Woah, it’s been a long time since I posted about our travels and now I already have another trip to write about!
We started out the Paris leg of our journey by taking a cab to the train station – St. Pancreas. We arrived a little early to be on the safe side, which just gave us time to peruse the little grocery store to get some goodies for the trip and a coffee shop before checking in. If you are a hot chocolate fan like myself you
need HAVE to try a Cafe Nero hot chocolate, I’m just sad that I didn’t try one until we were leaving London, as they were seriously more prevalent than Starbucks! Super creamy and thick, definitely not what my Keurig makes at home :-\ We got all checked in and went through security (got another stamp on our passports 😉 and boarded the train, as stated in a previous post, we used Seat 61 to help purchase our Eurostar tickets. We wanted to face the direction we were traveling so we could see the countryside better. The train was pretty pleasant, it was a direct trip and took only about 2 1/2 hours, I may or may not have taken a pretty fantastic nap, what’s new right? While I wasn’t napping I read up on Paris, I skimmed the Lonely Planet: Pocket Guide of Paris on my Kindle.
My hot chocolate and my cutie train partner
Lenton watching the beautiful English/French countryside, not really sure where this was at lol.
Now this is where the fun begins…not. We arrived in Paris a little before lunch time. We had pretty much become pros of the London tube by this point so I wasn’t expecting much trouble with the Paris underground. I was definitely wrong. I had heard about a lot of scams with “taxi drivers” charging way more than a normal rate to get tourists to their hotels so I was pretty certain we didn’t want to do that. So we decided to take the underground but that proved much harder than anticipated. In London we got the Oyster card which you just loaded with money but in Paris each direction is something like $1.50, so even though we had to take two separate trains it was still the $1.50, in London it would have been two separate fairs. And you had to buy printed tickets which were much more of a pain to keep track of than the card was. But we did finally figure it out and we got to the stop closest to our hotel and walked the rest of the way. Thankfully they let us check into out room early and we proceeded to nap most of the afternoon away. I know, what a boring way to spend our first afternoon in Paris, but after getting up really early and all the traveling and stress, we were just done. After a good nap we felt a little better and needed some dinner, we didn’t want to venture too far so we ate in the hotel. Not a bad meal but nothing real memorable, however the hotel bar that served Corona was top notch! So that was our eventful first day in Paris!
The view from our hotel, the tower was a
little lot obstructed by another hotel…grrr!
For our first full day in Paris we decided to put the first day behind us and start fresh! We didn’t really have much of an itinerary going into the day but we knew we needed to find Trocadero, which is right on the other side of the river from the Eiffel Tower. This is where we were to meet our photographer for our session so we wanted to make sure we knew where it was and it was kind of on the way to the Arc De Triomphe, which we knew we wanted to see. So we started out the day with a little early lunch at a cafe with an Tower view, it was quaint and very French.
Our lunch on our first full day in Paris
We then took off walking towards the Eiffel Tower to do some sightseeing. It was a beautiful, warm day so we soaked it all in. We walked all around the tower and then onto the Arc De Triomphe, it was a pretty long walk, but we decided we would walk off our lunch and see more of the city that way.
The River Seine
The Arc de Triomphe was pretty cool, such a huge architectural structure literally smack dab in the middle of an intersection, but then also it’s beautiful, it’s strange lol. What was probably the most interesting thing though was the TRAFFIC! There was probably at least 5 lanes of traffic circling the Arc and there were no marked lanes at all! So cars were racing around this circle like it’s an autobahn, cutting across lanes, cutting people off, braking, it was crazy. Lenton and I just sat there and watched the insanity, how anyone gets around that area in one piece is beyond me!
One of my favorite parts of Paris were the gardens and floral everywhere!
On our round about walking tour of Paris, we walked down Avenue Des Champs Elysees. This is a major street in Paris and where most of the high end shopping is. It was pretty fun to see all the swanky shops and try to guess which people were native to Paris and which were tourists. We also walked past this gorgeous building, the Grand Palais. It wasn’t really on our plan of things we wanted to see, so it was kind of a fluke but glad we saw it, as it’s extraordinary.
