27.09.2015 - 27.09.2015
After a 142 day experiment i've definitely come to the conclusion that a memory foam pillow is not for me! I've tried to get on with it, i really have, but more often or not i a) miss hugging a feathered one b) wake up with a sore neck or c) wake up with an aching lower back as i'm putting my shoulders on the pillow so not to get a sore neck!!! Maybe i'm just not using it right but after all this time i think i know i'm a feather kind of girl!
So the information that i've managed to conjure up is that the charity bike riders will be in Paris by the afternoon and they are finishing at the Eiffel Tower...that's all the information i need right?!! Okay, as i'm only a street away from the campsite i wake up before 8am so that i can be knocking at their door for when they open, that way i can warm myself up with a shower straight away and put the 2 loads of washing on...chores to be done ever before we hit the city! Just after 8am and i'm in with the receptionist looking at me in which to wonder where i'd come from and what time i started this morning so i was with them at the crack of dawn...nope, just me being a cheap skate as it means i can use the shower and toilet this morning as well as tomorrow before i go for just the price of a one night stay...again the simple things in life, and of which you take for granted!
She is slow at checking me in as she's dealing with one of the cleaners with printing a sheet off of some kind as i try to stand away from them just in case (with the lack of baby wipes and deodorant applied this morning with the promise of a shower) the smell is wafting. Finally she's checking me in and i ask for a night, a day travel ticket and 2 tokens for a wash, and 2 for a dry...she asks if i've been here before as i seem to know this place. Yep, sure have and she retrieved my details from the nights i stayed here for on the 2nd and 3rd May; and there i was in the system to pull on up. I still remember those dates as a) it was only a couple of days into the trip and b) Day 3 will always be remembered for the blood, sweat and tears day of my lost phone, the pour down to sunshine weather and my baboon's toe by the end of it with a bus driver who refused to allow me on to get back to the campsite at gone 9pm at night.
We park up a few patches down from where we were before and i see that they've finished off one of the shower cubicles they were doing when i was last here. So with only free internet in the cafe area, and too expensive to buy, i put on the £3 charge for my contract allowance use as i need to keep track of a) where they are and b) if i miss them then i'll need to contact them, with the hope that they are using their phones in France! Washing tokens, after waiting 45 minutes, were finally ready at reception for me to retrieve as she didn't have any when i checked in, then it took a while to find the place. I went to the new shower block where they normally are and nothing, a cleaner pointed me down to reception to tell me, reception said that it was after the bungalows on the right but all i found was an old shower block which is no longer in use as its locked and dirty looking, so then back to the cleaner who told me that reception would let me know....circles here guys!! Finally the cleaner walked me down the pathway and pointed to the brown bungalow and to go left down there, but that's the old dirty locked up shower block. If only i'd gone to the side of the building then that would have made much more sense as there they were!
There were only 2 of the 5 washing machines working and those 2 were being used darn it...on a schedule here! One finishes in 9 minutes and the other 14 so i hang around as i would like to put the loads in whilst i have a shower, so not wasting too much time. One finishes and just as it does the cleaner, who was at reception this morning, came in and transferred them into the dryer (without putting it on) as she looked at the other that wasn't finished and left...so it wasn't the tokens that were required, it was that she needed to use them first, sneaky! So one load in and as the other finished and she hadn't come back so i put them in the dryer with the others and left them there whilst i went to the shower. Luckily i was hanging around as there was a couple who wished to use them and then two lads rocked up in their black VW van...nope, this is all mine!!
Shower done and i head on back to find the loads were pretty much finished but the dryer by the cleaner hadn't been put on as yet...you snooze you lose as i'm not waiting for yours to be put on and then finish to put mine in...as the zeros came up on the washing machines i took her wet cloths out of the dryer to put mine in, just as the lads came to use the two now free washing machines. Dryer on for me but luckily i stayed to check all was okay as i put everything of the 2 loads into 1 as it seemed to be big enough....but the wheel thing wasn't moving, just the heat you could hear blasting on out and the smell of burning. Erm, is the dryer broken as i'm not sure i can dry these wet clothes in this weather, and to make matters worse i actually have no clothes to wear as i was down to nothing...i'm here wearing shorts and a vest t-shirt with a jacket on to keep the cold away!! I take a few items out, the heavy ones like the towel and the duvet, and then the wheel started to turn, phew! Half an hour later the next goes into the dryer and we are done...ready to head to Paris!!
