I’ll admit it: the last week has been one giant mess. I had decided to go up to Amsterdam because Rome had no beds. In Amsterdam, I got lazy and didn’t reserve seats back down to Rome. Consequently, getting from Amsterdam to Rome would prove a long and difficult journey. When I arrived at the ticket counter in Paris, it became clear that going back to Rome wasn’t an option. (Apparently, if you hold a Eurail pass and are planning on leaving Paris, you need to reserve a seat at least one week in advance). Plan B: Croatia via somewhere other than Rome.
Regardless of what my plans were, one thing was for sure: it could not be done in a day or two. I would need to spend the night in Paris.
I arrived in Paris late Saturday afternoon. Because the hostel I booked wasn’t really a hostel, but beds in an apartment, James from Manchester from the “hostel” met me at the station. Manchester showed me to the apartment. There, I met Irish, South Africa, Holland, Australia and Australia. Everyone was a solo traveller and was leaving in a day or two. For some reason, we all hit it off.
Paris’ nightlife is pretty much nonexistent. Instead of clubs, people generally cram themselves into tiny local bars. Tourists tend to just wander the streets or roam the parks with a few cheap bottles of wine and beer. We wanted to go to the club, but didn’t know where to go. We met some Estonian girls, who turned out to be a little nuts; and a Parisian lady who lives in the same apartment complex. She told us of some great club by the Eiffel Tower. Off we were, then.
When we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, we couldn’t find the club. Didn’t matter, though; the light show for the Tower kept us busy.
Surprisingly, hanging out by the Eiffel Tower in the park is the place to be on a Saturday night in Paris. We met some locals in the park right in front of the Tower and shared some beers and wine. Australia (Andy) and Irish were hopping from one group to the next, playing other people’s guitars and making complete idiots of themselves. I won’t lie, the looks on the locals’ faces were priceless. Eventually, we split two cabs and called it a night.
Tour de France
Turns out, I picked the right day to get stuck in Paris: the Tour de France was wrapping up in Paris on the Champs Éllysées on the very day I was taking a night train out of Paris.
The morning after our Eiffel Tower adventure, no one was in a good place. Luckily, the Tour starts (or ends, rather) at 3h. We grabbed some breakfast and headed out. We said cheers to Holland who was catching a train at 1h.
We arrived at Champs Éllysées around 10h. Already, there were people lined up along the barricades from top to bottom, but nothing too crazy. We eventually found a spot near the turning bit, right in front of l’Arc de Triomphe. Like a concert, if you have a good spot, you guard it. So when we wanted food, some had to stay behind to watch our spot.
Irish and Australia with some Norwegian fans.
Australia, Australia and I decided to have a little trip to the Eiffel Tower while waiting for the Tour to start. South Africa and Irish stayed behind to guard our spot. Well, South Africa did. Irish was feeling queazy; he stayed because he was in no condition to go hike up a tower.
At Trocadéro. Australia taking a panoramic. Not the best weather.. but it cleared up.
This would be the third time I’ve been to the Eiffel Tower. Being broke and tight on time, we only went up to the second floor. We took the stairs, obviously. Let’s face it: besides this, we weren’t going to be getting any exercise that day.
When Australia, Australia and I returned to Champs Éllysées, we had almost lost our spot. Mother Goose, aka South Africa, didn’t care. She had guarded our spot aggressively for the last hour and a half. Eventually, people were nice enough to let us back in. While waiting, we got to know the people around us. We met a Dutch family and a Texan family. Both were super chill.
When the Tour finally arrived, everyone went nuts. If you weren’t in the first two rows, you weren’t going to see much. Luckily, they do a few laps up and down Champs Éllysées so you have time to shift your view a little. We were at the turning point of the track, so we got to see come up, turn, and go back down.
Alberto Contador, the winner of this year’s Tour de France, in yellow.
Can you see Lance? He’s wearing the red and black Radio Shack get-up with the silver helmet. He’s wearing a yellow band around his arm and thigh.
The crowd. It was mostly americans were we were standing. When the riders come around, we’ll all look like the guy in the yellow shirt.
At the end, each team did a little victory lap and had pictures taken in front of l’Arc de Triomple.
When you think about it, it would be really cool to be up there. Right behind them is l’Arc de Triomple. I mean think about it: you’re riding across beautiful France for about a month, with some of the coolest people in the World, and this is how you end it. Must be a really cool feeling.
Lance Armstrong. This was his last Tour de France, fyi.
After the whole thing was over, we went back to apartment. While I scrambled to pack my things and get out of there asap to catch my train, the others were prepping for a power nap. Not fair. The good news was, they all offered to let me in for the night, let me crash on the floor if I missed my train. That thought was very comforting. Since we had all met, we had become this weird little multi-national family. I had the most amazing time with Irish, Australia, South Africa, Holland and Australia. Sometimes, my cheeks would hurt so much from laughing. It’s corny, I know, but I will miss these guys. If I had missed my train and was forced to stay in Paris for another night, I wouldn’t care one bit, even if it meant sleeping on the floor, because that would mean hanging out with the gang for at least one more day.
I said goodbye and headed for the train. I made my train just in time.
I had such an amazing time in Paris. I met some awesome people and saw the Tour de France. The coolest part: none of it was planned. Definitely a highlight of my trip. I’m heading back to Croatia for a week or two. There, I’ll email a few wwoof farms in Italy and in France, write my resumé, get my budget sorted out and properly plan my trip to Rome so I can avoid another disaster.
Until next time,