Our European Whirl was well and truly coming to an end and I was gutted to leave Switzerland that morning, knowing that it would be our last coach journey together as a group. Last stop – Paris with Contiki!With lots of admin to take care of on the coach, the eight hour drive felt like it stretched out endlessly and it was only when we pulled into Paris at around 6pm that I truly woke up properly. First impressions weren’t great as a gypsy market was being held across the street from where our included meal was that night. Think litter everywhere in a scary looking part of town. Inside the restaurant, we enjoyed local delicacies like escargots….Not so yum. When we reached our hotel – that’s right, a hotel! It was absolute heaven after weeks in hostels and campsites. We decided to head off to seek out a beautiful view…On my last trip to Paris (Paris in 4 Days) I didn’t manage to see the Eiffel Tower at night but I’m so glad that I made it this time! To make things even more special, we were just in time for the 11pm light show.I’d been feeling sad that day knowing that our time together was nearly up and this really made me get my act together and cheer up!The next morning, we were up bright and early for a coach tour of the city. Tony gave us lots of interesting information about the main attractions then left us to explore for the day.It was a beautiful day and with the sun beaming down on us, we took off to one of my favourite spots in the city.Touristy or not, I could spend whole summer days lounging outside the Louvre. After snapping pictures of the others, we moved closer to the river.I was so happy to have visited Pont des Arts (the ‘love lock’ bridge) on my last visit because just two weeks before we arrived this time around, they had removed all the locks for good. While they still adorned the barriers on the side of the bridge, the main attraction had been replaced with contemporary artwork.It didn’t have quite the same effect but on such a beautiful day, with an amazing band playing on the bridge, you just couldn’t be unhappy. We relaxed there for a couple of minutes just listening to the music before making our way down the river towards Notre Dame.We waited a short while to get inside but having already visited before, this didn’t float my boat compared to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I’m not sure anything can compare…Our group split off to find food and takeaway in hand, a few of the girls set off on the mammoth walk towards the Arc de Triomphe.The walk was long but beautiful and I was enjoying every second with some of my new best pals. Finally making our way up the Champs de Elysee towards the Arc de Triomphe was a pretty good feeling for our aching feet though.Impressively, we only waited around ten minutes to get to the top and the views were stunning.I promise you, once you get up there, you’ll never want to leave!With our time running out, we took the Metro back to the hostel where we donned our finest gear ready for our farewell meal. This was one of the few – if not only – optional extras that our entire Contiki group took part in and it was brilliant to have everyone together for a few hours of laughter and great food.For some reason – despite the crazy heat – I went for french onion soup and a beef stew. The food was delicious but god, I was boiling to death by the end of the meal! But then, that could have been the free wine refills…From here, a few of us went on to Nouvelle Eve cabaret before meeting the others at O’Sullivans pub for one final hurrah! We danced to our song together one final time and I spent the entire night cuddling everybody in sight.
The next morning was tough. Really tough. I’ve never been the kind of person who could make friends easily and yet, in less than three weeks, there was so many people that I never want to lose contact with. Knowing that I had to leave them and fly back to the UK alone – with many of the others going back to Australia, the US and Canada – was really shit, to put it eloquently, and so many tears were shed on my part that it just got super embarrassing in the end! To anybody reading who witnessed this, I’m so sorry!
I’ve already written in my first post (European Whirl Experience) about how much this time away meant to me but writing this now, a month since returning, makes me realise how truly lucky I am to have been able to do this. If Chloe hadn’t sat with me and forced me to take that scary leap of doing something alone, I could be in a very different position right now. Instead, I have the most incredible memories in some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. There are people all over the world that I now call my closest friends, some of whom I’ve rarely gone a day without chatting to. And I’m not scared of life anymore. For me, Contiki was the start of a new confidence in the person I’m becoming and there aren’t words to say how grateful I am for that – it’s been a long time coming. Now, if I could relive it all over again, that would be perfect!