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Trip Report Our unforgetable adventure in Paris, Lakes, Peaks, London, and Italy w/friends & family

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Just got back yesterday from our crazy, wonderful european adventure. I don't think I'll be able to write a proper trip report until a few days from now, but I did want to make a post so that I am forced to write a trip report(which I never did for our first trip to europe 5 years ago - gasp!)

So much thanks to everyone for all there help especially janisj, moolyn, ira, robs, djkbooks, btilke, maitaitom, and so, so many others - I shudder to think what I would've done without this wonderful forum.

Jetlag is still pretty bad since we had to travel all the way from London-Maui, so hopefully this post will make a least a small amount of sense...I don't even think that sentence made sense!

Anyway...just a few points on what will be coming up on my trip report:

having to almost pay $315 in overweight charges since my bag was overweight by 6 pounds(don't you love JFK workers!)

having at total full-blown panic attack in CDG whereupon I was totally seperated from my sister, being unable to find her, and being told that I wouldn't be able to page her

falling down almost two flights of stairs in our quest for Berhillion ice cream

three girls screaming(which was to happen during most of our driving experience in England) and then almost getting killed from exiting a roundabout the wrong way at Manchester Airport, along with getting the british version of the finger in the Lake District (kind of cool actually, though not at the moment)

finding surf shops in all the areas we went to, even in Ambleside!!

our eternal endeavor of finding the extremely elusive and reclusive Mr. Darcy

running into and taking pictures with the lovely Obi-Wan Kenobi in London(sort of)

covering both florence & rome in only two days - italian lovers turn away now :)

and the memo I never got on airport shuttle drivers dislike of anyone from Hawaii(more on that later)

Good lord - that post alone is probably longer than people's total trip report - but be warned... this in no way will be a quick trip report, but come on - isn't that the whole purpose of Fodors anyway?

So settle in, and grab your limoncello, wine, beer, orangina - heck, why not sip on each as we go through each region, although I will have to refrain. I mean seriously, those dang french words are hard enough when one is sober!

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    Anna, I have a terrible time with jetlag coming home to California so I can only imagine what it would be like to Maui. (For some reason I have no problem going east, though.) However, this is a tantalizing tease and we must have more . . . please :)

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    Ok, so I lied :) I have gotten a bit more energy and I am shamelessly vain when it comes to other people replies, and love hearing more…must be another trait of being a middle child!

    Thanks for your replies - nice to know so many want to hear more! LCBoniti - we seem to have an easier time flying east as well, but it’s still a really tough journey.

    Before I get into the trip report, I’ll be adding a bit of background on our situation. As I said before, this will not be a short trip report, so you might want to skip the next couple of posts until I start talking about the actual trip. The trip included only 3 people, myself, my older sister(DS) and our friend (DF). We are all from Maui, and our ages range between 27 for myself to 31 for my DS. DS and myself have only been to Europe once, and that was in 2002.

    Going to Europe has always been more of an adventure than a vacation, possibly because of the nature of our first trip. Our original trip was to be on September 12, 2001, but with the events of the previous day, we had to cancel that trip. I was brokenhearted about that, but my sister and myself decided to go in May 2002, without another one of our friends who was originally going with us.

    We had to plan new accommodations, figure out attractions, transportation, etc. and we had never even been to the Mainland by ourselves, and here we where going all the way to Europe by ourselves! Our friends and family were extremely nervous for us, possibly because I was only 22 at the time, along with the events that happened on Sept. 11. To people in Hawaii, Europe couldn’t be farther away, and it almost seemed to be a totally different world to everything familiar to us here, thus the concern of others about our trip.

    We had a wonderful and safe journey, but like so many others on this board, that trip only increased our desire to see Europe again. Many trips were planned, but none came to fruition, much to our disappointment. Then suddenly, we were invited to go on a trip with about 6 other people to New York to visit friends. That soon lead to us realizing that if we are traveling all the way to NY, this would be a perfect opportunity to go to Europe. Soon, planning began and we finalized dates between May 21-June 6th 2007.

    Planning a trip has always been such a fun time for me, choosing which country to visit and what we want to see. DS and I desperately wanted to go back to Paris and London, but our friend really wanted to visit Scotland, Lake District, and Italy. We couldn’t go everywhere, especially since we would already be spending 5 days in NY. After much thought, we decided on Paris, London, Lake District and the Peak District….ahhh, but you’ve all noticed that we also went to Rome & Florence - that will have to wait for a later post :)

    As excited as we were, let’s just say that for all of us, we couldn’t have picked a more terrible time to have a trip planned. We have a very, very small family business, and around August we lost a valuable worker, and then in January, another worker took a leave of absence for 2 months, leaving just our family to pick up the load. Stress and health problems seemed to become a constant companion since August, and DS and I had been burnt out for months before our trip. Our friend also had to work overtime for weeks before our trip, along with financial difficulties that came out of nowhere.

    Along with work problems, everyone knows how much time needs to be spent on finding accommodations, transportation, etc months in advance, along with the fact that we were all on a budget, which only makes all those things harder. We started looking for accommodations around October for our trip in May, and we had a really difficult time finding places both safe, central, cute, and within our budget.

    Magically, with much searching and the recommendations of many on fodors, we found all our accommodations, and could move on to other parts of our trip.

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    Everyone seems so interested since my first post, that I’m a bit worried that this trip report may be a bit of a disappointment! We did have some terrifying, I mean, exciting moments, but for the most part, we had some pretty normal experiences.

    While planning our trip, it seemed that loads of posts were being written on fodors about how hard it was to travel with family and friends - not exactly the assurance I was looking for.

    I read that some had a wonderful time with f&f, while others seemed to have rather died than want to travel with f&f again! I couldn’t quite understand why you would travel with friends and family, only to separate for a whole day and meet at dinner, but then again, I’ve never been obligated to travel with others.

    It seemed like there were rules you needed to follow in order to travel with f&f and not kill each other along the way...although, that would mean we could have an extra seat in coach to stretch out on.

    Good organization, open talks about money and places to visit, patience, and I think overlooking minor disputes that may occur on the trip due to fatigue or slight irritations.

    Our group had very similar interests, which really helped in the planning process, so we didn’t really have any problems in that area. However, in terms of personality, we did have some differences between us. My DS is extremely organized(loves post-it notes to an extreme degree…think that her first child may actually be named after it), I‘m the worrier(and the fodors addict), and our friend really likes to be spontaneous - quite a difference when it comes to trip planning!

    The one good thing was that we where all honest about our shortcomings and everyone talked about what we wanted out of the trip. Some were morning people, while others liked to sleep in. Sleep and food are really high priorities for me, or I start to resemble a wookie…an angry wookie.

    We tried to talk about how we would divide costs at restaurants, attractions, transportation, etc. Everyone could add to a list, and then we could decide what we had time for.

    Our friend couldn’t have been an easier person to travel with - she pretty much left all the planning up to us, and just added places that she really wanted to visit. She’s very bubbly and positive, which is always good when things start looking bad along the way.

    Tiredness is starting to set in again, but I’ll try to post soon about the beginnings of our actual trip - you know, the part that you are all actually interested in :)

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    All Roads Lead to Rome

    So, went to take a short nap at 5pm, and ended getting up at 7:30pm - oops. Still really tired - how long does it take others to get over jet lag?

    As I mentioned earlier, we weren’t initially supposed to go to Italy. We only had a little over 2 weeks in Europe, and we knew we couldn’t fit it in with the other cities. However, we were getting hints all along to way to go there. Around December(started planning trip in October), it suddenly hit us that we were going to Europe and not going to Italy. DS and I now slightly regretted our decision, but what could we do?

    Out of nowhere, it seemed like everything on TV focused on going to Italy. We watched Jamie Oliver’s trip down the entire county, caught “Italy Tip to Toe” on the Travel Channel by a lovely Italian man, Francesco, (can’t remember his last name), caught reruns on Food Network of Giada vacationing in Italy, Samantha Brown’s “Passport to Europe”, and “Under the Tuscan Sun”. I’m not joking when I say all, yes all, these shows came in rapid succession over about a one month period.

    Slight depression of forgoing Italy soon set in, but suddenly, we got an opening. We traveled by mileage tickets, and I checked about every month what the status of our trip was. So when I made by routine call around the ending of February, I was surprised when our flight home had been completely changed. Instead of a direct flight from London-San Francisco(10 hours) then SFO to Maui (5 hours), we would have to change twice even before we got to SFO - great. However, the UA agent offered me a choice to stay one day longer, and we would have our original flight.

    We thought about it and realized it would be wonderful to have another day in London. Then, I’m not sure if this is a stage of trip planning, but DS assures me that we both lost our minds by making the next decision. Something in the back of my mind kept on telling me that with this extra day, we could rearrange things to go to Italy. But there would be sacrifices - we would cut back staying in London from 6 nights to only 4 and Italy would get only 2 nights.

    Yes, you could never cover Italy in 2 nights properly, but we looked at it differently. We now had the option of going to a country we hadn’t planned on going to, and it almost revived us with more energy for our trip. DS and I had also been to those two cities in Italy before and realized while we couldn’t see everything, it would be worth it just to go.

    Now let me assure you, that yes, we must have lost our minds(mostly since work was driving us crazy) to make that decision. It was already the beginning of March, and our trip was in May. How could we find any decent hotel that would have any openings during the beginning of June? Also, would the apartments we were staying in allow us to change our plans? Not to mention that we still hadn’t finished all our planning for our trip. I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard in about 3 days time to find housing in both Florence and Rome(rechecking both places on both fodors and trip advisor), but we succeeded and I’ll explain more about Italy when it comes up in our trip.

    Coming up: The 5 stages of Packing

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    The 5 stages of Packing

    Hope I haven’t completely lost everyone along the way, but I promise, this is the last post before getting on with the real trip report. There’s always so many post’s about packing that I thought I would write about our experience.

    We got our suitcases months in advance and I got a Samsonite 26’ while DS also got the same, mines in deep eggplant color, and her’s in red. We thought we wouldn’t get black since it would be easier to spot ours, and we hoped with lighter colors, our luggage wouldn’t get forgotten by luggage handlers.

    DS did a test run with all her luggage about 1 week before trip, and got into panic attack when she realized it would be much to heavy. I lifted bag and agreed…she needed to find another bag(funny, how we were in complete denial about actually packing less). Went to Ross in hopes of something that would be lighter, and she found a Liz Claiborne bag that only weighed about 7 pounds, while her original bag weighed about 15 pounds.

    By Saturday, we were packing for our trip which left on Tuesday, when I finally entered the 5 stages of Packing:

    1. Denial: “Oh, I have loads of time to pack, nothing to worry about.”

    2. Anger: “ OMG! How many more days do I have?! How does the airlines expect me to take on only 50 pounds of luggage? Do they want me to go around naked on my trip?

    3. Bargaining: “Ok, look…I need to forgo some items so I don’t go completely crazy. Everything will be fine.”

    4. Depression: “Whole trip will be complete failure. Airline will lose bags. Falling into pit of despair.”

    4. Acceptance: “Everything’s Fine! Last sedative worked great and will just throw my entire body on nearest airport worker who tells me my bag got lost.

    All of us were quite stressed since we knew our bags might be overweight, but hoped for the best. All of us were only checking in one bag, even though we were allowed two by UA. DS and I packed lightweight collapsible duffle bags in our suitcase so that we could have an extra bag to check-in when we left London which worked out great.

    We had problems with packing since the weather was going crazy at the time. New York was freezing, to us anyway, since it was around 48-49 degrees, but we had found out that Paris temps were around 80 degrees!! Since I get really cold easily, I had to pack for both really cold and really hot weather since it seemed like Paris and Italy would be even hotter when we got there.

    Next post will be about start of our trip, and the beginning of our trials with luggage.



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    I'm completely illiterate when it comes to computers - how do you highlight something in bold?


    Sunday, May 20th 2007 (LGA-IAD-LHR-CDG)

    We had spent the last 5 days in NY, and I was really jetlagged for about 4 days. We arrived at LGA at around 2pm for our flight which left around 4:45 pm from LGA-IAD(D.C.) We used mileage points all the way from Maui-Europe, but because we had a 5 day stopover in NY, we had a really awful schedule. We had to fly from Maui-SFO-ORD-LGA just to get to NY, and then for our European leg, we needed to travel from LGA-IAD-LHR-CDG.

    As mentioned before, we were worried our bags were overweight, but I really tried not to stress about it - funny how one can be so delusional! Along with that, I had to try and convince our ticket agent to interline our bags all the way through to CDG, since our UA tickets only took us to LHR, and we used Air France to get from LHR-CDG. Most everyone on the board said it was impossible, and it would be left up to the agent.

    I was so concerned about interlining our bags, that I had completely forgotten about the weight of our bags. He wasn’t rude, but he was very businesslike, and I knew that if our bags were overweight, there would be no way he would ignore it. I next encountered the first of three mini panic attacks, better yet, freak outs.

    He called us over and told us there was a problem with our tickets, and they could find no reservations for us. Ok, breathe….breathe - there must be some misunderstanding right? As it turned out there was - he got mixed up and thought our tickets with UA took us all the way to CDG, but after some explanation he understood.

    Good, nothing to worry about! He asked us to bring our bags around, and here we come upon panic attack #2, which was probably the worst. Even before weighing our bags, he could tell just from lifting them that DS and my bag were overweight, and brought them over to the dreaded scale, who was to be our dreaded archenemy for the rest of the trip - I swear it could smell fear.

    Turns out my bag was 6 pounds overweight, and DS’s was 4 pounds. Ok - that pretty bag, but not terrible, I thought. How much could that possibly cost? That’s when the lovely man from LGA told us, quite matter of factly, “Oh, get ready with your credit card since it will be about $500”. $500!! Does he not realize we are traveling on a budget! While the rants were continuing in my mind, the mantra began again. Breathe in, Breathe out. It won’t be that bad right? He cheerily confirmed that he had been wrong, and it would only be $315 - oh, and which credit card would we be paying with?

    Panic set in as DS seemed in some sort of trance and looked quite alarmed as well, and I could already see her reaching for her card. Brain was kept in some sort of slow motion as I knew there had to be another way out of this.

    Wait! We packed extra duffle bags with us, and I asked the TA if we could move some things around. He was quite nice about it, and allowed us to do so. We randomly stuffed the duffle bag, just about throwing things in out of sheer terror, hoping that it would help. Turns out it was our travel books, street maps, and driving maps that weighted a ton, and our bags thankfully came under the 50 pounds.

    My brain was still trying to function, what with still having a bit of jetlag, and trying not to pass out from the stress of just checking in! We hadn’t even gone anywhere yet! Almost forgot to ask about interlining our bags, and turned out the system allowed it, and we wouldn’t need to pick them up at LHR. We thanked him for his patience with us, and just about collapsed on the seats when we got to the gate.

    Mind was already in a frenzy, along with the fact that I was a bit worried about catching our flight from LHR-CDG. What if UA flight leaves late? What is our bags get lost along the way? What if….oh just shut up already! Had to get stupid brain under control….will not stress out, will not stress out, everything fine.

    Surprisingly everything was - all of our UA flight all the way from Maui were always on time, although we did notice that the farther east we traveled across the US, the less friendly the crew became. Flights were uneventful all the way to LHR, which was even crazier than we remembered. Took shuttle from Terminal 1 to 2, and line in security was orderly chaos. Tried not to laugh when American people next to us kept on grumbling about how long security took - apparently they hadn’t read the cheery signs which said “Welcome to Heathrow - busiest airport in the galaxy!” or something to that effect.

    It was a long wait, but I have always admired that even if Heathrow if extremely busy, all the workers are patient, kind, and considerate with any questions, and with getting the lines to move along quickly. Can’t say enough about them.

    Arrived around 10am, and flight to CDG left at 2 pm. Still had that loopy, out of body experience they call jet lag. Love how at Heathrow, and all British airports, your gate number is never given to you, and you need to sit in front of monitors, wait for your gate to be assigned, and rush off to terminal as if you are on Amazing Race. I understand the need for it, but seriously - I’m using all my mental functions to stand upright for longer than 5 minutes.

    Stress returned when found out flight had been delayed for one hour - realized that car shuttle would be waiting for us, and Paris apartment owner needed to be called upon arrival , or no one would meet us. But everything will go ok, right?

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    Liquids in Security

    Forgot to add this in previous post. Many seemed concerned with liquids, myself included, on this forum.

    We all wear contacts, so we have saline solution, along with bringing along those saline nose sprays. All the airports we went to(except Gatwick) didn't even question our Saline solutions, and we always traveled with them.

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    repeat after me "next time i'll pack light, next time I'll pack light!!" :)

    To bold or underline or whatever:

    <B > to bold, and </B > to "unbold" (Leave out the spaces)

    <u > to underline
    <B > <u > to bold underline
    <B > <u ><red > to bold underline in red

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    Thanks everyone for the encouragement to keep writing, because in the words of Lorelai Gilmore, "Mr. Jet Lag wants to be my new best friend right now."

    LCBoniti - yes, it was all totally worth it, I just have a really hard time with jet lag, therefore it just seemed to make stressful situations only worse.

    janisj - we all started saying that mantra on this trip... our friend even wished someone would just steal/burn/destroy her bag so she wouldn't have to deal with it! Thanks for the explanation for bold/underline - do I put before the words I want to bold?



    Monday, May 21st 2007 (LHR-CDG)

    Air France flight finally leaves around 3:10pm, an hour later than scheduled. Jet Lag totally takes over as I couldn’t sleep at all from Maui-NY flights, and from NY-LHR I only got about an ½ hr of sleep. I crash all the way to CDG, but I did notice that the Air France crew were very nice and professional.

    We arrived at CDG at 5:10pm in Terminal 2, and I notice instantly that it’s much nicer than Terminal 3, which we flew into on our last trip. It seems like our entire flight thought our baggage would be in Carousel B, and we wait about 45 minutes for luggage that doesn’t show up.

    This is when things got tense between the three of us. Our DF already told us she is a terrible flyer, and tends to get irritable after a flight. However, her co-worker who is European, for some reason, told her to never interline her bags all the way to her destination in Europe. That’s right - never.

    A few days before our trip she mentioned this to us, and all I could think of was what everyone of Fodors would say - this co-worker is clearly delusional! We tried to explain to DF that we really need to interline our bags all the way to CDG, because if UA makes us pick up our bags at LHR, it will be crazy and extremely time consuming. She listened to what we said, and agreed that she would do what we wanted to do, but I could tell she still didn’t understand where we were coming from.

    So, we’ve got myself who is so Jetlagged that even words in English look like a foreign language, our DF who doesn’t really have much patience at the moment, and DS taking the lead of the group. We wait, and wait, and wait for baggage that never shows us(along with the rest of our flight). I can already see DF thinking what idiots we are for not listening to her, even though I know we made the right decision.

    We have a list of three important things to do: call apartment owner, call airport shuttle(who would have been waiting for us, but because of late flight, we now had to call them), and get cash out of ATM to pay off apartment cost.

    As we wait, I remind DS that because are almost 2 hours later than we thought we would be, and we need to let the apartment owner know we are here. DS calls apartment owner who tells us she is in Cannes, and wrote us an email last week, but we have been totally without a computer for about that time. She says her assistant, mother, and brother will meet us outside the apartment and help us with our luggage. So relieved that we could get in contact with her.

    However, it’s not looking good for the luggage. A whole crowd of people on our flight are already heading to a desk to fill out forms about missing luggage. We decide to ask someone if our luggage is indeed coming through this carousel - turns out, it wasn’t Carousel B, but D.

    We rush to the other side, but notice ATM’s along the way, near the American Express office. Turns out ATM only allows us to withdraw about 300 euros, but we are prepared, and have carried enough travelers checks to make up for it.

    Here’s where traveling for so long begins to take a toll on all common sense. DS goes up to Amex office and begins making the exchanges. I tell DS I and DF will go collect the luggage, which is just around the corner, and she can meet us there. As we go, I notice it looks like we have to go through passport control again. Hmmm. I tell DF that perhaps we should wait since I’m not sure if we can even go through passport control again. DF doesn’t blink and eye and says it will be fine, and I can tell she’s only focused on getting the luggage.

    I turn back, wondering what I should do. I think DS may take a while, and DF is already in line for passport control. I follow DF, but I have a bad feeling about this. Something in the back of my mind is trying to tell me something, but as I said before, all mental functions are just trying to get me to walk and keep my eyes open at the same time.

    It seems no one cares, and we go through passport control again, no problem. DF and I see all the luggage coming through, and I’m so elated that we all have our luggage. Then it hits me - I have DS passport in my bag…there’s no way she can get through passport control without it.

    Ok, so DS was supposed to have met us in the luggage area, but now what? DF happily collects all bags, and I inform her that DS can’t meet us here. I know I must already have crazy eyes since she takes on that extremely calm tone you would when speaking to someone whose about to have a mental breakdown.

    DF tells me not to worry, we will just go out again to meet her. I’m undecided because it looks like it will just take you outside to the airport and I’m not sure they would let us back in. But, I follow DF, and it indeed takes us back to where the Amex offices are. Except, DS is nowhere to be found. Ok, now I’m starting to panic. On top of needing to call the shuttle service, we have no idea where DS may have gone. She was supposed to meet us, but we went through a totally different area than she thought we did.

    Breathe in, Breathe out. Panic attack continues and I’m trying to hold it together and not completely start yelling at DF for her wanting to separate in a foreign airport just for a bunch of stupid bags. Hold on - there’s a information desk with two workers. I go up and tell them our situation, and ask if they could page our sister to return to the Amex desk. He tells me he’s sorry, but they do not page in CDG. I’m usually pretty patient with people, but I swear, I felt as if he was the only person who could help us and he really couldn’t be bothered. At this point, I have lost all rational thought, and am glad DF hasn‘t. She tells me not to worry(are you kidding me!), stay put, and she will go up on down the entire floor looking for her.

    She goes on way, returns and says she couldn’t find her, and continues on the other way. I’ve always had an overactive imagination, and I start to tear up, wondering if DS is terrified of losing us, as I would be.

    Magically, DS pops up out of nowhere, and I can tell she’s upset. DS said she came looking for us, and couldn’t go through passport control since she had no passport. DS went up and down, looking all over for us, and decided to go outside to just check. I run over and almost cry with relief!

    As always, she is far more sensible and less emotional than I am, and tells me she wasn’t scared, just concerned. DF returns and apologizes for taking off to find bags. I apologize to DF for getting so freaked out, and we happily go to call our shuttle driver.

    Obviously, the situation was not so bad as I thought it was while going through it. I really think that a lack of sleep from the last previous 5 days, along with more jet lag, and the problems we had with luggage, made the whole ordeal more stressful than it was.

    I'm sure I'm making your traveling companions look pretty good right now :)

    Coming up: Returning to Paris after 5 years - would we still love it?






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    don't worry - just about everyone does it now and then (it is a good idea to click "preview" before finally posting a long message - that sort of thing will show up in the preview screen)

    Wow - all that adventure before you even get anywhere! Sometimes traveling solo isn't so bad :)

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    Janisj,

    I tend to get overly worried in stressful situations, and I’m sure it was our DF who thought of traveling solo during that incident!



    Monday, May 21st 2007 (Paris)

    We used the Paris Airport Shuttle (http://www.parisairportservice.com/). They were 70 euros for a private shuttle, and would meet you upon arrival. I had a whole thread about what we should do since we would be arriving during rush hour - should we take a taxi or a shuttle. Upon thinking it over, we thought a taxi would be a better solution as we weren’t sure how long we would be in traffic.

    The driver was very nice, but and it took about 30-40 minutes to get into Paris. Because we were delayed, we actually left CDG around 6pm, and while we encountered a lot of traffic near CDG, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.

    We stayed in an apartment in the Ile Saint Louis, and as I mentioned the apartment’s owner’s assistant and mother were there to greet us, and explain the apartment to us. Since we were delayed, her brother had to leave, so that meant we needed to take our luggage up…four flights of stairs! We knew there would be no elevator, and that we would be staying on the 4th floor, but it doesn’t quite hit you until you see that immense, winding, staircase right in front of you!

    We all laughed about it later, since all three of us could see it in there eyes - “Dear Lord, look at all that luggage…they must me American!” Both were very friendly, and offered to help us with our bags. We told them we could bring them up, but they insisted to help. We felt really guilty since the owner’s mother was in her 60’s and the assistant later told us she had to bring up the lighter bag since she was pregnant!

    The owner’s mother spoke no English, but we found out she and her daughter(the owner) were both from Brittany. She was very nice, and the assistant gave us a tour of the apartment that probably lasted about 30-40 minutes. We asked questions about the kitchen, bathroom, washer/dryer, tv, phone, etc. She told us about the places around the Island that they like, and also how to get in contact with both the owner and herself if we had any questions.

    The apartment looked exactly like the pictures, which is always nice. Many on the board had helped me decided between an apartment on the Island, or one bordering the 7th. We were glad we made our decision to stay on the Island, and DS and I had never even been in this area before. After staying for 6 nights, I’ll try to go over the pros/cons.

    The pros were that it is in an area that everyone seems to enjoy, and there are so many lovely shops on the Island to explore. The apartment was lovely, airy, and modern. It was a studio apartment, so our DF slept on the couch/bed, but she was totally fine with that arrangement.

    The cons were that it was a studio, and could only hold up to 2-3 people, however, you do have to pay extra for a 3 person. We found the apartment through the Ala Carte website - is it quite expensive, and was well outside what we wanted to pay, but all the apartments we previously found were already booked. They only allow weekly bookings. The master bedroom only has a double bed, and I know some may have issues with that. Couch bed for third person, and since the living room faces the street, there was some noise to deal with. There is no elevator, and the apartment is on the 4th floor. Also, there is no A/C, which we kind of bargained with since we were there at the end of May. As it turns out, it was really hot when we were there, around 80 degrees. There were many windows, but I think since we are used to hot weather we could bear it, but I think it would be different if was really hot.

    Although there are a lot of cons, we weren’t bothered with them, and we really enjoyed our stay. But, I do know a lot of these points are of great concern to many here so I thought I better point them out.

