Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Europe Tour - Paris Day 2

This is it. It's the last day of tour (second last, but we're leaving for London tomorrow)
We visited a few tourist-iconic places today: Notre Dame, The Lourve, and the Eiffle tower.
We went to pick up our local specialist first - her name was Elizabeth - by the Arc de Triumph and we took a nice city tour on the coach towards Notre Dame. Only seven of us did not sign up for the optional experiences today (Notre Dame tour and going up the Eiffle tower). I didn't feel that we needed to ascend the tower as it was just to see the whole of Paris from a vantage point. Least to say, we didn't need to see Paris from a vantage point. Anyway, we were dropped off near Notre Dame, and while the others went on the walking tour with commentary, I became tour guide for us seven and also took them to Notre Dame for pictures. As I've been here before (MUSSOC Paris Tour 2015) I was kinda familiar with getting to Notre Dame from where we were. It wasn't very far anyway. We snapped some pictures of the facade of the cathedral, then went in. It wasn't very late, maybe around 9 am when we got there, so the crowd was still relatively decent. Being inside the cathedral brought proud memories of our final performance to the public. I was proud to tell the others who had followed us, of my experience here in Paris. We walked around the cathedral being tourists and at about quarter to ten, we left for the latin quarters to have a look. However, our trip to the place was cut short by a tempting souvenir store. By the time my mum and grandma bought some magnets, it was about time to leave. We quickly walked down the walkway to where we were dropped off and waited for the others and the bus. It felt great to be early, for once.
From Notre Dame, we continued on with our city tour with Elizabeth. My mum and I commented on how romantic the Parisian way of talking was. She said if she spoke that way with the teachers, she'd be a hit. HAHAHA! I liked how her hand moved when she talked, it was so elegant and refined, like a dutchess or a princess. We were supposed to park at an underground parking for the Lourve, but it was blocked out. We later found out that there had been an accident in the parking area involving a coach. In the end, we were dropped off near the Carrousel du Lourve at about 11.10am and from there, we walked to the famous Lourve pyramid on our way to L'escargot on Rue Montogueil to eat escargot, of course. However, we underestimated the time to get there (because we kept stopping for pictures at the pyramid). To my surprise, we passed by our coach with Peter inside, parked on Rue Saint Honore. It took us about 20 minutes to get to the restaurant on foot (google maps said 12! Damnit) When we got there, it was already five to twelve. We didn't have a lot of time to eat as we had to be back by 1pm. And judging by the distance we covered and the time taken to do so, we decided that we would board the coach ahead of the group so we didn't have to walk so far. I contemplated sending a facebook message to Peter, asking what time he was leaving, but remembered that the wifi only worked if the bus was running, and by law, the bus can't be left running if it was stationary. I sent the message anyway, hoping that it would go through. It did, but he hadn't seen it, which meant I was right. We then ordered 12 truffle buttered escargots for €34 and told the waiter to hurry. My mum was so anxious as Europeans typically take their time cooking and serving, and we had no time for that. My dad on the other hand, was irked that my mum was so anxious. I was ferverently praying on the inside that the chef would cook ours first. It felt like a long time, but the snails finally arrived in about 10 minutes. It was the fastest meal we've had in the past 10 days on this tour. We were stabbing those snails out of their shells like the wind, and eating the breadsticks with the excess truffle butter. My dad nearly caused his snail shell to fly as using the 'snail prongs', as I call them, for the first time can be a rather strange experience. We hurridly ate our snails, then called for the bill "l'addition s'il vous plait" and rushed out of the restaurant and back where we came. There were a group of men, probably travellers sitting behind us, and they were probably very amused at a Chinese family stuffing cooked snails as though they hadn't had a bite to eat in days. One of them turned to my mum and asked, "is it good?" To which my mum then told him how we had to rush for the bus, and how we can't be late and stuff, but not actually answering the question. Anyway, we speed walked all the way back to where we last saw our coach, just 5 minutes to half past 12 and to our relief, there it stood just as we had saw it half an hour ago. Peter was chatting with the driver from the parallel tour whose bus was parked behind ours. We approached Peter and asked him what time he was leaving this spot, he checked his watch and replied, "one o'clock, one o' five or so. The tour will be walking here." There we stood, feeling an overwhelming sense of relief and at the same time, embarrassment for having caused such a fuss. He then sent a message to Howard telling him that we were already in the bus.
