I am obviously posting this a few days late. Read on, dear friends…
Sunday morning started bright and early. Group members were free to eat at their leisure, and we were set to depart at 8:30. Close to that time, we all loaded onto a motorcoach and left for the center of Paris.
Our first stop was at the Place de la Bastille. The Bastille has a vast and bloody history, but suffice it to say that this was the location of the beginning of the French Revolution. Even today, when there is a strike or a protest, it will generally begin here. This was also the location where we picked up our local tour guide for the day, Veronique.
From the Place de la Bastille, we made our way through the heart of Paris. Our first stop was at Notre Dame. This cathedral is simply stunning. I stood in front of the cathedral as Veronique explained the different meanings behind the various sculpted scenes located on the front of the church. One thing that I didn’t know until she told us was the original purpose for the sculpted scenes. During the Middle Ages, the average French citizen could not read. The scenes that were sculpted on the church were done so in order to share the Gospel. People could see the scenes and understand that there was a final judgement that all would eventually face. Pretty nifty, huh?
I did go into the cathedral, but I felt uncomfortable. There was a mass going on, and I am just not of the opinion that worship should be a spectator sport. After seeing a bit of the inside, I quietly exited. The group met back up, returned to the bus, and moved on to see more of the city.
We drove around taking in various places, but our next stop was at a park behind the Eiffel Tower. We honestly didn’t stay very long, but we did get to take a couple of good pictures.
From the Tower, we loaded up and headed off to Versailles. This town is only about ten miles from the heart of Paris, but it offers an experience sure to complement a visit to the City of Lights. Let me interject here that Sunday afforded me the opportunity to hang out with some different group leaders. Friday, the whole group was pretty much together, and I mingled and mixed with as many of the group leaders as possible. Saturday morning the whole group was together again, but on Saturday afternoon, we split up. I spent some time at the Louvre with one group, and when we left the Louvre, I spent time with still more group leaders. This particular group of leaders weren’t completely comfortable exploring on their own, but they had confidence in me. We had a pretty good night which you can read about here at deeperwater.com. Sunday afforded me the opportunity to hang out with a couple of the younger group leaders, particularly my two new friends Nate and Katie. Nate is a guy in his mid-twenties that teaches up in Pennsylvania. He and his wife are expecting their first child soon, and he is an all-around good guy. Katie is a native New Yorker who has moved out to Orange County, California, where she works as an occupational therapist. The three of us got to spend quite a bit of time together on Sunday, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly.
After lunch in the city of Versailles, we walked across the street to the Palace of Versailles. Originally, this incredible palace was little more than a hunting lodge. Louis XIV greatly expanded Versailles and eventually moved his entire court there. His thought was that if he could keep them all together, he could control them better. Nate, Katie, and I joined part of our group as we walked through the royal apartments, but we quickly learned that we couldn’t hear anything that the tour guide was saying. Rather than proceed from room to room like cattle being herded to the slaughter, we skipped ahead of the group, enjoyed the chateau at our own pace, and then we made our way out to the gardens.
The gardens at Versailles are vast and simply breathtaking. There was no way that we would be able to explore much of them by foot, but luckily, we had an alternative. We all chipped in and rented a golf cart. After waiting in line, we finally had our cart and a map of the gardens. We followed the map… mostly. We did have a time or two when we went in the wrong direction… but for the most part, our exploring was uneventful. A leisurely approach would have been nice, but we simply didn’t have time. Instead, we took the cart down to the far end of the map enjoying all the sites along the way. We then headed back up to the chateau to drop off the cart, and with only a minor navigation problem (thanks Nate!), we made it. WE even picked up a hitchhiker along the way – Sue, one of the TCs from EF, decided to join us.
After we had gathered everyone, we loaded up the bus and headed back into Paris. We arrived at l’Arc de Triiomphe. I sometimes complain about traffic, but I couldn’t believe what I saw going around the Arc. Imagine a roundabout with no distinct lanes and no traffic signs or signals. Now imagine that traffic is pouring into this roundabout from 12 (twelve) different streets… and you will have something of an idea of what the situation is.
After a few moments there at the Arc, we had about an hour of free time. Nate, Katie, and I decided to head down the Champs-Élysées. We made a brief pit stop at McDonald’s, and a stop at one of the souvenir stands before making our way down one side of the street and then back up on the other side. Apparently, we walked right by Don Johnson and didn’t realize it. One of the other participants told us where she had seen him, and we walked right past the same cafe. I guess I should have paid closer attention!
Once we all re-gathered, it was off to dinner and Paris by night. I will have to post about that tomorrow, because I need to iron something to wear to school tomorrow. Bon nuit!