I caught the 6:30 bus from Reading Calcot on 18/07/2014, which was due to arrive in London Victoria at 8:00. However, it arrived about 20 minutes late. I then checked in at Victoria and boarded the 10:00 bus due to arrive in Paris at 18:45. The journey seemed efficient and we went through the Eurotunnel very quickly. When we reached Paris we got stuck in heavy traffic. The coach driver decided to take a detour to drop some passengers off at the airport, which he clearly didn't know his way around, as we circled one terminal several times. It was very convenient for those passengers, but the rest of us arrived at our destination 45 minutes late. I got on line 3 of the metro and went from Gallieni to Europe, which took about 20 minutes. I waited there for about 30 minutes until Maria arrived after finished work. We then headed to our hotel, Hotel New Orient, which was nearby. We then went out for dinner at a restaurant near the Saint-Lazare train station.
The next day we headed straight to the Eiffel Tower in order to avoid long queues, as advised by Wikitravel (which I have started to use for most of my trips). We paid €4 to climb up the stairs to the second floor, which was pretty exhausting. From there you can't walk, so we paid €6 to take the lift to the top. There is a restaurant on the first floor and a cafe on the second floor, where we got some drinks. At the top there is a bar where you can buy wine and champagne, but a small glass of champagne cost €12, so we decided against that. We were able to take the lifts all the way back down from the second floor free of charge, but I decided to walk. We arrived at 11:00 and left at about 14:00, so we got quite a lot of time enjoying the magnificent views.
Afterwards we ate some street food in Trocadéro. We then walked to the Arc de Triomphe, where we were able to climb to the top. We were able to do this for free because we are both European citizens under the age of 26. From the top there were great views of the streets and shops and we were able to see very far into the distance. I was feeling pretty rough by this time, because I was tired, dehydrated and had forgotten my sunglasses, so we walked down Avenue des Champs-Élysées to get a drink from McDonald's, found me some sunglasses in H&M and buy some posh macaroons from Ladurée. By this time we were exhausted, so we took the metro back to the hotel in time to get ready for the evening at Bateaux Parisiens.
At first I had intended to book a dinner cruise down the river Seine, but later realised I had booked a cruise and then dinner in the restaurant. When I asked to change it, I was asked to pay a cancellation fee on top of the money for the new tickets. For this reason I chose not to change my booking. It was the company's loss because they would have made more of a profit if I had upgraded. I think this was a really easy mistake to make and the website should be altered to avoid such mistakes in the future.
We arrived a little late for the 9pm cruise, so we were advised to have our meal first and take another cruise later. A cruise leaves every 30 minutes and we were told the last one would leave at 11pm. On a Saturday night in July, understandably the restaurant was busy. However, it took an hour for us to be seated. As there were just 2 of us, we clearly wanted a peaceful evening, but unfortunately we were seated next to a hen party, so we could barely hold a conversation. After the long wait, we didn't dare ask to be moved to another table! This definitely wasn't the atmosphere I had hoped for when I booked the cruise and dinner!
We were worried because by this time it was 10pm and we weren't sure that we were even going to make the last cruise. We told a member of staff about our concern, who suggested that we take a cruise tomorrow. However, we were leaving the next day and the concept of having the dinner and cruise on separate days felt disappointing. However, luckily due to the high demand, an extra cruise was organised for 11:30pm. The food was lovely, but we had to rush it in order to get to the cruise on time. The menu was different to the one I had seen online whilst making the booking, although this worked in my favour because I am vegetarian and there were more options for me. Being given a whole bottle of wine instead of half made it a lot more bearable. All the other cruises looked really crowded and cramped, but the 11:30pm cruise had a lot less people, so that was one good outcome of the stressful situation. If you are looking for a peaceful or romantic cruise, I would recommend booking this when it isn't a busy time (in the late evening is good, and then you also get to see the lights at night), or choosing a different cruise.
On Sunday we got up slightly later, checked out of the hotel and headed to the Louvre museum with the intention of seeing the Mona Lisa. However, the queue was huge and we had others plans we also wanted to fit in to the day, so we decided against it. We navigated our way to Notre Dame Cathedral and got in for free. It wasn't the most impressive cathedral I've seen, but it's near the top of the list!
We then found Rue Rambuteau, a street with many posh bakeries and shops that Maria wanted to see. By this time we became pretty tired again, because our bodies were still aching from the day before. We had a look round some shops before heading to Pont des Arts, the bridge where lovers attach locks and throw the keys into the river. I read beforehand that some parts of the fence had collapsed due to the weight of the locks and there were several new sections when I saw it! Finally, we enjoyed a walk along the river Seine, went to see the Moulin Rouge and ate dinner in a restaurant nearby before parting ways at Saint-Lazare metro station.
I returned from Paris at 23:30 on 20/07/2014 and was due to arrive in London Victoria at 7:00. I was planning to sleep for most of the journey, but was woken up at 1:30 when we stopped at the services, 3:00 to go through UK border control (which took an hour), 5:00 to board the ferry (after queuing for an hour) and at 7:00 to get back off the ferry. Obviously I didn't get much sleep. Due to the holdup at border control and waiting for the ferry, I arrived at London Victoria at 9:00, 2 hours later than anticipated and I had missed my 8:00 bus to Reading Calcot.
Surprisingly, after being awake for most of the past 24 hours, I didn't fancy waiting until 13:00 for the next direct bus to Reading. Instead, I was put on the 10:00 bus to Heathrow Airport, where I changed at 11:10 to the bus to Reading Calcot (both of which I had to force myself to stay awake on in order to avoid missing my stop). I finally arrived at my destination at 11:45; 13 hours after departure and 2 hours later than I had expected.
The buses that I went on for the short journeys were actually much more spacious and comfier than the ones I went on for the long journeys. Although the shorter journeys were on National Express and not Eurolines, I still think more comfort should be provided for longer journeys. I also think more comfortable buses should be provided for journeys during the night. Furthermore, returning on the ferry didn't make much sense to me, as the Eurotunnel seemed much more efficient, faster and allows the passengers to stay on the bus and sleep.