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Day 6 - May 4, 2005 - Paris, France to Beaujolais Region, France

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Today, I slept in until 7:45, despite having to catch the public bus at 8:15 for the Louvre.  I packed my bags in the Contiki coach because the rest of the group who wasn't going to the Louvre was just going to pick us up on the way out of Paris.  I sat down for a quick breakfast with Karen and Jocelyn, whom I sat with at the Cabaret the night before.

 

I literally ran onto the public bus with James, Vince, Myungsoo, Matt and Steve as it was pulling away.  We then took it to a certain stop and used the subway for the second leg of the trip to the Louvre.  The subway dropped us off right in front. 

 

Simply put, the Louvre is massive.  There is really no way to describe the size of it.  It was built for Napoleon to live in.  That fact is ridiculous.  It would take you hours to walk through all the hallways and all the rooms.  There's just no reason for someone to live in it.  On top of that, the Louvre wasn't big enough for Napoleon.  He had Versailles, which is supposedly somehow larger than the Louvre, built for him.  I'm not sure whether I like or hate Napoleon.  His military genius and egocentrism make for a difficult decision on whether to admire him or not.

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PEI'S PYRAMID OUTSIDE THE LOUVRE

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LOUVRE EXTERIOR

The Louvre was scheduled to open at 9:00 am, which only gave us an hour and 15 minutes.  Those who have been to the Louvre, and those who have merely seen it can tell you that the amount of time I had was terrible.  You could literally spend weeks in there and not see everything.  But, the way I looked at it, an hour and 15 minutes was better than nothing.

 

It was also better than 45 minutes.  When we got into the queue, we learned that it would not be opening until at least 9:30, because the employees had gone on strike.  Now we had 45 minutes to roam a museum with a half million pieces of art in it.  I didn't really expect it to open at all.  How can you really predict when a strike will end?  Surprisingly, it really was opened at 9:30.

 

We proceeded to run to the Mona Lisa.  I remember seeing dozens of amazing pieces of art on the walls, on the ceiling, on podiums.  It was really a shame that I was running past them like they were nothing.  We made our way to the Mona Lisa, luckily without a crowd.  I've heard a lot of people say it's a lot smaller than you would expect.  For that reason, it was larger than I expected.  I also expected to be slightly disappointed.  When considering all the hype and acclaim that is attributed to what is probably the most famous piece of art of all time, it seemed as if it wouldn't live up to it all.  I was wrong.  It was belittling to think that this 2 square foot canvas completely annihilates the significance of my existance.  I couldn't stop thinking that anything I accomplish in my lifetime will inevitably fall laughably short to what I was looking at.  Personally, it was definitely a test of self esteem for some reason.

 

Next, we ran to Michelangelo's Venus De Milo.  I'm not big into sculpture, so I wasn't nearly as impressed as I was with the Mona Lisa.  At least I can check it off my list of things to see in this lifetime.  Unfortunately for us, that was all we had time for.  I took notice and a liking for several other, respectively unknown paintings on the way out.  We then made our way to Pei’s pyramid to meet Rex.

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DOES IT EVEN NEED A CAPTION?

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ONE OF THE MANY AMAZING DISPLAYS I HAD TO RUN PAST

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VENUS DE MILO

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ZOOMED IN

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A MUCH NEEDED REST AFTER MY SPRINT THROUGH THE LOUVRE

Everyone was there on time except for Kim and Yvonne.  We waited around and then went back to the bus.  I thought they were going to leave without them, but then Rex went for one last look.  She was somehow able to find them.  On the way out of Paris, she lectured us that we should really try to stick to the time schedule, to avoid missing out on certain opportunities.

 

We left Paris for the Beaujolais wine region, which is situated somewhere near the city of Lyon.  On the way, we stopped in Fontainebleau, which is a very nice and small town in the middle of the French countryside.  There was a huge (not so huge after coming out of the Louvre) palace that had some kind of a historical significance.  I don't remember any details though and I hadn't even heard of it up until that point.  It probably had something to do with Napoleon.

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THE PALACE IN FONTAINEBLEAU

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RURAL FRANCE (NEAR FONTAINEBLEAU)

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MORE RURAL FRANCE

We walked through the town and went to a strange store.  The first floor was a department store and the second floor was a grocery store.  It was like Kmart and Shop Rite mixed together.  We stocked up on some beer to avoid paying bar prices and made our way back to the coach.  I think we were only in Fontainebleau for an hour or so.

 

In between Fontainebleau and the chateau we were staying at that night, which was near Lyon, we had some time to kill.  Rex introduced to us what she referred to as a day song and a wake up song.  Our day song was "Hot Fudge" by Robbie Williams.  She told us that, from there on out, she would play the song, first thing in the morning each day on the coach.  She said that, by the end of the tour, we would love the song.  More importantly, she promised us that every time we hear the song for the rest of our lives, it will bring back all the memories of our trip.  I know that if I hear the song 10 years from now, I will indeed immediately think of the trip.  That song has been tattooed into my brain.  I was happy with the selection.  It's not an album I would buy or anything, but I didn't find it intolerable either.  Our wake up song, on the other hand, was that "Gimme what you want" song by the Spice Girls.  Needless to say, that song was intolerable.  The purpose of it was to immediately grasp our attention as we were about to pull off the highway to a rest stop or something.  I guess it succeeded in doing what it was intended to do, but I could've done without it.

 

Next, we all participated in group introductions.  This consisted of each of us going to the front of the coach and talking about ourselves.  I thought it came a little late.  While it was only the third day of the tour, I felt like I knew most of my tour mates fairly well at that point.  By the way, throughout the course of the tour, it felt like five days for each actual day.  At the end, I felt like I was on vacation for months.  Nevertheless, I went up and told everyone the basics.  I specified where I was from and what I did for a living. 