    It was nearing 8pm, so we walked around the Island, which was quite quiet, but we found out that it was much quieter during the weekdays. There was a tiny grocery store right next door where we picked up some water. We walked to Le Sarrisan Creperie on Rue Ile Saint Louis and bought crepes for dinner. I got a crepe with ham & emmantel cheese - I’d never had a buckwheat crepe before, and I was good, but I think I like the sweet crepes better. I got a sucre(sugar) crepe, which was very good. We loved that they had a take-out window, so you could walk right up and place your order. All the crepes were made fresh in front of us, which was a good sign.

    We tried to unpack a little, took showers, and crawled into bed around 12am! Much later than we wanted to, but as would be the case for the whole trip, we forgot how late is was due to the sun staying out so late!


    Coming up: Falling head over heels for Berthillon

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    Totally forgot add this in previous post:

    As mentioned we had no elevator, and the stairs was one of those windy, circular types, and let's just say carrying up large suitcases, plus our carry-on's were quite a feat, and a testament to our stupidity.

    Around the 2nd floor, I wondered if my travel insurance would cover me if I just through my suitcase into the nearby seine and be done with it.

    Thought of carrying suitcase up two more floors was bringing on stroke like symptoms - surely just buying new clothes in each country would be less expensive than trip insurance having to pay for all those medical bills?

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    Anna, you are too funny! I can totally identify with the luggage problem. I had a terrible time packing light for our trip to Italy last winter and, of course, could not resist shopping for goodies. The solution? We bought another duffle-bag like thing in Florence right before we came home. Either that or I was totally prepared to throw away some clothes to make room. Taking the train with this over-abundance of luggage was the most difficult part. I learned my lesson and am determined to do better for our next trip.

    Looking forward to more now that you are finally in Paris . . .

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    Novice travelers always have ideas of indispensable clothing items that wear off as the years go by. Just taking inventory after the first trip of the items that were never used or worn can usually reduce the items for the next trip by a minimum of 20 to 30%.

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    carrybean - thanks for the encouragement and the info

    LCBoniti - loved this "Looking forward to more now that you are finally in Paris" - ha! I'm sure everyone else is as well, you know, seeing how this is a TRIP report, and not a pre-trip report that it has mostly been!



    Tuesday, May 22nd 2007 (Paris)

    Maubert Market
    Seine River Cruise
    Eiffel Tower

    We had planned to leave the apartment at around 9:30am, so we were quite surprised when we all woke up and it was already 11am! But, we all needed our rest, especially after our flights. We ended up leaving at about 12pm, and headed straight for Maubert Market. I wasn’t sure what we would find since it was so late in the day, but there were still tons of items at the market.

    From the Ile Saint Louis, it was only about a 10 minute walk to Maubert, and we loved seeing the Seine most of the way. We actually took taxi’s and the metro for most of our previous trip, and I was adamant that we would do more walking this trip to really experience Paris - this was a great idea because we got to see sooo much more of the city than last time. I really encourage anyone visiting Paris to try and see most of it on foot.

    Maubert market was smaller than I thought it would be, but still had everything you would need - fruit, veg, herbs, bread, fish, meat, etc. We stumbled across a Patisserie/Boulangerie directly across some of the stalls called R. Lohezic located on 47, Blvd Saint Germain. It was to be the best patisserie/boulangerie we would find on the entire trip. It’s really easy to find as it is the only one across the market.

    We were in total heaven as we looked at all the pastries, breads, and prepared food they had available. We made sure to say our “Bonjour’s” and always add “sil vous plat” and “merci” when we spoke to anyone, and we tried to encourage DF to do the same. I loved the fact that as we were still browsing, local Parisians would come in, and the ALL would say “Bonjour, Merci, ect.”. We have always had good experiences with the French, and I really think Americans have bad experiences because they don’t understand how important it is to the French to be polite, and greet one another. On the course of the trip, I really loved and enjoyed greeting others, and being greeted in return.

    We literally wanted to try everything, but tried to hold back and not be the gluttons we wanted to be at the moment. DS and I got two Quiche Lorraine’s, one sugar brioche, one strawberry tart, one citron tart, and two waters. DF got one ham & brie baguette, one apple tart, and one orangina all for 6 euros. Citron tart looked completely different than one’s I had seen before - it curved upwards into a dome and looked heavenly. I believe the sandwich baguettes were around 3-4 euros depending on what you got, quiches were around 3 euros, and the tarts/pastries varied from 2-4 euros.

    Even with the exchange rate, we were thrilled how cheap all our food was. DF couldn’t believe you could eat so well and still remain within your budget. I think a part of it is that on Maui, food is already really expensive, so the food in Europe(except Britain) was around the price we would pay back home. We had originally allotted $60 a day for food, including our breakfast, which would be eaten in the apartment. In general, we came in way under budget, but we didn’t eat in restaurants/cafes all that often. We ate food from the street markets, boulangeries, etc. and I really think that helped.

    We decided to eat in a park nearby our apartment, and then drop off what we had purchased from the market. About one block away from the market, we ran into a couple of Asian grocery stores and picked up some fresh ginger. At home, we make a ginger/cinnamon tea that we take whenever we are starting to feel sick, or we are around anyone who is sick. It’s always worked in the past, and we wanted to take it after being in planes so long. We are also those crazy people on planes who wipe everything down with a antibacterial wipe, guzzle down emergen-c/airborne, and take all our vitamins. I’m sure we look nuts, but it has always, always, worked in the past.

    We had noticed a park near Norte Dame, so we walked in - apparently it’s Square de I’lle de France. We hit the park around 1:30pm, and while there were tourists, we say a lot of business people eating there lunch in the park as well. It was really lovely, and we had a view of Ile Saint Louis. DS and I were amazed that our quiche was so tender, not at all hard and rubbery like the ones we have tried before. The sugar brioche had those large pieces of sugar on it that I only say in Paris, and it was good.

    DF found her new love in the sandwich baguette, and she couldn’t believe how huge it was, but neither could we. She could only finish half, and ate the rest for dinner. She was so impressed that it was only about 3-4 euros. I should mention that this was DF first international trip, and first trip to Europe. I should also mention that in the beginning stages of planning, she had no desire to see Paris…the horror!! I have always loved Paris, even when I was little, so I couldn’t even grasp the concept!!

    However, the more we talked to her about Paris, the more she got excited about it and wanted to visit. I was so happy that she really seemed to be enjoying her new experiences in Paris, although she was still very intimidated by the language. She’s quite independent, so I was surprised that she relied so much on us when interacting with Parisians.

    We decided to try the tarts in the apartment, and the citron tart was unbelievably wonderful! The crust was crunchy and not soggy, and the lemon curd was lovely. The strawberry tart was good, but I was surprised that the filling was stiff, and not as soft and custardy as I normally find it.

    We were off to the Bautex Mouches, and had to walk across the Pont Marie bridge to the 4th to get to the closest metro, which was the Pont Marie metro stop. It was fairly close, and we all purchased a carnet each, which was 10.90 euros. We knew we wouldn’t be using the metro much, and this worked out better for us than getting the Carte Orange.

    Took the metro to Pont Alma, and it was here that we all saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time this trip. It was lovely to see it again, like a friend welcoming you back to the city. Now, I knew I was in Paris! I have always loved the Eiffel Tower, and was so happy to see it again. DF was amazed, and we all had that surreal moment where you can really believe you are in front of the Eiffel Tower, really seeing it before you. We didn’t have that “Wow!” effect that DF did to all the sites since we had seen them before, but I still enjoyed coming across them again.

    We embarked on our Seine River Cruise. DS and I had taken it before, but DF really wanted to do it. She loved seeing all the monuments and attractions, and it was perfect weather to do so. The sky’s had been overcast all morning, with the sun peaking out here and again. The temp was in the 80’s, and it was really hot and muggy, so the cruise was a welcome change. I couldn’t believed it hadn’t rained yet in Paris, because on our previous trip, it rained almost everyday! We had come at the exact same time of year, and the temps were in the 60’s! I kept on mentioning to DS that I couldn’t believe it wasn’t raining, and she kept on giving me those eyes that said, “Will you stop mentioning it before it does!”

    We had planned to visit the Eiffel Tower after that, and we walked over from Pont Alma to the Eiffel Tower, which were two bridges down. Obviously from our map we were like, “Oh, that so close, lets just walk!” but we forgot we were looking at Paris blocks, and they are much larger than on maps. We finally arrived around 6:15pm, and got into one of the lines. They weren’t as bad as the lines in the morning, but we still had to wait around 30-40 minutes to get into the elevators, and another 30 to go all the way to the top. It was a bit foggy by that time, but DF loved looking around the city. We purchased some souvenirs at the gift shop, and found a cute Eiffel Tower shaped as a giraffe for a friend who loves them.

    We left around 8pm, and took a taxi to the Monoprix nearest us, which was in the 4th around St. Antoine. We were so tired from all the walking we did that day that we decided to take a taxi instead, along with the fact that we knew Monoprix was only open till 9pm. Our taxi driver was hilarious, and stared out by asking us where we were from - he thought we were Spanish. I’ve always found it funny that in America, they can tell we DS and I are part Asian, but in Europe, they always have a difficult time figuring out what we are.

    We are all petite, and DS is the tallest at 5’3. DF is equally parts Spanish, Filipino, Hawaiian, and English, but is very tan, and pulls more toward her Spanish/English roots. DS and I are half Okinawan, then about 2/3 Caucasian(Eng./Irish/Scottish/French), and 1/3 Polynesian(Samoan/Hawaiian). We have very dark hair, tan, but I think our features are a bit confusing to Europeans, and thus we are always asked where we are from. We tried to explain that we are from Hawaii, but as from our first trip, he couldn’t understand what we meant. He spoke very good English, but didn’t remember to drop the “H” and say the w as a v(which is quite strange, since that is the correct way to say Hawaii).

    He was very talkative, and asked us where we were going in Paris. We mentioned the normal places, but he was quite offended that we weren’t going to Monmarte, which he said was his favorite place in Paris. We mentioned that we were visiting Versailles the next day, which he was unimpressed with, and said we should visit Momarte instead! Sorry, but that’s not happening J
    I was surprised we caught so much traffic, but I’ve always loved driving around foreign cities and experience the crazy drivers in each country - our trip wouldn’t have been the same without it! We finally arrived at Monprix around 8:20pm, and had to literally fly through there, which was a shame, since we love, love, love Monoprix as much as we would a regular attraction. There’s just something about foreign supermarkets that we find fasinating, and I just love how much better the are compared to the ones in the US.

    We bought two kinds of cereal, along with yogurt(in those lovely glass jars), chocolate for gifts, milk, madelines, chips, orangina, water, and other goodies for breakfast and snacks. We were still looking at all the jams when the store was closing, and we needed to leave. Walked back to apartment, and it only took about 10-15 minutes, but it felt longer since bags were quite heavy.

    We ate dinner, and decided to get Berthillon ice cream since we didn’t get any the previous night. DS was last to leave apt., and all DF and I heard was thunking noises and a quick yell. DF and I ran back up wondering what happened, only to find DS lying on steps in laughter. DS so excited at thought of Berthillon ice cream that she slipped on wooden stairs, landed on backside, and went hurdling down about entire flight of stairs. DS said she had visions of not being able to stop, and wiping out both of us in the process. We all collapsed in fit of giggles, and were amazed that none of the neighbors come out to see what the ruckus was about.

    We knew Berthillon was closed on both Mon/Tues. so we walked over to Pom Cannelle which also served Berthillion ice cream. We were all amazed at the variety of flavors, and didn’t know which one to choose! Can’t remember the name, but DS and I decided to get a chocolate ice cream with bits of orange skin in them, which was just awesome! DF got Chocolate Blanc(white chocolate), which she loved since it wasn’t as sweet as she thought it would be.

    Returned to apartment, and DS said ice cream was totally worth falling down stairs for - we mentioned that this apartment was quite dangerous for us. Previous night I was sitting in clear, plastic like chair for the dining table, when I fell out of it with butter knife hand, and nearly stabbed myself in the process. We all commented that neighbors must think there are 10 people staying in the apartment with all the noise we’ve been making!

    Coming up: Having Jason Bourne as a DS, and not getting smashed to death in an RER to Versailles




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    Anna, I was just thinking about you the other day, wondering how your trip went and hoping that you would post a report when you returned. So I was very pleased to find it and I'm really looking forward to reading the rest.

    I'm so glad that your overweight luggage problem was so easily solved and that your sister wasn't injured by her fall downstairs.

    We leave for two weeks mainly in the lake district on June 20th. I'm interested to discover whether you loved that area as much as we do.



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    Moolyn,

    I'm so glad you caught my trip report! DS said that our although our luggage problems were sorted out with the airlines, our bodies sort of revolted during the trip, and we are all in desperate need of massages for a couple of weeks :)

    I was so thankful for all your advise for the Lake District(especially your suggestion to say in Troutbeck). I'm glad you are going back! I still have to get through about 5 more days for Paris, and then we hit the Lakes, so hopefully you will still be here when I cover the Lakes in my trip report!


    LCBoniti,

    You'll have to go to that boulangerie yourself so you can drool over them in person :)

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    Hi Anna,
    We'll be right on rue St.Louis-en-l'Ile, across from Amorino, as I understand it. I'm sure we'll have some street noise, but the bedroom windows are in the back of the apartment, so should be fine for sleeping. ((#))

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    EJ,

    You'll love it! We were on a side street nearer to Berthillon - make sure to eat ice cream at least once a day!




    Wednesday, May 23, 2007 (Paris)

    Versailles


    Left apartment later than we wanted to, around 9:30am. Surprisingly fast to walk to St. Michel Norte Dame RER stop, and got to have another lovely view of Norte Dame. I had done tons of research on whether to get a museum pass or not, and we decided not to. Instead, I thought we should purchase the Forfait Loisir(Leisure Pass) to Versailles that was highly recommended on the board. It was fantastic - it included RER transportation to and from Versailles, entry into the Palace, Grand & Petite Trionons(sp?), and free audio guides for the Palace at around 19.50 euros.

    Other mentioned having trouble purchasing the Forfait Loisir from the St Michel RER, but we followed others instructions and headed for the Petit Pont entrance, which is in front of Norte Dame. As soon as we descended the stairs, we saw a “Banileu/Transillen Surburban Line” ticket desk right in front of us - I was thrilled we found it so easily! Purchased tickets and off we went.

    Waiting for the RER to Versailles, I of course thought back to our previous trip on it. I had never been in a big city before, and never had been on the metro yet. Therefore, we politely let everyone else on before us, and I had no clue that the bells that go off mean the door will be closing. So, DS gets on first, and I, of course get completely smashed between the doors, equally inside and outside the train. DS, unaware of situation, takes off to find a seat.

    I’m not worried, since I think they are like elevators doors, which will retract if someone gets caught in them. Imagine my surprise, and fear, when the doors don’t open again, but begin to squeeze me closer together. RER train now begins to move, and I see a tunnel coming up. Try to call to DS, but seem paralyzed with fear. Thankfully, two businessman were flanking both sides of the doors, and literally had to pull me through the doors. They seemed concerned, and I tried to thank them as well as I could.

    No such drama this time around, but it did make for a good story on our last trip to friends and family J After asking some locals, we happily got on the correct train and headed for Versailles.

    DS had again taken on her Jason Bourne identity. I always tease DS unmercifully over her behavior in any metro/tube station. DS refuses to speak above a whisper so that others won’t know we are tourists, and attract pickpockets. DS usually takes off at the speed of a gazelle, stalking off as if group of shady, KGB agents are after us. Even when looking at which direction we need to go in, she pause in front of it for about 2 seconds, than takes off again, leaving DF and I to almost run after her.

    On our last trip, since we never talked and only made hand motions while underground, the locals started to move away from us and actually thought we were the pickpockets!

    Arrived at Versailles at around 11am, and weather looks quite foreboding - heavy gray skies above us. We had wanted to hit the Grand & Petit Trinons, Marie Antoinette Hamlet, and Grounds first before the palace but decided against it because of the weather.

    Tons of people to fight through in the Palace, and there were many school groups also. We got to see the Opera House, which we never saw before, and I was surprised that they had finished almost all of the restoration work in the Hall of Mirrors. We thought it was still closed, so DF was thrilled. Spent about 2 hours in Palace since DF had never been there, but I’ve always liked the grounds better.

    Sun had emerged, and blue skies greeted us upon leaving the house. Weather had turned quite hot and muggy, found out later it was around 83 degrees. We walked our way down the grounds, and ended up going to the snack bar for lunch. Nothing terrible, but nothing to mention either. Kept on walking down to the canal’s and DF thought hiring a boat looked fun. We were already sweating, and I couldn’t imagine rowing the boat with the weather, so we passed. Toured both Grand and Petit Trinons, which was nice since we hadn’t been able to see them on previous visit.

    But as always, DS and I were even more thrilled when we came upon food! We ran into the exact same cart as last time, with a vendor selling those wonderful glazed almond, and this time they also had cashews. We could smell their wonderful aromas far before we came upon them. They prepare the nuts right in front of you, and they have a sugar glaze coated around them. It was around 7-8 euros for two bags, and we purchased one of each, although we should have bought more!

    Are legs were already killing us at this point, and it was already around 4pm. DF really wanted to see Marie Antoinette Hamlet, so we soldiered on. DF could not believe how immense Versailles was, and DS and I had forgotten how long the walks are between places. We wagered that all of Versailles had to be thousands of acres, if not more.
    DF was very under whelmed by Hamlet, and felt that it had a Disneyland feel to it that she was disappointed in. I think she wanted to explore longer, but DS and I were so tired, we felt that if we didn‘t leave, we would have collapsed on ground and become permanent fixtures. Hopped on the tram(which felt more like a ride due to all the bumps!) and returned back to the Chateau. It was so hot, that we headed to the Mcdonalds near the train station for some A/C, and some cokes.

    Much revived, we headed back to the train station at about 6:15pm, and arrived back in Paris at 7pm. While walking back from St. Michel RER, we noticed a store called “La Friterie” - we wandered over hoping it was a frite shop, but they were closed, and the menu’s outside only mentioned crepes - strange.

    Walked back to the Island and did our daily pilgrimage for Berthillon ice cream. Finally got to go to actual Berthillon store since they were open, and got a thrill from finally being at a place I have only read about for years. DS got chocolate and mango, which she said was a wonderful combination. I got chocolate and blood orange, which tasted like a combination of guava and passion fruit - it was sooo good! DF got Earl Gray and Creole(Rum Raisin) - she said Earl Gray was “interesting”, but really enjoyed the Creole.

    I went back to the store right next to the apartment, and picked up some small things for a light dinner. We finished up our tarts from the day before and finally tried the Orangina - less sweet than the American version, which I liked, but I couldn’t tell if it had an aftertaste to it.

    Haven’t had our café experience yet, which as I told the rest of the group, we WILL be doing before we leave!




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    Anna, keep it coming! You're a great storyteller. I hope that you took some photos and will post at least a few.

    I was interested to read about all the different nationalities in your background. I'm a combination of Scottish, Irish and English and my husband's grandparents came from Japan so we have lovely children who probably look much like you. My daughter said she always felt different and people told her that I couldn't be her mother. Then her grade five teacher had the class do a family history project abd she discovered that she had the most generations of ancestors born in Canada of anyone in the class!

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    mah - it's probably more hilarious in person if I wasn't panting so hard from being out of breath!!

    Realized I didn't word end of it correctly - when sister actually stops to look at one of maps in the metro, she does if for about 2 seconds, and takes off again, much like how bourne does it in the second movie.

    moolyn,

    We did take photos, but as I mentioned, I completely illiterate when dealing with computers!

    Quite a feat for your daughter! I think we are fortunate that in Hawaii, most people are a combination of many backgrounds. That would be funny if we all looked alike!

    There is actually a hamlet with our last name in England, but with all the craziness before our trip, I didn't have time to research where it was.

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    Wednesday, May 23 2007 (Paris)


    Pharmacy
    Cacao et Chocolate


    looked back at notes and forgot to add these bits into report:

    We had also stopped at one of the two pharmacies located on the island. DF needed a hairbrush and facial wash, and I really wanted to spend time in a pharmacy after hearing raves about it on the board.

    Browsed around, but nothing really appealed to me until we were about to leave. Came upon "Vinotherapie, by Caudalie" which was a brand selling shower gels, face creams, lotions, etc.

    Fell instantly in love with their Vine Peach shower gel. I love anything peach related, and I was amazed how much this shower gel smelled like the fruit. It wasn't artificially sweet smelling like the one's we have in the US.

    We later saw this brand all over Paris - is it a popular brand there?

    It was a 200ml bottle, and was around 8-9 euros. DS later found out at home that to buy that same shower gel here would be $20, not including shipping!

    The workers in the pharmacy were very polite and helpful, and helped DF find exactly what she needed.

    We had also stopped into Cacao et Chocolat earlier, which is right on Rue Ile Saint Louis. I really wanted to visit, but was unsure if we could afford it since many on Fodors mentioned it was pricey.

    It was later in the day, and we were the only customers inside. The owner of the store was incredibly nice, presented us with some samples, and answered all our questions regarding the different chocolates. We were happy that the prices weren't so bad, the cheapest ranging from around 8-12 euros.

    We purchased items for ourselves, and our close family members. Bought chocolate covered cherries(uncle loves them), two boxes of chocolate for mom and grandmother, and a bag of chocolate covered brittle pieces that were wonderful.

    We noticed that they also served hot chocolate, but it was always so hot out that it never really appealed to us then. We later regretted not trying any!

    Cacoa et Chocolat also had ice cream, and this amazing chocolate fountain near the windows. Apparently, you can order chocolate fondue with fresh fruit that they put on the side - either to be eaten there, or put in a box for take-out.

    There were so many treats on the Island that we never got a chance to try to chocolate fondue either! Just more things that we can look forward to next time :)

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    Anna -

    I really can't read your trip report while at work anymore - I just laughed out loud at your DS and at you getting stuck in the RER door! I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, but . . . :)

    This is truly enjoyable. You seem a delightful person and I look forward to more of your experiences.

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    LCBoniti,

    Thanks for all your kind words of encourgement! The RER door experience is still one of the highlights of our last trip :) It truly was one of those memories that you'll never forget!

    Hope to add a new post by this afternoon!

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    Thursday, May 25 2007 (Paris)

    Richard Lenoir Market
    Arc de Triomphe
    Champs Elysees
    D’Orsay


    We had planned to go to BHV today, but decided to make use of the wonderful sunny weather we had been having. News reports called for rain all of Friday & Sat., so we decided to try and fit in the Arc & Champs while the weather was nice.

    Left apt. around 9:30am, and we walked to the St. Paul metro stop in the 4th. DS made a mistake(Jason Bourne-ness seems to be slipping - quite unsettling actually), and we ended up getting out at the wrong metro stop. Suddenly right before us we see BHV - I have to make a bathroom stop, and we breeze through BHV. Since it’s a weekday, it’s not that crowded. I wasn’t sure what I would be expecting since it’s always referenced as a “houseware” store. Didn’t realize that it was basically a dept. store, but focused a lot on home items.

    Bathroom located on top floor, and DS goes to the cafeteria area for a espresso. Very cute area, but we needed to get to the market. Arrived at Bastille Metro station, and wandered over to the Richard Lenoir Market. Loved the white, canopied stands with all kinds of exotic herbs & spices, dried fruits, and candies. DF noticed a leather goods stand and purchased two bags from a vendor. We would also be going to Florence, which has loads of leather goods, but DF wanted these bags.

    Moved farther into the market and hit a morracan/greek stand where DS got a falafel ball, and DF got some sort of spinach/lemon/cheese pita that was heated up. Really interesting, but the spinach had quite a bitter taste, making me think it wasn’t exactly spinach, but some other dark green.

    We came across a couple selling Fleur de Sel, both in original form, and tons of others in which grey salt was mixed with dried oregano, garlic, ginger, pepper, etc. They were very nice, but spoke almost no English, and tried to us hand motions to get there thoughts across. We all bought a few and headed off.

    We finally came across the rotisserie chicken stand, and they only had a few left, since it was already around 12:30pm. We asked for one large chicken, and for some roasted potatoes. We either didn’t clarify enough, or the vendor just wanted to get rid of the entire amount, but he ended up giving us all the potatoes he had left! Potatoes ended up weighing 4 pounds - we knew we’d have leftover for a while!!

    We needed to drop off all our goods back at the apartment as DF wanted to eat the chicken and potatoes for dinner, not lunch. I actually wanted to eat it then since it looked so good, but put on a brave face, while having thoughts of dinner danced through my head all afternoon.

    Headed to Arc de Triomphe, and it was just as immense as it was 5 years ago! Still cannot get over the size, and DF seemed impressed as well. It was around 12:30pm, and we had no museum pass. I wondered if we would be greeted by a massive line, but was so amazed that there was none at all! Bought tickets and immediately headed for the top. This was when we all realized those 4 flights of stairs at our apartment paid off for something, since those 205 steps to the top weren’t that bad, although we still had to take a break halfway.

    Had to again use bathroom, and came across worst one of entire stay in Paris. It’s enclosed, and for some reason, there is no ceiling divider between the men’s and women’s bathroom. Smell was terrible, and I had to cover mouth & nose to breath - avoid at all costs if you can!

    Looked around the top for a while and took pictures. Perhaps we didn’t come at the right time, but we were all a bit disappointed that the traffic below wasn’t as crazy as we’d been expecting. Quite the opposite - we all noticed that it is very orderly, and you could immediately spot the tourists who had no idea what they were doing!

    Walked down along the Champs which we had been before. I’ve noticed a recent thread where others quoted it was their worst experience in Paris. Even on our first trip it didn’t seem that bad, but perhaps that was because we expected it to be filled with American stores - it seems like it was lovelier decades ago. I liked the wide boulevards and the trees that lined the streets, and we finally came across Paul’s bakery. Everything looked great, including all the sandwiches and pastries.

    It was again around 83 degrees today, and incredibly muggy. We stopped into the Mcdonalds for a place to sit down and enjoy the A/C. They had a café like area on the bottom floor, and as on our previous trip, noticed that about 98% of the people were locals. We had all got some cokes and fries, and noticed that the coke in Europe seemed to be slightly less sweet, and had much more carbonation.

