Looking back at my time in Europe, I absolutely fell in love with London. The city was magical in every way: Not only was it one of the cleanest cities I’ve ever been to, but the people were some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered in a foreign city.
They were extremely polite — saying “sorry” after accidentally getting in your way — and went out of their way to make an outsider feel at home. I felt like I could stay in London forever. But time moved on and it was time to continue my European adventure to Paris!
After another early wake-up call, we were ready to board a coach to the St Pancras International train station. As part of the Trafalgar tour, our group was provided with brown paper bags containing breakfast items of boxed juice, a banana and some packaged oat cake, which was surprisingly very delicious!
Euston is a mere 10-minute drive to the station, so we arrived pretty quickly. Waiting in the coach for our two tour escorts — Brad and Slim (yes, you read right, that was indeed his name. And yes, he really was slim.) — to transfer our luggage to the conveyer belt outside the station, I couldn’t help but peer out the window and gaze in awe at how handsome they were! Clean shaven and donning fitted black suits and short haircuts, both embraced the definition of “tall, dark and handsome.”
One thing I did notice about the British was that they were some of the most physically attractive people who dressed really well — their style could be described as clean, polished and formal.
Anyway, I digress. Do you really want to hear more about my dream man? Yep, didn’t think so.
So as we arrived at St Pancras International, it was a train station unlike any I had ever seen — extremely clean and almost futuristic; a shopper’s paradise with retailers everywhere. I gaped at the sky high, intrinsic-patterned arched ceilings that brought in the natural sunlight — whenever there was any in London, of course. After perusing the station for about a half hour, we said our goodbyes to Brad and Slim near the security area of the station.
We went through a pretty quick security screening, got our passports stamped and waited for our mid-afternoon train to take us to Paris.
The train from London to Paris takes passengers to their destinations via the English Channel; thus, no stunning or earth-shattering views out the window. It’s an approximately 2.5-hour journey in which the train travels up to 186 mph.
I’ve been on a bullet train in Japan that traveled up to 200 mph, but for some reason, this train felt twice as fast. My ears had never been so sore and I can’t recall the last time I had to pop my ears so aggressively!
At last, we arrived in Paris! As we exited the train at the Gare du Norde station, the sky was overcast the way we left it in London, but the air felt even heavier. I didn’t even have to go beyond the train station to notice that it felt way dirtier than London.
We approached a petite brunette woman — no older than 30 — with short hair, a yellow beanie and navy blue pea coat, carrying a sign that read, “Trafalgar.” This was our tour escort, Agatha.
“Bonjour!” she said, with a cheerful smile. She then explained in English that she would be our tour escort for the next few days in Paris and that we would be meeting our tour guide and travel director, Jonathan, momentarily.
We all walked as a group closer to the outside of the station where we met him.
“Bonjour!” he exclaimed.
Jonathan, another handsome chap who was likely in his early 40s, grew up in Scotland with a Scottish father and French mother. He attended university in England but moved to Paris later in his life to work in the travel industry.
He was nice enough to hand each of us freshly baked croissants, our first official food item in France!
We then boarded our coach and departed the area, which Jonathan described as one of the not-so-nice areas of Paris.
Gazing out the window while Jonathan gave us a thorough yet hilarious audio tour of Paris, I marveled at the grandiose architecture spread throughout the city. With every turn of a corner, I was encapsulated and entranced by the elegance of the buildings and statues that appeared to withstand the test of time.
London is different in that aspect. Though its architecture could be described as classic and historic, it wasn’t too far off from architecture you might find in the New England area of the U.S. Whereas in Paris, one look at the buildings and you know you’re in Europe.
Driving along the Seine River, Jonathan told us to look out to our left.
There it was: the Eiffel Tower, standing there in all its glory.
It was almost like a dream knowing that I was looking at the real Eiffel Tower, not some phony Las Vegas replica or one that was behind a television screen. And lucky for us, we were staying at the Novotel Tour Eiffel Hotel, which was no more than a mile away from the tower itself.
Do you ever get that overwhelmingly rejuvenated feeling when you see something that truly gets you excited, where it almost seems like electricity is pulsing through your veins? Well, this is how I felt at this very moment in time, and I knew from that point on, I was absolutely going to fall in love with the city of love.