Our arrival in Paris was one eagerly awaited for after the many hours spent travelling throughout the previous night and day. At last, we were here. The city of buzz. The city of fashion. The city of history. Here we stood as travellers, a small group of 24 pilgrims compared to the estimated 44 million tourists that would visit the city this year.
We knew that we were pilgrims but at this stage we really wanted to be tourists – and our wish was granted!
The majority of the first day was allocated as free time and small groups formed to head off in various directions depending on interests and intended itineraries. There was a certain amount of apprehension as one considered navigating the Metro and interacting with the locals and the language but the excitement of being in a different country easily overcame this.
As the group reconvened at the nominated time of 3.30pm, amusing stories and anecdotes bubbled forth. Stories that included discovering the Dome by drinking red wine whilst posing as Australian wine judges and interactions with the gendarmes about the correct place to ride a bicycle surfaced. It also became apparent that not all had made it back! However, by 4.30pm, we were all being welcomed by Br Amile and Br Michelle to the Marist residence in Paris. This time allowed us to connect at an international, yet very personal level with “things Marist” and to share in this worldwide sense of purpose.
Later that evening, the group reconvened under the Eiffel Tower to enjoy a boat ride down the river Seine and to be treated to the spectacular vision of the tower at night and its very special light show. The journey home was eventful with half the group left at the train station and then various people alighting at different stations to test theories of which station was closest to the hotel – whilst personal pride was at stake this challenge gave great evidence that bonds were beginning to already form within the group.