4 hours after the sun set over St Petersburg (10pm) the alarms in the Nevsky Breeze Hotel were going off, just in time for the the sunrise (2:30am), to catch our early our early morning flight to Paris. We met with our guide Alena to go to the coach which would take us to the airport, along the way, she pointed some of the many bridges that cross the Neva River.
When we arrived at the airport, we were greeted wth an extensive security check before check in which was surprising yet almost seemed common place in Russia. Before we said spasibo and proshchay to Russia, we parted ways with Alena with a warm hug and a heartfelt goodbye followed by yet another security check then passport control and immigration and finally a mad rush to our gate to catch the first leg of our flight to Paris.
Upon arrival in Paris we were pleasantly surprised to see Mr Priester in the terminal. After catching up we met with our tour guide Christine who took us to our coach to begin our full day guided bus tour of Paris. On the trip into the city we passed through the region of Paris called La Defense which is where the CBD of Paris is situated due to skyscrapers not being allowed in the central part of the city. Chrsitine also shared some other interesting facts with us on the bus such as Napoleon having the need to present himself to the French population as some form of god and having a number of buildings built for hime or in his honor. We also learnt of Napoleon taking a real liking to Roman and Greek style architecture and this influenced the style of the buildings he had constructed during his reign as Emperor.
From the bus, we saw a number of famous landmarks including L'arc de Triomph, La Tour Eiffel, La Louvre, Champs Élysées and many more before stopping for lunch. One of the main highlights was stopping at 'Place du Trocadéro' for an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower and a great vantage point for photos. Another stand out was the Opera House near the Louvre, this building was the odd one out, it contrasts to the single colour, plain buildings that seem to be standard throughout Paris. It uses a wide range of colours for decoration on the facade by also on the interior walls. The designer of the Opera House said that he wanted to create somehting more interesting and something that is not bring for Paris.
Soon after seeing the Opera House we made a stop for lunch at 'La Musée du Louvre' where the group got the opportunity to not only take a break but also try some real French style crêpes as well as have a look at the area around la Pyramide du Louvre as well as les Jardin de Tuileries. When we finished lunch we continued on our guided tour and visited L'ile de la Cité where we saw le Pont Neuf and La Notre-Dame de Paris. We also got to see the Latin Quarter where Paris' best university is located as well as some other schools.
After checking in to the nicest hotel yet, L'hotel Observatoire Luxembourg, we made our way down to the park, La Jardin du Luxembourg, which houses the French Senate in The Luxembourg Palace. The park is in traditional French style with colourful flowers and plants as well as very organised plant arrangements. The park also offers opportunites for chess enthusiasts to play against each other or locals as well as other activities such as bocce and tennis.
Dinner was served at a local restaurant, we ate a la carte which was very lucky as we all got to choose what we wanted to eat right off the menu. After dinner we made a trip to the pantheon around the corner from the restaurant as well as walking down to see the Notre Dame as well a small group of boy visiting the book store Shakespeare and Company next to the Notre Dame.
The boys are definitely tired with some boys only just getting through the day with 4 hours sleep. Everyone will be in need of a good nights sleep ready for the journey to Amiens tomorrow!
Written by: Daniel Baykitch and Tom Cheetham
See some pictures below: