Thursday 5 Apr, 2012

Paris Day Trip Surprise

Bobby McCutcheon has been a group leader on two EF tours and has tours confirmed for the Summers of 2012 and 2013. He is currently the assistant principal/athletic director at South Harrison High School in Bethany, MO where he resides with his wife and three children. Bobby is a 2005 graduate of the University of Missouri and holds a Masters degree from William Woods University. His travel interests include flying, local cuisine, and architecture.

I have come to realize that some of the most magical moments on an EF Tour are the ones that are not on the itinerary. Sure, the planned activities are great—the Eiffel tower, the Louvre, Buckingham Palace, but some of my fondest memories remain the things we did on our own, during free time.

Let me give you an example.

Les Invalides in Paris, France

Les Invalides

During one summer trip to London, Paris, and Rome, six students and I had opted for a free day in Paris as opposed to the optional excursion to Versailles. We set out that morning to the metro with one goal in mind—to retrieve a shoe that had been “inadvertently kicked” into the dry moat surrounding Les Invalides. How this size 14, black and white Nike wound up at the bottom of the moat is still shrouded in mystery. I simply know that while on a quick photo-op stop the previous day we had all left the coach with two shoes and one of my boys returned with only one.

Leaving the metro we stepped out into a light drizzle and made our way to the resting place of Napoleon. It was a typical Parisian summer day—a nice breeze, warm, with the occasional shower. As we rounded the corner past Rodin’s “The Thinker” we were all shocked to find the shoe still in the moat! Now mind you, we had devised no plan to retrieve the shoe and worst of all, our French was limited to the occasional “Merci” and “Excusez-moi”. After spending several minutes in the rain staring at the shoe as if by sheer will power we could lift it from the moat, we decided to approach one of the French guards for help. To be correct, we made the boy responsible for the incident approach the guard, the rest of us stood under a nearby tree to avoid the rain (and to see if the boy got arrested). After a lot of gesturing and broken English the shoe was saved! We were all eternally grateful to the guards for their patience. I’m sure we were the butt of many French jokes that day.

With the lost shoe safely in tow we decided to find lunch. Not wanting to walk far in the rain we opted for the dining hall connected to Les Invalides. We walked inside and then promptly walked back out. We did not eat the food so I will reserve judgment; however, if the smell was any indication then we made a wise choice to leave. By this time the rain was clearing and we decided to walk in the general direction of the Louvre. After a few blocks, one of the girls on the trip pointed out an Indian restaurant. Stopping outside the door of the restaurant we were almost immediately greeted by the restaurant’s manager. After a little coaxing that the food was terrific and the price fair, we made our way inside.

The place was amazing; elaborately decorated in Indian décor, the restaurant was quaint with a touch of elegance. Our waiter arrived dressed to the nines and walked us through the menu (none of us had eaten Indian food before!). After some friendly banter with a regular sitting in the table next to us our food arrived. It was delicious. Each meal was presented on its own serving tray with all of the usual spices—curry, ginger, garlic, etc. The kids were wowed. “Best meal I’ve ever had” was a common phrase used that day. We finished our meals, paid our tickets, and walked back out into the picture perfect Parisian day with full bellies and finally, with all our shoes on.

What memories do you have that were unplanned?

Flickr photo via Vigour