While on holidays in France, visiting Disneyland Paris, my wife was desperate to show the kids Paris … the stomping ground of her youth, where she lived while studying and her love for this massive city.
Having seen some of the places she used to visit, e.g. pubs, I was somewhat reluctant to show our kids that side of her life. Not kidding, my wife dragged me into a pub once, just off Bastille Square, which was completely covered with religious pictures, figures, etc. During our stay at this little sanctuary, I had to visit the toilet, and was greeted with floor to ceiling porn – literally. No wonder most men were in there for long periods of time and came out smiling. So, you can understand that this was not something I could show my kids. My son would never leave the toilet again or would demand similar decorations in our toilet!
Anyway, the hotel we stayed in had some pre-planned excursions. Yes, these are normally pretty boring and they take you to all the sights, but at least you have somebody to drive you around. So, we booked us on the Sunday day trip – full day.
Tour to Paris started as soon as we arrived at the bus parking area, where the tour buses were locked and ready to be loaded with innocent tourists. Suddenly, we heard a scream (not too far from Gollum’s scream when he had lost the Ring) and this elderly woman came “flying” down the car park, frantically trying to get people to listen to her. She had this huge Michael Bolton hair cut, that waved in the wind as she was speed-walking towards us.
In her defense, she knew a few languages, but her voice was borderline screaming, and people just fled as she came. Her aim was to organise the tourists into language groups, so we could get an e.g. English speaking guide. We were in the English speaking queue and got Alex as guide, a Spanish speaking guide!
As we were waiting to embark on the day of days, our uber guide leader was trying to park the gigantic buses. Suddenly she appeared from out of nowhere, waiving arms to one of “her” buses, trying to get the driver to park the bus in a different lane. Whoosh, and she was gone again. The driver got so frustrated, not understanding her naval hand signals, that he took off – only to return a few minutes later.
Finally, we crawled onboard our transportation vehicle. The benefit of having kids on such tours is that you can get them to go first, or just squeeze by, and take the good seats. We managed to get seats facing each other, with a table. We could still hear the tour guide screaming instructions to tourists and bus drivers.
Alex, our Spanish speaking English guide, welcomed us on the English tour (in Spanglish) and gave us our headsets. The headsets were so we could listen to a pre-recorded sightseeing guide as we drove by these locations. So much for a personalised English speaking guided tour!
Paris is a pretty large city and the monuments are spread across the city and on either side of the Seine. Seeing them all would under normal circumstances take a few days. I had feared that, when reading the tour description, we would be confined to the bus for most of the journey. Unfortunately I was right.
We felt a bit like Japanese tourists, the stereotype image obviously, where a bus full of people flies through town, only stopping a few seconds (if even) at each sight. Most of our pictures from Paris therefore have flash reflection from the window or show parts of the curtains in the bus. But, fair play to the tour organiser, we did see most sights that day, even if they were a bit blurry.
How many people can say they saw Paris in 2 hours, from a bus going 80 kmh through Paris?
Of all days, the day we visited Paris it was roasting hot, approx. 35 degrees. The bus had air-con, but as soon as we left the coolness of the bus we were greeted by a heat wave – just like walking into a sauna.
We did stop and see some sights. The 45 minute stop at Louvre Museum was an extremely cultural experience. First we had lunch at McDonalds and then we sped across to Arc de Triomphe … back to the bus!
The second stop was at the Seine, going on a river cruise. Only minor problem was that it was still 35 degrees and the windows on the boat couldn’t open. So, now were actually sitting in a glass sauna. After an hour on the Seine, with no air in the cabin and I having lost 2lbs of fat, we returned to the port.
To our amazement, we had another hour outside the bus. The guide just pointed at the stairs and said we had to walk to the Eiffel Tower – a short 10 minute walk. My only problem at this stage was that my son refused to walk another step, so I had to carry him on my shoulders, up the stairs. I probably lost another 2lbs on the stair master. We then had to queue to get up the tower. My poor body was drained, so I turned back to the Seine area after waiting less than 3 minutes to get into the tower, overheated and tired.
My son and I had a few liters of liquids (me beers and he juices + icecream) and cooled down a bit. An hour later my wife and two daughters returned to the bus, and we all headed back towards the hotel – absolutely knackered.
It was not the best Paris tours I’ve ever been on. The missus was devastated because she had insisted on taking us to Paris and we agreed to go back to show our kids Paris – again.
Paris, we’ll be back soon, to spend more time in your beautiful streets and wonderful atmosphere – Griswald Europe Vacation, does that ring a bell 🙂
Did you read the other Disney Stories?