One word: Paris!!
On day 5 of our amazing summer adventure, my friends and I got up before the crack of dawn and hopped on the Eurostar for a two hour journey from London, England to Paris, France!! Our day trip included a coach tour of the city, a cruise on the River Seine, a champagne lunch at the Eiffel Tower, and a little free time to shop and explore. We had an English-speaking tour guide, but our driver was French (we actually had two - a trainee and his supervisor/trainer). The traffic around Paris was nuts! It took forever to get around the city, and then we were in long lines to get into places and see things. Luckily the tour included a "jump the line" for the Eiffel Tower, or we might never have gotten to lunch!
Once at the Eiffel Tower, we went up to the 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant for our gourmet lunch with champagne. The first course was creamy carrot soup, ricotto with summer truffle, and puffed kamut seeds. The main course was roasted chicken fillet, crushed potatoes and artichoke, and truffle oil emulsion. And, dessert was Crousti Eiffel chocolat and praline cake, and custard cream. It was absolutely delicious!! After lunch, we had just a few minutes to shop at the gift shop and wander around to take pictures of the city from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately we didn't have time to climb all the way up to the top (the lift was down), but the view was spectacular from where we were!
Next we took a cruise on the River Sein and saw the City of Paris from the water.
Back on dry land, we returned to the coach and headed for a quick photo-op at The Arc de Triomphe. We were dropped off on one side of the road and told the best way to get a picture was to run across the street (at the appropriate crossing, of course!), stand on the narrow concrete median with throngs of other tourists, and snap away. Then we had to make our way back across the street to the coach that had gone around the block a time or two and was waiting for us a block away. We continued our city tour through some insane traffic along the Champs Elysees past more landmarks like The Louvre to our next destination, Notre Dame. Darlene chose to brave the long, long lines to get inside the church while Pam and I elected to go find a Parisian café, have a nice cocktail, and watch the world go by. Literally, people from a half-dozen nations walked past that café! It was so much fun!
After about an hour of free time to browse some shops and pick up some souvenirs, we met up with our group at Notre Dame, and walked a few blocks where we were to meet our coach and head back to the train station. Paris really is (was?) a lovely city - way prettier than I was expecting! - and I would love to return in the future and spend a few days exploring the city more. But, in the meantime, it's back to London for a the last couple days of our amazing vacation!