So for half an hour, we chatted with Peter and got to know him a little better. For his privacy's sake, obviously I'm not going to explain what we talked about, but I am able to tell you that it was a very interesting conversation that I would probably remember years from now.
At 1pm, we boarded and sat in our seats. Howard had not replied Peter and it kinda worried us as that meant he would've thought he lost a family of four. We hoped that he'd have seen the message as five minutes ticked by and still no sight of the group. Peter went down to go check if they were coming, and they were. Everyone had been worried and looking for us. We felt incredibly bad. The relieved look on their faces told us how worried they were that we weren't there during head count. We apologised to Howard, feeling embarrassed for causing him such distress, then the bus took off again for the Eiffle tower.
We were dropped off near the base of the tower, where all the other coaches were and the few of us who weren't going up the tower hung around the park that spread out like a green (and brown) carpet before the metal structure. White canopy tents lined up alongside each other selling souvenirs and food while picnic goers lounged on the grass and benches under the Paris sun while enjoying the cold (rather strong) breeze. We had about an hour and a half to spend our time before we had to return to our coach at 3pm. We spent some leisurely time chatting and having a light lunch, I spent some time reading my French phrasebook that I bought from here nearly three months ago. Least to say I didn't get very far into the book. As we were sitting under the shade, the lack of heat from the sun sent me shivers from the strong, cold gusts of wind. I then decided to retreat to the comfort of the coach, as two of the others who were with us had. Carrying our three backpacks, we strolled along the sidewalk and into the bus, greeting Peter "bonjour" as I passed him. I tried reading my book again, but talking with an elderly lady was more interesting. It also felt rather sad how this would be our last outing together as not many were going for the Moulin Rouge at night (including ourselves).
We headed back to the hotel to have a snooze then headed out again for dinner at 7.30pm ish. There was this maze of shops located in a building behind the hotel, which reminded me of yik foong in Ipoh. We strolled along the corridors, looking at the many shops that were closed while at the same time looking for a place to eat. There was even a Careforre! Anyway, we settled on a Chinese restaurant that charged food by every 100g, which was a very interesting concept. Come to think of it, it's like chap fan but in a more honest way. The food was heaven sent. After days of having meat, rice and noodles were the most delicious things to be eaten at that point. A couple of our tourers were also dining there - Scott and David. The lady who owned the shop was from Taiwan who had settled here for 30 years. My mum talked to her in teochew - a Chinese dialect that sounded like Hokkien (our dialect) and it was very merry. It felt a little like home.
After dinner at 8.30pm, we went to Careforre to have a look around and ended up buying a bag of black cherries for €4.30. Pretty cheap for the amount that we got. We then got shooed out at 9pm closing time, and we slowly made our way back to the hotel reception. Half way, I heard my dad calling from a distance. He held up what looked like a cherry, but, I was holding the bag of cherries. It didn't make sense to me so I stared at him with confusion. Apparently, the plastic bag had a gaping hole in it, and I had been swinging it around and littering the floor with a line of cherries, like Hansel and Gretel. It was hilarious! My grandma had spotted the fallen cherries at first then wondered if they were from our bag, then she found another, and another, and another. We walked back to where the coaches were parked outside the hotel, all while breathless from laughter, then checked out the other buses parked alongside our beloved Trafalgar one with the missing tinted window on the rear left. We went back inside where it was warm and hung around as the evening was still young and very bright. I took the time to update this post while my dad used the provided computer to check up on news from home. We finally called it a night at 10.30pm, showered, packed and went to bed. We're going home.

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