At the bus stop we only have to wait a few minutes until bus number 101 pops on round to pick us up and take us to the station. At this time its 12.30pm and i'll be in Paris by 1pm which means i should have enough time to walk through Paris and see them at the finishing line...all going to plan at the moment. At the point of the bus turning up Ellie decides to have a poo whilst the doors are now opening...come on Ellie, poo it on out!! With the poop bag in hand its thrown into the bin next to us (very handy, thanks Ellie) and i'm just about to step onboard when the doors close. Come on, you have to be kidding!!! The bus needs to swing all the way round as its a dead end here to go back the way it came in and so i flagged it down when he did...but he waved back and kept on moving as i was crossing the road in-front of it so he could open the doors. No such luck!!!
I HATE PARIS!!!! All swear words were coming out of me, directed mainly with the bus driver in mind, and i wanted to Room 101 that bus once and for all as when i tried to return on it the last time I was here the driver refused to take me...different driver but same bus! I look to the bus timetable and see that they are running every 15 minutes which means that there must be 2 buses running whilst one is at the station one is here as its only about 5-8 minutes down the road. And so i wait, and wait and wait for over 20 minutes and wonder where it is...then i see that i was looking at the weekday timetable and not Saturday's in which they run every half an hour...so one bus only for today and another 10 minutes to wait!! Now i really was cursing him as when i looked onto Facebook at 12.05pm Mel posted a picture saying that they only had 32 miles left to do and by my calculation it could be touch and go if i would see them at the finishing line.
A few minutes to go until the bus is back and with it being the same driver i decide to give him the benefit of the doubt as when i was picking up Ellie's business was he really taking note of who was around and then thought he knew me as he waved back with a smile as i waved to him...we'll see. I hear the bus and as i look up i see that it is the same driver and as i boarded he looked at me with sorrow in his eyes as asked if i was actually wishing to get the bus when he was last here, as now 30 minutes later i'm still stood where he waved to me. Yes, i said. He apologised so much that i forgave him and Paris, as he thought that i was just out walking Ellie and not wishing to catch the bus. Okay, so instead of a leisurely time to getting to the Eiffel Tower its a quick march as i've come all this way that i have to see them ride on through!
At the station i remember that once the ticket has popped back out for you to retrieve it that you push the barrier open...noted from the last time i got confused! Onto the train and then i really didn't know which stop i should be getting off at as last time we stepped off at Gare de Lyon but that was on the other opposite side of Paris to the Eiffel Tower was. I google and as luck would have it i manage to find a site in which is like the london one at home stating where you are, where you'd like to go to (accepts places, not just train / train / metro / bus stops) so with Tour Eiffel (googled French saying) i had the quickest route and Charles de Gaulle was the station now to get off. All things are easy when you have your data roaming on but at £3 a day to use it, and the data goes down quite a lot and expensive afterwards, i've had to do things the old fashion ways with real maps!
Charles de Gaulle comes and we are off, well wander around aimlessly as we go through the labyrinth of tunnels from the platform to get out. Finally i manage to do so and as we step on outside we see the top of the Eiffel Tower and headed in that direction. As i did a man asked me where it was and i said i'm heading just in the direction as i saw it and pointed that way...don't think he took me up on that offer as he walked off in the opposite direction i think to ask someone else who did more than a finger point guess...can't see why! Looking at the Tower it didn't seem too far away so instead of taking the two buses the planner stated we walked instead. Its now 1.45pm and i'm hoping that i haven't missed them, but at 12.05pm when the photo was uploaded they were no near their bikes and i wondered if they were having lunch first. So say they left at 12.30pm, doing 10mph on average they'd be in Paris by just after 3.30pm so we still have time...unless they are doing 15mph on average and therefore cycling the last part in two hours?!? How fast are they cycling?!!? One thing i do know, from googling any company that does this as i couldn't find anywhere on their Just Giving page or on Facebook which one it was, that it seems they meet up somewhere in Paris to then come in as a group to the Eiffel Tower as there will be different fitness levels, just how fit were this group. Well Mel hadn't done much training so i'm going with a low fitness rate and therefore slow cycling speed!
