21 day Best of Europe-DAY 18 Welcome to France!
At this point there really wasn't border checks per se.....but upon entering France, there were some guards. We were waved through. We stopped in Besançon, France for our lunch break....wait for it...... at a mall! It was great fun because despite needing some lunch, we really needed another piece of luggage. Yes, I admit, we (I) have already purchased too many (no such thing) souvenirs. We found a nice tote at the Timberland store and bought it then found some grab-n-go food (a couple of Napoleans and some cheese). We had an hour there then were back on the road towards Beaune.
We arrived to our hotel in Beaune where we found our very quaint rooms, dropped off our bags, then met Colleen downstairs for our walking tour. We went to the Hospices de Beaune or Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune, a former charitable almshouse in Beaune, France. It was founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor. The original hospital building, the Hôtel-Dieu, one of the finest examples of French fifteenth-century architecture, is now a museum. After the hospice museum we were on our own to walk around and if we were going to participate in the wine tasting, we needed to be back at the hotel at 6pm. Then we would all walk to dinner at 7:15pm. After dinner we enjoyed an evening stroll back to the hotel.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 19 Paris
We were up really early today, like 6am early! I'm not even sure why we got up so early, perhaps it was the excitement of going to Paris. Ben picked us up at 8 am a short distance from our hotel. We had a short 30 minute stop about halfway to Paris.
Ben didn't want to just drop us off at our hotel in Paris, he wanted to give us a great farewell tour of the highlights. There was traffic involved but he didn't mind. Since these were our last moments with Ben we all made sure to settle up our "beverage" bill before he left.
We leave the bus and Ben and move our bags to the final hotel of the tour. Check in, check out the room, and drop off our bags. We're on our own to find lunch and Colleen tells us there are great places to eat on Rue Cler which is just a block away from our hotel. Since we're in Paris we figured crepes would be the way to go and when we near the street side cafe we see Sam/Pat and Mike/Katie had the same idea.
We were to be in front of the hotel at 15:20 and as a group we walked to our Metro stop, E'cole Militaire. Colleen explained the Metro system, which we really enjoyed the use of over the next few days. Our destination for today was St. Chappelle (inside), Notre Dame (exterior), then orientation walk of the Latin Quarter. St. Chappelle was GORGEOUS! I've never seen such beautiful stained glass. It was solemn, as it should be and everyone seemed respectful of the church. Notre Dame was very majestic and I wish we had been able to go inside. We're into climbing towers now, teehee. The Latin Quarter walk was very lively and I think if we were a little younger we would stay in that area.
We were on our own after our Latin Quarter walk so we needed to find some dinner. We also knew we wanted to do the Seine River cruise this evening (Judy, Vickie, and Tom joined us). We recommend doing this river cruise at night just to see the "City of LIghts" all aglow! We found a small local Italian restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower and had a great dinner (with wine) then we walked around a bit before we needed to get tickets for our river cruise. There are a couple places to board and we saw that one of them was closed due to flooding. By the time we got on the boat it was dark. We passed the Eiffel Tower as it sparkled at that magic hour and we heard music that I will never forget. Steve had been dealing with a sinus issues that seemed to concentrate in his jaw so he didn't enjoy the cruise as much as I did....Vickie came to the rescue with some medicine she had brought along and he was fine the rest of the trip. This brings to mind a helpful hint.....go to your doctor before embarking on such a long trip out of the country. You never know what might ail you. I thought I was prepared by bringing our usual meds. Of course, you can always find medicine in other countries, it's just easier if you have your own when you need it.
21 day Best of Europe-DAY 20 Paris-The Louvre, Farewell to Europe Group Dinner
It's hard to believe our tour will be over after breakfast tomorrow. It seems like just yesterday we were playing the name game and getting to know one another. The Louvre is probably the most famous art museum known to man and we're going to get to see it all first hand. Well, not all of us. Steve is sleeping in and recovering from his sinus issues. I sadly go without him (he isn't a huge art fan anyway). You could have a week at the Louvre and still not see it all so we aren't going in with the idea that we could conquer it. We saw a few key pieces then were set loose on our own. I stay behind with Judy and we visit until it all starts to blur, then we return back to our hotel. By the time I returned Steve was feeling chipper. We walked to the RER station to purchase our train tickets for Versailles for tomorrow (we wanted to make sure we knew where to go). I had purchased the 2 day Paris Museum Pass ahead of time and we will use that pass over the next two days, post tour. It was a good deal and we wouldn't have to wait in lines (only security lines). Let's not get ahead of ourselves. We've got some art to see!
Our tour was coming to an end. At 7:15pm we met as a group outside of our hotel and together we walked the few blocks to our Farewell dinner. We were led upstairs to a dining room then after dinner we went to the rooftop where we had a little time to celebrate a wonderful tour. Colleen presented all of us with berets, which was an awesome gesture. After our gathering Colleen mentioned that whomever wanted to join her at the Jardins de Trocadero to see the Eiffel Tower show was welcome to. A group of us walked together and a sweet couple on their honeymoon volunteered to take photos of us to commemorate the moment.
I can't say enough about our Rick Steves 21 day BOE tour. It was our first time out of the United States and I feel like we learned so much about travel, transportation, and customs. I do feel like we could go to any of the countries visited on our own BUT, I really enjoyed the camaraderie of being with a group of others who have like interests. This won't be our last Rick Steves tour! The next section will be covering our post tour days in Paris. Feel free to stick around!