Our trip started fairly easily. I was traveling with my friend Rasa, having decided I was going to go to Disneyland Paris (which is exactly the same as EuroDisney, but not allowed to be called that anymore) and she had decided she wanted to accompany me. It worked out nicely since going to Disneyland by yourself just sucks. So we did a little bit of planning and plotting and had decided that the three full days we were going to be in France (we flew in on Monday afternoon and flew out early in the morning on Friday) would be spent at the two Disney parks (Disneyland and Disney Studios) and so bought three for two day tickets and were ready to go. Of course, since this was going to be Rasa’s first time in France she asked if we could somehow see the Eiffel Tower, so we figured we’d do that on Monday, after we got to town. With all this in mind, we headed out early to catch a train to Vilnius, where our plane left from.
Getting to the airport went off without a hitch and we split a sandwich while waiting to board. Here’s the thing about flying out of relatively small airports (and yes, despite being in the capital, Vilnius is a relatively small airport): You don’t really need to get there two-three hours early. Especially now that RyanAir has assigned seats and you don’t need to run like you’re being chased by bulls through the streets of Pamplona, there’s no need to rush. Getting through security is the same as anywhere else, but since there are far fewer people flying, there are fewer people going through the detectors. It just makes sense. Unfortunately, when you rely on public transportation, you get there when you can and when we could left us with plenty of time to grab some food. This would serve as a bit of breakfast and we figured we could eat a real meal later on. The flight itself was also uneventful and we landed at BVA (in Beauvais, France) slightly before schedule. My name was waiting at the SuperShuttle desk and we only had to wait a few minutes before our shuttle taking us to our hotel arrived. This is when I realized exactly how far we were from Paris itself. Slightly less than two hours later, we were in Serris, looking for our hotel. Seems it’s a new area (only 18 months or so) and the driver couldn’t find the place (and when he called, he must have gotten the only employee there who didn’t speak French). Eventually, we did find it, checked in, dropped our bags and asked for directions to the Eiffel Tower. To get to the train station, you actually have to walk through Disney security so we got our first glimpse of attractions like the “Tower of Terror” and Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. As we were in line buying our tickets, we were again reminded how far we were from Paris. The ticket agent was having the hardest time explaining to the people in front of us we were “not in Paris” and in order to get to the city required an expensive ticket on the train and about an hour plus of time. When it was our turn, we spent the extra euro to get the multi-pass instead of just the round trip fare. Since we didn’t know what to expect in Paris after the Tower, this seemed like the best bet. At this point, after 5 in the afternoon, I wasn’t even sure the Tower would be open for visitors by the time we finally arrived so it made sense to keep our options open. We needn’t have worried. We made our connections with no problem, got off at Embarcadero, turned a corner and there she was, in all her glory – La Tour Eiffel! We walked down to her (past way too many people aggressively selling cheap plastic and metal souvenir representations of said Tower) and found ourselves standing underneath the impressive metal frame.
The Tower was open for visitors until 23:45 so we were good. Of course, in order to go up, Rasa decided the stairs was the best plan (and also the shortest line) so we went for it. In line we met up with a nice family from Germany (now, but originally from the US) who were in town for an ice hockey tournament (the son plays forward). We chatted while we waited and then gave each other encouragement as we climbed the almost 700 steps to the second floor. You can only climb to the second floor – after that you have to take the elevator if you want to go all the way to the top, which we did. I mean seriously, who goes to La Tour Eiffel and doesn’t go all the way to the top? Well… the hockey playing son for one. He’s scared of heights and getting to the second floor was a big enough accomplishment for him. Rasa is also a little scared of heights, but like a trooper, she pressed on and we made it all the way to the highest point we could (almost 281 metres). The view from there is spectacular and we timed it perfectly so we could watch the sunset from the second highest point in France. We ascended in daylight and descended at night so we were able to see sights from both sides. We got lucky. And we still hadn’t eaten since that half sandwich in Vilnius. I was hungry! We were also a bit tired. There was only one hour time difference,but all that travel takes a toll on a body. It made sense to head back to the hotel after the Tower (it was going to be another hour or so back and the last train was at 23:30) but that didn’t stop us from making a slight detour to take a look at the Arc de Triomphe on Champs-Élysées, a street I’d at least heard of. My original thought, in my tired and hungry state, was that there should be restaurants there. As we started to walk, though, I remembered why I’d heard of it. It’s one of the most expensive streets in the world! Prices in the few restaurants we passed confirmed this so we ended up with burgers from McDonalds and eating them in the Metro station waiting for our train back to the hotel.