 

Rex also required that we either tell a joke, tell about our most embarrassing experience, or reveal a sexual fantasy.  I chose the embarrassing experience.  It was a time when I dropped some barbecue sauce onto my pants, forcing me to wash it out, giving the implication that I had an accident.  It probably wasn't the most embarrassing of my life, but I was drawing a blank, and it got me off the hook.

 

Some people came up with some really funny stories.  One that is most memorable was Kale's graphic narration of a time he couldn't help but publicly flush his digestive system, for a lack of better words.  He used such detail, resulting in a ridiculous thought, like something from a movie.  The scenario included cows and a farmer on a tractor or something.  It was a good laugh.

 

Another person who provided some great comic relief was Matt.  This wasn't only the funniest introduction, but it was also one of the funniest moments of the whole trip.  Matt was a very sexually tactless person.  He let all the girls from the tour know his thoughts about them.  Because of this, Matt unsurprisingly chose the sexual fantasy option.  Just after a subtle look towards Rex, He uttered the words, "sex with rex," in a comical rhythmic fashion.  It was ingenious if you ask me, since there was definitely some tension between the two of them, probably caused by Matt.  Rex later declared that it was her new most embarrassing moment, even though she took it rather well.

 

After all the fun, we arrived at the chateau.  The rural setting was a huge contrast to the previous destinations on the tour.  The chateau was a 400 year old dormitory like building.  It was different but generally well liked by our group.  Like usual, the first thing was to unload the coach and get situated in our rooms.  I roomed with James, Kent and Freddy.  There were a couple noteworthy things about the chateau.  First, none of the doors had locks.  This was a bit unnerving since there would be three tours and 150 people there that night.  Also, the doors would slam shut, with an ear piercing echo throughout the entire floor.  Even if you held the door and shut it extremely gently, it still managed to slam.  It was almost completely impossible to avoid.  I would say that, out of the three days and two nights I was there, I was only able to avoid slamming the door about twice, out of dozens of attempts.

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OUR KICKASS CHATEAU IN THE BOONDOCKS OF FRANCE

I decided to get a quick shower before dinner.  The showers and bathrooms were coed, something the girls didn't find too appealing.  The showers however, were stalls that went all the way to the floor and all the way to the ceiling, just like George's “ridiculous” suggestion at Yankee Stadium in the Seinfeld episode.  Also, the toilets were in individual rooms, the same size as stalls.

 

Afterwards, I went to dinner and had a good meal, consisting of chicken and I think corn.  I don't remember who I ate with.  After dinner, we went to the vineyards for some Beaujolais wine tasting.  It might be good wine, but again, I hate all wine.  They had a bottle of some sort of extract, with a snake preserved inside.  There was an interesting story to go along with it, but I can't recall the details.

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WINE TASTING

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FREDDY, YVONNE, ME, OLIVIA AND VINCE SAMPLING SOME WINE

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IT'S REAL

After getting back to the chateau, which was within walking distance from the wine tasting site, I saw Steve from the London to Rome tour.  We chatted for a bit and he told me about Barcelona.  I've never had much of an interest in Spain, but he had nothing but great things to say about it.  Steve and I eventually went to the party in The Cave, which was the basement of the chateau.  The party had a “heaven and hell” theme.  My costume was admittedly lame; just a black and red sweatshirt that I eventually took off anyway due to the warmth.  The Cave was a dirty, damp place.  I guess they didn't want 150 drunken 20 year olds running around the 400 year old building.  It was actually a neat place to drink, but it was way too small to accommodate everyone and it was also uncomfortably warm down there.

 

There was a huge barrel, probably five feet in diameter, which was used as a table.  Somehow Steve and I easily got a spot there and it later became our goal to keep our spots for the entire night.  We managed to keep it for a while, attracting other people from our tours to the barrel, but we ultimately lost interest.  I met and talked to one of the bartenders there, who called himself Chauncy.  He was really nice and a great person to talk to.  He kept trying to convince me to get a job with Contiki.  The staff at all the locations seemed to love what they do.  You definitely are required to have a love for traveling.  In general, the Contiki staff is comprised of some of the most sociable people I have ever met. Some more antics occurred throughout the night in The Cave.  At one point, Steve (from the other tour) was crowd surfing.

 

I later ran into Minnesota Chrissie and told her how I thought I saw her at the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris.  She verified that it was probably her.  Next, I went upstairs to call home.  The phone booth was a room under the stairs and the ceiling was approximately five feet high.  It's a good thing there was a chair in there.  After calling I went back to The Cave for another drink with Vince, Steve and the other Steve.  I then went up to go to bed at 1 am.

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ME, AUSSIE JUSTIN, STEVE, VANESSA AND NEIL IN THE CAVE

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MINNESOTA CHRISSIE AND ME IN THE CAVE

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THE INADEQUATE HEIGHT OF THE PHONE BOOTH

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THE FRENCH ARE SHORT

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VINCE, YVONNE, KIM AND ME SOMEWHERE IN THE CHATEAU

On the way to my room, I ran into Kim and Yvonne in the hallway.  We ended up chatting for an hour or so.  I previously mentioned how, when the doors slammed, they also echoed throughout the entire floor.  This proved to be the same with voices too.  Rebecca came out and yelled at us for being too loud, even though we were making an attempt to be quiet.  In any other place, it probably would have been a sufficient volume.  Finally, at 2:30 am, Kim went to bed and Yvonne went to take a shower.  I made arrangements with Yvonne to have a drink after her shower.  However, once 3:00 rolled around, I just passed out for the night.  Sorry Yvonne.