Day 3: Leaving London/Traveling to Paris
Our last morning in London we woke up, packed our bags, and spent the afternoon wandering around West Minster Abbey, the Parliament Building, and taking in the sights at some beautiful parks nearby. After walking for an hour or two we grabbed a bite to eat. Did you know most places in London charge you more if you sit at a café table instead of taking it to go? Well, we may have accidentally dined and dashed…whoops!
After lunch we boarded our 30-minute train ride to London’s Gatwick Airport. We made sure to arrive a couple hours early before our 6 pm flight so we could breeze through security. We had some time to kill so Reagan and I checked out a bar by our gate. We sat down, ordered food, drinks… I looked up at the time table; our flight to Paris was delayed by 30 minutes. No big deal, I thought.
Another 30 minutes passed, and our flight got pushed back another 30. Great…time for another beer. Finally, the airline revised the time on the board, this time for a 10 pm departure. A four-hour delay? You’ve gotta be kidding me.
We still had a couple of hours to hang out before boarding so we used up the rest of our pounds at the bar. There must be a math equation for number of beverages consumed for every 30-minute delay. An hour before our flight we got hit with another time change…this was when the anxiety began to set in.
We spoke to airline representatives, but they were just as clueless as us. They didn’t know when our flight was going to leave but said we could always rebook for the next day. Unfortunately, that was not going to work for us. We had 3 days planned in Paris and making that only 2 days because of travel issues wasn’t going to cut it. Plus, we had nowhere to stay in London! We held our breath and decided to wait and see what happened next.
Suddenly one by one, all the flights from our airline got cancelled. Something was obviously not right and there were a lot of anxious frustrated people to show for it. It was officially time for us to panic.
Reagan scrambled and found us an overnight bus to Paris that didn’t cost an arm and a leg, but we still had to get back to the train station 30 minutes away. We didn’t want to risk booking the tickets and not making it there in time. While she did that, I updated our Air BnB about our situation again; our host happily agreed to refund us on night which was very nice of her.
Now it was time for us to make the mad dash across London-- Amazing Race style. We had 30-45 minutes to hustle back to Victoria Station then another 10 to make it to the bus station down the street. We were gonna fly this one by the seat of our pants; the heat was on.
We rushed through the airport and then to the train ticket kiosks. With our luck we got a machine that wasn’t working. Reagan and I split up to see who could get a ticket first. Miraculously we snatched a pair of tickets and got to the platform minutes before the train arrived. Phew! We rushed aboard and patiently waited during the train ride, kind of twiddling our thumbs anxiously and contemplating what was going to happen next.
After the train ride we had 15 minutes to get to the bus station, buy tickets, and board. It was going to be a close race, ladies and gentlemen.
The moment the train stopped we hit the ground running. Of course, we didn’t exactly know where we were going, we were kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Bags in one hand, phones running Google Maps in the other. We got to the bus station around 11 pm. We rush around to find a ticket booth only to see that all the ticket desks are closed…NOW WHAT?!
A station employee there said we could purchase passes online, Reagan pulls them up on her phone only to find that there’s no tickets left.
Our hearts dropped. It was the most hopeless we’ve been in a long time. No flights until tomorrow morning, no buses, no hotel. We were stuck.
Reagan, who was on the verge of tears, pulled it together and came out as the real MVP that night. Just as we were on our last hopes, she remembered another bus line that we pre-booked for later in the trip. Eureka!
It was nothing short of luck, but we found a bus that left at 11:15 pm with only two seats left. Reagan and I sprinted to the bus and confirmed with the driver that there was still seating available. He spoke English and was a nice guy, but the comprehension wasn’t there. We were lost in translation for a moment until an English-speaking co-driver stepped in.
We paid a hefty price for those two tickets, but it was worth it to avoid a long, stressful night in the streets of London. I mean, what other options did we have?
So, we purchased our tickets online and boarded the bus. Thank god our credit cards worked! Literally two minutes later and we were off.
There we were…on a 7-hour overnight bus ride to Paris in the middle of the night. Our phones, mobile hotspot, and external battery chargers all dead. I received an email minutes later from my bank saying that they turned off my card. Geez! That was close. Way too close.
And to think…this entire ordeal started with some leisurely beers in the airport. We had made it by the skin of our teeth, but the night was finally over. We were on our way to Paris.
After crossing the English Channel, we arrived in Paris around 7 am and then our Air BnB by 9. After showers, recharging our phones, and a much-needed nap it was time to take on France.
Day 4: Paris, the Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe
Well, the first stop on our list was the one you couldn’t miss, the Eiffel Tower but before that we had to eat. One thing you’ll notice across Europe is the difference in restaurant culture. Here in the States we’re used to overly polite and speedy service and waiting in lines; on the streets of Paris hosts and hostesses will snipe you from the street to grab you a seat if you just glance at the menu! But good luck getting a drink refill, the service wasn’t always the quickest either. Let’s just say it was an old culture shock compared to back in the States.
After crepes, we headed to the Eiffel. There was some construction going on around the tower that day but that didn’t stop us from taking selfies in front of it. The site around the tower was a bit of a circus. Some ladies wandering around were soliciting donations for a 100% fake nonprofit while hustlers begged for money for tower memorabilia, sometimes even putting the stuff right in your hand; both groups dispersed immediately at the sight of a cop! We certainly knew better.
Next, we got our tickets and made our way to the tower. We took an elevator to the second observation deck from the top and just wow, what an amazing sight. There it was! All of Paris for all the eye could see.
The tower was also filled with trivia about the structure. Apparently, the U.S. and France had a short competition over who had the tallest tower. Each time the U.S. built something comparable to the Eiffel the French would add something to their tower to make it a couple feet taller. Eventually it became impossible to compete!
After getting a bird’s eye view, we walked down to a lower level that seriously had a glass floor. Yes, a glass floor! I could’ve thought I was walking a tight rope 1000 feet in the air the way I walked across that floor! Scary!
After our time at the Eiffel Tower we crossed the Seine River to check out Palais de Chaillot, which is a beautiful museum and park with fountains and of course another amazing view of the tower. While on our way to the Arc de Triomphe we got rained on and took shelter at a café for an Americano. After the rain settled, we wandered around some more and marveled at the graceful Parisian architecture. As the sun came down over the city, we made our way back the Air BnB for some sleep. Compared to our hectic journey last night today was literally a walk in the park.
Be on the look out for Chapter 3 of our adventure and don't forget to shop some favorites on our store!
Story by: Jeremy Lux
Written by: Eric Gasa