We decided to go to the Orangerie Museum, however they are closed on Tuesdays, so make sure to check that out if you travel to Paris, apparently Tuesdays a lot of things are closed there. The Musee D’Orsay was open though, so we did that museum instead! It’s a smaller museum but still had a lot of great pieces. By the time we waited in line to get in, it was one of the only museums open so it was pretty crowded, we were in need of a snack, so we hit up the restaurant that’s on the top level, we split a piece of cake and got a couple beers. I do love this about the French, the beer was almost always the same price if not cheaper than a coke or even sometimes water! You just can’t beat that! The clock inside the restaurant was also really cool and I enjoyed snapping a few photos of it. If you visit the D’Orsay, make sure to walk outside on the top level, there was a beautiful view of the River Seine.
The View from the roof of the Musee D’Orsay
Inside the restaurant
The main pieces I wanted to see were by Van Gogh, again, it’s so surreal to see some of this art so up close and personal. I already knew the Lourve was going to completely overwhelm me!
One of the hall of the Musee D’Orsay
I had been really studying the underground maps, because it really irritated me that it was so much harder for us in Paris than in London. So I was feeling a little more confident and we took the tube from the museum back to our hotel, it was a little stressful there for a bit, not exactly sure if we were going to the right way, but we were and we made it back to our hotel in once piece!
We found a great little Italian restaurant for dinner, we had pizza, pasta and of course some more beers! It was a great, quiet evening and just a short walk to our hotel.
More to come from our last two days in Paris soon!
Our last two days in London were just as busy as the first two days lol.
I had previously booked a bus tour to see Stone Henge, Bath and Windsor Castle, to read more on that you can read my previous post. This was the only day that the weather really just sucked. It was cold and rainy and just gross, and when I say cold, it was really dang cold, especially for these Texans! We got a little bit of a late start, so we grabbed breakfast at Burger King, and then were promptly told we couldn’t bring food on the busso we gobbled down as much as we could and hopped on. The bus picked us up from our hotel at around 7am and then took us to a depot where we all got off the bus and were separated by tour group, and then reloaded onto another bus. Kind of complicated way of doing things, but we managed. Our tour guide was awesome, he was so very English, we loved it! He answered questions, told stories about landmarks and some history of London while we drove.
Riding in the bus.
Our first stop was Windsor castle, which was about 45 minutes outside of London with traffic. The weather was pretty awful by this point, but we tried to not let it dampen our day, see what I did there? I had also thankfully invested in a cover for my camera, so I was still able to get some great photos. The castle was amazing to say the least, and one of my very favorite parts of our whole trip. No pictures were allowed inside but the outside was gorgeous. So much history and beautiful architecture. The Queen was in residence while we were there which I had a minor freak out about, like seriously, how cool is that!
The flag flying meant the Queen was in residence at the castle the day we were there…eek!!!
Left: The city around the castle. Right: The courtyard
When we came out of the castle after the tour, it was like a dream, it was a sunny, beautiful day. Still very cold and windy but that was much more bearable than the rain.
Our next stop was Bath, this was probably an hour from Windsor, I can’t really be for sure as moving vehicles put me to sleep lol. Lenton said the drive was beautiful though! Bath is a city built around old Roman hot spring baths. They are said to have healing powers, and my foot was hurting (probably from the 8 miles I made Lenton walk the day before lol) and then I drank that nasty warm water and my foot didn’t hurt after that, but maybe it was just wishful thinking haha. We had a little time before the bus came after the tour so we grabbed some sandwiches from a little street cafe and sat on a bench soaking it all in and enjoying our chicken salad.
You could see the steam coming off of the water.
The final stop was of course Stone Henge. Lenton’s one request while we were planning was that he wanted to go see Stone Henge. It was crazy to be there. You see things in books and study them in school but there is no substitute for standing right there in front of something like Stone Henge.
Some pictures from the drive to Stone Henge, before I fell asleep again.