Its 2.30pm and i've made it to the Eiffel Tower at least...but now i'm left wondering where do they come from when they get here?!?!? With a 1000+ tourists and four roads surrounding the Tower how am i going to spot them, now this isn't quite where i thought this one through...and worst of all, what if they are already here and i've missed them?!?! I check Facebook and nothing....so if i was them and at the finishing line i'd put something up surely of this massive achievement, or is that just me?!? So i head to the centre spot where you can look up into the midst of the Tower and i'm thinking this isn't a great place to meet as its just packed here, no room for people, never mind people on bikes. So next i go to the road which is quieter and away from the main road by the River which they could ride into, and where the tourists buses park. Could it be here, and one of these bus picks them up to take them to their hotel as i've seen a coach with a bike rack on the back before...but these don't seem big enough for a bike rack, and just how many cyclists were there anyway on this thing?!?
So next plan....i ask a walking tour guide girl who's getting ready to receive her group and i ask her in her experience where the cyclists would come from, which road? She didn't know exactly but assumed that it would be the main one by the river...okay, she's kinda on the same lines of me. So i sat on the river bank looking at the main road that goes past the tower with it being on your left or right hand side but where would they stop afterwards?! I google London to Paris and that's when it struck me, all 3 routes that it suggested came over the bridge from the other side of the river to which i'm on and then they were directly facing the Eiffel Tower as they crossed it. That's a much better view with it being in-front of you and then you turn onto the this main road to go around it...they have to come over the bridge. So just as i'm crossing the road to the side that they'll be riding on, i see a group of around 20 cyclists come on over the bridge, doing a whoop whoop at the traffic lights as its on red with the Tower in front of them and then turned right. As i was at the red signal myself to cross the road to where they were i tried to look at each of their faces but i didn't recognise Mel, Michelle or Wendy, but mind you they were all wearing the same green top with a purple logo on it (started with M the charity), with helmets and sunglasses on!!
As they turned the corner i raced over to see that the support van behind them said Skyline and so i googled them of which they do do the London to Paris bike ride it shows. So is that the only group doing it, have i missed them, if not then is this the route they'd come...so many questions!!! As i look around to see where they went i ran over to the Tower and over to the gardens on the other side but i don't see them...where do they stop?! I race on back as i don't want to miss them come on over if that wasn't them...but if it was them then i'm standing here for nothing, waiting for nothing...and how long do i stand here waiting for nothing?!? I also don't want to contact them as if they know i'm here then that's the surprise over!! So instead i put on a photo of Ellie under the Eiffel Tower onto Facebook as they'll only be looking at that after they've finished, and then see that i'm here to contact. But there's a lot of but's in my calculations!! Its like those books i read as a child that if i wanted to use my dagger (turn to page 52), gun (turn to page 71) or magic potion (turn to page 25) to kill the dragon then you'd have a sneaky look at all to see if your choice would kill you before making another!
Okay, so i see from the bridge that over the main road, through the crowd underneath the tower, and half way into the gardens beyond, a line of green t-shirts. Think i've found the group that went past me! So i run on over as if its not them then again i need to waste no time in finding out so that i can race back to the bridge to see them...whenever that may be! I see one of the organisers and as i speak to him i already know from passing the cyclists that its not them, and also that they are wearing one charity t-shirt and my three are doing it for three separate charities. I ask if this is the only bike ride group and he knows that there are others behind him, okay so behind is a good start. He doesn't know who else and as i ask him if the bridge and this meeting place was the ride they'd do also he couldn't speak for the others but that's mainly the route in. Okay, i think i'm getting somewhere...quick Ellie to the bridge as we don't want to now miss them!!
