On a group excursion to celebrate Jimbo's birthday, we set off for Paris at 6am on the dot. We got lost twenty minutes later.
The trip from Amsterdam through Belgium and down to Paris should take 5 hours. This is only if you actually know where you're going in the first place and only if you don't decide to drive through Paris on Bastille Day... Turns out that the storming of the Bastille and the whole French Revolution was kind of a big thing to the Parisians.
Mills and I were also travelling with the most conscientious of drivers. If the speed limit was 110km/h, he was doing 108km/h. True, safe driving is good driving but kind of frustrating when you're supposed to be travelling in convoy and the others aren't interested in slowing down. When it came to changing lanes, he was also very conscientious about checking his blind spots and then swerving as fast as possible into the next lane. Sitting in the backseat I was being flung around like a ragdoll on a rollercoaster ride. My seatbelt was responding accordingly and kept choking me with each jerky movement.
Trying to get through Paris on Bastille Day is like trying to cut through Joburg on the 94.7 cycle race. On the upside, we managed to drive past the Charles de Gaulle, Moulin Rouge, the Louvre, the zoo AND Gare d'Austerlitz. For those not familiar with Paris (I wasn't until we drove it for a few hours): that's like driving from Joburg-International-O.R.-Thambo airport via Joburg Zoo, Gold Reef City, Monte Casino and Newtown, just to get to Sandton City (Except for with more people and parades filling the streets).
We would miss a turn and then find ourselves stuck in one way traffic with no option but to keep going straight for kilometres on end. Eventually the other two cars in our convoy (who had reached Paris a good forty minutes ahead of us) gave up on trying to cut through Paris and simply parked where they could find parking and walked the rest of the way to our hotel. We didn't have this option as we found ourselves in yet another string of one-way traffic, with no choice but to follow the road into an underground tunnel. We had no idea where we were going to pop out.
... surfacing like blind mole rats, the slowest car in the group suddenly popped out on the south side of the Seine, in the Latin quarter, about 2km from our hotel. And... oh look! Underground parking, practically under our hotel. How nice.
In a reconstruction of the tortoise and the hare, we checked into our rooms, unpacked, freshened up and found a good spot on a terrace where we could point and laugh at the rest of our sweaty companions as they arrived.
We spent the rest of the day arbly ambling around the city, stopping to take pictures and sample some wine. We established that the main Bastille Day celebration is a spectacular firework display along the river Seine, in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower. Not having a clue where the fireworks were actually launched from, we made our way to the river and managed to find the worst place to watch - but we did get to hear a lot of explosions. I'm sure it looked lovely to people who could see through the trees and buildings.
It was a long way to drive for one night, but so worth it - even if we couldn't see the fireworks too well. After a good Bastille Day party, we got off to a slow start on Sunday and did more of the same arb ambling.
5pm rolled around and we headed back to our car (handily parked undercover, while the others made the trek, praying that their illegally parked vehicles would still be in one piece) and Mills and I began our speed-conscious journey home - complete with boa constrictor seatbelt - to the tunes of the Greatest Hits of Bollywood. Awesome.