigger than I thought from afar. It looks humongous from underneath.
Tomorrow we have a free day in Paris, so we're going to go back and possibly climb it. The queue for lifts is too long, and the stairs are all on the outside which I think will terrify me to climb, especially if it continues raining. So we may not actually go up it, not sure yet. We're really hoping the weather improves tomorrow. It's been great for us so far in L.A. and London, so fingers crossed, but I doubt it. Tomorrow we don't need to get up til 8, yay! We can't believe what little sleep we're coping on. Then we're off to the Catacombs (Ancient Roman Tombs), then back to the Eiffel Tower, and then depending on time, the Louvre. I would like to see the Mona Lisa. We are getting to all of these places on the underground, so this should be interesting to navigate with no French speakers. We need to meet back with the group at 4:15pm and then we have time to get changed before heading out to another fancy dinner and a French cabaret show with the tour group.