    We also noticed the sizes were completely different that the US, and the mediums in Europe were just a little bigger than the smalls in the US. Seemed appropriate since they put only a little ice, and most of the cup is filled with soda.

    DF also thought fries tasted different, but I couldn’t really tell the difference. I know a lot of people hate even the sight of Mcdonalds in Europe, but we have always appreciated it along our travels for a free bathroom, glorious A/C when needed, and a cheap way to fill our coke fix.

    We really wanted to find the Monoprix since we went there last time, and I believe it’s one of the biggest in Paris. DF bought a couple of tank-tops that were on sale for about 4 euros each - she mentioned how much she loved Monoprix, and loved the idea that you could shop for clothes and food at the same place!

    DF also purchased 3 bottles of Caudalie Sauvignon/Merlot/Burgandy Shower Gel, and they come packaged like a real wine bottle. Very cute, and we also purchased the Sauvignon one, which has a very nice citrus smell to it.

    Walked down to grocery level, and bought more chocolates, white chocolate w/apricots, etc. for gifts. Ran into more yogurt in glass jars with tons of interesting flavors like prune. DS and I love yogurt, and the ones in the glass jars seemed the best - very thick and natural tasting.

    I had mentioned to DF that there was a Quicksilver somewhere along the Champs, and since she’s really into surfing, so we headed there. Come to find out it’s on the end of the whole street - government must have something against floral patterns.

    I told her I remembered some people on the board mentioning stickers that said “Quicksilver Paris, Champs Elysees”, which she was really excited to find. DS extremely disappointed that they had none, and there were slim pickings as to shirts that said the above. DS did say experience seemed surreal as entire store looked exactly the same as back home.

    I keep on seeing happy dogs all over Paris(well, who wouldn’t be happy if they lived in Paris) in stores, cafes, even the metro - suddenly miss own dog back home :)

    We took the metro to D’Orsay, and came across Annick Koutal outlet. DF wanted to stop in a perfume shop, and we just happened to walk by this one. DF didn’t purchase anything, but got a free sample of a pear & peach perfume that she really liked.

    Got to D’Orsay at about 5:45pm, and I had asked on the board if we would be waiting long since we didn’t have a museum pass. Was quite worried since many said I would at least need to get a ticket a day before, but imagine my surprise again when there are absolutely no lines - none! I’m so thrilled that there are no lines, possibly more than actually seeing the museum!

    DS and I went on our last trip, but it’s all new for DF. Entrance has those crazy doors which move in a circle, and I swear, they are only put there for employees to laugh at those who get stuck in them. Manage to get out without getting stuck in them(yaaa!), and head to the museum.

    Love seeing the architecture again, and the clock - still can’t believe it was once a train station. We are all so tired, and our main point of coming here is to see the Impressionists, so we head up. Huge fan of Monet and Renoir, and we all loved seeing them.

    Head up to the Main restaurant, which is lovely, especially against the early evening light. We have dinner at home, and we head to the café which is open. We weren’t able to eat here last time, and we’ve always wanted to eat neared the famed clock. We couldn’t get the tables that overlook the Seine, though.

    DS gets a double espresso and a chocolate tiramisu, DF gets a citron presse and pear tart, and I get a orange presse and apricot tart. Told DF about citron presse since she LOVES lemonade.

    Obviously we came here more for the ambience and view since the tarts were ok, might not great. Pricey too, since DF and my drinks are 4 euros, and all the desserts are about 8 euros.

    I tell DF how to drink the citron presse, although I’ve never had one myself. We all try to contain our laughter when DF scrunches up her face and says how tart it is, and it seems to get tarter when she adds more water!

    We walk outside to take in the view from the terrace, and take pictures near the clock inside. We are exhausted from the heat and all the walking we did today, and we go down to the taxi rank. We are surprised there are no taxi’s already waiting, but decide to wait.

    Wait for another 10 minutes before we decide what to do. DS a bit worried because although it is around 8pm, and still lighted, she know if we take the metro we need to change at Chatelet, and we know the area should be avoided at night.

    I remember from previous day that if we take the RER from D’Orsay, it will take us right back to the St. Michel Norte Dame on a direct line. Our brains weren’t working for entire trip(half to jet lag, and half to sleep exhaustion) and I only just realized now we could have gone back in, and asked someone at the D’Orsay to call us a taxi - ugh. D’Orsay is open till around 8:45 right?

    We returned back to the apt., but I needed water yet again. I have really bad allergies and am constantly thirsty so I drink TONS of water a day - DF was amazed and remarked that we need to take pictures of all the bottles so others will believe her - she even made a bowling pins out of them! Go to store next door to pick up some.

    DS and I head to Amorino and get a yogurt gelato for 3 euros - portions seem enormous and goliath like after Berthillon ice cream. Really good, but portion too much for us.

    Walk back and we enjoy our rotisserie chicken and potatoes. Chicken a bit dry, but we don’t know if that was because we reheated it. Potatoes really good, but even better when we put the Fleur de Sel we purchased earlier on it - we may have found another addiction!

    We all die laughing when we realize chicken still had undefinable limb still attached and no one wants to go near it - we keep passing the knife to the other person to make first cut.

    Chicken is so huge all three of us only finish half of it, and it still looks like there is a mountain of potatoes left.

    We are going to send some items home, since we will not make Air France weight requirement otherwise(too much on a budget to give bribes this time). DS double espresso works too well, and we all end up staying up till 2am! So much for making sure we sleep at 11pm at the latest on this trip!


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    Anna, more please! I am so enjoying your trip report. You have an absolutely wonderful sense of humor. Your detail is fabulous. Kudos to you for all the time and effort you are putting into this report. You are just making me want to go to the airport, hop on a plane & go back again to Paris! Thank you for such a marvelous report. Keep up the good work. I'm waiting anxiously to read your next installment.

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    Dee Dee,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. Over the past 5 years, I have enjoyed so many trip reports, and most of the time, it was the little details that I really enjoyed. So I'm trying to do the same for mine.

    I'm a bit concerned - it took me almost 1.5 hours just to post my last entry! That's the entire length of a flight from London-Paris!! Hoping I'm not the only one who takes this long!

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    Really enjoying the trip report, Anna. They do take a long time to write, but then you have an account of your trip for yourself as well as helping everyone here.

    We got separated from my husband at CDG when we were trying to make a tight connection. It was the most terrifying thing ever. He still can't talk about it. Similar to you, we had separated the passports from the people. He had all the boarding passes, I had all the passports. What a mess. CDG did page him, but it was in such a strong French accent that I didn't even recognize the name and I requested the page!

    Looking forward to more of your adventures.

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    Friday, May 25th 2007 (Paris)


    Shopping on Ile Saint Louis
    Café Indulgence
    Sparkling Brilliance of the Eiffel Tower

    Late night made early morning impossible, as DS would have gotten arm ripped out due to angry wookie-ness emerging from myself. Apparently we have turned into Italians while in France, and left apartment at 12pm! Headed to Post Office across the street from us - have gotten totally spoiled by how close everything is on the Island…also love how we refer to Ile Saint Louis as “the Island” - sound so Parisian :)

    All of us amazed that shipping large box(about 18 inches long, 12 inches wide) home only cost 39 euros - obviously more than we would like, but much cheaper than $315. Bought boxes today, but shipping home tomorrow.

    All over Paris have noticed huge ads for some brand of perfume advertised by Clive Owen - don’t you just love Paris! Can’t recall which brand it was for, but really, who could when confronted with larger than life photo of Clive Owen…Ok - that settles it - I could definitely move here :)

    We all wanted to explore the Island more, and I flashed to what other fodorites on the board mentioned - the only bad thing about staying on the Island is that you will never want to leave! Walk down to Pylones, which was full of fun, funky items. Bought a few gifts for friends, but had to resist the urge to buy more for ourselves.

    Strolled through all the stores like the jewelry shops, antique shops, and a really lovely store that sold all kinds of mustards and jams. We didn’t purchase any, but we enjoyed looking at all the unusual flavors.

    I needed to go to a café, since we weren’t able to have the experience last time, and I refused to leave Paris without going to at least one. I had heard a lot of Cafes on the Island can be terrible, so I looked at a rec. given to me by Maitaitom who had gone to a café with Michael Osman. They went to Le Lutétia, 33 quai Bourbon. I had come across it on a previous day and wanted to head back.

    All the waiters were friendly and spoke English, and we seemed to be one of the few American’s there. There were some tourists there from Germany and other parts of Europe, and I’m sure it’s not as authentic as a café in a more residential area, but we really enjoyed it.

    All three of us got a set prix-fixe menu, but got slightly different things. DS and I both got the croque monsieur, which came with frites and a mixed green salad, a drink, and a coffee at the end. DF got salmon tartare that came with a salad, a drink, and coffee. All our prix fix meals were around 13-14 euros, which I think was a pretty good deal.

    I had never had a croque monsieur before, but I knew the basic elements to it. Le Lutetia’s was a very large portion, and the cheese was bubbly and bronzed when it came to us. It was very good, although a bit rich for the size we got, and I could only finish about ¾’s of it. The frites were ok, but the salad, although just a simple side of mixed greens with a balsamic and oil dressing, was presented and prepared wonderfully.

    DF was surprised the salmon was uncooked, as I had neglected to inform her that anything tartare was rare and uncooked, but I had assumed she had known. It was really more like a ceviche, and DF liked it.

    Women of unknown European descent kept smoking for almost 1.5 hours straight! The constant smell was making all of us nauseous, so we couldn’t linger at the café as long was we would have liked.

    We all got espresso’s, and DS noticed that when she ordered coffees in Paris, we always got a tiny square of chocolate. We pondered if it was to be eaten separately with your coffee or dropped into the espresso itself - chocolate never around long enough to figure that out! German couple next to us ordered steak frites which looked really good, and they seemed to enjoy the cheese plate they had for dessert.

    Waiter was nice, but seemed even more so when I said, “excusez - moi, L‘addition, sil vous plait”. He face beamed a bit, and compliments me on my French, which really makes my day, even though I know he is just being polite. We leave, and we walk across the street as I take a picture of the café. We start to walk off, when he runs across and asks us if we would like a picture. We agree, and thank him for his gesture, though it may be because we left him a tip!

    Stroll leisurely back along Quai Bourban and take in the Seine River. Three of us have a rather long, and scholarly talk about the quality of toilet paper in Paris- yes, toilet paper. We stop for a moment and consider where we could find some that are a bit softer, when a Parisian man, on a bicycle across the street smiles and asks all of us if we are lost. We thank him politely, but tell him that we aren’t and continue down the street. We all have a laugh, and realize people always tell you about attentions of Italian men, but not the French!

    We walked back to apt to check on my clothes which had been in the dryer. DF had washed clothes first, and realized that we needed to air-dry our clothes first, and when it is almost dry, throw it into dryer for best results. This method seemed to work well, and again, we wondered how the locals do it with such small dryers.

    We returned to Maison Lohezic, the wonderful bakery in near Place Maubert. We got loads of pastries including chocolate croissants, baguette - only .30 euros!, citron tart, chocolate tart, and a unbelievable passion fruit mousse that had coconut flakes around the edges. Purchased linzer torte like cookies, macaroons, and some sort of puffed pastry filled with a thin layer of strawberry jam, and lightly dusted with powdered sugar - yum! Not to mention that we bought our jambon fromage sandwiches for dinner later - we did go completely overboard, but we rationalized our greedy actions by saying we only had one more day in Paris!

    We purchased wine next door and DF could not believe some wines were only about 2-3 euros. Also went in to a fromage shop and picked up lovely looking yogurts in glass jars - citron, prune, and coconut. Just as we are about to pick up jars, slightly crazy French man wanders into the store, starts speaking to no one in particular, and is making hand motions to shop assistant. We leave and later eat yogurt which turns out to be horrible, runny, and sickly sweet - DF is positive crazy French man was actually trying to warn us about yogurt!

    It’s now around 5:50pm, and we did have Louvre on our list since it is open late tonight. We are all really tired, and decide whether to go tonight or tomorrow. We decide to go, and start to walk toward Pont Marie bridge.

    Weather forecasts had said would be raining with thunderstorms all day today, but day has been clear until now. As we leave apartment, DF notices lighting in sky, but sky is only just slightly overcast.

    Just as we are halfway over bridge, DS stops us, and points to thick, dark, ominous clouds which seemed to have rolled in out of nowhere. Even more lighting, and thunder is getting closer. DF and DS decide that they don’t want to be caught in a storm, so we start to walk back.

    We have heard church bells from Norte Dame(we think) all week, but suddenly, the bells start tolling, and a mysterious wind picks up, one we have never seen before. As if tiny cyclones dance across street, picking up leaves in it’s wake.

    Since it’s a Friday, the Island seemed to be packed with tons of people, but we look around and notice the lack of people everywhere. The streets have hauntingly become silent, and this is only in the span of 5 minutes.

    We see a candy shop we haven’t yet run across, and decide to go in. As the nice women explains the different candies to us, we notice the locals who are on the street are running, actually running for shelter as bright skies have turned instantly into night. As we politely listen to shopkeeper, we all give each other glances as if to say, “Should we be getting worried?” - it seems our apartment missed the memo that the apocalypse had arrived.

    Out of nowhere, rain starts pouring down in buckets. We glance outside, and notice that even the moped riders who don’t bat an eye at zooming in an out of traffic at G-force like speeds, have parked on the side of the street, and dive into the nearest doorway for shelter - who knew rain would be there greatest fear? Must remember to carry bottled water to throw on them as they seem to take unholy delight in nearly running down pedestrians - I actually LOVE the crazy moped/vespa riders in Europe, and seeing them huddled under doorways was quite a memory.

    Return to apartment, and we all relax, eat dinner, write in journals, and enjoy spending a night in the apartment, which we haven’t had the chance to do. We had planned to visit the Eiffel Tower at night sometime on this trip, but we have always been worried about safety. After not finding taxi at D’Orsay at night, we wonder if any taxi’s would still be at Eiffel Tower to take us back to apt., as we didn’t want to enter Chatelet metro.

    I walk into the bathroom, which faces a courtyard, and notice that rain has stopped and skies are actually clear. It’s 9:55pm, and I tell DS and DF jokingly that if we run really fast, we could make it to the Pont de la Tournelle bridge, which has a bit of a view of the Eiffel Tower. To my surprise, they love the idea, since I’ve told them it twinkles on the hour starting from 10pm for 10 minutes.

    We scramble around for shoes, and I’ve never changed out of my pajama’s into clothes so fast! We race down the stairs as fast as we can without falling, run down the street, past locals who look at us quizzically, and make it to the bridge, completely out of breath with about 30 seconds to spare! We all laugh breathlessly, and I haven’t had so much fun in a long time - DS and I aren’t really spontaneous(at all), which only makes the moment all the more special.

    The tower is already lit, which is spectacular even from far away, and then magically, it starts twinkling! DF gives a tiny cry of joy, and we all stare enthralled at it’s beauty. We can only see the top portion from this distance, but it was worth the scramble down! All we needed was Ewan Mcgregor singing “Your Song” in the background - knew we should have made the trip to Montmartre!

    The Norte Dame is also lit, and we enjoy just staring at it for minutes. We stay on the bridge for about 15 minutes and share it with other couples who take in the view.


    Coming Up: BHV, mashed potatoes in croque monsieur’s, and saying a teary au revoir to Paris.




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    Noe,

    I'm glad others take a long time as well when writing trip reports, and not just me!

    Such a scary incident to have at CDG - thank goodness they allowed you to page him, and I hope both of you weren't seperated for long.

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    Hi Anna

    I really enjoy your trip report especially as me and my two sisters are also visiting Paris in December (a last adventure together before my one sister's marriage)

    I have completely fallen in love with Paris just researching our trip!

    Thanx for such a detailed report

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    Thanks Linda - hope you and your sisters have a great time!

    Last night, DS informs me I stated incorrectly when I said we purchased 4 pounds of potatoes at the market - she says it was 4 kilos.

    I adamently reply that it was 4 pounds as I was the only one in group keeping daily journal, and am most sure it was 4 pounds.

    DS again remains firm that she is correct, and now I start to think I indeed may be wrong.

    DS starts to say why it was 4 kilos, but then stops halfway and realizes I may be right.

    Resist urge to call her LCB in trip report instead of DS. LCB standing for Lady Catherine deBourgh, who will not stand to be corrected and is authority on any subject known to man.

    Reconsider letting her read on going trip report as she has nominated herself editor - resist urge to stuff her in carryon...might need her navagational skills in future :)

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    Saturday, May 26th 2007 (Paris)

    BHV
    Louvre
    Saying Goodbye


    DS woke up early this morning, and went with DF to a chocolate/patisserie shop on called “Calixte” located right on Rue Ile Saint Louis. They purchased some cookies and wonderful chocolates that they make in the store. Loved dark chocolate squares filled with sliced, toffed almonds and small bits of orange rind. You can purchase them by the kilo, or they also come presented in little packages.

    I had also requested a pain au chocolat and I have to say that their’s was the best I had in Paris. They were still warm, extremely buttery and light, and tasted fabulous.

    We hastily packed items into box to send back home, trying to figure out if we would make the 7 kilo requirement. Finally arrived at Post Office at around 12:20pm, and they close at 1pm. We really packed as much as we could, and DS and my boxes were around 6.50 kilos! All rejoice as boxes come under weight requirement, and head out.

    Take metro to BHV where DS and I separate from DF for an hour and plan to meet near entrance. We head up the levels and purchase some postcards - they had a large, lovely selection of both postcards and regular greeting cards. DF in need of caffeine, and since we left IV drip at home, we head up to the cafeteria on top level for her espresso.

    The café upstairs is broken up into three major areas: a small café with pasteries and coffees, a slightly modern cafeteria like area that served small salads and smaller meals, and a large cafeteria area that had stations for pasta, chicken, and a buffet area that held all kinds of desserts and salads. Really amazed by how lovely the entire area was.

    I decided to get the roasted chicken meal(¼ of a chicken)that cost 5.95 euros, and came with a side. You could pick between frites, mashed potatoes, and cooked veg, but I took the mashed potatoes since I have a weakness for them. Chicken was ok, but really disappointed when I realized mashed potatoes are instant! Have quite a loathing for instant mashed potatoes :(

    DS decides to get a croque monsieur and lipton peach ice tea - she decides croque monsieur is miserable, and says there is mashed potato in her sandwich! Perhaps they just had tons of it and decided to put it in everything! Both of us are incredibly happy with the peach ice tea though. We love the stuff, and this particular one is sooo good! Full of real peach flavor, nothing artificial - I had been seeing it during our trip, but avoided is since I hate lipton tea back home. Feel stupid for only tasting it on last day!

    We had wanted to get a table with a view, but BHV is packed today, unlike Thursday, and all tables near the windows are taken. We were disappointed with the food, especially since many on fodors mention it. I would however come up to take a break, grab a drink, and even enjoy some dessert since it did have a great view.

    We hurry down to meet DF, who ends up being about 15 minutes late. DF has slightly frazzled look about her, and we ask her if she found anything. She mentions that she saw a bunch of cute things, but outside of her budget. DF says all the people in the store are driving her a bit bonkers, so we head off to the Louvre.

    Arrive at Louvre at 4pm, and it closes at 6pm today. DF did not get lunch at BHV, so we head to the nearest cafeteria area. DF gets a prepared lentil salad that contains smoked salmon, lemon, and herbs. DF said it was fantastic, and she would try to recreate it at home. We all shared a sugared Belgium waffle, which was really good(although microwaved), and had bits of sugar within the waffle.

    We are not huge museum people, and DS and I had already been to museum. This was our last day, and I was a bit disappointed that we couldn’t spend more of it experiencing Paris instead of in a museum. But DF had never been, and I know she really wanted to see it. We pretty much hit the major three items: Venus de Milo, Mona Lisa, and Winged Victory.

    As stated, we didn’t have museum passes, but we went through the underground entrance, and we encountered no line, even though there were still loads of people in the museum. We got to see a bit of the Napoleon Apartments, and other items along the way. We came across of Café Richlieu, which seemed like a nice café that was out of the way from the mass of people.

    Annoucements were made to ask people to leave at about 5:45pm, so we walked out to the courtyard and to the pyramid. It was supposed to rain again today, but it was just slightly overcast. We started to walk back to the metro station, and suddenly out of nowhere I spot the Eiffel Tower! I love seeing it again, and am saddened that I haven’t seen it more this trip.

    On our last trip we were in the 16th arr and we almost saw the tower daily - DS and I had wanted to walk through the 16th again, and the area near the hotel in which we stayed, but we never had enough time to do so. Metro back to the Island, and we make one final stop at Le Sarrisan for some sweet crepes. Feel quite upset when I realize I haven’t had enough crepes this trip - have only been focusing on Berthillon ice cream!

    I get a chocolate and banana crepe, which is hot and incredibly good! DS gets a crepe with apricot preserves, and it’s really good - we both try each other’s, but I think I eat about half of DS’s crepe! Must make mental note to have both crepe and ice cream each day when in Paris - sounds like a great trip already!

    Previous day we had returned to Cacao et Chocolat, and DF and DS picked up more gifts for friends back home. I had wandered to close to the ice cream display and ended up getting a mango sorbet that had bits of chocolate in it! Very good, and those who love fresh mango would love it.

    We returned to Calixte and purchased the chocolate that are already in bags, and cute Eiffel Tower shaped lollipops for friends.

    Return to apartment to finish off leftover chicken and potatoes and all our desserts from various boulangeries and patisseries. DS had picked up a cherry claufoutie(sp?), and DF picked up strawberry shortcake from a patisserie on the Island - ok, but not as good as the items from Maison Lohezic.

    We all finish packing, and DS and I walk down at about 9:50pm to the bridge to see the twinkling Eiffel Tower one last time. It’s really cold out tonight, but couples continue to walk up and down bridge and take in the view with us. Try not to get too upset at the idea of leaving Paris. It’s taken us 5 long years to return, I know we won’t be able to return for a few more years at the earliest. Want to stay and enjoy this moment forever, soaking in all the Paris had given to us.

    Walk back to Pom Cannelle since Berthillon is already closed, and enjoy our ice cream in Paris one last time. DS again gets chocolate with orange bits, and I get orange sanguine(blood orange) again. We return to the apartment, and finish packing.

    Slightly worried that our bags will go over Air France’s 44 pound weight limit. Out of nowhere, I realize we will actually be driving in England tomorrow - driving in England! Try not to laugh manically at the thought. Must stay calm - it won’t be that bad right?

    DS, trusted navigator for entire driving experience, informs me that she’s realized she doesn’t know how to read the maps - DS very near to being stripped of her Jason Bourne title. In all our pre-trip madness, didn‘t have enough time to study British road signs, ask enough questions about roundabouts(do we enter clockwise or counterclockwise, do we yield - does anyone yield?)and we have no GPS system…why do I have a bad feeling about this?

    Coming Up: Nearly crashing in our first roundabout and encountering our first French(yes, French) pub.




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    anna, reading your report made me realize that it's been far too long since I've been to Paris on stayed on the island. You are bringing back great memories. Thanks so much for this wonderful report!

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    Anna, my two sisters and I are going to the British Isles in Sept 2008. We are actually extending our trip two extra days in order to visit Paris for two nights - one full day. That is how much I love Paris and I want to share it with them.

    We also traveled together to Rome and Florence last year. Traveling with sisters is both a blessing and a curse, as I'm sure you can appreciate :) (Of course, mostly a blessing, which is why we are doing it again.)

    I am really enjoying your sense of humor. More, please . . .

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    >>As we politely listen to shopkeeper, we all give each other glances as if to say, “Should we be getting worried?” - it seems our apartment missed the memo that the apocalypse had arrived.<<

    :-)) Between this and Lady Catherine, I'm sitting here trying to laugh silently so I don't wake anyone up!

    Lee Ann

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    moolyn,

    I think staying on the Island was the best way to introduce it to our friend, and we loved how it was like an oasis in the city.


    LCBoniti,

    Like you, I don't think I could travel all the way to Europe, and not go to Paris as well.

    Laughed about your comments about sisters - we do have our moments, but traveling to Europe wouldn't be the same without them.


    Leeann,

    So glad you are enjoying my report - in a few days, the report will be journeying to the land of Jane Austen! Yaaay!!

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    Life sized photos of Clive Owen! I definitly need to hop on a plane & go to Paris right now! Your descriptions of ice cream, pastries and sweets has my mouth watering. But, it's the life sized photos of Clive that are nearly sending me over the edge!

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    Sunday, May 27, 2007 (Troutbeck, Lake District)

    Manchester Airport-Troutbeck
    High Fold Guest House
    Mortal Man

    Woke up early to clean up apartment, and meet with apartment owner who refunded us our deposit. Really sweet girl, and she called us a taxi to take us to the airport. Left apartment around 10am, and we didn’t hit much traffic because of the time, and since it was a Sunday. Arrived at CDG at around 10:30am, and headed for the Air France check-in desk for flight to Manchester.

    Meet up again with the dreaded airport scale, but we all make the weight requirements! DF’s, who actually had the lightest bag when we arrived, now has the heaviest at 22.2 kg - .2 kg overweight, but the ticket agents lets it pass. DS bag is 21.3 kg, and I stand in amazement as my bag weighs in at 16.4 kg! Unbelievable - I wanted to ask them to bring my bag back so I could throw some items from my carry-on into my checked luggage!

    We breeze through security in less than 5 minutes - absolutely fastest security line that we went through on our trip. Have about 2 hours before flight, so we all head to get food, and buy last minute postcards and souvenirs. Found lipton peach ice tea, and enjoy what is to be the last of it on our trip. Flight leaves 1 hour later then scheduled, and as we wait in the boarding area, I realize that we are really leaving Paris.

    We had 6 days here, but there was still a whole list of things I wanted to see that we never did - Opera, Luxembourg Gardens, St. Germain neighborhood, Galleries Lafayette, Printemps, Poilane, etc. To not depress myself completely about leaving Paris, I just try to remember that I’ll just have to visit them all next time :)

    Despite being 1 hour late(tell myself it could be worse), the Air France crew are very nice and polite. We are served a snack, which we didn’t expect, of a cheese like sandwich on foccacia bread - really very good for airline standards.