At the bridge we stand and after 45 minutes I see a group of cyclists but they all wearing the same tops and from the picture Mel put up they were all wearing different ones...not sure its them but i get to see all of their faces as they passed. Nope not them. Hour later and another group go on past...nope, not them too. The one bonus is that this must be the main route in, there isn't another one you'd wish to come from as you want to see the Tower in-front of you as you cross the bridge. As I look over to the gardens to both groups (seems to be organised maybe as they are spread out so they can use the same area to take photos and see their supporters) at their time of coming into Paris they stopped where the first group did. Okay, think i've definitely got this.
After scanning Facebook feeds, and looking at their pages separately in case it didn't come up for some reason on the feed, I see that Michelle says that they here, they've made it to Paris...they are at the Louvre at 3pm. At this point i'm cursing Mel so much as she said the Eiffel Tower, and why would you stop there...the Tower is the main symbol of Paris is it not?!? Didn't quite make sense but i ran over to the bus as with it being a 45 minute walk i wasn't feeling in the mood for that! Just as i was about to walk onto the bus i saw a message back from Michelle as i said that Mel said the Eiffel Tower!! Luckily i could step back off as the message said that they are finishing at the Eiffel Tower, just that they are having a drink whilst they wait for the others to join them and they'll come in as a group. Now that makes sense! As she's on Facebook she will be able to see the picture and comment i've put up of us being in Paris so i told her that i'd stay where i am and wait by the bridge to see them cross over. Right...at least i haven't missed them!!
So back to the bridge once more and we wait whilst i hear and see an English talking couple and a woman talking about if this is where they'd come into...i'm guessing they are here for the same! I go over to talk to them and explain that from my now expertise knowledge, and inside information from someone in the group via Facebook, that they are waiting for the others before coming on over and so yes this is the right spot to see them and that they'll meet up in the gardens across the road. So we wait...and wait...and wait...and then myself and Ellie go for a walk up and down the bridge to stretch our legs and upon our return we come back to a relieved couple and the woman as they thought i knew something and left as they couldn't see me no more! Nope, just stretching our legs! They ask for an update and i mentioned that the reason i decided to stretch my legs it that the people i'm here to see one of them has just put a picture up on Facebook of them all sitting down having a glass of wine at 3.24pm!!!
And so we waited, and waited, and we chatted as as it turns out she's waiting for her husband to come on through with the couple being her parents-in-law. She also mentioned that there were around 150 of them, wow 150!!!!...and so we waited, getting a bit nippy now as the sun is nearly setting!! Finally near to 6pm they come on through, we can see a group of cyclists at the traffic lights ready to come on over the bridge from the other side. They spot their son and her husband, its them....but where are mine?!? This has to be the group but mind you with 150 cyclists they are not crossing that red light at the same time to turn onto the bridge. So the next load come...nope, then the next...nope, then the next...nope. Come on, you've got to be here somewhere!!! Finally i see Wendy cycle on down and as i do i hear 'BROOOOWWWNNNIIIEEEE!!!! from half way across the bridge, 'MEEEEELLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!', i shout back!! With some of the other supporters here, we were the only ones to make such a fuss, and in a loud way for the whole of Paris to hear! Lots of turning heads i noticed from the tourists. As Wendy comes up to the lights on red, near to where i'm standing, i did think that just 150 yards away from the finishing line that she may have needed an ambulance instead and not finish her challenge as when she went to high five me, as she couldn't keep me hanging, she nearly fell off her bike!! Then i thought the same when Mel arrived as Ellie nearly knocked her off her bike as she was jumping up and down pleased to see her!! Michelle being behind all this commotion managed to go round us so she's safely through...reminds me of bit of the Tortoise and the Hare!
The lights are on green and off they head but at least i know where they are heading off too and so do i, there they are finally at the meeting place where other supporters are waiting and photos being taken of the massively amazing challenge that they've taken on, and succeeded. Well done all!! Turns out Mel had a tear in her eye with her wine in hand (!!) when Michelle was confused over my message of waiting by the bridge to see them that she said i couldn't be as i was in Germany somewhere. She was adamant and went to look at her phone to get my itinerary out to see where i was meant to be but after Michelle showed her the photo i put up that's when it hit her...yep i'm in Paris!! One of the ladies they were riding with said how nice it was for me to surprise them at the end whilst cycling to the meeting point, and as she did she then was in tears herself as her husband and child surprised her too! So photos were taken, with sore legs and sore bits needed to just endure one more thing, and that was the cycle to the hotel they were staying at!
