When we were mapping out the detailed 2-week itinerary for our Europe trip, we were excited about arriving in Paris for a couple of reasons: first of all, because we’d get to take the Eurostar train through the Chunnel, and second, because we reserved tickets to go up in the Eiffel Tower at night!
Taking the Eurostar to Paris
I’d taken the Eurostar train 8 years prior, when I was on my high school Europe trip. It’s such a neat form of transportation, going almost 200 mph under the English Channel!
We boarded around 4 pm at St. Pancras Station in London. So much of the ticketing and security process was similar to an airport. But they even stamped our passports for France while we were still in London!
It started to hit me that we’d be in France soon when all of the announcements were in French and then repeated in English. The station felt a bit chaotic with the crowds (like an airport) but things were still well-labeled so the 4 of us figured out where to go.
On the train, we 4 got a nice table so we could all face each other and chat. Trains can be super fun that way. 🙂 There was also a precious little French baby whose mom liked me because I kept making her laugh. 😉
I expected the train to be very fast (it was only a 2 hour ride), but what I didn’t expect was the high quality of service! And the food! (In retrospect, this is really awesome because the tickets are quite pricey.) The meal we were served was so fancy and delicious. I feel like I fiddled around with enjoying each little element of my supper so much that we were there before I knew it! 🙂
We did get to whiz through the countryside outside of London for a bit before the windows got dark. But honestly, the part during which we were in the Chunnel went by so quickly, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t soak that in as much! (Again, I was really enjoying my meal. Haha!)
^^ whizzing through England ^^
Bjorn and his sister Signe tried a savory chive and potato(?) pie. Our friend Steve and I opted for a cold salmon dish with a side potato salad. Dessert was an awesome lemon raspberry tart, and they served us coffee and tea. It was delicious!!
It’s actually hilarious that I’m talking so much about food here, because recently, I thought it’d be fun to read aloud my old Europe trip journal from high school….and Bjorn pointed out just how much I journaled about food. I had never realized that!! He told me he would’ve written down a lot more facts he learned, whereas I was penning comments like “Then we had supper at a lovely restaurant. Dim lighting. Great food. Here’s what supper was…blah blah blah.” 🙂 We laughed pretty hard about that! So, I’m just continuing with my food journaling tendencies. I can’t help it. I love great meals.
Our Eiffel Tower Adventure/Situation
When we arrived in Paris, we found our Airbnb and ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the architecture in the neighborhood, as well as the views from our Airbnb balconies!!!
^^ the view from our Paris Airbnb. AMAZING. ^^
^^ How would you like this to be your neighborhood?? ^^
According to our schedule and availability, it worked out best to visit the Eiffel Tower in the late evening. So, we had our 4 tickets purchased for 10:30 pm, a few hours after we arrived in Paris! We were excited to go up in the Eiffel Tower and see Paris from above at night!
We had some time before 10:30, so we wandered and saw the Arc de Triomphe. We walked under the street there, via a tunnel, rather than brave the INSANE roundabout. (It was less of a roundabout and more of a crazy wide-open pavement area where countless streets joined and countless cars just decided where they wanted to drive! Ack!)
That day, July 10th, was also the Final for the Euro Cup. France lost to Portugal so fans of both teams were all worked up. People were running around cheering or chanting, waving their country’s flag…even those driving were rolling down their windows and yelling about the game. We were kind of amused by that and continued on our way walking to the Eiffel Tower.
Then when we were walking to the Eiffel Tower, we had to walk through a park area, where countless people were hanging out. Bjorn remembers looking at Steve and remarking that the feeling in the atmosphere was like the start of those crazy zombie apocalypse movies. Something felt a little off and tense. The crowds were all milling about as if they were waiting for something to happen.
As we crossed the bridge, we began to see garbage burning in the street. Broken glass bottles were on the ground. The crowd started to grow thicker behind us and then we realized what was going on. People were worked up to the point of rioting! A line of French police with their riot shields began to cross the bridge coming towards us. We got out of their way and safely got across the bridge (they let us across because we were visibly trying NOT to be in the middle of things). Then we heard a big explosion as one of the rioters set off a loud firework!
At this point, we were standing under the Eiffel Tower. There were so many riot police around, and thousands of other people! The Eiffel Tower’s lights had been shut off and the Tower had been closed for the night.
We chatted with a couple other tourists who were also frustrated. Did I have a mini panic attack? Yeah, I’m not gonna lie – it was a stressful situation!!
Read this article or this one to see photos of what I’m describing! We didn’t experience ALL of this, or see all of it, but we definitely were near the riot police right in front of the Eiffel Tower when all of this was starting! Yikes. It’s scary even in retrospect to read that the riot we were in got violent.
Obviously, we did not get to go up in the Eiffel Tower. Unfortunately, they also closed down many of the subway stations near the Eiffel Tower so we had to walk a long way on foot before finding a train that could take us back to our Airbnb. I think we got back to our place at 1 or 2 am.
That was quite the adventure!
I emailed the Eiffel Tower after we got home and asked for a refund due to the fact that we had tickets but there was a riot… They were gracious and didn’t comment on the riot at all, but gave us a refund.
Have you traveled between London and Paris before? Or have you ever been in a stressful situation abroad, like this riot?