    Arrive at Manchester at 2:05 pm, and head down to collect our luggage, which are all there! Don’t need to worry about luggage arriving until trip back home, which makes me quite happy. We head down to find the National Car agency, but having difficulty finding them. DS call the courtesy phone, and they tell her it’s a good thing she’s called as they will be closing soon - a bit thrown off since it is only 2pm, and I know they are supposed to be open till evening time. Forgot that’s since it’s bank holiday, their hours would be a bit different, and I’m glad our plane wasn’t delayed any further.

    Agent working for National was incredibly nice and she couldn’t have been more helpful. We all decided that we would share driving responsibilities, so we add all our names to the contract. DF had been panicking about driving about 3-4 days before - she says she doesn’t think she can drive at all! DS and I try to tell her she will be fine, but I start to wonder if she will actually drive - quite relieved when she too signs contract.

    DS asks the agent if our directions, which I have printed from the Michelin site are accurate, and will indeed take us to Troutbeck. The agent comments that these internet instructions always make things a bit more difficult than they have to be, and writes out a new set of instructions for us to follow. We thank her for all her help, and he up to find our car.

    Our contract had stated we would receive an Opel Vectra, and when we go up to see our car, we can’t believe how big it is! We know the roads will be small in the Lake District, and I almost want to check if we can get a smaller car - it’s not huge by any means, but I’m worried about the size when compared to the size of the roads.

    Before we go, DF and DS head back to terminal to get cash - DF comes back and says she really feels uncomfortable in Manchester Airport. She mentions that she keeps on getting stares from a group of Arab men, and thinks coloring of DS is adding to stares both got while in terminal. I didn’t notice anything, but I was a bit preoccupied finding the restroom! The area they went to was a bit quiet and out of the way, which may have added to it, but I’m surprised at her anxiety. As we leave the parking lot, I do notice we are getting looks, and now I start to get paranoid!

    I should point out that neither DS or I have driven in the mainland, and we haven’t even driven on the freeways on Oahu before! It seems we always take extremes while traveling! I’m terrible at navigating, and I think the best option we have is if I drive from Manchester to Troutbeck, and that way, we will have two people navigating. DF has driven lots of times in mainland before, and she has experience with reading maps. Sounds pretty rational at the time right?

    More coming up...

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    I check how everything in the car works and get comfortable in the car seat. It’s now around 3:30pm,and I pray that we get to Troutbeck by at least 10pm, which is when it will start to get dark. It is only a 1.5-2 hour drive, but let’s be serious - with my driving experience we could end up heading south to London instead of North to Troutbeck!

    Ok, breathe…must not panic. Head out of parking lot without incident - that wasn’t so bad now was it? Gradually drive forward(they do drive forward here don’t they?) and we all see ominous sign ahead - it’s our first roundabout, and we’ve barely left the parking lot.

    Ask DF and DS what to do - DS answers first and tells me to enter roundabout slowly, and then to turn left…that’s right left, which will take us right into that huge, gigantic tour bus which is heading straight for us!!

    We are start yelling as we realize we have completely passed the sign which has a red circle and a white line crossing through it, or for us stupid folk, DO NOT ENTER!

    Hurriedly try to stop, turn around, and back up, while monstrous tour bus keeps heading straight for us. Belatedly realize that I need to shift with left hand, which only makes the process go by even slower than normal. I make hand motions thanking the tour bus driver who is waiting for me to get going, and we enter the roundabout, yet again.

    This is our first one, and we are confused as how to read the signs. Added to this, a number of taxi’s are behind us, and honking like there’s no tomorrow. Yeah…that’s really helping my stress level now, guys. I’m trying to not completely lose it, and we finally make it onto the M60.

    We forget that everything is opposite here, and the slow lane is not the far right, but the far left - learned this the hard way when large number of cars both honk, flash their lights, and speedily overtake us.

    For some reason, while in any lane, I keep “drifting” to the left side of the lane. I can’t seem to get comfortable within the lanes, our car has terrible blind spots, and worse yet, I can’t even tell that I am drifting at all. I ask DF and DS to let me know when I start to sway to the left, and I repeatedly hear terrified shouts of “Drifting! Drifting!”

    There were a couple of close calls where I almost came close to running of the road and completely scraping the entire left side of the car, or when I forget to slow down enough and need to swerve to stay in my lane when getting off at our exit - driving here is better than paying the $50 to get into a theme park!

    Thank goodness, we arrive into the Lake District, and even better, we find Troutbeck - all without getting lost, and without a GPS - ha! We realize we got here so easily on with the help of the clear instructions the National agent gave us - DS and DF say that Michelin directions are really confusing.

    It’s taken us about 2 hours to get here(not the 10 that I had feared!) and we take only one wrong turn in Troutbeck to get to our accommodations while in the Lake District.

    We arrive at High Fold Guest House (http://www.highfoldbedandbreakfast.co.uk/) and they only have about 4 parking slots, and just one left that is empty. I think the drive has completely frazzled me, and I can’t even back into the parking slot! DF has to jump out to guide me, and it must take me about 5 minutes to back up into a stall. The owner, who at this point must know we are American’s, come out to meet us.

    He was very welcoming and helped us with our bags, and we found out we would be staying on the top floor - someone must be punishing us for the amount of luggage we packed. We successfully transferred all our bags up, and our room, Kirkstone Pass, which is a triple room, was much cuter than the pictures, which is always a plus in my book.

    It cost us 90 pounds per night, and I think that was a really good deal as paid 30 pounds per person. DS and I shared the king size bed, and DF had a single bed. We had an ensuite bathroom, but it might have been a problem had we been taller since the shower was quite small.

    It was now about 6pm, and our room included a afternoon tea upon arrival. We hurried down into the breakfast room which had a stunning view of the view around High Fold Guest House. If you go to the internet site provided above, it the picture on the main page, and just as stunning in person.

    The owner brought in our tea, along with some chocolate chip and chocolate covered gingersnap cookies - nothing elaborate, but I was thinking it would be very simple.

    DF mentioned to the owner that she was interested in horseback riding while up here, but didn't get around to doing the research on it(more on that later!). He tells her he will look up some information, and returns in about 15 minutes with info. he found on internet - they were really helpful with all our questions during our stay.

    We enjoyed our tea till about 6:40 p.m. and then we decide what to do for dinner. The owner tells us there are only two restaurants/pubs in the area, one being The Mortal Man, and the other being The Queen’s Head. Both only serve food until 9pm, but The Mortal Man is only ½ a mile away, while The Queen’s Head is about a two mile walk.

    It’s gotten overcast, and really cold and windy and the temperature is nearing the low 50’s. I don’t really feel like driving, and we all decide to walk to The Mortal Man. I had heard both of these pubs recommended on fodors, so I'm excited to see what they are like.

    As we walk through Troutbeck, I can’t believe how lovely it is. Incredibly quiet, gorgeous scenery wherever you look, and the town only has two restaurants, and one post office. Our rooms don’t have a phone, but there is a phone booth right next to the Post Office, which is to the left of the guest house, and only 1-2 minutes away from us.

    We don’t see loads of tourists, and some of the locals are out cleaning their yards, or taking walks. Everyone we pass tells us “hello”, and we really feel as if we are in a small English town. There seems to be sheep in everyone’s yard, and we come across the garden trail that the owner has mentioned - it goes through people’s backyards, and we marvel at that thought, as we know in America that would never happen.

    We walk in and I’m surprised that the Mortal Man has a lovely restaurant, with a gorgeous view, and a pub area that is separate - I had only thought it was a pub!

    We are greeted by the Maitre’D who is French! Nothing bad, but really surprising when you are going to an “English” pub - he tells us he is very sorry, but they have absolutely no openings. I suddenly remember that since it’s bank holiday, most restaurants will be full.

    He seems to think that we only want to go into the restaurant, but when we indicate the pub(which is also full), he tells us that if we are willingly to wait, we might be able to get a table.

    It’s so warm inside, and we are so hungry, we don’t mind waiting in lobby area, which is really cute and looks like someone’s living room. He brings us some menu’s to look over, but asks if it would be alright if we could eat in the lobby - the tables aren’t really set up for that, and are really low, but we are starving and any opportunity for food is welcoming.

    He returns back and happily informs us that a table opened up in the pub(although it did have a ‘reserved’ sign on it), and we head it. It’s our first time in a pub, and it’s exactly what I thought it would be like. The bar is a bit small, and there are no seats around it. We are seated next to the roaring fireplace, which really captures our visions of a English pub.

    There is a separate menu for the restaurant and the pub, but we could order from any one. We had just been envisioning having some traditional English pub food, but as we study the menu’s we find out they are French influenced and are very modern! DS remembers that when she visited the websites of the two pubs in town, they were called “gastro-pubs”, and they would be reinventing traditional English food.

    We are just a bit disappointed at the thought, but the French influenced food does look really good! We notice that all the waiters are French, which does sort of break our vision of an English pub. We all laugh as DF asks us if we really left France!

    DS and I remember that we have to go up to the bar to order, so DF orders a Guinness for herself. DS gets our drinks, and she mentions that the bartender is British, who politely asks about our travels so far. For some reason, knowing there is at least one British person here makes us all happy, and we enjoy listening to all the British accents from neighboring tables. There are a few families here, along with couples, and it seems like the locals hang out near the bar.

    We all decide on either getting a sea bass dish or a salmon one, and we all get the sea bass which is prepared in a Mediterranean style. It is really delicious and light, and includes tomatoes and olives. We enjoy our meal and head back to the guest house, but it’s started to drizzle slightly. The wind has picked up, and we try to get back before we all freeze!

    We return to High Fold, and try to get some sleep for the next day. It’s supposed to rain tomorrow according to the forecast, so we will see what the weather will be like before deciding on our plans.


    Coming up: Gorging on English Breakfasts, encountering the British version of the finger, being reprimanded in a Grasmere café, and having a Nascar driver as a DF!


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    Dee Dee,

    We saw some of those Clive Owen billboards in London also - it was lovely to see him again!


    LCBoniti,

    Well, I'm glad our driving experiences felt that way, and we weren't just exaggerating our reactions :)

    Where are you staying in the Lake District? We didn't get to all the areas we wanted to, but I'll try to include as much details as I can.

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    Anna -
    Actually we are driving through the Lake District on our way to Scotland from Wales. We plan to overnight there but have not yet decided exactly where. Rick Steves recommends the northern Lake District (Keswick) but you stayed in the southern part near Windermere, right?

    Our trip is not until Sept/Oct 2008 so we have plenty of time to read trip reports and answers to other peoples' questions for ideas before making definite plans. That is all part of the fun for me!

    Of course, we are trying to balance our desire to "see it all" with knowledge and understanding that too much driving and moving from place to place will not allow us to enjoy any of it.

    I am really enjoying your "crazy, wonderful european adventure". Your writing style makes me feel you are in the room just talking to me. And your humor has me laughing out loud at times. So . . . . more, please!

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    Anna, I'm so glad you liked Troutbeck. We've driven through many times on our way to or from Kirkstone Pass which your room was named after. I've always thought it a lovely village, so peaceful and yet right in the middle of the lake district. I remember all of the places you considered before deciding and think you made the right choice.

    Driving on the left side isn't nearly as hard as shifting with your left hand, is it? I'm glad that you emerged unscathed from the experience.

    LCBoniti, Keswick is a lovely part of the lakes and you would be happy staying there. Where Anna stayed is the central area: Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere. Many of the major lake attractions are located in this area so there is a greater choice of accomodations and restaurants.

    You might find the lake district report I posted last year of help: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threadselect.jsp?fid=2&tid=34811293

    We will be in the lakes by this time next week and I can hardly wait!






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    LCBoniti,

    Thanks for sticking with me on this trip report, and I was really touched when you felt like I was right there in the room with you - although this way you get to log of and not hear my ramblings all day!!


    Moolyn,

    We couldn't have been happier with our decision to stay in Troutbeck - it was only a 3-5 minute drive to Windermere, but it was even quieter than Grasmere(which felt quite large after coming from Troutbeck!)

    DS and I are even talking about going back to the Lake District on our next trip, which may not be for a few years - and we definitely want to return to Troutbeck...I can't thank you enough for all your help with the Lakes and with Troutbeck!!

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    Monday, May 28th, 2007 (Troutbeck, Lake District)

    Windermere
    Grasmere
    Ambleside

    Started the day at 9am since that was the assigned time we had for our breakfast. Our breakfast was included in our stay, and today was quite cold with the high begin around 50 degrees. We went down to the breakfast room, and DF would meet us there a bit later. DF walked to nearby post office earlier this morning, and down to “Limefitt Farm”, which was about 2 miles from High Fold Guest House, as they gave horseback riding tours around the area.

    DF came back and reported that there were two women running the post office, who were extremely nice and asked all kinds of questions about our travels. DF also encountered a older gentleman who lived in Troutbeck along her walk. He asked her what were we doing here if we were from Hawaii - he mentioned that if you’ve seen one tree, you’ve seen them all! She had a great time talking to him and learning about the area.

    DS and I found a welcoming selection of options in the breakfast room. Selection of 2 types of yogurt (vanilla, and greek style yogurt with honey), crème freshe, cereals, orange juice, milk, and a huge fruit platter containing strawberries, blueberries, grapes, kiwi, pineapple, and raspberries. We had a choice between tea or coffee, but I had completely forgotten if we would be served a traditional English breakfast as well. I started loading up on the list above, when the owner returned with our tea, and asked us what we would like for breakfast.

    We could choose between a full English breakfast(eggs, bacon, tomato, mushrooms, blood sausage) or just choose a few of those items. We didn’t think we could finish the entire breakfast, so DS and I got scrambled eggs and bacon, while DF got poached eggs on toast. He returned with our breakfasts, and I loved that the bacon in England was similar to Canadian bacon here, but better! We noticed it wasn’t smoky, but a bit saltier than American(streaky) bacon.

    We enjoyed our leisurely breakfast, and the wonderful view from the breakfast room. DS and I walked to the post office, which was really tiny, which only added to it’s cuteness. Half of the store sold drinks, candies, cakes and ice cream, while the other half was the post office. They also had some lovely postcards of areas in the Lake District, and we picked up a few…they were only around .30 pence each!

    We had a fun time talking to one of the women who helps run the place - the whole town of Troutbeck, along with the Post Office, reminded DS and I of the town of Avonlea, from “Anne of Green Gables”, although with much more of an English touch to it!

    We ended up leaving at around 11am and headed for Windermere. DF hadn’t done her research beforehand about the various horseback riding companies in the Lake District, so she wanted to stop by the Tourist Information Center in Windermere. DS drove today, and she was really nervous - the roads are quite small, and we couldn’t believe how much everyone speeds here - and they say the Italians are bad!

    DS was trying to both stay up with the traffic, while not hitting the giant rock walls to the left of us, and not getting to close to the cars in the next lane. A couple of times the cars overtook us, and we had to pull over many times to let cars pass - it was bank holiday, and we couldn’t figure out if the aggressive drivers were from London, or if people in the area just drove super fast!

    DS is getting stressed out as car in tailing behind us, so DF tells her to pull over. DS forgets to put her blinkers on first, and slows down to pull over. Car behind us lays on the horn, and nearly crashes into us. As they pass, they decide to welcome us foreigners with the British version of the finger J We finally make it to Windermere, which is only a 3-5 minute drive from Troutbeck, but we need to get through at least 2 roundabouts to make it to our destination.

    We find the tourist office, but try to find some parking and end up heading to “Lakeland”, a sort of William and Sonoma store, that sold tons of kitchen items, jams, cookies, etc. DF ends up buying English fudge, and we are all surprised that it’s not chewy, but hard. It’s also incredibly sweet, and DF remarks that she can feel her teeth rotting as she eats it J It was free to park in the parking lot for the Lakeland store, and the Tourist Office is only down the road - we wonder if we can just leave it there and walk down, but there is a parking attendant who informs us that we can only park here if we are going to the store.

    We end up finding a empty stall right in front of the Tourist Office, and it’s free to park here for one hour, which is more than we need. It’s completely packed, and DF gets in line to ask questions about horseback riding. I observe one British couple who have driven up without booking any accommodations - they ask the workers to find them a self-servicing cottage for 5 nights. I flash to everyone on Fodors, and imagine everyone would say they were crazy to think they would find anything during Bank Holiday.

    Amazingly, they find a place without much trouble - as cool as they seemed about the whole process, I don’t think I could ever travel somewhere without having prearranged accommodations.

    DF has been talking to one of the workers, and DF mentions to us that most of the horseback riding seems to be in Grange over Sands, and areas near Ulverston. We know it is far south from where we are, and although we can tell these companies are more to DF’s liking, she doesn’t want to make us drive all the way down. DS tells her she can take the car tomorrow and drive down herself, but DF is worried that she would get lost, which I can totally understand.

    However, it’s now past 12pm, and DF still doesn’t know what she wants to do about horseback riding. From the beginning, the Lake District has been the one area DF wanted to go to, so DS and I had been telling her to figure out what she wanted to do here.

    DS and I were the planners for this entire trip, finding accommodations in all the areas, figuring out the car rental, and making the daily itinerary, etc. We were swamped with work, and we knew we barely had time to do research for other parts of the trip. Logically, we thought we would let DF figure out what she wanted to do in the Lake District, since this really was the one place she had wanted to go to.

    DF is not super organized, and for her other trips, everything is done at the last moment. Before going, we knew she probably wouldn’t do to much research on the area, so I printed out maps from the Michelin site on how to get from our area in Troutbeck to Ambleside, Grasmere, Ullswater, etc. We didn’t stress out with her lack of planning since we thought if she didn’t figure out what she wanted to do, it would really only affect her. DS and I wanted to visit the Lakes, but we knew it would be geared more toward relaxing, and not driving all over the place.

    It was around this point that I did start to get irritated with DF lack of planning. We had spent some time at the Tourist Center, and she would be horseback riding sometime tomorrow. DF didn’t want to go to the one in Troutbeck, but didn’t want to ask us to drive all that way for her. However, I could tell she was irritated both with us and herself for not planning things better.

    We only had 2 full days here, and at this point, I was irritated that we spend a few hours hanging around Windermere figuring out what DF wanted to do. I knew DF wasn’t a planner when we all decided to go, and I tried not to get to worked up about it at the moment. Months ago, I knew nothing about the Lake District, but before we left, I did more and more research on it. I think many would be disappointed about how little we did in the Lake District(sorry Moolyn!), but this was the only part of the trip where there was no daily itinerary made in advance.


    More coming up in a couple of hours!


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    bilboburgler,

    Thanks for the compliment, but it's not of my own design - I love Bridget Jones, and the hilarious way Helen Fielding writes her...I've just copied the way she writes when talking in first person and tweaked it a bit to my own personality.

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    Anna, no need to apologize to anyone for not planning a daily itinerary for the lake district. We always take it day to day ourselves. Just being there, outside, surrounded by so much beautiful scenery, is wonderful.

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    Thanks moolyn,

    Our trip could only allow us 3 nights in the Lake District, and we couldn't get to places like Ullswater and Buttermere as I had wanted.

    But, we really fell in love with the area, and are definitely coming back to see more of it!

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    We knew we wanted to head out to Grasmere while we were here, but we needed to get lunch first. We wondered if we should just eat somewhere in Windermere, but I just had went to get money from the ATM and noticed that there was a grocery store next to the train station, which was only a few feet away from the Tourist Center.

    We walked up to “Booths” and we were thrilled that it was a huge grocery store - I had needed to pick up a few items, including water. The store even had a café attached to it, but we ended up just looking around the market. DF got a sandwich and some grapes, DS and I got a chicken, bacon(streaky), mustard, and argula sandwich which was really good, along with chips(only .35p!) and drinks. We finished up our meals and headed out to Grasmere.

    DF was navigating today, and noticed that the route we were taking to Grasmere went through the town of Ambleside. Along the way, we got to see the parts of Lake Windermere that are away from the town, and I was surprised how beautiful it was in person.

    From pictures, I had never really liked Lake Windermere - it always seemed so full of people, but on the drive up, it was really lovely. We drove through Ambleside, and it seemed like a cute town, although really busy.

    Got to Grasmere, but had to find somewhere to park. We found a small car park, and we came across our first “Pay and Display” sign, informing us that we would need to pay to park here. If I remember correctly, the prices varied by hour and length of visit.

    We walked to a nearby restaurant & inn, which also had a very small tourist center attached to it. DS and I had wanted to go to the Drunken Duck restaurant tonight, but since it was Bank Holiday and with our experience with the packed restaurant at the Mortal Man last night, we knew we should call ahead. We asked the women for directions to the rest., since it was supposed to be near Ambleside. She was very helpful, and even printed out the directions for us.

    However, by the time we ending up calling the Drunken Duck, they were totally booked for the night - DS and I were disappointed, but we knew it might be full due to the holiday. We started walking through Grasmere - it was a small, lovely town, but I did notice that there were almost as many cafes as stores here!

    Lots of families and couples walking around town, as well as many hikers and walkers. DF wanted to go to a local gallery in town, the Heaton Cooper Studio, since many of the paintings in the Inn we visited were drawn by that artist.

    We walked a short distance to the studio - we all looked around, but DS needed coffee and DF wanted to linger longer in the studio. DS and I walked over to the café right next door to the studio, which was very modern and quite busy. Quite abrupt service here, and I can’t comment on the food since DS only got a coffee to go.

    DF still lingering in studio, so DS and I walked along the shops nearby. I had been wanting some tea and scones, but the previous café was really noisy and busy. We came across “Green’s Café” which was in the area across from the studio. DS was still finishing off her coffee, when we walked in and looked at the menu and any available tables. We located a empty table by the door, and the counter was a good 20 feet away.

    Just as we are sitting down, one of the workers walks over and informs DS that outside drinks are not allowed inside. It wasn’t the rule, but rather the demeanor of the worker that was slightly off-putting. She wasn’t very polite about it, and DS went outside to finish up her coffee and tell DF where we were.

    I went up to the counter and ordered a pot of tea & currant scone with whipped cream and jam, which was around 3 pounds in total. Both workers were not friendly and a bit snotty, but DS and I wondered if that was because of all the tourists since it was Bank Holiday.

    DS returned with DF, and they too got tea and scones. The scone although heavy, was very moist, and with the whipped cream and lovely berry jam was truly delightful…not to mention that fact that we felt very British! We noticed other British families were also having afternoon tea here.

    Question: DS noticed that even in Bakewell(in the Peak District) there were signs saying food & drink could not be brought in from other areas(even if the same café is broken up into two areas) since there would be taxes involved - can anyone shed some light on this?

    We walked around the town more, and then we headed off to find an area where we could walk around Lake Grasmere. We ended up parking off the side of the road near White Moss Forest, and again paid and displayed - cost was around 3 pounds. Before our trip, a friend thought we would encounter toll booths(toll booths…no one said anything about toll booths!) in the Lake District - we didn’t, but I think the cost of parking made up for it.

    We walked about 15 minutes through White Moss Forest - I was surprised we would encounter a small forest on our way to the Lake. We met up with locals and families along the way - DS mentioned that she had never seen such happy dogs in all her life!

    We got to Lake Grasmere and we were all happy we had made the journey - it was so beautiful and tranquil here. It was in the late afternoon, around 4pm, and aside from one family, we had the lake to ourselves. Large hills surrounded the lake, and we noticed houses on the other side of the Lake - we were quite jealous of the daily view they must have!

    We noticed lots of hikers making there way on the paths above the lake - DF really wanted to do a hike, but DS and I are more walkers than hikers. We wanted to stay longer, but dark clouds started to roll in, and it really looked like it would rain soon.

    We actually could have stayed longer since it didn’t rain at all, but made our way out and back to our car, which happily, was in the same state we had left it in. On Maui, a lot of tourists, and even residents, leave their cars in isolated parking lots, only to find that they’ve been broken into upon there return - we were happy ours wasn’t.

    We talked about what to do for dinner, and we decided to head back through Ambleside and have dinner there. We arrived in Ambleside and parked our car in one of the parking lots. We walked around, but by 6pm, a lot of the shops were already closed(not sure if that’s that time they always close, or due to Bank Holiday). Some of the restaurants were still open, and at around 6pm, we stumbled upon “Chelsea’s Kitchen”, a restaurant that was advertised at our Guest House.

    They couldn’t get us a seating until 7:15pm, so we decided to walk around and see what else was open. We walked around the town, and I was surprised at the size of it. I’ve always assumed it was smaller since people on the boards always mention it being smaller than Windermere, but I found it to be even busier than Windermere.

    We all were astonished when we came across a surf shop, which was closed. DF couldn’t believe that even up here, in the Lakes, they had surf shops - we wondered where people go surfing here?

    Walked around and came across and Indian Restaurant(which was quite busy)a Chinese restaurant(not busy), and a Chinese take-out place(moderately busy) all along the same street. DS had just asked DF is she could drive back home to Troutbeck, as she was very tired from the driving we did that day.

    DF agreed, but she did look a bit worried. We hadn’t really been craving rice yet, but when we stumbled upon these places, our mouths starting watering!

    DS loves Indian food, but I think she was holding out until we got to London. DS and I were fine with takeout, but DF asked if we could sit somewhere and eat. We ended up going to Chinese restaurant, Jade Dragon, and the prices were about double of the takeout place. We ordered three dishes - Sweet Sour Pork, Lemon Chicken, and Noodles, along with rice for all of us.

    DF loved the food, but DS and myself thought it was pretty terrible, aside from the Sweet Sour Pork. Noodles tasted quite weird, and the sauce seemed to taste mostly of Oyster sauce. The sauce for the lemon chicken was too sweet, and an overabundance of it was spread over the chicken. Sweet Sour Pork was the only dish that DS and I thought was good, but we all did appreciate the rice.

    We left Ambleside around 7:30pm, and DF drove out of town like a Nascar driver! If anyone saw a blue Opel Vectra whipping around turns with three screaming girls in it, that was us :)

    DF told us that if we just drive more aggressively, we would be fine…I think we were making her nervous by driving slower than the locals. DS almost had a heart attack since huge, looming, rock walls are whizzing past her to her left, and crazy English drivers are barreling toward us on our right. I was in the back, and moved toward the drivers side of the car, in fear of getting smashed on left side!

