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Day 5 - May 3, 2005 - Paris, France

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I woke up at 7:30 am today and went to breakfast with James, Vince, Myungsoo, Kent, Freddy and Olivia.  I learned that sometime during the prior night, someone was screaming at the top of their lungs and banging on a door or a wall.  It seemed as if I was the only one who wasn't awoken by this.  It was later brought to my attention that it was James, my roommate who was the culprit.  I think he had no recollection of it.  I know I had no recollection myself.  Talk about a good night's sleep.

 

Soon after breakfast, we boarded the coach for Paris and it dropped us off at the Eiffel Tower.  I stayed with the group I ate breakfast with for the time being.  Rex took a count of who wanted lift tickets to the top.  She then bought tickets and was two or three short.  I was one of the remaining two or three who was left without a ticket.  She had to purchase the last few tickets with her own money.  It was concluded that someone must have not paid and then just took a ticket anyway.

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UNIQUE SHOT FROM THE BASE OF THE TOWER

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...AND ANOTHER

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LOOKING UP WHILE IN THE TOWER'S ELEVATOR

We spent a good amount of time at the top.  The views were incredible.  It was actually a lot higher than I expected it to be.  There were also lots of shops scattered throughout the tower, something I didn't expect at all.  I read about a time when Hitler visited the tower and then ordered his army to destroy it because the elevators malfunctioned.  It would've really been a shame if the army didn't refuse to destroy it.

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MY FIRST VIEW FROM THE TOP

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MY SECOND VIEW

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AN AERIEL SHOT OF (I THINK) THE SEINE

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ME, JAMES, MYUNGSOO, AND VINCE ENJOYING THE VIEWS

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ANOTHER VIEW, THIS TIME INCLUDING THE ARCH DE TRIUMPH

Somehow, we were separated from Kent, Freddy and Olivia.  I can't remember if they just planned their itinerary differently than we did, or if we actually lost them.  I ended up walking from the Eiffel Tower to the Arch De Triumph with James, Vince, Myungsoo, Matt and Steve.  Like in London, I would become the unofficial tour guide.  I have a good sense of direction, so people usually were more than happy to hand over the map and the responsibility of getting around to me.

 

One of the things Rex mentioned during her introduction speech to France was the bump park.  Apparently, in certain sections of Paris, since it is so congested, it is required that you park your car in neutral.  Other cars attempting to parallel park would then have the option to literally bump your car backwards or forwards in order to create a sizable parking space for themselves.  I thought this was crazy and, to be honest, I didn't even fully believe it.  Sure enough, while walking towards the Arch De Triumph, we saw a bump park right in front of us.  None of us could believe it.  I got a great picture of it too.

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FROM THE OTHER SIDE OF THE SEINE

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MYUNGSOO, STEVE, MATT, ME, AND VINCE LEAVING THE TOWER

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THE INFAMOUS BUMP PARK!

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THE EVER-SO-POPULAR SMART CAR

For those who don't know what the Arch De Triumph is, I'll explain.  The arch itself was built for Napoleon to signify his military achievements.  There is a tomb under the arch of, I believe, an unknown soldier.  Again, this isn't a historical web site.  Circling the arch is a nine lane traffic circle.  There are no lines painted in the circle.  It is basically a circular free-for-all parking lot.  I've heard several bits of facts which may or may not be true.  On average, there is a car accident on the circle every twelve minutes.  Most car insurance agencies do not insure their clients on the circle.  I didn't really buy into all the hype when it was initially discussed.  However, it truly is one of the most chaotic traffic patterns I have ever seen. 

 

We took the underground walkway to the arch, in the middle of the circle.  We spent at least twelve minutes there but nobody noticed an accident.  The arch itself was incredible though.  Most pictures I've seen of it are from a distance, and they don't capture the ornate detail throughout the walls of the arch.  You can go to the top, but it was rather pricey and, after the Eiffel Tower, we assumed the inferior height would result in inferior views.  I do admit though, I wanted to see that circle from the top of the arch.

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THE ARCH DE TRIUMPH

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UNDERNEATH THE ARCH

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THE INFAMOUS ROUNDABOUT ENCIRCLING THE ARCH

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DETAIL ON THE ARCH

Next, we headed down Champ De Elysee, the Broadway of Paris.  This street was enormous and it had everything you could want on it.  Without the circle, it would run right through the Arch De Triumph.  From what I had seen so far, it seemed like it was the heart of Paris.

 

We were all due for lunch at this point, so we walked a bit down a side street to avoid tourist prices and found a nice take out place.  I was thankful that James spoke 1% of French because he did all of our ordering.  I ordered something that resembled a Gyro.  I think it consisted mostly of pork and lettuce.  It was incredible though.  If I lived in Paris, I would eat it on a daily basis.

