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2012-May-11 - France Trip 2012 - Paris Tour Bus, River Cruise, Eiffel Tower, Phone (Friday)
A few weeks before we departed we went on to Expedia and booked all the usual tourist jaunts for Paris.

Friends strongly advised us to do this to avoid spending hours waiting in queues.

Expecting to be jet lagged on the first day, I decided that the safest activity would be a guided coach tour around Paris including a River Seine trip and lunch at the Eiffel tower.

We had a choice of a 9.00 am tour or a 2.00 pm tour.

I figured that our bodies would consider a 2.00 pm tour to be a 10.00 pm tour (due to the 8 hour time difference) so a 9.00 am start would be the best.

In theory this meant that we could be totally non compos mentis and someone else would be making all the decisions.

Unfortunately, in practise, this meant that on the very first day we needed to make a very early start, work out the rail and metro system and navigate our way through the Paris streets to reach the office of the tour company.

We talked to the front desk at the hotel about calling a taxi but he was very positive that we could find our way there easily on public transport at a fraction of the cost.

We were up the next morning at 5.30 am and down to breakfast by 6.30 am, leaving for the local train station at 7.00.

We reached Gare Saint Lazare easily.

Things started to unravel a bit at that point.

Once we exited the railway building in to the streets of Paris we were totally overwhelmed by the traffic, sights and sounds.

After 10 minutes of frantic arguments, consulting crude tourist maps and running from street to street we eventually found Ave De Haussman, Ave De Opera and finally Tuilleries Gardens.

After that we found the tour office easily at 8.30 am and waited around to 9.00 am to be loaded in to a tour bus.

The bus pottered around through peak hour traffic.

The commentary pointed out all sorts of amazing architecture.

All in all, very good value and a good introduction to the heritage of Paris.

One thing I had not counted on was the French aversion to providing public toilets.

Two hours in to the tour I felt like I was about to burst and my mind was paying more attention to the fullness of my bladder rather than the wonderful sights around me.

Eventually we were loaded on to a River Seine boat trip and I was delighted to discover toilets were provided below deck.

All I can say is : "happiness is an empty bladder"

Great boat trip - very interesting - we resolved to have a look at Isle de Cite on our first free day.

Next we were led by a guide across to the Eiffel Tower, past the queues, in to the elevator and straight in to the restaurant on the first level.

There ensued a very workmanlike fixed price menu with views of Paris (or in our case, views of the steelwork).

After leaving the restaurant we dragged ourselves, puffing and panting, up the stairway to the second level.

We really wanted to go to the summit but this was closed off due to a fault in one of the elevators.

We decided to persist and waited about two hours until the problem was resolved and then bought tickets and finally ascended to the summit.

I was pretty cold and windy up there, I can tell you.

At the summit, large numbers of photographs were taken - see images below.

On the way back to the hotel we eventually tracked down an "Orange" mobile providor outlet and set up accounts for my mobile phone and notebook for voice and data connections.

We still don't fully understand how the charges work - but it all seems a bit dodgy to me.

Some Iron Thingy - can't remember what it's called

At the top of the Eiffel Tower

View from the top