I took the map from Mel of the hotel and walked on over where i used their toilet and had a quick drink with them at the hotel bar before they all walked as a group to the other hotel where the remainder of the group were staying (so large the group they were always split up during the days of cycling) but on this final night they get to all sit together in one hotel restaurant and celebrate. That's when i said my goodbyes and let them have a few drinks to soften the pain and celebrate their amazing achievement. So back to Charles de Gaulle, even though we walked further away from their hotel to the others from the station i decided to walk on back to see Paris at night. Now the last train home was after 11pm sometime but the last bus from the station to the campsite was at 10.40pm so i needed to get a train at around 10-10.15pm. After leaving them at 8pm i had plenty of time to walk there...didn't i?!
So there i was, ready to walk straight to the station but i could see the Eiffel Tower lit up, so you really have to go and take a photo of that at least. Photos taken, toilet used, the flashing of the Tower began which said that it was 9pm, having a good hour to walk to the station just a 25 minute walk away. Then i faffed around taking more photos, photos from across the bridge, photos of Ellie but the light wasn't quite right. Then to the station i walked down the most expensive street in Paris as there was the Four Seasons Hotel looking grand in front of me with a Lamborghini outside in a blue electric colour and gold trim on all corners of the body stuck out. Finally i see the station and i'm certain that the last time i left Mel in a major city that i wouldn't have a disaster in getting home. This time i'm catching the train and not having to walk the length of the city and taking me over 6 hours to do so as the 6 hour drive here yesterday was enough!!!
Platform found and so far so good, next train coming in looked like it was delayed but we still had time to catch that bus...just, but being the last train coming in at that time the bus will wait to return us. At the stop we head on out and walk to the numbered 101 bus stop at the end of the others but no bus but its only 10.38pm so maybe its not quite here yet. Yet there's no one else at this bus stop also behind me that's come off...hmmmm. As i've been here before i look to the electric board and it states the line was terminated...erm, what do you mean terminated?!?!? Now this is the story as i know it, the people i speak of here may say differently in a court of law, but the story goes something like this. I asked the receptionist this morning what time the last bus was, she mentioned 10.40pm i'm sure; when i asked the bus driver what time the last one was (the one i got off this morning) he said 9.20pm, or was it 8.45pm...he was confused of his own timetable!! I took the word of the receptionist but what i did have to say in their defence is, a) i had half an hour at the bus stop this morning to look at the timetable b) i looked at the timetable that the bus driver had in-front of him as i asked him the question but listened to him instead an then took no notice of him. I remember seeing 22-- but not the minutes, just the hour, that's the other reason why i took no notice of him.
The last bus, as it turns out, was 10.20pm so i needed the train before mine, then i would have been home safe and sound but why would i change a habit of a lifetime with being in a major city and something going wrong! Luckily as i've done this bus trip 3 times now, and i always look on out to see my surroundings, i took the road of the route and began the walk back. It was only a 5-8 minute bus drive as i've stated previously of which there were only 5 stops and moved slowly due to the majority of the route being on narrow roads so can't be too bad. I walk over the bridge and turn left into the narrow roads, so far so good as i come across stop number 2 and there is a map on it of which i can see the campsite up and to the right. I take a photo just in case i get lost but it only took less than 20 minutes to walk back so all is good...until i remember that the campsite shuts at 11pm!!!!
Now does the whole place shut at 11pm, i have a code to gain access but is that only until 11am as there is a gate in which is in-front of the barriers to get back in...does that apply to pedestrians also?? As we're now into quick march mode i go over in my head of the half an hours wait for the bus this morning to see if i can remember any way into the campsite should it all be locked up. The time is 10.58pm and i'm just turning the last corner, under the railway bridge, and its right there on the right hand side in the cul de sac the gate. Bang on 11pm and i see a guy at the security gate who's out with his keys and i don't look back as i'm through and i don't need to see if my journey may have ended with closed gates and no where to sleep if it all went wrong....lets just put that down as an issue that needn't be addressed!