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ALONG CHAMP DE ELYSEE

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THERE'S NOTHING LIKE SWISS CLOCKS IN PARIS

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MY AMAZING LUNCH IN PARIS

We then rested a bit on a subway ledge and enjoyed our lunch.  I had another one of those incredibly optimistic moods hit me.  Somehow, I liked Paris more than London.  It was again a perfect day and this time I had some company.  I wish I could experience days like those all the time.

 

We continued down Champ De Elysee.  That week was the European premiere of the new Star Wars movie.  There was a shoe store which had a Lego display of various Star Wars characters and vehicles.  I'm not really a fan of Star Wars, but I am a fan of Legos.  I took a few pictures and probably acquired some strange looks from the locals.  Dan, a friend of mine from back home and a huge Star Wars fan, had lent me his digital camera for the trip.  That reason alone was enough to justify to myself taking the pictures.

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LEGO STAR WARS ON CHAMP DE ELYSEE

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TALLER THAN ME

We continued to Les Invalides, which consists of The Museum of the Army and Napoleon's Tomb.  There was a ticket option that gained access to both attractions.  I encountered the one and only stereotypical ignorant French person I would while in France.  The woman refused to accept my student ID for the discount admission because it did not have a current date on it.  I continually used it, even on the trip thus far.  She didn't seem too happy with her job or with life in general.

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BRIDGE BUILT FOR NAPOLEON

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CROSSING NAPOLEON'S BRIDGE

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LES INVALIDES IN FRONT OF NAPOLEON'S TOMB

The Army museum consisted of France's contributions and involvement in both world wars.  I met two people from St. Louis inside who were on their honeymoon.  One thing I took particular note of was Napoleon's achievements at such a young age.  While all the extravagant buildings and monuments for him were still extremely pretentious, it put his military genius into a little more perspective.  Once again though, this web site is not a historical reference.

 

We made our way to the adjacent building, which housed Napoleon's tomb.  It was, not surprisingly, the grandest tomb I've ever seen.  There were two levels, enabling you to view the tomb from above and from below.

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INSIDE NAPOLEON'S TOMB

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NAPOLEON FROM ABOVE...

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...AND FROM BELOW

Next, we made our way to the Metropolitan, the Parisian subway system.  Due to the language barrier, it was a bit of a task to figure out how to use it.  Somehow, we did with little trouble though.  We took the subway to the Cathedral of Notre Dame.  I had been to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Montreal before and I thought it was great.  It seems as if it's unanimous that the one in Paris is superior.  For this reason, I was highly anticipating it.  I was not let down.  To date, it is the most impressive building I've ever seen.  Many people will disagree and give the crown to St. Peter's in The Vatican.  However, the Parisian Notre Dame is the epitome of gothic architecture, which I'm a sucker for.  Inside and outside, it was incredible and utterly unmatched.

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THE METROPOLITIAN

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THE CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME

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THE FRONT OF THE CATHEDRAL OF NOTRE DAME

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MYUNGSOO, JAMES AND ME OUTSIDE THE CATHEDRAL

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THE REAR OF THE CATHEDRAL

Somehow, we actually ran into Michelle and Rebecca inside the cathedral.  We all took a seat inside to rest and, for me, to soak the interior detail in.  I could have spent a week in there.  Also, while leaving, I saw Minnesota Chrissie across the street.  It looked like she was alone.  I yelled her name, but she didn't hear me.

 

Upon leaving the cathedral, it started to pour.  It looked like it was on the verge all day.  Despite having a couple hours left, we decided to hop on the subway and go to Concorde, the area we instructed to meet the coach for our optional Parisian dinner.  It seemed like a nice area so we didn't mind spending the remaining time there.  After we arrived, it was still pouring.  We decided to find a bar and wait it out.  Again, our group consisted of James, Vince, Myungsoo, Matt, Steve, and myself.  It was a nice, small bar/cafe, with some interesting paintings on the walls.  We were probably there for more than an hour.  We basically just rang up a 50 Euro bar bill and talked about the girls on our tour.

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MYUNGSOO, VINCE, MATT, JAMES, AND ME AT A PARISIAN COFFEE SHOP

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VINCE, MYUNGSOO, ME, STEVE AND JAMES

We noticed it stopped raining and, similar to London, the sun was out again.  Those European clouds really didn't last long.  We were just a bit early for the coach, but Rex was already there.  I chatted with her for a while on a personal level for the first time.  It was nice to get to know her a little, and not just talk about Contiki or the tour.  She seemed like she really enjoys her career.  It definitely showed through her personality.  During our conversation, Rex' cousin, who lives in Paris, met her there.  I forget her name, but something tells me it began with an L.  She joined us for dinner that night.

