Let the adventure begin!! Today, we woke up and went to breakfast earlier. We took our time at breakfast – we filled our plates a little more and ate a little slower than usual – savouring delicious English breakfast, in an English hotel, for the last time 🙂
Then, we checked out and sat in the lobby, waiting for our coach which was to arrive @ 7.30am, but looked like it was running a bit late… infact I was beginning to wonder if I had got the dates, time and pick up venue incorrect. Maybe it had arrived earlier!! Anyhow we got to meet some of our tour mates while waiting – a couple from India, another one from USA, a 3rd from Jamaica and a young lady all the way from Trinidad & Tobago, travelling on her own, wow! What a brave woman!
When the coach finally arrived (it wasn’t that late), our tour leader Matt, who just happened to be an Australian (what a pleasant surprise), did a quick headcount and then we were off to Dover for the ferry trip across to Calais, France. On the bus, we met the rest of our tour mates and the best driver in the world, Zoltan. There was a family from Canada, 4 best friends from the USA, another young couple from USA, two families from the Philippines, including a newly-wedded couple who were on their honeymoon (how romantic ❤) and finally a couple from Sydney (who live just few suburbs away from us), well how about that! The rest of our mates were joining from Paris.
Took a while getting to Dover, thanks to normal weekend traffic on an extensively travelled English route – there were tourists (we saw lots of other tour buses on the road, all headed the same way) and then the locals, just heading out for the weekend. We got to Dover and I had goosebumps all over, looking at the whitecliffs and thinking of a few movies I had watched – featuring those cliffs (the main one being Dunkirk)!
It felt like we were in a movie, I mean those cliffs are magnificent and can be seen from miles away at sea. Gazing at them, reminded me of the wondrous hand of God; such beautiful creation which became and still to this day are, beacons of hope – of home, land, freedom, innocence and much more – to many a soul/sailor/traveller at sea, just amazing!
After clearing customs and boarding the ship, we were allowed out of the coaches to venture into the ship for lunch and to relax. They have everything on those ferries, even places to exchange money. We had lunch on the ferry & it was a peaceful and uneventful sail into Calais; just under 2 hours.
As we were approaching the Port, we heard the announcements to go back to our coaches. And we had to do that fast or the access doors to the coaches would be closed 😅. At the French Port, we didn’t need to stop for customs, because all that had been done at Dover. So we drove straight off the ferry and onto the highway, onward to the eternal city of love, Paris ❤
Apart from a short break halfway to Paris, on the highway, we continued on and arrived in Paris late afternoon. It looked like we brought the English weather with us, as it started to drizzle, but that didn’t dampen the group’s mood in any way. We went straight to our hotel on the city’s northern edge to check in; the rest of the group were already there waiting for us, a young couple from Dubai and a family group of 4 or 5, from the Philippines.
We left our bags, freshened up quickly and then were back on the coach, for a driving tour of Paris to see some of it’s treasured landmarks. First stop, the iron lady, Eiffel Tower – what a sight it was to behold! I had tears of happiness, disbelief, and so on, pretty much overwhelmed, looking at the man-made structure and being thankful to God – who had brought us safely across thousands of miles over land and sea to see this place in person.
There were lots of people and as usual, where there’s tourists, there’s bound to be street vendors/peddlers of many different shape, size and colour trying to sell off their goods. And boy, were they persistent! Souvenirs and many other goods were been dangled right under our noses, while we were talking or taking pictures. Just as well, our tour leader had warned us to steer clear of street vendors, with the warning: you give an inch and they will hound you relentlessly.
A million photos & videos later, we got back on the coach and continued on the driving tour – we caught glimpses of the other landmarks, like Arc De Triomphe, Notre Dame, and the Louvre, before being dropped off for dinner in the Latin quarter of the city.
Dinner was at a quaint French restaurant called L’Escarmouche. It was the first group dinner – food was delicious and the wine divine, all in awesome company. After dinner, we were introduced to the infamous Paris metro system and made our way back to the hotel, via train.
A hectic first day which set the pace for the rest of the tour. We went to bed exhausted but very much content at what we had experienced on that very 1st day. And echoing Charles Dickens’ words ‘What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!’