Lenton was so excited he got to see some British sheep lol. Sadly they didn’t have an accent :-(
There wasn’t a ton to do there though, after we saw Stone Henge and took some pictures, we took cover from the wind in the gift shop which was much warmer. We grabbed some great souvenirs and then headed back to the bus for the drive back to London. My only complaint (I can’t even really say complaint because it didn’t effect us) about the tour would be that they picked you up from your hotel but didn’t drop you back off at it, and I don’t remember reading that anywhere. They basically just stopped at a few of the Tube stations and you were supposed to take the tube back to where you needed to go. Thankfully the Gloucester Road station was one they stopped at so we just made the short walk back to our hotel. So like I said, didn’t effect us but I think some of the other people were a bit disgruntled.
After we got back to our hotel, we changed and went to a nice steak dinner at The Green Door Steakhouse. I ordered a steak and it was amazing, like super good! Lenton wasn’t as thrilled with his choice, but he said it was still good, in between his mouthfuls of my steak lol. The bed felt oh so good that night as our day was definitely busy and full…just the way I like it!
Our last day in London, heartbreaking to leave! We started the day off by sleeping in a little and getting some of our stuff packed up then we hit up Byron’s for lunch, we shared an amazing burger and fries and some beers of course! London has lots of hard ciders, which are my favorite, and when most of the time the beer is cheaper than a soda or even water, what else can ya do?
Our first stop on the agenda was Kensington Palace, it was within walking distance from our hotel, on our walk we discovered an adorable pet merchandise shop. Of course we stopped in and found some Union Jack collars for our pups! We walked through Kensington Park on the way, which of course was gorgeous, full of kids and families enjoying their Sunday morning in the sun.
Sunday morning stroll through Kensington Park
We decided to tour Kensington Palace, we didn’t do very many tours 1) they are kind of time consuming, 2) some of them are really expensive and if you did them all it would really rack up 3) most of the places I just wanted to see, I didn’t really care that much about touring them. But Kensington Palace, home of Will, Kate and baby Prince George, I was all about touring. I was really hoping they were going to conduct the tour, but sadly that wasn’t the case, so I just waited for a sighting! Sadly, that didn’t happen either. The least Kate could have done was go into labor while we there and that didn’t occur either!!!!When you get inside you have the option of picking your tour, you can do one or all, depending on your time limits. We decided to do the tour focusing on Queen Victoria. She was actually born right there in Kensington Palace and was appointed Queen when she was just 18. She kept journals so a lot is known about her and her time reigning England.
The Queen Victoria statue outside of the palace. I love this quote on the floor of the palace, describing how Victoria felt when she became Queen. This is a document that has her signature on it.
She married Albert, and they were married for 17 years and had 9 children, her diaries were so sweet, they were obviously so in love. You think about a time so long ago of arranged marriages and that there probably wasn’t much true love but these two were definitely the exception. After she was widowed, she went into a state a deep depression and actually wore black for the rest of her time as Queen.
One of Victoria and Albert’s children’s cradles, some of their clothes and Prince Albert’s uniform.
This was a excerpt from Victoria’s journal about when she found out she had become Queen. I loved the photos they had on display, as a photographer, it was really cool to see these super old photos past down from generation to generation!
After the Queen Victoria exhibit, we saw the “Fashion Rules” exhibit and snagged a few pictures. I loved seeing the dresses of Princess Diana.
A photo of Will, Kate and George and two of Princess Diana’s dresses on display.
The gates outside the Palace
After this we took the tube to the Charing Cross Road station. We walked to what we thought was the National Gallery, however it ended up being the National Portrait Gallery, no wonder the guide I found online that told me where the top pieces of art were didn’t correspond lol. So after walking around for about an hour and seeing nothing but portraits, which makes sense now, we finally asked someone and they said we were at the Portrait Gallery, and consequently we felt really freakin’ dumb! Lol anyways we walked further down the road and saw the National Gallery.