 

One by one, everyone else who was partaking in the optional dinner met at the Concorde.  Soon after, the coach pulled up.  We all had to get dressed for dinner though.  First, the girls went on the coach and got dressed, with the curtains closed of course.  After some jokes and comments, which were all in good fun, the girls exited the bus and the guys got dressed.  Afterwards, we were all on our way to the restaurant.  I sat next to Joanne again and we discussed our day.  I think her itinerary was basically the same as ours, just in the opposite direction.

 

It wasn't long before we arrived at the restaurant.  It was a small, second floor typical Parisian cafe, complete with an accordionist.  I sat with James, Vince, Myungsoo, Joanne, Matt, Hayley from Australia and Kerrie, who was from New Zealand but has been living and traveling in the US for some time.

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ME, HAYLEY, JOANNE, AND MATT AT THE PARISIAN CAFE

There were basically three main entrees to choose from: fish, duck or beef.  I like all three, but I chose the fish.  I think Haley got the duck and Kerrie ordered the beef, but it could've been the other way around.  Anyway, we all tried each others' and they were all very good.  I could definitely get used to eating in Paris.  They also provided four bottles of wine for each table.  I think there were two red and two white.  It was said that, by the end of the tour, we would all be wine connoisseurs.  I hate wine, so it was hard to believe that.  Nevertheless, I was prepared to be open minded and try all the wine.  I hated all four wines, but I did drink them.  Free alcohol at that point was more than welcomed. 

 

I remember talking to Kerrie about her US travels.  She's seen more of my country than I have.  She had most recently been living in Colorado and was working at a ski resort.  She broke her leg not too long before the trip started, I assume in a ski-related accident, but it didn't seem to affect her trip too much.

 

Another memorable event from the dinner was Joanne's refusal to eat escargot, and then eating it.  We all even took pictures when she finally gave in.  I think she conceded that it wasn't as bad as she expected, but she ended up only eating the one.

 

After what was the best meal of the trip so far, those of us who chose to do the optional Cabaret boarded the coach.  We arrived at our Cabaret, La Novella Eve, which was in the very near vicinity of Moulin Rouge.

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NO, OUR CABARET WAS NOT HERE

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JOANNE SAMPLING HER VERY FIRST ESCARGOT

After entering the building and, to some extent, being randomly seated, I sat with Siraj from Australia, and Karen and Jocelyn from Canada.  The two latter came together in a group of four of their friends.  Since, at first, everyone confused their names, they would soon be known and referred to as "Team Canada."  They had some champagne for us on the table.  I hated it, but I drank it.  While waiting for the show to start, I remember talking to Karen about the differences in the school systems of the US and Canada.  I was surprised to learn that Canada required thirteen years of schooling, as opposed to twelve in the US.  There were some other minor differences, none of which I can remember.

 

The Cabaret started shortly after and it was surprisingly very entertaining.  As mentioned earlier, I didn't really think I would enjoy it.  I signed up merely to get to know my tour mates a little more.  The entertainers performed various acrobatic stunts and I definitely wasn't bored at all.  Probably the most impressive part of the show was an older guy, who was very good at working and poking fun at people in the crowd.  He did the trick where the performer stands on a board and balances on a cylinder, placed on the round side of course.  He then proceeded to stack five or six cylinders (all on their rounded sides) on top of each other.  He was about his height off the stage.  I wouldn't even think that would be possible.  I couldn't believe it.  I was completely awed.  Kale, from our group, who is from Australia, was called on stage.  I remember it was some type of competition that he lost, but I don't remember what exactly was involved.  It may or may not have had something to do with who could get their section of the crowd to cheer the loudest.

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ME, JOCALYN, KAREN, AND SIRAJ AT THE CABARET

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NICK, KIM, HAYLEY, KERRIE, ME AND JOANNE AT THE CABARET

After the Cabaret ended, we all boarded the coach to head back to the campsite.  It was at this time that I first noticed the entire group was really getting along.  Everyone seemed to be comfortable around everyone else and it made me happy to have everyone on the tour.  It was a loud and chaotic ride back to the campsite.  As a whole, it seemed like everyone was having their best time of the trip so far.

 

Similar to the other tour the previous night, we all immediately went to the snack bar after arriving at the campsite from the cabaret.  I couldn't help but remember my perplexity as to why that group from the night before was so loud.  It was in complete perspective for me then though.  I also remember thinking that, if there was another group that arrived there that night, there would probably be at least one kid lying in his bed thinking the same thing I thought 24 hours prior.  It could be an endless cycle.  I ended up sitting at the snack bar with Joanne and Hayley.  I made it to bed at 2:00 am that night.