May 4, 2014
Good morning, Paris! I woke up feeling so refreshed on this day, finally shrugging off the jet lag. Breakfast at the hotel was delicious, and included in the cost of my tour (all the breakfasts were). Fresh fruit, bread, yogurt, croissants, crepes (with nutella!) and more. Perfect start to the day.

After breakfast, Jon Snow gathered the troops and we jumped onto the coach for a bus tour of Paris. We saw Paris’ most famous sites, including Notre Dame Cathedral, Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre, Hôtel des Invalides, Dôme des Invalides, Pont Neuf, École Militaire, and so much more! What an amazing intro to this romantic city.

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Getting ready to head up to the observatory deck of the Eiffel Tower.

Next, Jon Snow took us back to the Eiffel Tower for a trip up to the observatory deck for some of the best views of Paris. I’m not a big fan of heights, and I was feeling particularly frantic riding the elevator up to the observatory deck. I felt my fingers grip around the hand railing of the elevator, and I had to coax myself to move when it was time to walk out onto the deck. I don’t know what came over me, because I went paragliding two weeks later with no problem!

Luckily, Pat stayed with me to help ease my nerves, and we walked around the observatory deck together, snapping photos and taking in the amazing views. He also coaxed me down the never-ending flights of stairs leading back to the base of the tower, which were even harder for me than the ride up! I don’t know where I left my guts that day.

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Eastern view from the top of the Eiffel Tower. [Click for full size]

Back at the base of the tower, we reunited with a few others from our group and headed off into the city to use our free time to explore. We hit the Arc de Triomphe first, and then made our way down the Champs-Elysées, site of some serious, world-famous shopping. Every girl’s dream!

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Bakery selections at Paul

We got hungry as we worked our way towards the Louvre, and popped into Paul boulangerie et pâtisserie for a quick, on-the-go bite. As a group, we bought a massive loaf of French bread, a huge assortment of macaroons, and sandwiches. Best prosciutto sandwich I’ve ever had!

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Jardin de Tuileries

After refueling, we continued our walk to the Louvre, through the Jardin de Tuileries, and to the Pyramid entrance of the museum. We paused for a few photos, and then proceeded to the secret entrance our tour guide told us about, thus bypassing the crazy long lines. We walked right in!

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Once inside, we saw the Mona Lisa and a few other famous works. Since none of us were particularly artsy, we did the tourist thing and only saw the most famous stuff, before heading back out into the gorgeous Parisian sunshine. Then, we walked along the Seine River for a bit, before returning to the coach near the Musée d’Orsay. I wish we’d made it to the Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Catacombs, but we unfortunately ran out of time. I definitely could have used a few more days in Paris!

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Back at the hotel, we had about two hours to freshen up before heading to the Moulin Rouge for dinner and a cabaret show (one of the pricier “Optional Extras”). We all got ready and grabbed a drink at the hotel bar before jumping back on the bus to go experience the Moulin Rouge. Before the show, we popped next door to O’Sullivans Bar for another drink before heading into the theater.

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Drinks at O’Sullivans before the show

At the Moulin Rouge, we were served an amazing dinner (some of the best food on the tour!) We pre-selected our meals prior to arriving, and we could pick from beef, duck, or vegetarian options. I selected the beef and had a truly delicious filet mignon, complete with roasted potatoes and veggies, plus a fantastic mousse-and-cake dessert. Each table also received two bottles of wine, and some champagne. We sure took care of that in a hurry, before heading next door for more drinks after the show.

The show itself was so much fun! The entire program is in French, but you can use context clues pretty easily to know what’s happening in each song. The dancers are beautiful, and there is plenty of topless-ness, in true cabaret style.

Sadly, I was pretty careless with my purse on this night, and ended up being pickpocketed. My iPhone and some cash now belongs to some Parisian d-bag somewhere. Moral of the story: Don’t get too careless when you’re out at night in Europe. Keep your friends close, and your iPhone closer.

Next up: Severe hangovers & Swiss sights


Follow along with the day-by-day reviews:

Introduction: An American Girl in Europe
Day 1: Oh hey, London
Day 2: Bonjour, Paris!
Day 3: Parisian Adventures
Day 4: Lookin’ Good, Switzerland
Day 5: All Things Swiss
Day 6: Switzerland, Italy, France…oh my!
Day 7: Bond. James Bond.
Day 8: Buongiorno Italia!
Day 9: When in Rome
Day 10: That’s Amore
Day 11: Vatican City to Venice
Day 12: The Last Italian Adventure
Day 13: Hop-fer-gerten
Day 14: Soaring Over Austria
Day 15: München
Day 16: Bittersweet Symphonies
Day 17: Vienna to Prague
Day 18: Ahoj, Prague!
Day 19: St. Goar, Rhine Valley
Day 20: Amsterdamage
Day 21: Even more Amsterdamage
Day 22: Back to the Start
Day 23/24: The End of a Great Adventure
Contiki in a Nutshell: Know Before You Go
Contiki: What Should I Pack?