Greetings everyone! We're back from Paris and finishing up (waaaah!) our London Excursion. For those of you interested in a brief Paris summary, I'll put that at the bottom (this is the London Forum after all - don't want to get owled)
Anyway, we returned back on the Eurostar late last night, lovely ride! Well, OK, they ran out of most of the food 20 mins after opening so hungry ride, but hey, can't have everything.
Checked back into hotel 41, hit the sack.
Picked up this AM at 8:30 and did the drive to Stonehenge. Stooped at Woodhenge on the way. Okay, that, not so impressive, but as soon as we hit the main event, WOW! What an impressive sight! I know some people say to skip it, so glad we didn't. There's a certain sense of mystical solidity to the place. The free audio tour is a good idea, its not that long. Queues for tickets were short when we got there (around 10), then the buses started POURING in. Advice: Get there early. We had an unobstructed view all of the way around. Even if the myths and legends surrounding the stone don't interest you, the engineering should. (Stonehenge is on the Heritage Pass, btw)
From there, after the obligatory stop in the gift shop, we headed out to Bath. First we checked out the Roman Baths. Don't let what you can see above ground fool you, there is much more beneath. That said, not sure if I would pay 8 pounds, but it was on our heritage pass, so in we went. The display is decent, and worth a look, the audio tour is a bit long winded.
Then, shopping. We were looking for the English Teddy Bear Store, but were informed that had closed, but we found Party Bears, much to my wife's happiness and my credit card's regret! Also had my first cornish pasty! Those things should be sold in the US! (A pasty is a semicircle of puff pastry with a meat and cheese or other filling). Delicious. Never got my Shepherd's Pie, but this will do!
Stopped in the Abbey there as well. Honestly, think I am churched out, it was nice, but my stained glass tolerance seems to have maxed.
Driver took us through Castle Colbe in the Cotswalds and a scenic drive back to London.
(Yes, I know, short report. We had to have ONE easy day). Now its packing time (Waaaaaaah!) and off to the airport in the morning for our trip home. On Monday, I will get my thoughts together and post a followup, as well as start going through the over 1400 pictures I took. From then, I will no longer be a London Novice, but Traveller Emeritus!
Already want to come back!
(and now for something completely different)
The Paris Summary:
We got up god-awful early on Thursday and cabbed to the Eurostar, napped on the way, got into Paris around 12 and went directly to the CityRama office for the first tour we had booked, called Seinorama. Just a basic drive around with recorded commentary.
Paris is a beautiful city, spectacular architecture and design. I really can't describe it, you'll have to wait for the pictures. That said, I never really felt comfortable there. Part of it was the language issue. This was my first unescorted trip to a non-english speaking country, and the lack of any understandable signage or verbal reference point really put me off my stride. The CONSTANT warnings about pickpockets and theft didn't help. I just didn't feel as safe there, and that did color experiences a bit.
The tour also included a short cruise up and down the river Seine. Paris uses its river much better than London, with many houseboats and floating restaurants. The best view of Notre Dame can be had from the river as well. After the boat tour, we headed up to the 2nd level of the Eiffel tour. The 3rd had limited visibility so we didn't spring for it. View was great, honestly, I was still a little off feed so I didn't enjoy it as much as I probably should have.
Our hotel (Hilton Paris, review to follow next week) was close to the tower, so we jumped off the tour there (it only went back to base) and checked in. We mentioned it was our anniversary and the lovely lady at the desk put us in an Eiffel Tower view room! Wait for the pictures! If that wasn't enough, about 20 minutes after we arrived, someone knocked on the door and presented us with a bottle of Champagne and some chocolates, courtesy of the staff. (Important note, we were on a POINTS room, that's a rarity to get perks like that!)
Later that night, we were picked up for our Illuminations tour (Paris lights at night). Small 8 passenger minibus - took us around to all the main sights. Paris is a totally different city at night, absolutely stunning, and in a way, softer! Highly recommended tour.
Back to hotel, not enough sleep, and off to day 2, Historic Paris, Montmarte, and the Louvre essentials. Historic paris was a nice tour, a bus ride through many areas, followed by a boat trip to Notre Dame. Sorry London, but Notre Dame was probably the best cathedral visually that we had seen! (Westminster a close second!) From there to Montmarte, and another cathedral. Hate to be negative, but you could SEE the pickpockets scoping people out. We didn't enjoy it.
From there, a quick trip to the Louvre, just to see the biggies. To be honest, I was underwhelmned (not by the museum, the little we saw of that was AMAZING), but by the Mona Lisa (bad display in miy mind, makes it look small), Venus DiMilo (eh), and Winged Victory.
Cab to Gard du Nord and a train ride and we were back in London!
See you all Monday!