With a population of over 2 million people, I don’t see how a city the size of Paris, France can still oooz charm from almost every corner of the city but somehow it does. While my daughter was visiting me in The Netherlands from the States, I knew I wanted to get her out and about to see some new places. I looked around at some different options on how to get us ready and to keep costs to a minimum.
Anyone who lives near a vacation area knows how difficult it is to maintain normal life but also be ready to do some wonderful things when friends and family come to visit. It gets a tad expensive. So with this in mind and the fact that we had just paid to fly her over to us, I checked into bus tours. I had never done one but my in-laws had just done this while visiting with us in the fall. We were both so excited to be having a mommy/daughter trip all on our own.
Our bus left the Eindhoven station in the morning and by that afternoon we were pulling into the city of Paris. Along the way, we met others that were sitting close by, families, couples, friends, all ready to have fun. It was wonderful hearing everyone’s stories and getting to know them. They were very interested in the two American girls who were venturing out on their own, and curious as to why I was living in The Netherlands.
My first goal was to make sure we did not get lost and make sure our tour guide and bus driver knew we did not speak Dutch. I walked straight up to the bus driver, offered my hand and said “Hi, my name is Lisa. I don’t speak Dutch. Please don’t lose me.” He laughed and immediately assured me that he would not. When the tour guide arrived on our bus she immediately indicated that she would be doing both Dutch and English for us. Then we found a few people that only spoke Spanish so she spoke Spanish as well. What a wonderful gift. I was not expecting that at all.
Well, getting lost was no joking matter. As she explained in Dutch for several minutes and then briefly in English, we began to understand that we were about to be dropped off on our own. We were to report back to the bus in one hour at the spot he had left us. Ummmm…..I had no idea where we were! So we thought we would just stick close to the tour guide. No, she climbed back on the bus and off they drove. Ok, not a problem, we’ll just tag along with one of the Dutch groups. Where the Hell did everyone go!!! New mission: stay in a one block radius and be back to the starting point way ahead of time.
As we made our way through the thousands of Parisians to the Sacre’-Coeur Basilica, we were very aware of how touristy we looked. Not a problem, clench on to our purses and don’t lose each other. As we passed through the beautiful gates of the Sacre’-Coeur Basilica, we were literally swarmed by about 10 men/boys. All with a mission of having us look at a braided string thing they were all holding. Wanting to tell us about the string and distract us so they could pick pocket us. Now, having lived in Europe for almost a year, I was used to this sort of behavior. My daughter on the other hand was not. Even though we had prepped her, it’s a tad shocking when it happens. I pushed my way through and said NO firmly! They had my daughter surrounded and I grabbed her arm and said “Let’s Go!” Then one of the men said..”Aww, Momma, don’t be upset. I won’t steal your little girl. Come on Momma. I’m nice.” I looked at him, grabbed my daughter and said “BACK OFF”, and he did. Funny, now that I’m thinking back… they were speaking English to us. Hmmmmmm!
New mission: find mommy a new purse with a strap to wear across my body and ditch the Coach purse! We promptly bought me a 10E little purse. The view and surroundings from the church were both relaxing and stunning. People were gathered all around the hill basking in the beauty and sun. But we carefully kept our eyes on the men who continued to harass others all around the area. Amazing how many people actually stopped to listen to what they had to say.
We made it back to the bus and then we walked as a group to our restaurant for dinner. Then onto our night tour of Paris.
We went to a building where we went up 56 floors and then a few more flights where we came out onto the roof. As dusk fell, there we were overlooking the city of Paris. A quick scan of the city and then all eyes fell on The Iron Lady. The Eiffel Tower was lighting up in all her glory. I can easily say The Eiffel calls people from around the world to gaze upon her beauty. As hundreds of us stood on the roof of that building from the four corners of the world together, I was humbled. This is the way the world should be. All people, together, working for a common goal, peace.
We continued our drive through the city looking at all the beautiful places glowing in the night. The funniest part (but I’m sure not to our driver) was when our tour guide sent us down the wrong road and we got stuck. Our bus driver had to back up two city blocks and turn around in a very tiny intersection. We all clapped and cheered as he narrowly missed a building, sending us in the right direction.
The next day, as we passed through the Chapel Gate to Paris, our tour guide explained which buildings where which and the history that went along with them all. Joan of Arc had stayed at the La Chapel Place. This was the name of the gate we had entered into the city. It was very informative. We saw parts of Paris and were told stories that I knew I would have never known. I also knew there was a lot that went on under the city streets but to experience how to get down there and to walk among the people just going along with their normal everyday lives was exciting. The streets, the shopping, the catacombs, the underground 50 meter swimming pool and thousands of people just milling about three stories underground is shocking.
We didn’t get to see the catacombs but as I have a love for cemeteries, I’m thinking I might need to take a little peek one day. Apparently, in the l’Ossuaire Municipal, around 6,000,000 people’s remains are buried. But that will have to wait….
My daughter and I next took a cruise along the Seine River. We cruised past, Parisian homes and businesses, up to an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. Then back past the Louvre and on to Notre Dame. There is not a bad view in the city of this beautiful church. This was definitely at the top of our list of things we enjoyed the most on our trip. A beautiful day, floating on the Seine, stunning views… perfect!
I was saving the best for last. Our tour guide set us on our own for three hours. I knew we had enough time to walk to Notre Dame. We’d driven past it during the day and the night and even floated past it but I wanted to get my daughter into the church. I’m not sure how but when we got there we were able to just walk right in without waiting in line.
First thing we did was to go over and light a candle for my mom, my dad and a dear friend of ours who is fighting cancer right now. They were setting up the church for the Easter services that would be starting with Holy Thursday. Our trip to Paris had been wonderful and to end it at Notre Dame was just perfect.
A trip with my daughter to a beautiful, quaint city full of music, character and stunning places to visit…. Priceless! Gai Paree... Joyful Paris.. You bet!