    DF whipped through Windermere as most people had left town by then, and roundabouts surprising easy since almost no one was in them!! We finally get back to High Fold, and DF sheepishly asks how we fared - I think DS and I are just grateful to be alive.

    I think I love Troutbeck even more after seeing all the towns - Windermere and Ambleside are far too busy, and even Grasmere lacked the charm that could only be had in such a small village. Troutbeck seems like the perfect place to stay, since it is still central and only 3-5 minutes away from Windermere, but still retains the peacefulness you think of when traveling to the Lake District.

    Coming Up: Our first Italian/English pub, and why Hawaii is the new Kuwait.








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    May I be a pedantic old fart and say that the "Lake" is redundant in Windermere, Ullswater etc. because "mere" means lake.

    A good old pub quiz question is "How many lakes are there in the Lake District and Scotland?"

    I'm surprised that you only met one "pay and display". They are spreading over the country like a rash nowadays.
    We recently met one where you had to type in your registration number.
    That was to stop the common habit of passing your ticket to somebody else if there is still time on it.

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    Well, you have given me part of the answer I asked about where to stay.

    Plus, moolyn's trip report is fantastic. I don't know how I missed it when it first posted.

    I hate that feeling of waiting around while someone makes a decision and, in the meantime, precious time is wasting - and in the Lake District! That's why I tend to make the travel plans for us (two sisters and myself), subject to how they feel on that particular day, of course. But if they get in that "I don't know. What do you want to do?" mode, Team Leader (me) makes the decision. It has worked so far.

    Still enjoying your humor (DF NASCAR driving :) ) and looking forward to more.

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    Miss Prism,

    Never knew "mere" meant Lake - thanks for the tip.

    Also, we didn't only meet up with one pay and display - we went to two in Grasmere, one in Ambleside, and one in Windermere...all in one day.


    LCBoniti,

    It doesn't help when I'm such a planner and then your friends aren't! I know you'll find a lovely place to stay in when you visit the lakes!

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    Tuesday, May 29th 2007 (Troutbeck, Lake District)

    Windermere
    Queen’s Head Pub


    Started out with our breakfast at the guest house, and we tried to figure out what we would do today. DF decided to go horse backing riding with the company in Troutbeck, and she needed to be there by 12:45pm. After our breakfast, it was already around 9:45am, and we knew we couldn’t head to far out.

    I had wanted to go up towards Ullswater, but I thought that would be too far away. If we had planned things better, we could have headed out toward Ullswater yesterday, and saved Grasmere for today, since it was closer.

    We decided to look around Windermere, and we headed out a little past 10am. We found a car park, and headed on a walking trail around Windermere. The walking trail seemed to be a bit more out of the way, and not near the huge crowds. We still saw quite a few families along the way, but it was ended up getting a really nice view of the lake. DF needed to eat before she went on her ride, so we walked back toward some of the shops that surround the lake.

    We saw yet another surf shop, but by this point, we noticed that Billabong and O’Neil seem to be the big names up here. DS got a coffee at a café, and DF ended up getting a jacket potato that had chicken, bacon, and cheese - it was huge, and DF said it was pretty good.

    We ended up having just enough time to drive back to Troutbeck and drop off DF for her ride. At this point, DS and I are getting hungry, and we had wanted to stop by the Queen’s Head, which we knew was nearby. I had done some research on the pub on fodors, and many recommended it for there food. It was actually only about a minute away(by car) from Limefitt, and we were happy since it didn’t seem to crowded.

    The Queen’s Head is also an Inn, and from there website, the rooms seem really cute. The Queen’s Head was smaller than The Mortal Man, as the MM have both a restaurant and a pub. The Queen’s Head is just a pub, but it seemed more traditionally English than MM. The pub was really cute, and they already had the fireplace going as it was quite chilly today. A few British couples were already eating lunch when we arrived, but mostly everyone seemed to be tourists on holiday.

    The menu here again was not traditionally British in any sense, and the menu was Italian based. Everything seemed really good, but I wanted something warm. I ended up getting a butternut squash risotto with mozzarella and basil - I was a bit rich, so I was glad that it wasn’t a huge portion. It was incredibely good, and was exactly what I wanted. DS got a warmed salad with duck, pears, and cheese.

    I hadn’t really had any traditional British desserts yet, so I was pleasantly surprised that at least the dessert menu only contained British desserts - with a slightly modern take on them. We ordered the bread and butter pudding that had a passion fruit topping, and came with a tiny, tiny, pot of cream. It was a small portion, but it was sooo good! Slightly heavy and sweet, but cooked perfectly - it wasn’t overly soggy or custardy.

    The lunch menu ran from around 10-15 pounds, depending on what you ordered, and our dessert was 5.95 pounds. When we were almost done with our meal, a british family walked in, and the wife ordered a pot of tea and a hot chocolate - I never knew they had hot chocolate in pubs! It almost made me want to order one myself and see how it was!

    I might mention at this point that we often got asked where we were from. Our taxi driver in Paris, many people in the Lake District, and even a fellow in London all asked us the same question. We always replied "Hawaii" and for some unknown reason, they ALL said "Kuwait?". We weren't sure if we were putting the inflection on the wrong vowels, but it became a running gag throughout our trip. DF and I teased DS that her coloring made everyone think we were middle eastern!


    We still had a few hours before DF finished her ride, so DS and I drove back to the guest house and relax a while. We stopped into the Post Office again to pick up some stamps, and DS remembered that she saw a sign that said the Mortal Man also has ice cream during the day - well, we had to try it seeing as we hadn’t had any at all, and we were getting withdrawals since Paris.

    We walked back to The Mortal Man, and they had a ice cream booth set up outside of the restaurant. They had a couple of flavors from Chocolate, Vanilla, Strawberry to something called Thunder and Lighting - the girl mentioned that lots of locals pick that flavor as it’s vanilla ice cream with fudge in it(or something like that…I’m sure my editor will soon correct me on this).

    DS ended up getting chocolate and I got strawberry - the ice cream was ok, but nothing to rave about. We were told we could eat in in the area behind the restaurant that had tables and chairs set up - it was a nice, quiet place and we got a spectacular view.

    We walked back, and DF arrived not to long after. We ended up having a leisurly evening, and drove back to Booths for some odds and ends, and something for dinner. We had to finish packing(which I was really starting to hate at this point), and get ready for our drive down to the Peak District tomorrow.


    Coming Up: Would Mr. Darcy fit the size requirement for a carry-on?




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    Wow, Anna, you actually did a lot in your three brief days in the lake district! We didn't even find that great Booth's between the tourist office and the train station during our first few visits.

    I think that the White Moss Forest you mention is White Moss Common on Rydal Water. Those paths up high aren't difficult at all, just a bit of a climb to start off. In fact, my parents walked around there with us when they were both 75!

    From one section called Loughrigg Terrace you overlook both Rydal Water and Grasmere. Lovely! Next time you'll have to try this walk, one of our very favourites. I'll take photos when we're there so you can see what you missed.

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    Moolyn,

    I'm so glad you thought we did alot in 3 days! I was disappointed that perhaps we didn't see as much of the Lake District as we could have.

    We had passed the train station, and none of us realized there was a supermarket attached to it - sometimes it pays to be curious, and I'm glad I checked out the building.

    I actually wanted to ask you about Rydal Water - after looking at your previous trip report, I was starting to wonder if we visited Rydal Water, or Grasmere. After looking up our pictures, I think, we did visit Grasmere.

    I would love to see more of your pictures - so do you start off Loughrigg Terrace...is there parking nearby?

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    Anna, greetings from Scotland! We're staying with my cousin for a couple of days before driving to the lakes. I may have to wait until we return home to read the rest of your report.

    Grasmere and Rydal Water, the lakes, are very close together, separated by only a small stream, right at White Moss Common. I always associate White Moss Common with Rydal water because we usually park there to circuit Rydal but now I realize that you went in the other direction. Sorry about my confusion. People walking around either lake intersect at Loughrigg Terrace.

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    Moolyn,

    Don't worry - you didn't confuse me, I'm quite a pro at doing it to myself :)

    Wow - that week went by quickly...I can't believe you are already in Scotland! Hope you have a great time, and I'm looking forward to your trip report when you return!

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    Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 (Cheshire and Derbyshire)

    Lyme Park
    Derbyshire, Peak District


    Today we actually got a later start than I thought we would as we ended up having quite a long discussion with one of the couples who were staying at High Fold.

    The husband had grown up in the Lake District and both he and his wife had traveled all over the world, and now live in Canada. They had mentioned that they drove to Scotland(in 2 hours) for a daytrip the day before, and they were asking us about the rest of our trip.

    We mentioned that we would be heading for the Peaks today, and then we were on to London in a few days. They both mentioned that they enjoy going to the theater in London, but regretted the fact that London had far too many musicals for there taste!

    DS later remarked that we must have picked a good area(Troutbeck) if a local had decided to use it as there base while in the Lake District.

    We still needed to check out, and we had mentioned to the owner that we were headed for Lyme Park. He actually looked up some driving directions for us, and then asked us if our visit was in regards to Pride and Prejudice - we all sheepishly laughed at this point, and said that was our point to traveling there. We were ready to leave when DS noticed that the owner had given us back their own CC receipt, and we finally got to meet the owner’s wife.

    She asked if we would be visiting the “lake” at Lyme Park, and mentioned Mr. Darcy and his white shirt! She remarked that if we indeed did come across Mr. Darcy, he would be quite old at this point!

    I thought that if we indeed did run into him, he would be quite put out with all the tourists wandering through his estate! We all had quite a laugh, and we could tell that the owner was trying not to sigh and roll his eyes with us all talking about P&P.

    We were off at around 10am, and we used the Michelin directions in order to travel to Troutbeck to Disley in Stockport. It would be a journey of about 2 hours, and while we did get a bit lost in Stockport, we managed to reach Lyme Park at around 12:45pm. We all couldn’t believe we were really here, and we went to the visitors center first. Imagine our surprise when we walk in and are greeted by a huge framed photo of Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy! We chatted a while with the women who worked there, and then headed off for the house.

    Before we came on our trip, I had found out that Lyme Park would be closed on the day we got there, but since they did not use the interiors for the film, I wasn’t disappointed. Our main reason for being here was the grounds, but you need to walk through the courtyard of the house to get there. As soon as we reached the gates of the house, I wanted to shriek with delight! These were the same gates that Elizabeth and her Aunt and Uncle drove through when visiting Pemberley…Pemberley! I’m at Pemberley!!

    Trying to contain myself from not skipping manically in a circle, we continued on and reached the courtyard, where I had another heart stopping moment - we were walking through the same courtyard that Darcy rushes out of when he returns to Pemberley, and tries to stop Elizabeth from leaving!! I felt giddy and I couldn’t resist jumping up and down with delight!

    We had to buy our tickets for the gardens in a room off of the courtyard, and then we were finally heading for the gardens and the front of the house. There weren’t many people on the grounds(which was really nice) either because it was really cold today, or because the house wasn’t open. Either way, there were times when you had certain areas to yourself, and that was really fantastic.

    We walked across the house to get photos with the Lake in front of it, and ended up speaking a bit with one of the gardeners. He mentioned that they were doing a lot of planting today, and he pointed to the garden maze below the house, and mentioned that they had just pulled up a bunch of flowers as they were going to be planting different ones soon. He mentioned that people can buy the flowers that they pull up at the gift shop area.

    We wandered along the paths, and finally got the view that we had been waiting for - Pemberley(ok…Lyme Park) and the lake right in front of it. All three of us were really amazed at how small the actual house is - it’s amazing what cameras can do!

    We wandered around the grounds a bit more, but a lot of the land near the lake was actually fenced off. We did notice that the by the carpark, lots of families were playing, and there was lots of room to walk around and explore.

    We ended up walking back through the front gates, and up over the hills in front of it. At this point, it got even colder(around low 50’s), and the winds were really pickup up. We walked up the hill and got a closer look at the tower - as I started looking around I told DS and DF that this area seemed really familiar, and I asked if it was used for filming in the movie.

    DF mentioned that they must have used an area that was further into the park, but when I returned home, I watched P&P. HA! I knew it - the hill we were walking on was the exact hill that Mr. Darcy rides up on as he is going to visit Elizabeth in Lambton :) See - I’m an even bigger freak than most of you thought I was!

    We were getting hungry at this point, and we had wanted to get to the gift shop. The gift shop was quite tiny, and they didn’t have as much Jane Austen items as I thought they would. It turns out that the gift shop in the house had all the Jane Austen items, but since the house was closed today, so was that gift shop. We picked up some postcards, and headed to the café area directly across the gift shop.

    The main restaurant in the house was closed, so the café was the only area we could eat at. It was actually really nice - quite airy and modern. DF got a sandwich, chips, a drink and tea. DS and I purchased a sandwich, soup, and two waters for 10 pounds. Afterward, we got two scones, one bakewell pudding(at least I think it was), and a hot chocolate for 6.50 pounds.

    The scones were quite heavy, and not as moist as the ones we had in Grasmere, but it was still really good - especially with cream and strawberry jam - yum! We walked back to the car, and consulted the map again on how to get to Bakewell. I’m so glad we made the journey here, and I really enjoyed our visit despite the weather.

    I’ll have to continue the rest of our day tomorrow…

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    Wednesday, May 30th, 2007 (Derbyshire) cont.

    Bolehill Farm House


    We headed for Bakewell at around 4pm, and we knew the drive would take us about an hour. We nearly got lost, but we happily found Bolehill Farm House (www.bolehillfarm.co.uk/). It’s actually not located in Bakewell, but about 2 miles outside of the town, which we really liked since we had tons of scenery all around us.

    It’s a huge property, and they have a couple of cottages that they rent out, as well as 2 rooms that serve as a bed and breakfast. We had booked both rooms as they do not have any triple rooms. The larger room is called Chatsworth, and the smaller is Haddon. Again, we noticed that the House as well as the rooms were much cuter in person than on the website.

    The have a ton of parking, and guests can use an activity room, washer/dryer (yes!), and have access to a computer with internet access. The property is actually located on a farm, so as you go up the drive, there are tons of cows on either side - they usually blocked the road from time to time! The present owners did renovations to the property, and rent out there front property to local farmers.

    The owner, Shirley, greeted us, and she was such a nice, friendly host. We asked her loads of questions about the area, and she readily supplied us with all the information we needed.

    We would have a very quick stay here, as we would only be spending two nights in Bakewell. We had afternoon tea upon arrival, and then we decided what to do for dinner. We were all tired, and DF even more so since she had been driving all day. Shirley had an entire book set up that had all the different menus of restaurants in the area, and she mentioned that a couple delivered.

    We all liked the sound of that, and we thought we could eat in and spend the rest of the night watching a movie. We could choose between Indian Food and Chinese - we had been waiting to eat Indian food in London, but DS was really craving it by now. The restaurant was called “Max’s”, and I believe it’s on the border of town, but they only delivered if we got 25 pounds worth of food.

    DS got a chicken tikka meal that included naan bread and pilau rice, I got a chicken curry with Paita sauce, and DF got a fish Rosda Josh curry. I always laugh when I see “pilau” rice, as that is also a Hawaiian word, and the dish would be really unappetizing here! DS’s meal also came with mango chutney and cucumber raita, which of course we all had to taste!

    DS and I really loved the food, and were surprised how great it was considering we were in the country. DF mentioned that her fish was more on the fishy side, and I think the spices upset her stomach, but she had actually never tried Indian food before.

    We ended up getting too much food, especially since the owner also put in an order, which meant we could have ordered less to come to 25 pounds. Shirley mentioned that if we order in we could eat in the breakfast room, as they have plates, cutlery, etc. all ready for guests to use. I’m pretty sure this is also to ensure that guests don’t eat in there room, but we were quite happy about it since we probably would have made a mess with the Indian food.

    Shirley also mentioned that we should leave our dishes out as she would wash them after she left - we protested since we left really bad about just leaving our dishes, but she insisted. We also asked her questions about Derby, since we would be returning our rental car there on Friday - she gave us great information about getting into the city, and telling us how far it was to the train station.

    Bolehill also has dvd’s for guest’s use as both rooms have a dvd player. We had really been hoping that they would have the 1995 version of P&P, but they only had the newer version with Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfayden. Not what we had been hoping for(especially since we had just visited Lyme Park), but we were happy that they at least had one version for us to watch.

    We finished up dinner, and headed up to watch P&P. We had a nice, leisurely evening and I got to do some laundry in between - the washer was free, but we did have to pay for using the dryer. To me, I really didn’t care about price at this point(and it was only about 1.50 pounds for an hour) and I was so happy to see a washer and dryer.

    Our windows looked right out to the front of the house, and at around 8pm, it seemed like that was when the cows were up and about. DS and I stood in amazement that the younger cows would head butt each other, playfully of course, and try to push each other all over the place. It was quite entertaining, and DF laughed at us and told us we looked like city people who didn’t know cows acted like that. We told DF that we didn’t, and we had fun just watching their antics.

    We also had breakfast included, but we needed to fill out a sheet, and then leave it on the breakfast table. There was a wide variety to choose from, including the traditional English breakfast. The breakfast room also contains tons of brochures from areas near by including houses and walks along the way. There was a brochure for Haddon Hall, but we really only had time for Chatsworth House tomorrow. Haddon Hall seemed interesting, as did Harwick Hall, but hopefully we will get to see them next time.


    Coming Up: When did Mr. Darcy become part of MI-5?




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    Anna, I check each day for your latest installment. Keep them coming! I am so enjoying living vicariously through your trip. I just ordered the 1995 version of P&P. When I watch the scenes you described, I'll envision you jumping up & down with delight.

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    Thursday, May 31, 2007 (Derbyshire)

    Bakewell
    Chatsworth House

    We had our English breakfast early today, at around 8:30am since we had quite a full schedule today. We all had eggs and that lovely back bacon that became quite addictive! DS and I also had ordered porridge that was incredibly creamy.

    Various local jams and honeys were also laid out, and we all helped ourselves to heaping portions of homemade plain yogurt - so wonderful and very thick. We also had fresh butter daily, which made us quite spoiled, and I have yet to get used to waking up in the morning, and not having breakfast prepared for me!

    We had a leisurely breakfast, and we drove down to the town of Bakewell. DF had asked the owner if any of the shops in town carried horse related items, and the owner printed out some stores that she thought DF would be looking for. I was wondering what Bakewell would look like - we have driven through Disley, Stockport the day before, and it was quite depressing actually. The town looked really run down(at least the parts we drove through), and I was hoping Bakewell wouldn’t be the same.

    I was quite relieved and surprised what a cute, pretty town it was. Lovely little shops and squares all across the town, with two supermarkets, a Boots, and apparently, 15 tea shops which all sell the famous Bakewell Pudding/Tart! DS and I had heard about the Bakewell Tart, and we had wanted to try some when we got there. It could have been that we were spoiled from France, but we didn’t really feel in the mood for a dessert that looked really sweet. I forgot to ask Shirley for our B&B which area had really good ones, and we never got around to trying any.

    DF didn’t really find any horse items in the town, but she did come across a tiny shop that specialized in fly fishing equipment. DF’s dad loves the sport, and DF purchased about 10 fly’s that she was really thrilled with. We stayed in the town till about 12pm, but we could have wandered for much longer if we didn’t need to head off to Chatsworth.

    We traveled from Bakewell to Chatsworth, and we happened to come across the Chatsworth Farm Shop first, and it only took us 5 minutes by car. I wasn’t sure how long the farm shop would be opened, so we decided to head here first. DS and I had actually taken a tour 5 years ago with Midland Mainline that took us from London to Chatsworth. I think they don’t operate the tour anymore, but we really enjoyed ourselves. We got to see a bit of Derbyshire, and we desperately wanted to come back to see more of it.

    Since 2002, Chatsworth has done major renovations on all their restaurants and cafes on the estate, and also at the farm house. The farm house shop has lovely high beamed ceilings, and still has the quaint, small town charm that it had 5 years ago. The farm shop also has a lovely restaurant that we wanted to eat in, which has spectacular views of the countryside.

    The restaurant was packed, and there was a line with a 30 minute wait - we opted to eat later at Chatsworth, but I’m hoping next time we get to eat in the restaurant. The menu had both traditional English food, and some with a more modern take on it.

    We had a fun time shopping in the farm shop, which also had a bakery, meat, cheese, and prepared counter area. We picked up some shortbread and chocolates, and had fun looking at the various selections of jams, honey’s, chutney’s, and beer. We left the farm shop, and continued down the road until we came across a spectacular view of Chatsworth House.

    Rolling hills surrounded it, and flocks of sheep lay sleeping or grazing on the property. We headed for the car park, and we noticed the place was packed with visitors. We headed off for a tour of the house since DF had never been here before. We stayed in the house for about an hour, and I noticed that much of the house seemed a bit brighter than 5 years ago - I had heard that they had redone certain rooms of the house.

    I’ve never really been a big fan of these estate houses - I’ve always loved Versailles and Chatsworth for there grounds, not the houses. We walked through the house, and finally came across the one part of the house that I had been waiting for - the sculpture gallery!


    I’m dividing this in two posts, so more soon!




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    As I’ve said, I’m a huge fan of Jane Austen, and have been for many years now. I visit a site dedicated to her works, www.pemberley.com often, and I had found out from some people there that the bust used in the movie version of P&P was still located in the sculpture gallery in Chatsworth.

    Well, we had to make a visit, or what kind of fans would we be? I had also been told that the dress Elizabeth wore when visiting Pemberley was also on display, but I had totally forgot that it was only on display for a couple of months after the filming.

    I entered the gallery, and was as giddy as Lydia and Kitty Bennet would be when encountering a camp full of soliders! I really had to contain myself from not running through the gallery, and desperately looking for our dear Mr. Darcy’s sculpture. All three of us are big Austen fan‘s, but I don’t think DF was excited as I was in locating it.

    I commend myself for acting quite mature, and gazing with interest and thoughfulness upon many of the sculptures, when all that was racing through my mind was, “Find Mr. Darcy, Find Mr. Darcy, Find Mr. Darcy”.

    The mental mantra slowed every so often, especially when I came upon the Veiled Vestial - an incredibely haunting and intriguing sculpture that was also featured in the movie. I had remembered it from our last visit, but it still amazes me how long one can just stare at it, and find new things at each angle.

    Ok…enough is enough! We were almost through the gallery, and there were still no sightings of Mr. Darcy! Could we have missed it? Did I not do enough research, and somehow neglected to find out that it was no longer here? Then suddenly, out of nowhere, there it was! I had that same surreal feeling I had when first visiting Lyme Park, and I tried not to break out into a sprint to reach it.

    It was smaller than I thought it would be, and they had almost put it in a section that was out of the way. DS and I walked over, and I’m sure I was smiling like a maniac when we reached it.

    DS and I of course took pictures with Mr. Darcy, and while I was posing next to him, a lovely british women in her 80’s walked over to us, and told us to tell all our friends back home that he’s my boyfriend - don’t you love those brits!

    Now to answer LCBoniti’s question - I had referenced Mr. Darcy being in MI-5. The actor who played Darcy in the movie version had been in a British TV drama called “MI-5” in America, and “Spooks” in Britain. It revolved around a small group of MI-5 operatives, and the various missions they had in protecting the citizens of Britain.

    It usually involved terrorist operations - the show was much more gritty and “real” than the government stuff we get in the U.S. On a side note: Hugh Laurie played a small role in MI-5 as a member from MI-6 - his scenes were hilarious!

    Matthew Macfayden(Darcy) was the head of his team, and his character was much more like Mr. Darcy than the way he played it in the movie - he was very detached, aloof, and commanding. When DS and I learned he would be playing the newest version of Darcy, we were really happy, since he was really a great actor in MI-5. When we first saw the movie version of P&P, I was really irritated that Darcy had been made into some sort of overly sensitive, shy character - Jane Austen would have been quite put out!

    The gallery lead directly into the gift shop, which was an incredible room, and I felt that it was one of the prettiest in the house! We bought postcards and other items, and headed for some food. The weather had been quite rainy this morning, but it started to clear up by this point.

    It was already 2:30pm, and we decided to head toward the main restaurant, which served food cafeteria style. There was a smaller café type of restaurant, but it seemed like hot meals were only served at the main restaurant.

    Apparently, they only serve the hot food until 2:30pm. DS and I found it highly amusing that the desserts where placed before the food - the brits do love there desserts! DF had wandered over to the hot food section first, as DS and I were still trying to figure out what to get for a dessert. DF had apparently been trying to call us over, since the hot food section was closing down.

    We couldn’t hear over all the noise, and right when we reached the hot section, we were greeted by a soup-Nazi like woman who said we were too late. Hot food seemed really good right now considering what the weather had been like, so DS and I had to do with the prepared sandwiches. Apparently, soup-Nazi woman didn’t have the final say, and a discussion took place between herself and the kitchen people. The people directly behind us were told that they could still have hot food, but they would need to give there orders NOW!

    DS and I ended up getting a ham/chedder/chutney sandwich while DF got a roasted chicken plate. DS got a chocolate ginger cake, DF got a custard tart, and I got a orange pound cake for dessert. The rest of the staff seemed quite nice, and we had a lovely talk with the women working the cashier. The dining area has gone under renovation recently, and is much nicer than it was on our last visit.

    We all enjoyed our meals, and DS’s chocolate ginger cake was good - almost like a lighter version of a brownie than a cake. DF loved her custard tart, which was really thick and creamy, almost like a soft cheese.

    We walked through the gardens at around 4pm, and I happily noticed that there weren’t huge amounts of people walking the grounds. DS and I noticed that it seemed much smaller than it did last time - I’m not sure why, and part of the reason could have been that last time we were with a tour, and we really had to hurry as we toured the grounds. There are huge fountains on the grounds, and unlike Versailles, they are always operating throughout the week.

    I again got to reenact certain parts of the movie, although I was quite disappointed that the area they used in the back of the house, when Darcy runs out after Elizabeth, was not open to visitors! DS remembered this from our last visit, but I hadn’t.

    We did however walk through the lovely archway of trees that line the path which Elizabeth and her relatives drive through on their carriage as they enter Pemberley. It was just as beautiful as our last visit, and I love how the grounds at both Lyme Park and Chatsworth are a bit more wild, and aren’t overly sculpted as the ones at Versailles.

