The day started with an air of anticipation as we departed London on our last full day in Europe to spend Bastille Day in Paris. We were taking the Eurostar train, which I highly recommend for travel in Belgium, France, and the U.K. It is easier than flying and the cost is quite competitive even with European discount airlines.
While the trip by train is an enjoyable and relaxing one, the wait for the Eurostar is always a bit odd. The stations cannot be described as run down, nor are they new. They are not nice, yet not terrible. The stations are always a contrast. You are likely to find brand new seating, yet really old flooring for example. It can be impossible to get a coffee, but easy to buy perfume. The boarding procedures also vary from very relaxed to waiting in brutal queues for no apparent reason as everyone has assigned seats. Most don’t seem bothered by it so perhaps it is just my renowned impatience with queues. Or perhaps, there is no adage truer than that if there is one thing the British know how to do, it’s queue.
The train ride went by quickly enough and we arrived in Paris with a surprise for our son. After two weeks touring about in some questionable at times accommodations, with questionable at times beds, we had upgraded ourselves for the last night. No longer would we be staying in another cut rate hotel. We had come in under budget on food and activities for the trip and used that money on a boutique hotel, though it was at a pretty good last minute deal rate, because we had reached our limit for sweaty rooms and interchangeable beds and tables. Bring on the designer toiletries, designer beds, designer slippers, and best of all, a soaker tub for my beautiful wife who was very pregnant with twins!
As my wife and son bathed and napped I wandered Rue Cler in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower soaking in a last few moments of my absolute favourite city on Earth. Samuel Johnson once said “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life”, but from my perspective if one reached that point, that man could travel to Paris, and be inspired to live again. I will not delve into the reasons Paris is magnificent as she has served as a muse to countless poets and artists who have expressed it far better than I ever will over the centuries.
Our last dinner of that holiday was at an Italian restaurant a few blocks from our hotel. Earlier in the trip we had some great successes getting our son to try things he never would at home; snails, carpaccio, and blood pudding come to mind. Tonight however, we were weary and it was time for pizza, pasta, ice cream, wine, and comfort.
As we finally made our way toward the Champ de Mars and the Bastille Day concerts and fireworks, I started to feel that my excitement level was not matched by those accompanying me. Our six year old son was up late and I had a very pregnant wife, both of whom in retrospect had heroically traipsed across Europe for two weeks, but now looked road worn and like it were time to head home for a rest.
Anticlimactically, the concert ended up being too loud for a six year old and the blaring music and fireworks were the same. As three weary travellers, we shoved our way through the crowds with our tails between our legs and headed back for some rest before an early flight the next day. We found a small market open on the way and picked up a drinking box of wine for me and some chocolates for everyone to share. Once the boy was fast asleep, we did what les Parisiennes tired of fighting tourists do on Bastille Day, watched the remainder of the fireworks on the TV, drank my drinking box of cheap wine, then headed to bed.
The moral of the story is, if there needs to be one, sometimes your kids will love the spectacular, once in a life time opportunity you present, but sometimes they see it a little differently. It’s kind of like how they spend Christmas day playing in the box from the expensive gift you gave them. You as a parent just shake your head, have another egg nog, and wonder why they always have more fun with the box, yet never stop giving them gifts.
Happy and Safe Travels!
This post can aslo be viewed via Lou Messugo and #AllAboutFrance.