Even though it was the wrong museum it was still beautiful and we saw some great Art including the famous portrait of Shakespeare believed to be from the early 1600s.
Trafalgar Square was right outside of the National Gallery, it was pretty crazy to say the least. Lots of street vendors and performers and a ton of people!
Check out the levitating Yoda in Trafalgar Square! In the distance is the statue of Horatio Nelson, the vice admiral who commanded the British Fleet at Trafalgar, towering over everyone.
The art is beautiful in the National Gallery but the architecture deserves a moment of recognition as well, beautiful ceilings and details are prevalent inside the gorgeous intricately carved stone walls.
The view going up the stairs into the entrance, and a few ceiling views.
It was yet another surreal moment on our trip to see such famous works of art in person, ya know, just hanging on the wall, like it was no big deal. We saw Van Gogh, Manet, Rembrandt, Monet and Seurat. It was amazing!
Van Gogh and Seurat.
Me in front of Monet’s Water Lillies.
After that we took the tube back to our hotel and decided we wanted a true pub experience on our last night in London.
This was the tube station by our hotel, and I couldn’t choose whether I like the color or black and white better so you get to see both!
We found The Hereford Arms on our Trip Advisor app and it was pretty authentic. I loved the big hereford cow on the front of the pub! The beer was fantastic and my food would have been really good if it hadn’t been for an unfortunate horseradish incident. Backstory, I hate horseradish, apparently this place put it in their mustard..that I smeared aaallllllll over my burger and once it was on, it wouldn’t come off, I finally just ended up eating it without the bun but it was a very rude awakening. Even Lenton who likes horseradish couldn’t eat it.
After a few beers we walked back to our hotel and finished packing our luggage while already missing London.
Hello everyone! I’ve been pretty busy with fun summer stuff so I haven’t written in a while, but here is the first part of the London leg of our vacation!
We arrived in London at about 11am on April 9th, and as much as we tried to sleep on the plane, we didn’t get much so we were pretty exhausted. Thankfully I had booked a hotel transfer when I booked our trip through Expedia, so that was very helpful because we didn’t have to think much. We picked up our luggage, went through customs (we didn’t have anything to claim so that didn’t take long), found our driver and we were at our hotel by about noon. We checked in and received a very helpful map from the hotel and went to our room where we proceeded to pass out for about 2 hours! When we woke up, we were fairly rested and ready to take on this new adventure.
The concierge recommended getting an Oyster card for the underground transportation, or the Tube. This card cost $5 and then you put whatever increment of money you want onto it. There were machines in the station that you just swiped your credit card and it printed out your oyster card. The tube was very easy to navigate, it was a little scary at first, but literally after the first ride we had the hang of it. There are maps all over the place so you just get on the corresponding line and make sure it’s going the right direction and you’re ready to go!
Gloucester Road Tube Station
We took the tube from the Gloucester Road stop, which was right across the street from our hotel, to the Westminster stop. When we got to the top of the stairs of the tube station, my breath was taken away. It was like the London you see in the movies, you look up and there’s Big Ben, you look to your left and there’s the London Eye, to the right is Westminster Abbey. It was amazing, I was in total awe.
The view walking out of the Westminster Tube
We walked around a little bit but we were pretty hungry, so we found a little Italian food restaurant, it was pretty good but nothing memorable. We then walked by the Eye and back towards Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, we walked all around taking photos and just taking it all in.
We then decided to walk towards Buckingham palace, which was about a 10 minute walk through St. James Park. Buckingham Palace and the park were both gorgeous, why can’t we have stuff like that in Texas??
St. James Park
The statue by Buckingham Palace and Lenton and I in front of the gates.
Then we decided we would just walk back to our hotel, well that was a mistake, as it was much further than we thought and we also got a little lost, but eventually we found a tube station and were returned back to our hotel in one piece! It was fairly early but we were so tired we didn’t care and went to bed, we wanted to be rested for the next day.
One of my favorite pictures I took the whole trip, benefits of getting lost!
