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Euro Trip Day 17: London Tourist & Paris

Part of our 2008 European Trip. See the explanation and summary entry.

Following the Arsenal game on Saturday, we spent the majority of Sunday doing the general London tourist thing. We got on one of the open-top red double-decker tour buses and generally saw the city.

That was probably our coldest day in London, and it threatened rain throughout the day. We had lunch at Picadilly Square and did a bit of shopping in Oxford Street. We also got off the bus and saw Buckingham Palace, but the Queen totally snubbed us.

Buckingham Palace

To finish off the day we went to the British Museum and saw all the stuff that they mostly have pilfered collected from around the world. For me the highlight was leaning on the Rosetta Stone (just kidding, that was a replica; the actual stone was in a secured glass case). Though there were some horrified and disgusted looks I was getting from some people passing by who must have thought it was real (the writing below the replica was the only one I saw in the entire museum that said 'Please touch' rather than the opposite).

Me leaning on the Rosetta Stone replica

That was pretty much it for London, we had an early night because of our early start the next day.

Monday saw us wake at around 4am in order to get ready and catch the Eurostar train from the St Pancras International terminal in London to Gare du Nord in Paris. We had planned to spend the whole day in Paris.

The train arrived in Paris at 9:30am local time, and the strangest thing happened after we arrived. As we were stumbling around the terminal trying to figure out where to go, i was bumping into a few people that were quickly walking past. I changed direction again and accidentally kicked a passers-by's bag. I made a quick apology, and after a quick double-take that person actually turned out to be a family friend from Brisbane that we knew was in Europe but didn't know where.

It was quite surreal, we both couldn't believe the luck. The world truly is a small place after all.

Following that, the rest of the day in Paris was a little frustrating. We spend around 40 minutes in the station in line to get our Metro and RER tickets (and when you've only got 10 hours in the city, that is infuriatingly frustrating), and then somehow managed to make sense of the quite confusing train system to make our way to the Eiffel Tower.

It's quite obvious that the Parisian metro and rail network has nothing on the London Underground for not only comprehensibility, but also cleanliness and efficiency.

While i'm complaining about the French, it seems they totally missed the notion of the public toilet. Nearly every toilet in the city (including in restaurants and the public buildings) required some sort of payment, to either a steward or to a mechanical coin-slot in order to use the toilet. And you would think that because of this that the toilet would be cleaner and of a higher quality than public toilets in Australia, England etc.? Nope, it was still the same grotty public toilet experience, except you had to pay to take part.

Anywho, we made it to the Eiffel Tower and joined the already long queue. After another 40 minute wait we found out that the top tier was temporarily closed (we thought because of construction work, but we later found out that it was only due to congestion 🙁 ), but we were still satisfied to make it to the second tier.

The Eiffel Tower

We did the usual tourist thing up there, and afterwards we got onto the French Paris version of the open-top red double-decker tour bus and rode it around the city. We got off at Notre Dame and had a good lunch at a nice little French restaurant next to the cathedral (although at horrendously expensive tourist prices).

Me at Notre Dame

It was there that I managed to lose my 20 euro (~$40AUD) bus ticket that we had purchased for the tourist buses for the day, but the rest of the drivers that we hopped on to that day ether didn't care or were understanding.

We then went to the Arc de Triumph, and climbed all if its 284 steps to the top (see below for the spiral!). My legs were burning so much climbing that spiral, i really must concentrate on getting more fit.

Me at the Arc de Triumph The spiral staircase at the Arc de Triumph

Following that the day was pretty much coming to a close and we soon had to return to Gare du Nord to take our train back to London. We did manage to get in a quick visit to the Louvre, but as we got the there it was too late and they were already closing up.

We got pictures around the famous pyramid though (below). I have to say that I'm really not that upset at missing out on it though, although we should try to make it next time (whenever that will be 😉 ). Following that we managed to find and take the Metro back to Gare du Nord.

Me in front of the Louvre

However, there was one thing still unaccomplished from the day: i hadn't managed to complete the final step of my Big Mac challenge (see the earlier entries for an explanation). We hadn't seen a McDonald's all day (other than driving past one too late to stop on the Champs-Élysées), so I wasn't that hopeful of successfully completing my mission. As one final act of desperation we walked out the front of the station at Gare du Nord and walked down the street to find, to my delight, those wondrous and magical Golden Arches shining in the not-so-far distance.

Me eating a Big Mac in ParisWe went in, and despite not being able to wash my hands because of the pay-per-pee toilets and not having any change on me, i did manage to complete my McDonald's mission for this Euro trip.

We took the train back to London that night and stayed up to pack as we were leaving early the next morning from Heathrow to go back to Cyprus to meet up with the rest of the family to make our way back to Australia.

We got up and 4:30am the next day (today) and caught our 8am flight back to Cyprus from the brand-new Heathrow Terminal 5. After having only about 7 hours proper sleep in the past few days, i am well and truly completely stuffed.

Off to bed, we're starting our journey back home tomorrow night at 8pm.

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