    We got to walk to the cascade again, and DF really enjoyed this area - as you walk up the hill, it also provides great views of the house, and the huge property behind it. As we were leaving, we finally caught sight of the Hunting Tower, which is about the estate.

    There are various cottages all around the estate, but guests can also stay in the Hunting Tower. DF had desperately wanted to stay there while we were in Derbyshire, but the prices were far outside our budget, and they were already booked weeks in advance.

    We left Chatsworth at around 5:30pm, all of us exhausted from our lovely visit. We decided to venture back into Bakewell for dinner, since we had seen quite a number of restaurants scattered around. I think DS and I would have been quite happy to go back to “Max’s” for some Indian food, but DF wasn’t feeling so great, and she didn’t really want to eat in at a restaurant.

    We had noticed a fish and chips place located right in the center of town called “Bakewell’s Original Fish & Chips” - I think it was the only fish and chips place in town.

    It was quite busy, with what seemed like locals from the area. It was just a take-out place, not a restaurant, which was what we needed. DS and I shared a huge order of Plaice and chips - I don’t like fishy fish, and from recommendations on the board, I was told to get either Haddock or Plaice. DF got an order of Haddock along with chips, and we drove back home to eat our dinner.

    DS and I were really disappointed with the dinner - It had to be the worst fish and chips we had ever eaten! I’m not sure if it was because we didn’t eat it when we got it, but it was really greasy, and the chips were oily and soggy. The batter was much too thick, and it kept on falling off of the fish. I’m not sure if the fish made a difference, but DF loved hers! Our taste didn’t seem to be melding with DF’s here in England, which was a surprise, since we seem to like the same things back home.

    DS and I watched P&P again tonight, and we packed up for our journey to London tomorrow.

    We really enjoyed the lovely scenery in Derbyshire, and the roads seemed to be much easier here than in the Lake District. I was surprised how much the two areas looked alike, with the Lakes being a bit more dramatic, and of course, more lake-ish :)

    I was sad that we didn’t have time to visit Haddon Hall, which many had recommened we visit. I’m not the greatest fan of that type of architecture, but it did have the appeal of being in Princess Bride, and DS and I are huge fans of that movie - never got to reenact the whole “My name is Inigo Montoya - you killed my father, prepare to die!” speech, but there’s the always next time right!

    Haddon Hall was also used in the recent BBC remake of “Jane Eyre” - never been a Bronte fan since, and I’m hoping I don’t wake the ire of Bronte fans, but come on…they were all crazy! I was interested when I saw clips of Toby Stephens playing Mr. Rochester - after a couple of minutes, I was completely hooked! Toby Stephens portrayal really brought out a few of Rochester’s redeeming qualities, and it completely turned me into a fan of Toby Stephens.

    I came to the sad realization that I’ve become one of those vapid girls when it comes to grand houses in Britain. Someone will be mentioning the historical details about an estate, which may be interesting, but once I find out a movie I loved filmed there, craziness breaks loose and I’ll be sure to utter, “What filmed there?! Ooh - we must visit now!” My beloved literature teacher would be quite dismayed.

    Coming up: How County Hall was transported to a galaxy far, far, away :)


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    >>I again got to reenact certain parts of the movie, although I was quite disappointed that the area they used in the back of the house, when Darcy runs out after Elizabeth, was not open to visitors!<<

    I was disappointed as well, but I took a picture which turned out great, if I do say so myself. :-) It's my current desktop wallpaper.

    I hadn't known the bust was there, so we were pleasantly surprised to see it.

    Lee Ann

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    Friday, June 1st 2007 (London)

    London Eye
    County Hall - Star Wars Exhibition

    We had a early start this morning, needing to get up by 7am, and having breakfast at 8am. It’s alarming how well we have all adapted to carrying our suitcases up and down stairs by now…and DS and I have the muscles to prove it! We had our last lovely breakfast here at Bolehill, and we got to meet Shirley’s husband who had been away in London on business.

    Shirley had remembered that our original route to Derby would be through Matlock, but she found out they would be doing road work on that route today. She printed up some new directions for us to follow that would take us on another route to Derby, and it would also cut our driving time down by 15 minutes. We had such a lovely stay here, and we were sad to leave Derbyshire so soon.

    We headed out by 8:45am, since our train from Derby-London would be leaving at 11am. We actually hit a lot of traffic getting into Derby, and when we finally reached Derby, we did get a bit lost finding the National Rental Car office. We had to stop for directions, and although we had to reverse on a major road since we missed our street (crazy Americans!) we finally found National.

    We had booked our car through Auto Europe, which gave us the best price for renting a car for 5 days. We had opted to pre-pay our gas fill-up in advance so that we wouldn’t need to go looking for a gas station. With all our traveling, we only ended up using about 2/3rds of the gas tank. The women at National called us a taxi, and it only took us about 10 minutes to get to the train station.

    I was actually quite nervous about returning the car since many on Fodors seemed to have issues arise when doing so - having to pay for dents they hadn’t made, etc. I was so relieved that everything went smoothly, and our as this was our first time renting a car internationally, I think we were quite successful!

    DS had bought our tickets beforehand, and all she needed to do was to print them out at the machine in the station. We were so happy that there was an elevator we could use, and we waited about 45 minutes before our train arrived. We were scheduled to arrive into London St. Pancras at about 12:51pm, but the train had been about 10 minutes late. We were planning to visit the London Eye this afternoon, but we were waiting to see what the weather would be like in London before heading there as the forecasts all said it would be raining.

    We arrived into London at around 1pm, and we had previously scheduled a car pick up through the apartments we were renting. We were unable to find the driver(who was supposed to be holding a sign), so DS called the apartment company…DS returns and informs us that no one is picking up. We decide we just have to go on a taxi, and get in the taxi line outside.

    We had just come from Derbyshire, which was around 60 degrees, and London was absolutely boiling! It was incredibly muggy and hot, and no rain in sight. DS and I didn’t know what to make of it - on our previous trip, almost the entire time we were in London(in June) it was either cloudy or raining. It seemed a bit odd to be in London, and be welcomed to bright blue skies!

    I was amazed that construction seemed to be taking place all around London. I had read on Fodors that they would be installing a new stop on the Chunnel in St. Pancras, and the whole area around the train station looked like it was being redone. DS and I wondered if the construction around London was because of the upcoming 2012 Olympics.

    We got in the taxi and headed to Chelsea where we would be staying for the next three nights. I was worried the ride would cost us a fortune, since we did hit some traffic here and there. To my surprise, the ride only cost us 14.50 pounds, and the car service would have been 19 pounds! DS and I had stayed at the exact same apartment we did last time - it’s in Chelsea, but it’s only a couple of streets from Kings Road, and only about two blocks to Sloane Square tube station.

    We arrived a little before 2pm, and again, it seemed as if the sunlight has warped our perception of London - where were the gray skies and chilly weather? I know people probably hate me for saying it, but I was a bit bummed out that London was hot and sunny - it didn’t have the same vibe as it did on our last trip, and it just didn’t feel like London with the lovely blue skies.

    I was a bit astonished that Chelsea seemed so different than it was on our last trip. I had to keep reminding myself that it had been 5 years, and in city time, that was like being away for decades! I’m not sure if I ‘m just being nostalgic, but when we last stayed in Chelsea, it was quieter, and had a more neighborhood vibe than it did this time. Now, there seemed to be people everywhere, and it seemed that so many stores had opened up since we were last there.

    For our apartment, we had a studio with a fold out bed - I thought it was a pretty good price at 110 pounds per night, plus a one time linen charge of 25 pounds for the fold out bed. The website is www.theapartments.co.uk and we stayed in 41 Draycott Place. I can’t say that I would highly recommened it for several of the following reasons.

    Upon arrival, we were given a code to use to get into the building. We got into the building, and DS was told that in the lobby, there would be a safe that would hold our keys. DS went to the safe and there were no keys - Housekeeping is supposed to be at the apartments from 9am-5pm, but no one was around. We all tried to figure out what to do, as we didn’t want to leave our luggage in the lobby. We ended up waiting for about 15 minutes, and two of the housekeepers had returned from there break. They went to find there boss, who was not told by management to leave any keys for us.

    We were given Room #3, but the apartments had undergone a renovation, and are different from the photos on the website. The room was decorated nicely, but there were areas, especially in the bathroom where it seemed as if the renovation work was quite badly done. There are no numbers to call management “after hours”, and it seemed like other occupants were quite upset when they couldn’t get in touch with anyone when they encountered problems.

    We had to drag our bags up about 3 flights of stairs, and by this point, we were all vowing to return to Europe as backpackers. The weather held out, as there was no rain as had been forecast. We decided to go to the London Eye, and we got there at around 3:30pm. I was wondering if there would be huge lines, but there was almost no one buying tickets. The line to the Eye wasn’t too bad, but DF had to eat something, so we stopped by the snack bar located outside. By the time we finished, the line had almost doubled! We waited in line for about an hour, although it felt longer as it was almost unbearably hot outside.

    As we waited in line, we noticed a huge banner with Yoda on it that said “Star Wars Exhibition - County Hall” - hmm, that strange. DF and I asked DS if she knew what that was about - DS regretfully said that she heard the exhibition would be in London only after we left. We were all disappointed, because if you think I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, I can often be an even huger Star Wars fan…you’ll be surprised how often people are fans of both! I’m the annoying person in the theater who goes to the midnight showing, and screams her head off when “STAR WARS” appears in the opening crawl :)

    It started to get cloudy right when we entered our capsule, so we didn’t get great visibility. DS and I had rode it last time, but for DF this was her first time. She loved it, and loved seeing various parts of London. As we were nearing the end of our ride, we all noticed a black booth on the ground that said “Star Wars - Box Office” - things are getting stranger and stranger.

    promise to post more this afternoon...

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    I was just going to post the link for the Galactic Jane Austen page, but it doesn't work any more. :-D Stuff like Mr. Collins's face Photoshopped on to C-3PO's head saying "I flatter myself that we are all doomed!"

    Lee Ann

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    Lee Ann,

    Galactic Jane Austen page - now that would be cool!

    Collins and C3P0 are a great comparision - it's almost spooky how alike they are. Now, if we could just find a reason for having Obi-Wan enter the Jane Austen world!

    I know guys who are Star Wars fans, but three of my good female friends (one is DF from this trip) are serious fanatics about Star Wars, myself included - I think the guys actually find it alarming that "girls" could be so involved with SW.

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    DF and I turn to DS and point to it - isn’t the exhibition not happening yet? DS also can’t understand why they are there, so as we descend, we walk straight for the booth. We walk up and ask if the exhibition is going on now, and we are told, quite enthusiastically that it is!

    We ask how much the tickets are - turns out, it cost 16.50 pounds to get in!! At this point, DS and I hesitate…16.50 pounds! George Lucas must have already put his kids through college with the amount of times I’ve seen his movies.

    DF straightforwardly asks if Obi-Wan and Han Solo are part of the exhibit, and we all try not to act like the crazy fans girls that we are. DF is told yes, but DS is still hesitant. DS reluctantly asks what is in the exhibition - we are all sure that it must be lame. The box office worker seems a bit offended and replies, “You mean, apart from everything from all 6 movies?” Okay then.

    We all talk it over, and DF really thinks we should go - even if it is lame, it will still be something we will always remember doing in London. We all agree, but DS and I still wonder if we blew $33 for nothing. The exhibition was held in County Hall, and we find out it’s running until September 2007 - it’s the movies 30th anniversary, so a bunch of these exhibitions are being held around the world.

    We walk in, and County Hall seems to be the best place they could ever have a Star Wars exhibition - we’ve never been here, and we all marvel at the high beamed ceilings, marble floors and pillars. We all remark that it looks a bit like Theed Palace on Naboo, and you really feel transported to a different place and time. As we walk through the doors, it’s incredibly dark and all we hear around us is music from the movies! Each room played different songs from the movies, and the first exhibit centers around Episode 1.

    Then suddenly…Oh My Goodness - a man in trooper gear walks past us down the hall. You mean, there’s people walking around in costume! No one told us that - all that money was totally worth it!! Would there be any Jedi’s walking around?

    There are miniatures of all the cities, and it’s incredible how much detail is put into everything. Three of Queen Amidala’s dresses are on display, and my favorite, the coronation dress that she wears at the end of the movie is also on display. It’s pale pink, and looks incredibly fragile - it’s amazing how much work must have gone into outfits that were barely on the screen.

    There’s a full scale pod racer also on display, and a chart detailing the different galaxies in the Star Wars universe - I nearly skip back to DS and DF who are across the room, and tell them this is my kind of museum!

    We start walking through another corrider, when we all notice the same trooper passing us. Quite bravely, DS stops the man, and asks him if wouldn’t mind posing for some pictures. He was very nice, and he even did a battle pose :)

    Not a minute later, we notice someone dressed as Emperor Palpatine walking toward us. Palpatine and trooper man, who are both in full character mode, turn to face each other off. Palpatine starts hissing and crackling with menacing laughter as he slowly strangles poor trooper man to death.

    Other people have walked by at this point, and really seem to be enjoying the show. We on the other hand, are quite terrified, but we have been boxed in during their performance. We smile politely as they finish, and DF asks trooper man if he’s ok - he replies that he is, and that people don’t normally ask him that!

    Others are taking pictures with Palpatine, and we try to get out of there as soon as possible. I’ve always been totally freaked out with Palpatine, and I’ve never gotten how cool some seem to think he is….hello people! He’s IS the dark side - where are your priorities!

    We've been wandering the rooms, and DS excitedly asks us if we just saw someone down the hall in full Jedi costume pass by. DF and I can’t believe we missed it, but we hope we run into them again. We walk through rooms that have a huge Naboo cruiser, including R2-D2 in it! Obi-Wan’s outfits are on display (sadly Ewan was not in them), along with replicas of Stormtroopers, C3P0, R2D2(he’s in a glass case and DF took a hilarious picture where she is hugging the glass case he is in), as well as other characters.

    We’ve now entered a room devoted to Darth Vader, and his outfit is also on display, along with other things. The only noise being filtered through this room is Vader’s breathing, and you can almost imagine him walking up right behind you!

    We are the only three people in the room at this point, when we see a blur of light browns and creams pass by. That’s not….wait…it is!! It’s a JEDI! A man in full Jedi robes walks by, and smiles politely at us. DF and I can’t move from excitement, and we are too scared to run after him to ask if we could have a photo.

    Thank goodness, DS takes the imitative(since I‘m pretty sure I‘ve forgotten how to speak), and asks if we could take pictures with him. He was incredibly nice about posing with all of us, and even broke out his blue lightsaber(so cool!!).

    We all were incredibly giddy, and all I wanted to do was jump up and down with excitement :) He was quite into his role, and even had the correct hair and beard length for a Jedi Knight - we’re all pretty sure he was supposed to be Obi-Wan…well, at least that’s what we like to tell ourselves!

    It seemed that both he and trooper man got quite a kick out of seeing three girls be so happy about Star Wars - we only saw a few women at the exhibition, and most were with families and children.

    Through out the exhibition, we noticed signs that kept referencing “Jedi School” - well, we had to find out what that was about! We looked around, and saw people waiting in line for the next performance. Apparently, Jedi School was a 15 minute interactive play about the movies.

    DS asked a nearby father and son if they knew where it would be held - they indicated where it would be, and the son got quite excited, mentioned that he would be attending, and asked if we would be going also. DS laughed, and mentioned that we all wanted to go also - we just missed the performance, and we needed to return in 15 minutes. We walked around, and noticed a stand outside selling Star Wars merchandise - we decided to visit that after.

    We returned, and a young women(in Jedi robes!) was taking tickets for the performance. We didn’t have tickets, and didn’t know we needed any. She mentioned that since it was the last performance, if there weren’t too many people we could get in. DF asked her how did she even get such a great job? Jedi girl mentioned that she had a friend who heard about it, and everyone here were local actors - its seems that they rotate them throughout the week. DF asked if they needed any volunteers!

    The performance was about to begin, and we were lead into the Senate Chambers, which was actually perfect since the architecture and surroundings give off an other worldly air. The father and son DS had previously talked to sat right across from us, and from there reactions, we couldn’t tell who was more excited.

    There was some technical difficulties before it began, along with a lot of static crackling. The father leaned over, and told his son, “Maybe that’s a rebel transmission!” - ahhh…it’s so nice when you’re not the only Star Wars fanatic!

    The lights dimmed, and the famous words ran across the screen, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…”. The opening music blasted overhead, and the Jedi School had officially begun - woohoo!

    The opening crawl explained the reason for the school - The Jedi purges had begun, and a Jedi Knight and his padawan where out looking for new recruits to fight against Vader and Palpatine.

    The scroll stopped, and out popped the two JedI’s - I wasn’t sure what to expect, but they were incredibly good actors who were fully, and totally committed to there roles. The school was interactive, so they asked if there were any brave younglings out in the audience who wanted to be taught the ways of the Jedi. A group of about 6 boys, varying in ages from about 3-10 shot their hands up, and waited to be called.

    All were brought down to the floor, and were given training lightsabers, and were taught different poses to be used if they ever ran across Vader or the Emperor. Suddenly, the Emperor appears and tells the JedI that they are no match for Vader, who also has entered the room. All the boys must test there skills against Vader, and of course, they are all successful. It seemed that the parents loved it even more than the kids did!

    It was over very quickly, and we headed to the last area of the exhibition. There were signs pointing us the a “Green Screen Room”, which we followed. We finally came across it, and it was amazing. You could stand in line, and be taught different battle moves from a Jedi, who you would then fight against in front of the green screen.

    Your performance would be digitally imposed to a certain part of the Star Wars movie, and you could purchase a DVD of it! It was around 3 pounds, and there was a line of kids waiting to have there turn.

    It turned out the very Jedi we ran into earlier, was the same man who would be giving you your lesson, and who you would be paired up against!! DF and I thought it would be cool to do it, but everyone is line would be watching you - in the end, we were just too scared to try! We had finished the entire exhibition, and we regretfully left.

    Star Wars is incredibly nostalgic for both DS and I and it has many childhood memories attached to it. In 2002, we were in London a couple weeks after Episode 2 had been released. We got to watch it in the Odeon Leicester Square, and that was one of the highlights of our stay in London.

    It was unbelievable that we got to have another Star Wars memory in London, not to mention one that we just happened to stumble upon, which made it even more exciting. We couldn’t think of a better way to start our visit in London.

    We happily made our way to the Star Wars merchandise booth outside. The worker asked where we were from, and again thought we said "Kuwait" when we said "Hawaii" - DF said she is bringing along postcards of Hawaii to show people the next time she is in Europe!

    DS and I both got shirts, and DF and I got tiny, tiny, buttons that said, “Jedi Master” on it. I got another one for a friend back home who is also a huge fan, and DS and I kept mentioning how much she would have loved the exhibition.

    It was nearing 7pm, and DS and I had wanted to head to Wagamama’s for dinner. We had been there once in 2002, but I had heard some of Fodors saying the food had been quite terrible as of late. DS and I had thought it was a cute, fun place, not to mention that the food wouldn’t be expensive. We knew there was one near our apartment in Knightsbridge, in the Harvey Nichols store.

    We tubed it there, and came upon the store, but we didn’t see any signs for Wagamama. The only people in the lobby were those scary, posh looking perfume people, and we decided to check around the corner. Before we could leave, the lovely doorman popped around the corner, and asked if we needed any help. We told him we were looking for Wagamama, and he indicated it was just around the corner. We started to leave, but he insisted on taking us there himself - now that’s what you all customer service!

    I was hoping we could even get seats since it was after 7pm, and it was a Friday. However, the place was only half full, and we got seated immediately. DF had never been here before, and we mentioned that it was slightly modern, and they had “fusion” Asian food. The wait staff was buzzing around as they had been on our last visit, and as far as chain restaurants go(at least American ones), DS and I still think it’s one of the cooler ones!

    The menu seemed to be much larger than before, and we couldn’t decide on what to get. DS got a soba ginger noodle stirfry, and DF and I both got the Wagamama Ramen. DS said her dish was ok, but my dish was better than I thought it would be. It had chicken, shrimp, fish, loads of vegetables, and there was something really comforting about eating noodles and soup. It didn’t seem like DF was that impressed with her dish, but I think she liked the restaurant in general.

    We all shared a coconut ice cream that had mango sauce poured over - not too sweet, and it was really good! We headed back to Chelsea, and DS and I headed to a Sainsbury on Draycott Street. It was the same Sainsbury Local that we used for our previous stay, but it had gotten remodeled since our last visit. Not a great selection since it was a small store, but we picked up things for breakfast.

    DF went back to the apartment since her stomach was bothering her. Earlier that day in the apartment, she had been mentioning that the apartment was really cold…let me tell you - the apartment was actually hot! I should have seen it coming, but it seemed like DF was starting to get sick - Noooo!


    Coming Up: British Museum, Fortnum & Mason, and our continued stupidity with anything Oyster and Travelcard related.




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    Anna - I continue to enjoy your very funny observations and your enthusiasm.

    Re Star Wars: I remember when I saw the first Star Wars in the '70's. We saw it at Mann's Chinese Theater in Hollywood - huge screen, wonderful sound, a Wookie in the audience. From the very first scene, my husband and I knew sci-fi was changed forever. We went back the next weekend to take friends to see it.

    This is a very enjoyable trip report. Keep it coming!

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    Sounds like you feel about Star Wars the way I feel about Lord of the Rings! I saw the LotR film exhibit in Indianapolis a couple of years ago - talk about fun!

    Unfortunately, I don't remember any of the other lines. I wish I could find a copy of those pictures somewhere online.

    Lee Ann

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    Saturday, June 2nd 2007 (London)

    Marks & Spencers
    British Museum
    Fortnum & Mason


    It wasn’t a fluke - DF woke up and was very sick with a bad cold. Really not what I had hoped for - DF doesn’t take vitamins as they make her want to heave, and only takes Emergen-C…which she hadn’t been taking the entire trip since she bought the wrong flavor and said the flavor was horrible. Great.

    DS and I had been taking
    vitamins/emergen-c/and any other natural product known to mankind to fight off getting sick while DF took nothing and ended up getting sick.

    Before we left, I remember a poster mentioning that it almost doesn’t matter what you do if your travel companions refuse to take precautions from getting sick. I am a bit in rant mode since DF always, and I mean always gets sick so I was really paranoid that we would all get sick on this trip. DF was apologetic and tried to take some Chinese herbs that we had.

    I produced a whole bag of items that are immune boosters that DS and I take, and DF said she doesn’t understand how we can take all that stuff, and yet we are always sick.

    It could have been that we were tired, and been with each other for about three weeks now, but I was really irritated by that comment. DS and I rarely get sick, despite being around friends and family who don’t seem to care that they have a cold/flu/plague like symptoms and feel free to cough/sneeze all over you. I tried to stay calm, and keep some peace between the group, when all I wanted to do was tell her quite pointedly that she was the only sick one in the group, and since we were sharing a small studio, DS and I would likely get sick also.

    Uggh - I ranted to DS while we were alone, and she pointed out that we really couldn’t do anything about it at this point, so we might as well not get stressed out about it.


    I reluctantly agreed, and resisted the urge to spray DF with a cloud of Lysol. We ate breakfast, and headed off to the Mark and Spencers that was on Kings Road. On the way there, new shops had popped up in the last 5 years, and I couldn’t believe how different the area looked.

    We got to M&S and looked over the clothes area first - they had some great deals, and had a promotion for 3 shirts for 2 pounds! None of the colors appealed to me, but it was a fantastic deal.

    We happily walked into the supermarket area, and tried to figure out what to hit first. Loads of prepared meals greeted us, along with desserts, fruits, and other goodies. DS and I ended up getting an Indian takeout meal, and we got two boxes for 5 pounds! Grabbed some Naan bread, chips, chocolate and headed out.

    We passed by Paul’s, which was a nice site since we had been missing Paris and it’s wonderful pastries. The weather continued to be fantastic and the temperature being around 80 degrees - quite warm for this time of year. A bit cloudy in areas, but no rain - still can’t believe this is London.

    We dropped our bags home at the apartment and headed off for the British Museum. We walked down to Sloane Square tube station, and we again had to deal with transportation problems. With all the pre-trip madness, I really hadn’t had time to figure out the new tube system in London - I kept on running into threads about Oysters…are we talking about food or transportation?

    I looked at my Let’ Go book, and it mentioned that you could purchase carnets, just like you could in Paris - great! Sounds like a good idea since we could just buy two and share it between the three of us. At the station, the worker told us they no longer sold carnets, and he recommended that we buy a one day travel card. I felt upset that I hadn’t done enough research about this, and I wondered if there was a cheaper way to do this. There was a whole line behind us, and we all wanted to just get going, so we ended up doing that on Friday.

    So, here we are again on Saturday, and we are trying to figure out if we should just get an Oyster Card and deposit money onto it. We will just be here until Sunday, and we know we will have to pay a 3 pound deposit for the card. The worker asked what we would be doing today, and he mentioned the best deal would be to get a travel card - ok, that’s another 5.10 pounds. Sheesh - Paris transportation is looking really good at this point.

    Finally, we headed off for Bloomsbury and the British Museum - it took about 30 minutes since the trains don’t run as often on weekends. We walked through Russell Square, which was a lovely park, and loads of Londoners were out either picnicking or sunbathing and enjoying the sunny weather - we even noticed a cute café at the edge of the park.

    At the museum, we got to see loads of things from the Assyrian and Egyptian Empires. We decided to eat lunch at the musuem, in the cafeteria area. We looked around the gift shop, and then we headed to an area that I had to stop at. DS and I had been to the museum on our first trip, but I didn’t have enough time to visit the Sutton Hoo exhibit.

    I’ve always been curious to see it, especially since my wonderful high school literature teacher had spoke about it in class often. It was in her incredible class that I first learned about Beowulf, Morte d‘Arthur, and the Canterbury Tales. Her love and enthusiasm for those works drew me in, and she always told the class that if we ever got to visit London, we had to go to the British Museum, and visit the Sutton Hoo treasure.

    Well, I let her down on our first trip, and I certainly wasn’t about to do it again this time! I was in a mad search to find the exhibit, and for the first time, I left DS in the dust. I finally found it, and I was so happy to have made the extra effort. I really don’t know much about it, but I loved reading how archeologists first found the burial of the ship and the artifacts. I really enjoyed seeing everything, especially the helmet that was found - spectacular!

