A day trip to Paris would seem like a good idea for a small group of American students studying in London with a sense of adventure. However, this “good idea” should have an asterisk by it to give note of Murphy’s Law (defn. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong).
My gang of seven (five women, two men) bought round-trip tickets to Paris on Euro Lines a few days prior the trip. All we knew when our adventure began was that Euro Lines was a bus service that left from Victoria Bus Station and we were not really sure about the “bus” part. Our group was given directions how to get there by bus, so we left from Kinston Hill on the number 85 bus. Kingston Hill is where we were housed while attending our summer course at Kingston University.
Just to make sure out trip started out badly, we began by waiting for the bus going the wrong direction for twenty minutes. After noticing this, we moved across the road and waited for the bus going the correct direction. With a few more minutes of waiting added on, we were finally aboard our bus heading for Putney, which was our stop to change buses. Since the bottom section of the double-decker was full, I decided to sit in the upper level. I was the only member of the group to go up top, so this was a great time for Murphy’s Law to come into effect. With many stops to go before we changed buses, I decided to move to the lower deck and sit with my friends. When I arrived at the bottom of the stairs, the bus was stopping, so I looked around for an open seat. I saw at least six empty seats and not one of my friends, so I quickly hopped off the bus.
At that bus stop, I checked the map to see if I had missed my stop. I, of course, had not. Knowing that I needed to go to Putney Bus Station, and ultimately Victoria Bus Station, I decided to ask a man walking down the sidewalk for help and directions. The man was very helpful and we decided that I should go on to Putney, catch a train to Victoria, and hope my friends would catch up with me. I was told that it was a fifteen-minute walk and was pointed down the street in the right direction. I figured time could make a difference, so I began to run towards Putney, wearing long pants, a thick t-shirt, and carrying a heavy backpack, with a water bottle in one hand. After running a good distance, I heard a bus coming, so I decided to stop and take a look. There they were, riding the next bus. As soon as I saw them, I began running to catch them at the next stop. A hundred yards later, I was climbing on the bus, out of breath and sweating. One disaster avoided.
My friends informed me that they had talked to someone on the bus and decided to switch buses to get to Victoria faster. They realized I was left behind and caught the next bus.
When we finally arrived at Victoria Bus Station, we ate some food and looked for where to check-in. We walked, followed signs, walked some more, asked people for directions, and still walked some more. We finally found the check-in and hopped on our bus. Other than the cramped seats, everything was fine.
We arrived at the Chunnel sometime before midnight and had a thirty-minute break. As soon as got off the bus there were two men yelling at one another in French. It eventually escalated into one man shoving the other man down and someone breaking it up.
After our break, we climbed back aboard the bus, did a circle, and pulled into the exact same spot we had just left. We then had another break because of a Chunnel related problem.
Other than the strange feeling of driving a bus onto a train for the passage through the Chunnel, everything was fine for a couple of hours. Most people got off the bus and rested in the coolness of the train’s air conditioning or slept on the bus. We got off the bus while on the train. It was more like an underground ferry for us. We then got off the train, had a passport inspection and were on our way again, with most people sleeping. Sometime around 3:30am, a man speaking French ran to the front of the bus, talking very loudly to the bus driver. He was very loud for the rest of the trip. Heidi , part of our group, tried to get him to be quiet in various polite ways, and eventually began yelling at him, all to no avail. Our group got little or no sleep on the bus. It should be said that our intention was to get sleep on the way so we would not be tired, since it was an overnight trip. Also of note on the bus, the Frenchmen smelled horribly.
We arrived in Paris around 6:30am. Our bus stopped at Galliéni, which is roughly the outskirts of Hell… I am sure I meant Paris. With no sleep and no ability to speak French, we looked for an ATM.
We walked down into the subway, which had a strong smell of urine. After asking for help, we still have no money and no sense of direction, so we left the subway. We spoke with a man in an information booth and decided to buy an all day pass for the subway and buses. Since we had not been able to find an ATM yet, we all bought the passes with our credit cards. Once on the subway, everything seemed to get better. Other than the smell of the subway, smell of the people, and their rudeness, everything went fine for awhile. (This is known as “the calm before the storm” I believe.) I did have one incident on the subway were I had a subway door close on me and I had to physically force my body through the doors.
While in Paris, we saw Notre Dame Cathedral, Jim Morrison’s grave, The Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre. Only two of us went to the top of the Eiffel Tower, with the other five deciding to take a nap on the green grass of the park. Then at the Louvre, only two got in, and the rest of had a problem with security. The security guard became irate when we asked if he spoke English.
After the Louvre, we still had five or six hours to kill until our return bus left. Being the tired and grumpy Americans that we were, we decided to check on the Euro Star (the fast train) prices back to London. It was too expensive, so we continued on our journey.
We were soon on the wrong train, lost, and rather pissy to each other. We again checked on the Euro Star prices, bought seven tickets, and raced to the Euro Star Station.
Making it to the Euro Star Station on time would seem to end this adventure, but Murphy decided to enact his law one more time for us. Of the seven of us, six were smokers, with me being the lone nonsmoker, so we bought tickets for the smoking section. Ventilation? Of course not! Even the smokers having trouble with all the smoke.
We finally made it back and it was not that bad. In retrospect, we were stupid. If you decide to go to Paris, thoroughly plan your stay, do not take a bus, and bring nose plugs. The French truly do stink. Paris in the summertime is beautiful. Yes, great for the eyes… not so good for the nose.
There they are, sleeping. Those pathetic little weakling bastards. They got sunburned. Serves them right for being lazy. How can you go to the Eiffel Tower and not go up?