Bonsoir, Mon Amie! I have returned from gay Paree!
My morning started with a chuckle today. While we were waiting for our Paris tour to depart, the person running the shore excursions kept repeating, "Everyone on the Parasites tour please check in." It reminded me of a line by comic Jackie Mason when he spoke of going to Paris to visit the "Parisites."
We had booked the "Paris Sights with Lunch" tour. Normally, I'm not a "group bus tour" kind of guy. But because this was my first visit to Paris since 1972 (when I had hair halfway down my back, and I was driving a Volkswagen van around Europe), I thought I would let someone else worry about getting us there and showing us around.
Today reminded me why I don't care for bus tours. To begin with, the bus we traveled in should have a height restriction: No one taller than 5'5" should be allowed on. The seating arrangements on this bus were so tight that even Mrs. Kuki had difficulty fitting in without having her knees jammed against the seat in front. At 6'4", I had no choice but to sit sideways, with my legs entirely in the aisle. This made the two-and-a-half hour drive to Paris almost unbearably uncomfortable. To make matters worse, even after reaching Paris, the first three hours of this tour turned out to be one those "see Europe out the window of a bus" tours.
During the entire first few hours, we had only two 10-minute stops strictly for photo ops. The lunch portion of the tour was on a cruise along the Seine River, and due to my displeasure with the earlier part of the tour, I almost took Mrs. Kuki and bailed out. She convinced me to give the river cruise a shot, and I'm certainly happy we did, as this was the best part of the tour. The food was surprisingly tasty, and even better was the excellent perspective we had for seeing many of the most famous structures of Paris.
After lunch, our tour went to Notre Dame Cathedral, with an hour of free time for shopping or looking around. Mrs. Kuki was disappointed to learn that the short amount of shopping time was in one of the few parts of Paris where there is no shopping, other than a string of souvenir stores.
I suppose I have to accept some responsibility for choosing this tour to begin with, but I didn't understand the language in the tour descriptions. When they said the tour would visit certain sites, they didn't mean we would actually stop to see them, but rather would have a view of them through a coach window.
Celebrity also offered other Paris tours, but even if we had booked "Paris on Your Own," it would have meant riding the same uncomfortable bus to and from. I think for my next visit to Paris from Le Havre, I'll find my own guide/car for the day, or take the train to Paris, independently.
Having said all of that, Paris is certainly an impressive city, offering quite a mix of the historical and the modern and cosmopolitan. It feels as if there is one café for each citizen of Paris. Mrs. Kuki will have to wait for her next visit to see the world-renowned high fashion shops, or at least wait until we get to Monaco.
Following our day in Paris, we had a day at sea onboard the Constellation. We slept late to recharge, and prepare for the next ports of call in Spain and Portugal.
We had the opportunity this afternoon to tour the bridge of the Constellation, hosted by Rear Admiral Angelos Argyropoulos, Celebrity's Senior Vice President of Marine Operations; and by the Constellation's Master, Captain Gerassimos Andrianatos. We learned a great deal about the way the physical plant of the ship operates, and her sophisticated safety features.
Considering the problems Celebrity encountered a few months ago with the azipod system on the Summit and Infinity, I asked the Admiral what type of warranty these ships had coming out of the shipyard. I joked with him, asking if like a new car purchase, they had taken out an extended warranty package.
He told us the ships have a one-year warranty coming out of the shipyard. Of the Millennium class ships, the warranty has already expired on the Millennium, and Infinity's warranty expires next week. A rather odd bit of information I suppose, but interesting.
We have late-seating dinner, and we've been enjoying the food and service and the company at dinner so much we have yet to leave the dining room before 11 p.m. As a result, we haven't even made it to the theater for a show yet.
Tomorrow we're docking in Vigo, Spain, and Mrs. Kuki and I are planning to explore on our own.
To be continued...