Our transfer bus delivered us to the Novotel Tour Eiffel Hotel, in the final stages, through a warren of dark passageways, strewn here and there with the trash, odors and wikiups of the homeless. Not an auspicious introduction.
In the early evening we assembled with the rest of our Traflagar tour group for an introductory dinner at the “Chez Clement” restaurant on the Champs Elysees, just half a block down from the Arc de Triomph. Our companions were an eclectic bunch. Five were Canadians including us and a delightful threesome from Saskatchewan.There were twenty-six or so Australians, a couple folks from New Zealand, eleven Chinese and six Americans.
Our “tour director” was a young French woman named Cindy Cartier. She was to demonstrate extraordinary levels of energy, organizational skill, leadership ability and historical and geographical knowledge over the course of our tour.
Oh, and by the way, our roast chicken dinner was among the best such I have ever eaten. There was much consuming of wine by those at our table, comprised of the three from Saskatchewan, a gregarious woman from Virginia, and an English teacher from Australia. We were to happily retain that seating combination for much of our journey.
Following dinner we did a quick bus tour of some Parisian sights, driving down the Champs Elysees to the Place de la Concorde with its obelisk and various fountains. Across the Seine the former “Bourbon Palace,” now the National Assembly building, was all lit up for our visit, but traffic congestion prevented us from crossing the Pont de la Concorde to get closer. We motored past the Esplanade du Trocodero and the Eiffel Tower on our return to the hotel.