We started the day at a little cafe right near our hotel, Cafe Forum, I ordered a hot chocolate and you got a croissant for free! And let me tell ya, it was an absolutely amazing croissant! Notice there’s no picture of it, because it was practically inhaled moments after it was sat at our table. I ordered a bacon baguette, because I didn’t know you got a croissant, which was delicious as well. We planned our itinerary for the day as we knew we were going to have a very full day.
Beautiful tree growing on the building
First stop was back to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. We got there about 20 minutes early, which was not nearly enough. We pretty much saw nothing, we had our trusty selfie stick so with that raised up we got a few pics but it was mostly a claustrophobic mess. Literally thousands of people, it was insane. Then we walked/ran to the London Eye, we couldn’t get out of there quick enough!
Changing of the guard, however the bottom middle photo is pretty much what we saw the entire time :-(
Walking from Buckingham to the Eye we saw some great sites!
Houses of Parliament
The London Eye is a huge ferris wheel with giant pods instead of carts. They fit around 30 people and it takes a full 30 minutes for the wheel to make one rotation. Your ticket includes a 4D movie which was geared more towards kids but was still pretty cool for the adults.
The London Eye
We didn’t pay the extra for the fast pass tickets but we still only waited in line maybe 30-40 minutes, the line looked much worse than it was. The pods are so big and also enclosed so if you have someone afraid of heights like I did, it was perfectly fine, it really didn’t feel like you were even moving because it goes so slow.
One of the pods
Our view from the very bottom to the top
It was an incredible experience and a great way to kick off our first official full day in London.
We then took the Tube to the Borough stop to go to the Borough Market. Wow this place was incredible. It was an open air market where vendors sold bread, meat, seafood, juices, microbrews, homemade wine, flowers, fruits, veggies and so much more!
Lenton and I basically walked around for an hour in awe, wishing we had places like this in Texas. I got some delicious pomegranate-apple fresh squeezed juice and it was amazing. Lenton wanted to try a kangaroo burger but I just couldn’t handle that lol. So we settled on a beef kabob to share.
We then decided we would walk to St. Paul’s Cathedral and hit up a couple sites on the way. First was the Southwark Cathedral which was right next to the market, gorgeous old church, but I can’t tell you much else!
We walked onto the London Bridge, not very eventful or beautiful, pretty ugly old bridge as a matter of fact lol, but we could see Tower Bridge from there so that was worth it.
We also walked past the recreated Shakespeare’s Globe, but I think we should have walked around to see the prettier part because I’ve seen pictures of it that look much different, oh well, we’ll just have to go back!
Then finally we were at Millennium Bridge, this is a walking bridge that takes you across the River Thames and leads you directly to St. Paul’s. The view was pretty spectacular.
St. Paul’s was gorgeous, but who wouldn’t think it would be? So many details in the architecture, it just boggles your mind that somebody carved all of that out by hand! We didn’t do a tour of it, which probably would have been really cool, but it was already 6pm and I think they stopped earlier in the afternoon.
Last off for the day was Notting Hill, so worth the tube ride! We walked down Portobello Road, which is where their market happens but they were already closed down for the day, so get there early. If I ever get to go back I will definitely make that happen! The houses are amazing, painted all different fun colors and there are lots of boutiques and art.
We got to see the shop that inspired the travel book shop in the movie Notting Hill, which has always been a fav. Apparently the door to Hugh Grant’s character can also be seen, but I didn’t look it up before and didn’t have wifi to google it
It was just a very beautiful and inspiring location and I highly recommend seeing it, it’s kind of out of the way but so worth it!
Completely exhausted by this point, we took the tube back to the hotel and relaxed for a few minutes. This was about the time Lenton was cursing me and telling me he was never going on vacation with me again, apparently I wore him out. I don’t know what he was complaining about, we only walked 8 miles according to my Fitbit lol. I told him we didn’t come 5,000 miles to relax! Then we grabbed jackets, dropped our bags and headed out to dinner. We ate at Wildwood, it was very close to our hotel, not great service but my Carbonara was excellent. We headed back to the room and slept well.