    I couldn’t spend as much time as I wanted to in this area, but we headed down to the Greek and Roman exhibits. You really can’t see everything on one visit, but we where happy with what we accomplished.





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    We all headed down to Fortnum and Mason, which DS and I had been looking forward to for the entire trip! We had afternoon tea here years ago, and although we weren’t doing that this time, we would be going for the wonderful ice cream sundaes that everyone seems to go on about. DF had really been looking forward to this, and we knew we had to get there before they closed.

    DS and I were amazed with the renovations they done to the store - it seemed so much more elegant and less “dated” as it had years ago. We sort of flew through the store, looking at all the teas, jams, and cookies for both ourselves and family and friends. Couldn’t believe they had gotten rid of my beloved Mango & Ginger green tea - it was such a lovely fruity tea…I thought this was the land of both mango and ginger!

    Grabbed box after box of Darjeeling, Royal Blend, Regent’s Blend, Breakfast(which I never even tried before this trip, but got quite addicted to after drinking it every morning at the B&B’s), Peach tea, Ginger Tea, Mango Tea, and Apple Green Tea. Do we know this much people…do we LIKE this much people?

    We also picked up Strawberry Champagne Jam, two boxes of Demerera Shortbread cookies, Mocha Shortbread cookies, and a tin of Shortbread cookies for relatives. DF had found a chocolate counter, and picked up assorted chocolates that had champange or passion fruit in them - they were packaged in a lovely pale yellow box.

    We rushed to find the St. James restaurant - we knew the Fountain restaurant was under renovation, but DS had visited the F&M website before our trip, and she said the St. James restaurant would be serving items that the Fountain restaurant served.

    We found the elevator, and we were really disappointed when the Maitre’d at the St. James restaurant told us they did not serve the ice cream sundaes. We must have all looked quite depressed, and he politely told us we could still have afternoon tea here.

    We told him thanks, but turned down the offer - we would be having afternoon tea at the Lanesborough hotel tomorrow. We tried to keep our spirits up, but it is quite disappointing when you can’t do something you’ve been really looking forward to. Apparently the Fountain restaurant would be finished in September 2007, and we were 3 months too early :(

    We decided to head home for dinner as we would be eating what we purchased from M&S earlier. DS and I had gotten a Coconut Chicken Curry and Chicken Masala along with Pilau rice and naan bread. DF got a prepared salmon dish(that she really loved), and coriander parsley naan - it was sooo good! DS and I love the regular naan, but this one was even better!

    DS had also picked up strawberries - she was adamant about buying “british” strawberries, and was quite shocked when we found some that came from California - the horror! DS found ones from Kent, and she also got vanilla double cream to pour over them - unbelievable! The combination was so delicious, and DS and I felt quite British!

    I had wanted to go to sleep earlier today, as travel fatigue has really caught up with me. We only got to sleep at around 12am, and I guess it’s harder when 3 people are sharing one bathroom. DS is usually the last one to get ready for bed, and by this time, I was basically threatening her to hurry up so we could get to bed at a decent hour - she puts up with quite a lot :)

    Coming up: The Brits fascination with cupcakes(really?), returning to the V&A, and being transported to the opulence of British Imperialism at the Lanesborough.






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    Anna, greetings from the Ambleside library! I'm not sure whether I will have time to catch up with your whole report before my time runs out but wanted to let you know that I'm still following. We chose Haddon Hall rather than Chatsworth when we were in the Peak District four years ago. We enjoyed it very much but it's not on quite as lavish a scale as Chatsworth. Interesting about the latest Mr. Darcy and MI5. I knew I recognized him from somewhere. Enough writing. I want to read some more!

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    Anna, I have been reading your adventure, checking every day. We visited the British Isles for 5 weeks, we called it " our adventure" also and it was. You and your sister are wonderful companions to each other. I want to visit other places, don't always have a travel partner.
    What day are you on as of last entry, just curious. I have enjoyed your humor and details. Jean

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    Moolyn!

    So nice to hear from you :) I hope you're having a fabulous time in England! Did you enjoy Haddon Hall? If we ever get to go back, I've been thinking about visiting, but you have to see Chatsworth - at least for the grounds!!


    Jean,

    It's so nice to hear from ones who are following my crazy report :) Today I'll be posting our last full day in London, then it's one day in florence, one day in Rome, and finally, half a day in London before we return home :(

    I was thinking about you when the terrorist attack happened in Glasgow...will you be flying out of that airport as well? Be safe!

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    Ugh - this is what comes of me posting when I haven't had caffeine yet...

    The last sentence of the previous post was directed toward Moolyn since I know they travel into Glasgow Airport.

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    KTtravel,

    I'm glad you enjoyed that - I really, really did have to resist the urge to just lose it and either spray DF with Lysol, use those sanitizing wipes on all items she touched, or throw vitamins down her throat as she slept :)

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    Sunday, June 3rd 2007 (London)

    V&A Museum
    Afternoon Tea at Lanesborough Hotel


    Today we had a bit of a lazy morning and ate breakfast at the apartment. DS woke up before the rest of us, finally yielding to the siren call of Paul’s. She was quite happy upon her return, and remarked how much she missed hearing French. DS bought a strawberry tart and another pastry that I can’t recall at the moment. I thought the tart was pretty good, although not as good as the ones in Paris

    Met up with some acquaintances in London who invited us to coffee. We walked through Chelsea, and the two women from London debated on where we should go. One thought we should venture to Café Nero’s, much to DS’s delight who had a espresso from Nero’s in Heathrow, and said it was really good(especially since most of the coffee she had in London on previous trip was of indiscernible origin).

    But, the other woman really wanted to head to Starbucks for a frappacino - DF was quite horrified at that thought, and noticed that both women were pointing to “The Hummingbird Bakery”, a bakery that had just opened up in the area, and apparently specialized in cupcakes. DF got quite enthused about it and mentioned to DS and I that she would go anywhere but Starbucks.

    DS and I were quite surprised and disappointed that all the pastries seemed to be American - Key Lime Pies, Brownies, Red Velvet Cake, Poppy seed Cakes, and load of cupcakes. DS and I would have preferred be surrounded by typically British desserts, but the two women from London seemed enraptured by the selection, and couldn’t wait to dig in. DS got a red velvet cupcake and I got a caramel cupcake. Mines was incredibly dry, although the frosting was good - DS and I always say that you can tell if a cupcake is good if it’s delicious without the frosting.

    DS really enjoyed hers, especially since we had never had red velvet cake before - one of the women we were with also got a red velvet cake, and she couldn’t get enough of the cream cheese frosting. We saw only locals coming though as we talked and ate - first experience with seeing “sloaney” girls in full force. Most of the Londoners who came through seemed excited that they had finally opened - it seemed like a place ex-pats could go to if they had craving for American things from home.

    We had a nice time, and then headed off to the V&A museum. If we had time today, we were supposed to visit Kensington Gardens, which I never got to visit on my last trip. I’m really being to think any park in London will be one of those things I’ll never see - it was a gorgeous day, and I know how rare that is for London. We all headed for the V&A, but I was in a definite funk…and a mood…a very funky mood :(

    This is how bad my jet lag was - it wasn’t until I was thinking about it a few days ago that I realized I could have let DS and DF go to the V&A, I could have went to Kensington Gardens, and we all could have met at the Lanes borough - ugh! Don’t get me wrong, I love the V&A, but I was getting a bit depressed that it was our last full day in London, and we would be spending most of it in a museum! I had wanted to walk around, explore more of London, and at least see ONE park!

    We arrived at the V&A at around 2-2:30pm, and we needed to leave for the Lanesborough by 4:15pm. It realized that almost all of the exhibits that we wanted to see were closed, including Jewelry and Textile. We wandered to the gift shop, and DS really wanted to find a piece of jewelry that she loved - on our last trip she found a Art Nouveau inspired ring that she loves, and it always reminds her of London. DS ended up finding a Art Nouveau inspired silver earring this time that she loved, and it was actually the last one!

    We split off from DF as she wanted to wander the shop a bit more, and I had to call our airport shuttle to confirm our pickup tomorrow. The phones in the V&A weren’t working, and DS needed to get something to eat since we really didn’t have lunch. We wandered through the cafeteria area, and picked up some drinks and crisps - we ended up sitting in an amazing room…it felt like we had traveled all the way to the Middle East - incredible mosaic tiles and chandeliers.

    We returned to meet DF and we all left - I ended up using a pay phone outside and got in touch with Just Airports, a company we had never used, but came highly recommended by Fodors. The man I spoke with was quite nice, and he did have our reservation - it seemed as if everything would go smoothly, but this was the beginning of the bad experiences we had with car services on our trip(more on this later).

    We took the tube to Lanesborough Hotel, and DS’s spy mode had once again kicked into full gear in London. DF isn’t a fast walker, but who could really keep up with our beloved gazelle. DS usually took off at lighting speed, and I tried to look back and make sure DF hadn’t collapsed from exhaustion just trying to keep up with us.

    We arrived at the Lanesborough, and I was surprised that it was such a small hotel. Smart looking doorman flanked the entryway, and we were all glad we had dressed well. I had done tons of research on Fodors about where we should have afternoon tea - we had afternoon tea at F&M’s 5 years ago, but I hadn’t been that impressed by the service or the sandwiches. I didn’t want something as fancy as the Ritz, and I heard bad reports about taking afternoon tea at the Orangey in Kensington Gardens.

    We had all debated if we should even do it considering the expense, and at one point we had decided not to. However, DS and I still wanted to go, and we though DF would regret not going later. I was trying to make a decision between the Lanesborough, Claridges, and Browns - I have to thank Sandykins for her excellent report on afternoon tea, which I really took into account in making our decision.

    DS and I finally decided we would try the Lanesborough, as the service seemed great, we wanted to go to a place that would refill our sandwiches(as our afternoon tea would as be turned into our dinner), and DS and I couldn’t turn down a place that would have freshly made crumpets!

    Our reservations were for 5pm, and we were actually about 10 minutes early. We checked in, and we were asked to wait just a bit. We were seated near the beginning of the Conservatory room, which we loved since it gave us a full vantage point to enjoy the lavish décor. DF mentioned that she also loved where we were seated since we would have felt quite nervous if we were more out in the open - it was her first afternoon tea, and she was worried she would commit some terrible mistake(she did fine by the way!)

    The Conservatory was even prettier in person, and it looked as if they had fused together different aspects of Indian and Chinese design throughout the room. Exotic plants were everywhere, and it felt as if you were in a grand, expansive atrium as the glass ceiling soared above us. There was hints of soft greens and pinks through out the room, which added to the serene atmosphere.

    We had a very professional waiter who answered all our questions about the large variety of tea they offered. DS got Darjeeling, I got a lemon verbena tea, and DF got an aged tea. Our tea arrived, along with our sandwiches and assorted pastries. I was very pleased with my choice - it had a light citrus flavor that didn’t overpower the tea or the food.

    Sandykins report mentioned that they always poured the tea for you, and noticed when you needed another cup - our waiter did notice this in the beginning, but toward the end, we did need to pour our own cups…I think I’ve become quite spoiled :)

    We had five varieties of sandwiches - a smoked salmon sandwich, a chicken curry sandwich on a raisin spiced bread, tuna sandwich with cucumber slices, a mango chutney & cheese sandwich, and a egg salad sandwich. I was really looking forward to the sandwiches as I had learned from other posters, you can tell if they are freshly made by the state of the bread. At F&M, I was disappointed because the edges of the sandwiches were a little hard, as if they had been prepared hours before.

    I was delighted when I ate my first sandwich and the bread was incredibly soft - we all really loved the chicken curry sandwich the best. DS and DF enjoyed the salmon sandwiches, DS and I really enjoyed the chutney sandwiches, and even the egg salad sandwich was unusual and had bits of dill in it. The only sandwich which was quite ordinary was the tuna cucumber sandwich - I would have preferred it to just be a cucumber sandwich.

    The waiter returned and asked if we would like more sandwiches, and we initially told him no. Turned out both DS and I were still a bit hungry, and we asked for just one more salmon sandwich(DS’s) and one more chicken curry sandwich for me. He came back with one salmon sandwich, but 6 curry sandwiches for me! DS thought that they couldn’t just make one(or one looked too skimpy) - they were really delicious, but there was no way I could finish all 6!

    On the second tier were the cakes - very, very small, but quite delicious. One was a banana bread with pecans, another was a traditional Victoria Sponge, and the last was a chocolate ginger cake. The chocolate ginger cake was the best, a bit heavy, but moist.

    The top tier contained the “fancy” desserts - a small strawberry tart, a pistachio macaroon with fresh raspberries, and a chocolate hazelnut mousse. They were all delicious, but we tried to save room for our scones and crumpets!

    As it turned out, they no longer serve crumpets, but raisin breads with bits of orange in them :( DS and I had really been looking forward to the crumpets! The waiter brought out our scones, accompanied by clotted cream and strawberry jam, and the raisin bread was actually quite good! We stayed until about 6:30pm - I remember people talking on the board about how afternoon tea had become quite fashionable again in London. We didn’t see that many tourists, and it seemed as if most of the people there were British.

    We walked out of the hotel to the tube stop right next to it, and headed home, quite full and very happy with our experience at the Lanesborough. The afternoon tea was 28 pounds - quite a big amount with the exchange rate, but we were all happy that we made the decision to go. The major reason DS and I had questioned coming here was because we knew the atmosphere would not be traditionally English at all, and we wondered if we would miss that in our experience. We ended up loving the décor and atmosphere, and I believe we would return in the future.

    We got back to our apartment, and we all needed to finish packing for our flight tomorrow. It took forever since we had to figure out how to pack all of our gifts as well. DS and I ended up eating the leftovers in the refrigerator, and we didn’t get to bed until 12:15 AM!! Our car service would be picking us up at 6:30am tomorrow, so we would be having a early start to the crazy end of our trip.

    Coming Up: Crazy airport shuttle drivers and our whirlwind ½ day through Florence!

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    I have just spent the last two hours (switching back and forth between the TV and the computer) reading your entire travelogue. Your writing style is so enjoyable and your personality just shines through.

    I am not familiar with Paris or the Lakes regions, but you have made it so real through your detailed and humorous recollections. You must keep a wonderful diary - I can't remember what I had for breakfast today. Thank you so much for taking so much of your time to share your experiences. Can't wait for your NEXT adventure.

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    Travelinguy,

    Wow! I can't believe you spent that much time reading my report - you will totally need a break from my insanity!

    I actually kept a horrible journal on my first visit to Europe, so I was really hard on myself, and even if I was tired, I made sure to keep a very detailed daily report...I'm SO happy I did that!

    I'm glad you enjoyed Paris and the Lakes - Paris always has a special place in my heart, but if you really want to know more about the lakes, you need to read Moolyn's fabulous trip reports!

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    Forgot that I wanted to mention the real dilemma about "too much to see and not enough time to see it".

    I travel mostly with my two sisters who really leave it to me to plan our itinerary - with some input from them about what they really want to see. We were near the end of our time in Florence (after several days in Rome) when my youngest sister finally rebelled and said "NO MORE MUSEUMS!!!" She just wanted to wander the city and enjoy its beauty. Fortunately, she did let me take her to the Duomo museum, which turned out to be one of our favorites.

    I will try to do better on our UK trip and leave time for just "being there" :)

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    LCBoniti,

    You might want to shield your eyes from parts of my Florence report...I don't quite share your fondness for it, but that may be because we've always visited in high tourist season.

    Totally understand wanting to experience a city over just being in museums - the best thing to do is walk as much as possible in a city!

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    Monday, June 4th 2007 (Florence)

    Duomo
    Mercato Centrale
    Ponte Vecchio

    We all got up early as we needed to leave the apartments by 6:30am to catch the 7am Gatwick Express from Victoria Station in London. I made a mistake on my last post - we used Just Airports on Thursday(more on that later)…I actually had to call a cab company the day before and schedule a taxi to pick us up at 6:30 a.m.

    I ran down at about 6:25am to see if the taxi was already there - he was, and when I went up to him, he was a bit put out, and mentioned that I need to get the rest of my group as the longer he waits, the more we will end up paying. I didn’t know whether to be confused or upset - we had reserved a taxi to arrive at 6:30am - if he showed up 5-10 minutes early, did we really have to pay for that? Is this a London thing?

    To make matters worse, I had locked myself out of the building, and I forgot the entry code - great. It took me about 3 minutes to realize that each of the apartments can be buzzed in from the outside. I buzzed our apartments, and DS and DF opened the door for me. I ran back up the mountain of stairs, quite out of breath, and told DF and DS that taxi driver man wanted us to leave now. We were all set to leave, but DF also didn’t understand why we would be charged extra if the driver showed up early.

    We arrived with all our luggage, and the driver then chastised me for not mentioning how much luggage we had when I made the reservation. I had told the company we had 3 large bags, but I didn’t mention our carry-on’s since I figured we could carry those. He then mentioned that he could not lift any of our bags, and at this point DF had lost her patience for taxi driver man. I think if he said another word, DF would have snapped :) All of us helped each other hoist our bags into the car, and we were finally off for Victoria Station. It was early, so we caught almost no traffic and were at the station in about 10 minutes.

    We were able to catch the 7am Gatwick Express as planned, and while dragging on our luggage came with hernia like symptoms, we arrived smoothly into Gatwick Airport at 7:30am. While doing research on the easiest way to get from London-Gatwick, I had initially wanted to take a car service to the airport. I was advised by many, especially Janisj, that if I took a car service from London I would most likely be in traffic for 1.5 hours, and that didn’t take into account any road work along the way.

    I was so happy I listened to everyone’s advice, and we also waited to purchase our tickets onboard - loved that! So easy! We got to Gatwick airport and as soon as we walked through the doors, we were greeted by what looked like mass chaos! It was crazy busy, with lines snaking every which way, and hardly any room to move around. We tried to find Meridiana Airlines, but we noticed that this airport had horrible signs - no clear direction on where to check-in, find security, etc.

    DS asked a incredibly helpful airport employee, and we were able to check into our 9:45am flight to Florence. Since our entire leg to Italy was made at the last moment, we needed somewhere to leave our large bags - we would only be taking carry-on’s to Italy. I had asked the apartments if we could leave our bags, as we would be returning in two days - they said we could not due to insurance reasons.

    Ok, well, that meant we would need to leave our bags at left luggage at a cost of 6.50 pounds per day - being spontaneous and implusive is really costing me an arm and a leg…and probably my first born child. We asked for directions to left luggage, and DF and I both checked in one bag, while DS’s bags were apparently magical and doubled in size at each country we got to…she regretfully had to check in two bags at left luggage.

    Meridiana did weigh our carry-on bags which I was surprised about, and only DS’s was about 2 pounds over. DS and I went through many scenarios before figuring out where we would spend our two days in Italy. DS and I really don’t like Florence - it didn’t live up to all the hype that our friends said it would, and we were really surprised how dirty, crowded, and touristy it was on our first trip. However, we knew DF really wanted to see it(she loved A Room with a View), and we had actually liked the street markets there.

    DS and I really love Rome, and we would have been fine spending all our time there. So we needed to come up with something - we could either fly from London to Rome, spend half a day and a night there, and then take a day trip to Florence. Well, that meant we would be spending more time in Rome than in Florence and that just she wrong, especially considering Rome has so much more to see.

    So, the only other option is to fly into Florence, spend a half day there, and then train down to Rome for 2 nights - we later decided to spend the night in Florence since it would have been way to rushed otherwise.

    I purposely did not ask anyone on Fodors if we were crazy to go through all of this just for 2 nights - we already knew we were crazy - I didn’t need to hear it from anyone else! DS and I are incredibly organized and plan things months in advance…somehow, being spontaneous actually rejuvenated our planning process.

    Now, I would NEVER recommended this to anyone else - you can never see a city properly in a day. But…it was either do it this way, or not go to Italy at all. We were sacrificing spending two more nights in London, and having a more leisurely end to our trip.

    Was it worth it in the end? Well, you will just have to wait for the end of the report to find out :)

    Ok, enough yakking - back to the report. We walked to security, praying that security was not the huge line snaking around the terminal - turned out that line was for Thomas Cook airlines!

    Security was a bit iffy for our group - DS got her contact solution taken away(even after she mentioned that it was saline based and for contacts) and DF got padded down by security. Amazingly, I got through smoothly which I couldn’t believe - on our last trip to Europe, I always got taken on the side by security…I had always worn black which I didn’t do this time(wore either red or aqua), and it seemed to work! At least that’s what I tell myself.

    We had to wait for our gate with the hundred of other passengers, and I debated on getting a sandwich from Boots for the plane ride. I was really sick of airport sandwiches by this point, and decided not to get it…which of course I later regretted :(

    Our gate number finally popped up, and DS ended up reading the gate number wrong and took us to the wrong side of the airport! DF took on some sort of super speed, and DS and I had to almost run to catch up to her as we tried to get to the correct terminal.. Or speed was wasted as our flight was delayed one hour - turns out they were bomb testing a stuffed animal that was left behind.

    We finally got on the plane, and were soon on our way to Florence. DF had her first experience with the fashion-critical Italian eye. She was waiting to use the bathroom, and the two flight attendants(a man and women) were talking at the back of the plane. DF is incredibly pretty, and her looks and coloring could pass for an Italian. The female flight attendant had given DF the Italian once over that seems to be an inborn talent to all Italians- they start by looking at your face, then drop there glance immediately to your shoes, glance at your clothes, back to your shoes, and finally back to your face…all in about 3 seconds.

    DF came back from the bathroom in a fit of laughter. Apparently, they couldn’t tell if DF was Italian or not. Female flight attendant did said once over, looked pointedly at her shoes, closed the curtains at the back of the plane, and told Male flight attendant, “American”. DF had on a nice blouse and white linen pants with pin stripes - all of which helped her to blend in, but her shoes were a dead give away…they were cute, but funky hurley skater type of sneakers.

    Food service got under way, but we did need to pay for food. Both DF and I were starving, and we were debating whether to get a sandwich. We both got a ham and cheese sandwich, which I thought had to be half-way decent…well, it wasn’t.

    DF stated quite correctly that it was the worst sandwich she ever had, especially considering we paid about 6 euros for one sandwich. It was on tasteless American white bread, had a slice of ham and some sort of congealed cheese, and it was all held together with loads of mayo - mayo!


    More coming up in a few...

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    Although slightly nauseous, we arrived into Florence airport at 1:45pm, about an hour later than planned. We got through customs quickly, and grabbed a taxi into Florence. The ride took about 20 minutes, and cost 25 euros.

    We arrived at our place of residence, the Alloro B&B,www.allorobb.it which stated on the website that it is about 5 minutes to the Duomo. It was more of a ten minute walk, as it was much closer to the train station than we realized(only 5 minute walk to the station).

    They have a lovely courtyard, and I believe they share the building with another hotel, and private apartments. We had a difficult time figuring how to check in, but DS finally found it for us as we needed to walk up about 2 flight of stairs(they do have an elevator).

    We checked in with the owner, who was nice, but he did seem appalled that we were only staying in Florence for one night, and only spending one night in Rome. Must resist urge to tell him I just sacrificed my first born child to get here.

    We paid 150 euros for a triple room, and breakfast is included - we weren’t able to have any though since we needed to leave around 7am for the train station, and I believe they start serving breakfast at 8am. We actually wanted to stay at Relais Cavalcanti since it gets excellent reviews on the board, but they were already booked.

    I got the recommendation from TimandLiz on Fodors, and the loved there stay here. We got the only triple room, which was absolutely huge by Italian standards, but it was covered head to toe in blue toile - I’m think some people might find that a bit too much! The room was clean, and the bathroom was also huge, but I think it might be a bit dated.

    Our bed wasn’t comfortable, and the pillows were terrible, but I think that may be common in Italy - DF slept on a pull out loveseat, and she did mention that it had sunken in a bit and she found it really hard to sleep in.

    We had a mission to visit the street markets, and DS and I had wanted to find the straw market, or Mercato Nuovo, which we had visited last time. In all our preparation, I had forgotten to mark down the square it was in! I was starting to get extremely frustrated with myself as I couldn’t how stupid I was.

    We actually started heading in the direction we thought it would be, but got lost along the way, and ran into another street market area. DF thought we should just stay here and I agreed, although I was grumpy about not remembering where Mercato Nuovo was. I didn’t know if this was just some random area, but one of the nearby buildings seemed oddly familiar - it wasn’t until we returned back to the B&B that I found out we were at the San Lorenzo Market or Mercato Centrale! Well, that made me happier :)

    It was crazy hot by now, around 90 degrees, and after a while, all the stalls seem to have exactly the same type of scarves, pashmina’s, and ties. DS and I separated from DF and we all looked around for a while. DF decided she would give her business to people who weren’t aggressive - I’m not sure if the quality was better, but she was happy.

    We all got various scarves, pashmina’s leather items, and ties for ourselves and family members. DS and I were quite shocked that vendors were selling rather obscene items of clothing that focused in on David’ anatomy - I’m sure you have all seen it, but it wasn’t around 5 years ago. We were at one stand that was selling really obscene ties that folded out into a provocative pose of a women.

    The women at the stand had already sold some ties to 2 college aged guys, and she was really trying to get them to by the other type of ties. I was surprised that they seemed shocked and a bit appalled with those ties…I’m sure there mothers would have been proud :)

    We dropped all the items back at the B&B, since it was only about 5 minutes away. We all seriously needed food right now, so we sort of wandered around the area, and came across a café right across the street from the B&B. I can’t remember the name, but they had lots of small prepared dishes on hand in the front glass case.

    One of the women behind the counter helped us, and she was incredibly nice about our total lack of Italian language skills - we all kept on wanting to say boujour, merci, etc. as our brains had been so programmed in Paris…I totally how to forget to say “one” in Italian and kept wanting to say “un”. We all got drinks and mini pizza’s that they heated up for us - they were actually really good and just large enough for a small snack. DS also got an espresso macchiato, and we saw some locals wandering in and mostly staying near the bar area.

