The past two days have been intensely filled with traveling across vast distances in the Land Rover. We left Switzerland on Friday, though we left considerably later than we meant to—as in, around three in the afternoon instead of ten in the morning. It’s not surprising we left so late considering the boys and I haven’t managed to be on time for anything the entire trip (except for the ferry). It’s understandable that we weren’t in a rush either, as it was an insanely beautiful day with weather so warm we were in shorts and tee shirts, sprawled out on the front steps while we chatted with Lindy.
I just have to say that Sam and Lindy are incredibly spectacular for hosting us. They really are extended family to me, so I’m glad that I could finally meet them. It is incredible that without ever having met any of us they opened their home to us, fed us and provided fantastic company. Since being at their house, though, I understand why they were so hospitable to travelers—their house is practically a hostel already! While we were there we met two other travelers who stay with them on a frequent basis, and some other visitors called to ask if they’d left something behind! So we were not the only people that the Carmalts have hosted. When I own my own big, quirky house, I hope I can host people just like they do… it makes life far more fun.
We whiled away the beautiful afternoon lying on the steps, talking to Lindy and watching Kingy practice his juggling. Finally we decided we needed to get a move on if we wanted to get to Paris before five in the morning, so we got in the car and hit the road. The rest of the trip was rather uneventful with the exception of our stop on the side of the mountain we were climbing to have a ridiculous photo shoot with the Alps in the background. We were just meant to stop to see the view, then to take one group picture, and then suddenly we were climbing all over the car and setting ridiculous self-timer shots and Jim carrying me around piggy-back and falling in the snow and all manner of ridiculous things.
After the photo adventure we piled back in the car, flipped on the DVD player and sat back to watch movies while we traversed the French countryside. Around midnight we finally pulled in to the hostel, and though we meant to go out and see the Parisian night life we were so knackered that we all ended up collapsing on the bed and doing nothing of importance.
Yesterday morning we were up surprisingly early, and by ten we were out the door. We knew we had very limited time in Paris if we wanted to catch the 8pm ferry from Dunkirk, so we decided exactly what highlights we wanted to see, programmed them into the sat nav and hit the road. That was the most whirlwind tour of Paris from the back passenger window of a car that I think has ever existed! First we drove right into the heart of Paris and started with the Arc de Triomphe, which is the world’s biggest roundabout, which of course we had to do since Jim was the navigator… In we went and ended up circling at least three times while I tried to take pictures as I hung out of the back window and the boys tried desperately to figure out which exit to take.
Once we escaped that we kept driving down random roads as I kept my head out the window like and over-excited dog with her ears flapping in the wind. I was soaking up every moment of the experience, looking at the beautiful architecture and absorbing the wonder of the city of love.
Next stop on our whirlwind tour was the Eiffel Tower, which suddenly appeared on the horizon before us! The sat nav lead us right to it, where we spent the next fifteen minutes trying to find parking (to no avail). Luckily we have no qualms with bending the rules, so we drove right to the foot of the tower and parked in the bus lane and left the hazards on. The bus drivers yelled at us, but we didn’t really care—we were in Paris! We jumped out and ran around taking pictures like mad while Kingy calmly sat on the sidewalk and made us all croissant sandwiches (or “buttys” as Jim seems to call them). We stayed there till we were satisfied that we’d seen enough, [plus an official man started walking towards us with a purpose], so we decided it was best to mosey on.
The final stop on the Paris Express was the Notre Dame. This time we were able to find parking, though it was an incredibly tight squeeze for the Land Rover! Seriously, for a car made by the English it’s really not tiny enough for the European roads. Off we went to the Notre Dame where we were able to go in for free to wander around. I can’t even explain how phenomenal and breathtaking it was inside. I’ve studied it in my art history classes and it was surreal to finally be standing in a place with so much history. There were hundreds of people inside, but everyone was silent or whispering, and midday prayer was happening in the center of the church. We must have stayed there at least forty minutes, quietly looking and taking it all in.
We finally finished our top three places to visit in Paris and still had some time left over, so we took to the streets and wandered around for an hour, stopping in various shops and perusing. Eventually we realized that we needed to get a move on so we weren’t in a ginormous rush to the ferry. Back in the car we went, arranged the sat nav and hit the road. I very promptly passed out in the back seat, as we didn’t go to bed till half three and were up by nine. The boys laughed at me the whole trip because apparently any girl who sits in the backseat of the Land Rover automatically falls asleep, so the entire time if I was lying down one would inevitably say to the other “is she asleep yet?” and the other would turn around to look and I’d be like “why the hell are you staring at me?” It’s nearly impossible for me to nap, so they were always surprised to find me awake—but not this time! This time I passed out for at least two hours. and it was delicious.
We arrived at the ferry early, so after getting our ticket and parking our car in line we turned on the DVD player and watched Hot Fuzz while it poured rain on the car. Eventually the ferry opened, we got on and spent the entire time in one of the restaurants where the boys ate and we all complained about how slow the internet was while trying to break through to Facebook with a proxy (unsuccessfully, I might add).
Soon enough the ferry landed, we got back in the car and made the final leg to the hotel for the night. It was great to be in a place with legitimate beds after spending so much time in the car, but it was BLAZING hot in the room so we were all sweating up a storm. Jim proceeded to go on a mission to turn off the heat, fiddling with the radiator and eventually taking Kingy’s knife and going on an expedition to the attic to find the source of the heat. Unsuccessful and unable to open the windows in our room, we had to settle for lying as still as possible on the beds so as to stay as cool as possible.
The night passed and this morning I was up at 6:30, packed my things and got the shuttle to the airport, which Jim was kind enough to get up and walk me to. I’m stunned and heartbroken that my trip is over. I tried to so hard not to cry this morning, but as I drove to the airport tears streamed down my face. I feel like I’ve only just arrived here and at the same time I feel like I’ve been here forever. England feels comfortable to me, it feels like home. Some of my best friends in the world are here, and seeing them all again only made me remember how much I love and care about them all.
So this is to you, my friend, who is reading this right now. Whether are are in the US or Europe or anywhere else in the world, this is to say thank you. Thank you for being my friend. I am nothing without you, and I am eternally grateful that I know you. My friends make my life complete, and I have been blessed with some of the best in the world. This trip has made me remember that.
I am now in the Heathrow airport, an hour from departure. I wish I could run away and stay here, but I can’t. My life at home is a complete train wreck of work and stress that I don’t really want to face, but my flight home says I have to. So thank you for a beautiful two weeks and a reaffirmation that life is, indeed, spectacular.
Let the adventure of life continue.
Jim showing Lindy all the snazzy things he did to the Land Rover
Lindy helping Kingy juggle
comfy comfy Carmalt living room
the start of the Alps photo shoot
and then Jim carried me around because I wasn’t wearing any shoes…
Arc de Triomphe
parked at the bottom of the tower: