When we arrived to Paris, we met our very special tour guides: Nadia Yoshioka, her husband Rei, and her sons Jeremy, Nicolas, and Samuel. They were waiting for us at the Gare du Nord, which is the name of the train station. Nadia is French, and they all speak French, so we couldn't have had better hosts and guides for our visit to Paris. The most remarkable thing is that they drove 5 hours from the town they were staying just to receive us and show us around, and they would have to drive another 5 hours to get back to their place. We all appreciated that very much, because very few people would have done it. Thank you!
The first thing that we did was getting into the subway station. Nadia bought the tickets and planned the best route to visit some of the best places. Paris is a wonderful city where you can spend a whole year and still you wouldn't have finished discovering new places that are worth seeing. We would try to see just two or three important monuments because we didn't have much time, but at least that would leave in us the wish to return.
The subway is a very efficient way to travel in Paris, because there are subway stations all over the city and the trains are fast and frequent. There were a lot of people, but surely it was not as crowded as it would be on weekdays.
We had several places to visit and very little time. We started with Notre Dame, which was crowded: a very long line of people were waiting to get into the cathedral. The students wanted to go up to the top, from where you can have beautiful views of the city, but the waiting time was 90 minutes and we couldn't spend so much time, so we just went into the Cathedral, had some time buying souvenirs, and had a walk by the Seine river. Since it was Sunday, they were having Mass inside the cathedral, so we had the opportunity to see Notre Dame as what it is, a church where people pray, not just an architectonic wonder for tourists. Also, we had very soon the opportunity to find out the best kept secret in Paris, something of what nobody talks about: the rain.
The Seine river is like the heart of Paris, with its boats and its bridges. Since Paris has also been traditionally the city of artists, the Seine is the river more often used as object of art. We have seen the banks of the Seine river in countless movies (remember "Ratatouille" or the most recent "Midnight in Paris" by Woody Allen?), so today we wanted to walk them ourselves.
After that, we got into the subway again and traveled around a dozen stations to visit the most representative monument of Paris: the Eiffel Tower. The students spent some time taking pictures, since it is one of the best known monuments in the world. It was raining, but that didn't seem to bother them very much. They had some time there to buy souvenirs, eat ice-cream or typical French crepes. Then we had lunch just in front of the Eiffel Tower: sandwiches made with French baguettes and French cheese. That was a total cultural immersion.
The last place we visited was the Triumphal Arch, which was built in 1836 to commemorate Napoleon's victories. The "Arc de Triomphe" is engraved with the names of battles and generals who commanded French troops during Napoleon's regime. After that we went for a walk along the famous "Avenue des Champs-Elyseees" and soon we started to move back to the train station "Gare du Nord", because we didn't want to miss our train back to London. There we thanked Nadia and her family for being such wonderful guides, bought some sandwiches to eat in the train, and went through security and customs. It was still a long way back. Our train left Paris at 7:13 pm and arrived to London at 8:40 pm. Our bus was waiting for us at St. Pancras station, and it still took us another two hours to arrive to Canterbury. We arrived tired but happy. Paris is a very special city: when you leave, you feel that some day you will be back.