    As we sat there, we had all finally succumbed to ‘Killer Fatigue‘. For anyone who is an Amazing Race fan, that is the title that was bestowed upon the racers by posters at televisionwithoutpity.com Killer Fatigue usually hits mid way through the race, and is a monstrous form of Jet Lag that never seems to leave you. It’s usually accompanied by extreme irritability, loss of any type of thought process, and usually ends in someone sobbing on the ground in the fetal position, or to quote the best example: “MY OX IS BROKEN!”

    Happily, we only had a very mild version of it at this point - we couldn’t really read our maps, and it seemed like if we sat down for more than 5 minutes, or legs refused to get up and our eyes started to close. We need to walk somewhere fast! We decided to walk towards the Duomo, but we happily ran into a Gelato store (gelateria?).

    DF decided to pass for the moment, but DF and I got a combination of chocolate and a yogurt with mixed berries. I’m not the biggest fan of gelato, but this one was really good! The gelato didn’t have that horrid florescent color, and it wasn’t overly sweet. The chocolate was quite rich, but I loved the yogurt gelato…much more tangy than sweet.

    We walked to the Duomo and got to take some pictures around the area. We then walked to Piazza Della Signoria, which has a copy of the David in the square. Both the museums in Florence were closed today, so we made sure to come here so DF would at least see a version of the David.

    We happily sat down on the steps and enjoyed looking at the various sculptures in the square for a while. We decided to move on, and as we were leaving, we walked by the Uffizi and a flutist was performing in the archways. The music was lovely, and we thought of our friend back home who also played the flute and would have loved it.

    Somewhere along the way, we came across a big department store and that signaled one thing to me - bathrooms! We looked around a bit, and we were happy that the store was air conditioned, which was a welcome relief. We used the facilities, but I noticed they had a rooftop café that overlooked the entire city! We couldn’t stay, but it seemed like a cool area to have a drink and have a view as well!

    Along the way, we noticed we were getting a lot more attention from Italian men then we did on our last trip. Although that could also be because we looked like a blur whizzing by as I had to sometimes run to keep up with DS! DS is convinced that it’s because of DF and I agree - we walked down an alleyway that had some construction workers in it, and I told DF that she was bringing us unwanted attention and we might have to leave her behind :) DF told me I was crazy, and I think she felt uneasy from the looks she was getting.

    It was around 6pm, and we walked to the Ponte Vecchio. I was amazed that loads of people were still walking around the bridge as all the shops were already closed. We got to take great pictures since the light was wonderful, and we walked along the river for a bit.

    I was amazed how busy Florence was…there didn’t seem to be this many people on our last trip, and we came around the same time. I started to think that everyone was reading there guide books and knew not to come in July and August, but in May and June!

    Of course, we didn’t get to see everything, but we did get to see more than I thought we would. The one thing I do like about Florence is that it’s a very compact city, and you can easily get to places in a short time. We wandered back toward our B&B and decided to have dinner in the area. Our street didn’t seem extremely touristy, and I had neglected to look up recommendations on places to have dinner. I really should have since we only had one night there, and our dinner turned out to be pretty mediocre.

    The restaurant was only a few doors from our B&B, and we were really getting tired by this point. I got ravioli filled with ricotta cheese that was covered with a creamy tomato sauce. DS got seafood risotto and grilled vegetables, while DF got clam and linguine. DF really enjoyed her meal, DS wasn’t really impressed, and although I thought my sauce was good, I wasn’t so sure about the ravioli.

    DF and DS got the house wine, which DF liked, but DS said that it didn’t really have a taste! DS and I shared a tiramisu and DF got a strawberry cheescake…DF said it was frozen! As we were having our meal, we noticed most of the people in there were tourists. The food wasn’t terrible, but nothing to recommend either.

    We got back to the B&B, laid out for a bit before getting ready for bed. I had enjoyed watching the crazy Italian shows on our last trip, but we mostly only had news channels here. We all had to fit the items we bought into our carry-on’s, and we finally got to sleep around 11:45pm.

    Coming Up: DF's growing paranoia of meeting disaster on foreign trains, full blown Killer Fatigue, finding enlightenment in a Café Corretto, and zooming our way through Roma!






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    Hi there! For some reason I am having trouble posting so here goes again:

    Don't worry, your comments about Florence don't bother me. Seems like people either love or loathe it and I happen to love it. Of course, we were there in February - no crowds and no heat! Trade off was short days and not much doing in the evenings, but we were usually exhausted from our very busy days so an early evening was good for us.

    << I purposely did not ask anyone on Fodors if we were crazy to go through all of this just for 2 nights - we already knew we were crazy - I didn’t need to hear it from anyone else! >>

    I hear that! I will be asking a lot of questions regarding specifics of our trip next year, but I will purposely not post the itinerary for the same reason :) Not that fodorites are wrong about this (they are right actually) but sometimes logic is just not, well, logical, when you have not been to these places very often. Maybe when I have traveled more I will be able to slow down a bit.

    Anyway, looking forward to more . . .

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    Anna, greetings now from Wales where the sun is shining! We arrived in Glasgow nine days before the jeep incident and fly home from Gatwick on Tuesday. Our two weeks in the lake district were very wet but it was still beautiful.

    I'll read your report again more thoroughly when we return home. I love all your detail and your style of writing. And as for being crazy to do so much I think everyone does it the first few times. Then you settle down and concentrate on specific areas that you already know you love.

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    LCBoniti - thanks again for your comments! I think the major reason I don't like Florence is because of the crowds...I'm sure it's a totally different city in February :)

    I agree about asking people's opinions on itinerary - sometimes it helps and sometimes it doesn't. I haven't been fortunate enough to travel to Europe many times, and this was only our 2nd trip...we had to make the most of what we had! I wouldn't do it on our next trip, but I'm glad I learned something in the process.


    Moolyn,

    So glad you are keeping up with my report! I hope you've been having a marvelous trip, and I can't wait to hear more about it.

    DS and I have already been talking about our next European trip(hopefully!!) with another one of our DF's(who would probably use her body to block our plane from leaving the runway without her!) DS and I are already talking about returning to, and spending more time in the Lakes :)

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    Tuesday, June 5, 2007 (Rome)

    Forum
    Colisuem
    Piazza Navona
    Pantheon
    Trevi Fountain
    Spanish Steps
    Collapsing into Travel Coma

    We were supposed to leave our B&B at 7am, but I got up late, got dressed in about 5 minutes(all while still in my sleepy drunken stupor) and we headed off to the train station at around 7:10am. The owner of the B&B had insisted that we should walk instead of calling a taxi, as he said it would be much easier. Yes, well he also wasn’t carrying a bag that felt like a bushel of potatoes!

    Completely out of breath, and wondering why both DF and DS were walking as if they were training for the next marathon, we finally arrived at the train station. My traveling companions seem to be extremely discriminatory against me traveling at the rate most humans do…I will have to transform into either a cougar, panther or other type of wild animal for next trip.

    We all need food, and since DS left IV drip at home, needs to get her caffeine fix. DS and DF go to the Italian café, and DS kindly gets me food at McDonalds as I need something more substantial than pastries right now. I hold the table for all of us, which works out fine for me since I’m so tired, I don’t think I could do much else at the moment.

    We head off to find our train, and successfully get on without much incident. DS and I bought and Ipod that we would share on the trip, and I’ve been listening to the soundtrack from “Under the Tuscan Sun” as we watch the numerous villas and beautiful Tuscan countryside fly by us…it totally puts me in the mood for our adventure to Rome! Our train car seems to be filled mostly with businessman, and other couple that seems to be tourists.

    I was so enthralled by the views and my music that the nearly 2 hour ride goes by quickly, and I miss out on some of the drama that took place.

    DF mentions that the tourist couple who were also in our train car thought we were in there seats. It didn’t seem as if they had taken trains before, and were clearly confused. We made sure we were sitting in the correct seats, and apparently the wife told her husband quite loudly that we were in there seats…DF says that they were giving us the eye for our entire trip.

    DF also claims that DS and I were getting interested looks from the other Italian men on the train, which I never noticed…it seems like Italian men are either really mellow, laid back and soft spoken or are loud, totally in your face and extremely aggressive. Happily, we haven’t ran in to much of the latter.

    We are a bit confused as to where we get off, so DS leans across the aisle and asks a nearby business man if we should get off now. DF laughed later since she said that he looked as if he had wanted to talk to DS, but didn’t have a real reason to until now :)

    It seems that DF seems to get some sort of paranoia on trains in Europe. On our train from Derbyshire to London, DF was positive that a man traveling by himself was a white supremacist. DF is very tan, and she claimed that he kept on giving her dirty looks, and she was sure he she would meet her demise on that train because of him. It seems DF has transformed into Anne Shirley sometime during our trip, and her imagination has gotten the better of her! Happily, she got no “vibe” on this journey.

    We arrive into Termini at around 9:30am, but we hit a HUGE line waiting for taxi’s outside of the station. The line is again mostly full of business men, and we can’t believe that even they seem to inspect your shoes!

    DF reads our Let’s Go Rome book during our wait, and there is a businessman in front of us that looks like a combination of Eric Bana and Christian Bale - quite a combo, and it does make the wait a little less oppressive!

    We finally get a taxi, and we drive to our hotel near the Spanish Steps, Hotel Modigliani, www.hotelmodigliani.com where we had booked a standard triple room for 200 euros. We got the recommendation on the board, and it was one of the few places that had openings for our stay, seemed nice, and was centrally located. Our taxi ride completely solidified the fact that we were in Rome, with cars and vespa’s zooming past us…ahh Rome!

    DS and I particularity loved seeing loads of business men on vespa’s - it seemed like a site you would only see in Rome. We were taken to the hotel on a route that passed the Forum and Coliseum, which was wonderful.

    We got to our Hotel, and were met by Stefano, who was working the front desk that morning. He was incredibely polite and helpful regarding all our questions. As we checked in, he mentioned that he was happy to inform us that we would be getting a “gift” from the hotel. He said that instead of getting the standard triple room we had booked, we would be staying across the street at their one bedroom apartment.

    We were all thrilled, but I suddenly got worried - this is when Fodors can either be of benefit or make you paranoid…is this a bait and switch? Will the rooms be horrible?

    All such thoughts are running through my mind as to the various scenarios I have heard on the board about things like this happening. Another worker takes our bags and walks us across the street to the apartment, and we are staying on the ground floor.

    I hold my breath as the door opens, and we are all happily amazed that it’s wonderful! It has a kitchen, living room with a single bed, a big bathroom, and a very large bedroom! The floors are marble, as they often are in Italy, and the entire bathroom is covered with it as well.

    All three of us walk around in some sort of haze as we can’t believe we get to stay here! I tell the others that we must change our plans and stay in Rome longer!! From there website, it looked as if our standard triple room would be very, very tiny - now we all have space and freedom to unwind. We would all really like to relax, and just enjoy the apartment, but we have a very busy schedule planned.

    more soon...

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    Before our trip, we had told DF that she could pick whatever she wanted to do as we had both been there before, and she had first choice. DF said she would like anything we wanted to do, but did have places she had no interest in seeing.

    One was the Vatican, which was great, as that would have taken way too much time. She also didn’t want to take up time going into the Coliseum, but didn’t mind if we just visited the outside. She did have one request - she needed to take a photo for her father of the Forum, with her besides one of the arches. It was really important to her father, but DF had always stated that we didn’t need to do it if it was out of our way.

    DS and I knew it was important, and it was a very simple request. We decided to walk down the street from our apartment, which lead us directly into Piazza Barberini - we were told it would be faster to get a taxi from there. DS had later asked Stefano how much the apartment was - it was 250 euro for three people, but we only still paid 200 euros.

    We got a taxi, and it was a quick journey to the Forum, and we arrived there at around 11am…apparently this is the exact time that loads of tour groups are also visiting. It doesn’t help that it’s so hot that you feel you are getting a sunburn instantly.

    We get down to the main area of the Forum and try to figure out what to do. DF’s father wants her picture by a specifc arch, and DF and DS are tying to figure out how to find it. It’s around now that DF’s Killer Fatigue starts kicking in.

    We should have seen the signs with her growing paranoia on various trains, but now her irritability seems to kick in big time. DS brought along the map for the Forum that is in our Lets Go book, and thinks we should go to the right.

    To DF’s benefit, DS’s navigational skills haven’t been exactly on par this trip and as said earlier, DF is wildly independent. DF is quite sure it must be to the left…Ok, well, why don’t we just go left. We take some pictures, look around, and try to figure out where the heck this stupid arch is.

    Along the way, a group of teenage Italians are touring the Forum. One particular teenage girl gives me the once over and pays special attention to my shoes - I’ve chosen to wear my Roxy slippers, which are much cooler than my sneakers. It’s hot, I’m sleep deprived and I’m sooo tired of the disdainful Italian once over - I pause a little as we walk by and give her a once over of my own - Ha! She has sneakers on - I try not to laugh as she looks like might punch me if I do…It doesn’t seem like she is used to getting once over-ed. I feel quite proud of myself, and feel ten times better.

    It’s burning out outside, and I’ve forgotten how bad it can get in Rome. DS and I head for shade provided by the few trees still left in the area, and we the dreaded map gets pulled out again. I get irritated when it’s hot, and we seem to have no idea where we are going. DS is still sure that we should have headed right, but DF thinks we just need to go further up.

    We walk, and walk, and climb up a bunch of stairs. We get to the top, and find out we need a ticket to go in. I’m quite surprised when DF mutters “great!” quite loudly and immediately starts heading down the stairs.

    DF doesn’t want to ask for directions, and thinks we should just leave. We tell her we should just ask someone so she can take her picture. Map gets brought back out, and DS asks someone in an information booth…apparently DS innate, creepy, navigational ability is correct and we should have headed right, instead of left.


    DF is now quite grumpy as she didn’t really want to come here in the first place, and I think we have reached that point in the trip where you have just been around the same people for too long. DF thinks since we are near the Coliseum, we should wander over, and then return to the Forum for the arch. DS and I can’t really grasp her thinking, and I tell DF why don’t we just go back down and find the arch.

    DF gets quite short with us, and isn’t yelling, but takes on that exasperated tone people do when trying to explain things to a child for the fifth time. At this point, I really wanted to just tell DF to calm down and relax! But, it’s better to keep my mouth shut and keep the peace between us…stupid peace.

    We end on walking outside to a wonderful view of the Coliseum, but by this time, there are also hoards of people and tours groups around the area. As we walk down, I notice a Italian teenager has a backpack with “Dakine” written across it. I point it out to DF who laughs and we wonder how they pronounce it here.

    We take some pictures of the Colisuem -by this point DS forgoes fashion and whips out her umbrella to provide shade for herself…she totally looks like a tour guide, and none of the people outside selling tours gives her a second glance :)

    We return to the Forum and again look for the arch - we walk down, but we with so many arches around you, which is the correct one? DF again thinks we are going the wrong way, even though this is the exact way the worker told us to go! DS spots a private tour guide who is with a couple. She walks up to him, and politely asks where the arch is - he points to the largest one, yes…the one DS thought it was at the beginning of this terrible saga.

    DF looks at it with disbelief, and questions if the tour guide is correct - I can’t believe DF is being so headstrong, but I think all the traveling has finally caught up with her. Too add to that, DF isn’t supposed to have caffeine, and she has been getting loads of it with all the tea we have been drinking - she’s always told DS and I that it turns her into a crazy person, but we’ve never actually seen it happen before now.

    We finally get the picture, and I wonder if DF’s father will ever know the drama that unfolded for us to get it. We all walk back to the gift shop in front of the Forum, and DF gets a bunch of postcards and DS gets those flip books that shows you the difference between ancient Rome and modern Rome.

    We need food by this point, and I stupidly left my restaurant recommendations at the apartment. I do remember that many on Fodors recommend Via del Governa Vecchio as a street with excellent restaurants, and it’s right near the Piazza Navona.

    Surprisingly, there are no taxi’s outside of the Forum and we don’t want to walk all the way to the Piazza Navona. I know that the Victor Emmanuel building is nearby, and I suggest that we walk as I’m sure they will have taxi’s in that square. I can’t believe that one of my hunch’s is actually correct, and we head off for Piazza Navona.

    We get there quickly, but a big part of Governa Vecchio seems to be under construction. None of the names of the restaurants really jump out at me, but I do notice one that seems slightly familiar - Ciccia Bomba.

    It seems cute, the menu is large, and it had a/c which was all we needed to hear. It’s around 12:45pm, and the place is pretty empty, except for a group of locals. The interior is a cheery pale yellow and we are seated in a tiny alcove by the door that provides excellent views of the street outside. DS gets a foccacia blanca and DF gets brushetta with tomatoes to start with. I notice they have stuffed zucchini flowers, which I get really excited about since I’ve never had them. They are stuffed with mozzarella and a bit of anchovy paste - it’s a bit greasy and we’re not blown away with it.

    DS’s foccacia came with salt and rosemary over it and it’s quite good. DF loves her brushetta which has tomatoes and basil - she can’t believe how sweet the tomatoes are. DS and I both get rigationi with bacon and tomato sauce as our main dish, and DF gets linguine and clams again. I was surprised with her choice as DF is quite adventurous back home and loves to try new things. I really like the food, and it seemed much less touristy than the dinner we had in Florence. DF and DS like the food, but aren’t blown away by it either.

    DF had read about a Café Corretto in the Lets Go book, and really wants to try one. The waiter can’t figure out what she wants…is she asking for a café and a café corretto? We figure out that we need to drop the “café” and just ask for a “corretto”. DF is really happy she got it as she’s never had a better coffee in her life! She says she can really taste the alcohol, but she later tells us that it didn’t make her jittery like coffee usually does.

    It’s only later at the apartment that I realize that the much talked about Buffeto pizza place is also on this street - I never even saw it! DS thinks it may have been by the area where construction was going on.

    We walk to the Piazza Navona and take pictures of the fountains, but the largest one is still under renovation. It’s relatively quite here, and DS and I think it’s because of the renovations. I want to visit some of the artists who paint here, so he head off to try and find them. We are about halfway through the square, when I see out of the corner of my eye that the two Italian guys who having been sitting on a bench, gesture to each other and quickly get up.

    I think nothing of it, and enjoy looking around the square, when suddenly I realize the two same guys have now flanked our group of three. I realize that they are trying to talk to us - DF starts to softly whine as I think she's uncomfortable with the situation, and DS stalks off to get rid of them, which makes DF and I walk even faster. We don’t respond, and they eventually leave and we can now enjoy a different kind of attention that you only get from vendors trying to sell you there pictures.

    We walk around, trying to avoid the really aggressive people, and come across a younger artist, who is thankfully quite soft spoken. We buy lots of drawings for ourselves and for friends, and DF makes a remark that some of the pictures, at different stalls, look remarkable similar…hmmm. Hope we actually got ones that the artist really drew.

    We wander down to the Pantheon, along with the other six billion people who seem to be in Rome at the moment. We venture inside, and we get a brief relief from the heat outside. I’m surprised that DF is so blown away by the Pantheon - she can’t seem to get over the fact of how the dome was built. We try to take in the architecture, but we again start to feel sleepiness slowly taking over our bodies - we need to move now!

    We return to a gelato shop that we passed by, and we all get some gelato. This is one time I neglected to write down all the details, but I can’t remember the flavors we all got. It was ok, but I think the gelato we had in Florence was much better.

    We walk down from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain - I’ve always loved how quickly you can get from one place to another in Rome and the walk doesn’t seem to bad. We finally get to the Trevi at around 4:30 pm - If you learn anything from this report, do not go to the Trevi at that time. It was absolute madness!

    DS and I had been here before, and we thought the place was packed then. It was nothing compared to now - crowds of people for all around the globe are pushing and shoving there way through. It’s incredibly hot and muggy, and I begin to feel slightly claustrophobic.

    One of our DF’s back home had requested a picture of both DS and I in front of the Trevi. All we wanted to do was leave, but we needed to take the picture - It’s becoming a horrible trend for us right now. We ask DF to take a picture, but she flustered by all the people, and thinks the picture came out bad. She needs to get out of the crowd, and I take a picture myself of DS and I.

    I can’t get it right, and DS starts to leave. I tell her she can’t as we need to take a proper picture for DF. She doesn’t remember anything about that, and I have my own mini blowup with her as I seem to have caught Killer Fatigue of my own. I’m really mad as I just want to leave as the people are making me crazy, I’m sweating like there’s no tomorrow, and we still need a picture. A nice couple nearby sees us trying to take another picture of ourselves, and offer to take our picture. We thank them and I try to make my way through the crowds - I really love the Trevi Fountain, but I just couldn’t wait to leave!

    We walk down to the Spanish Steps, and I’ve really been enjoying just walking around the city. I’m usually at the back of our pack, and I’ve been noticing all the Italians who have been giving us the famous Italian once over, and they especially concentrate on our shoes. I honestly don’t remember it happening all that much on our last trip, and we were in Rome for 5 days!

    more soon...









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    Again, we are greeted by throngs of people at the Spanish Steps but it’s nice to be here again after 5 years. DF wanders into some stores across of the Steps, and I’m starting to really slow down. I have sit outside the stores as I can’t seem to muster the strength to stand up. DS and I want to head over to the Mcdonalds nearby - it’s more for nostalgic reasons, but the a/c and cheap cokes are also a great plus!

    It looks exactly as it did 5 years ago, and DF can’t believe it’s a Mcdonalds - she marvels at all the marble and fountains against the walls. I grab a table, and DF and DS go up and order. We point out to DF that you can by beer here, and she mentions that she loves Europe! As I wait at our table, I notice a man sitting my self and he has already polished off 3 cans of beer - I wonder if he’s also here for the a/c, or perhaps the beer is actually good.

    We really enjoy the cool air and just sitting down - we are completely exhausted and the heat only seemed to make us more tired. It’s around 5:30pm, and we are all amazed how much we saw in such a short period of time - of course, we didn’t see loads of things, but that wasn’t the point of this particular trip anyway. We are supposed to go to Pizza Re for dinner, and better yet, it’s pretty close to where we are staying.

    DF wants to go home and take a shower before dinner, and Pizza Re doesn’t open until 7:30pm. We walk back to the apartment, and both DS and DF rest a bit as we take our turns in the shower. Going back seems to have been the wrong thing for both DS and myself as we feel incredibely tired and rather just stay in at this point.

    We end up leaving at around 7:30 pm, and we all suddenly notice thick gray clouds - oh, not this again! We decide if we what to do - we make a different choice then we did in Paris, and it turns out to be the right one…it doesn’t even rain at all that night! We get really lost along the way - DS has always mentioned that maps are nothing in Rome as you get lost no matter what. We finally find the street, but can find the address - we walk up and down, and we are getting a bit worn down by this point.

    We finally stumble across of it, and it’s now a little after 8pm. It’s incredibly busy and full of locals, which seems like a good sign. I get a caprese pizza, DS gets pizza margherita, and DF ends up getting a totally different pizza than she thinks she ordered! It has no cheese, anchovies, olives - she thought she pointed to the pizza that had no cheese and artichokes! Mine’s ok, but I really like DS’s better - they are even bigger than we remember, and we have a hard time finishing them. I can tell DF is disappointed with hers, but she makes the best of it.

    We ordered a dessert that had vanilla ice cream with strawberries in it, with bits of almond cookies in it. DS wanted to try the limoncello and I asked for a taste. I was super bright, and had a thick consistency which I was surprised with. We might have had a cheap version, but I really hated it! DF wasn’t too fond of it either :)

    We headed back home and got to see the Spanish Steps lit up at night! We were surprised how much people were still around, and we headed up to the top to get a better view. We just hung out at the top, and enjoyed our last night in Italy L We walked back to the apartment and tried to pack and get ready for the next day.

    It been two crazy days, but all three of us are so happy we made the decision to visit Italy. Our trip really wouldn’t have been the same without it! We are sad we have to leave Italy so soon, and I start to get depressed as I realize our trip is almost over!


    Coming Up: The start of our horrible experience with airport shuttles, saying goodbye to our beloved Fortnum and Masons, and paying our respects to Jane Austen with a modern twist.










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    Forgot to add...

    DF had really, really loved her Corretto, but had been too embarrassed to ask the waiter what type of alcohol was in it.

    When we returned to the hotel that night, DS asked the night front desk person about it - what type of alcohol is used, and do Italians really drink this coffee as well?

    He, like all the other workers, was incredibly nice, and told DF that usually vodka is the alcohol used - he then was quite concerned, and asked if DF had gotten drunk from it! DS assured him that she wasn’t, and we all had a good laugh about it after…we all were positive that he thought we were crazy partying American girls :)

    But, he also mentioned that it wasn’t really a coffee that most Italians drink, which surprised me a bit. We told DS that when we came home, she would need to carry a flask with her when she goes to Starbucks!


    Also – won’t be able to do a post today, and not sure about tomorrow, but I will finish – only about 2 more posts :)

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    Wednesday, June 6th 2007 (London)

    CIA Airport
    Harrods
    Fortnum & Masons
    Odeon Theater, Leicester Square
    Rock and Sole Plaice

    DS wakes up today and her throat is bothering her a bit, but she thinks it just might be her allergies flaring up - I hope she’s not getting sick. Last night, DF wanted to watch some TV, which is in DS and my bedroom.

    That’s fine, but DF proceeds to lay all over the bed - is it possible that people have that little common sense when they are sick? I really try not to get angry about it, as we only have one day left, and I hope that we won’t get sick from her.

    We needed to be ready early today - our scheduled airport shuttle pickup with Rome Shuttle Limousine www.romeshuttlelimousine.com was going to be arriving at 7:45am. When we arrived yesterday, Stefano asked if we needed a taxi or an airport shuttle to get us to the airport. We told him that we already had something set up, but he looked hesitant - I think he knew that some could be fairly inconsistent, which we were soon to find out.

    The hotel did serve breakfast, and it as included in the hotel rate. They started serving breakfast at 7:30am - we actually didn’t think we could even have breakfast so quickly, but Stefano assured us that we would have more than enough time. DF was really impressed with the service here, and so were we.

    Stefano did mention that because we were leaving so early, we wouldn’t be able to eat breakfast in there outdoor breakfast room(upstairs) since that only opened at 9am - I don’t know why they open it so late, but DF got a peak of it, and she said it looked really nice.

    The main breakfast room is really lovely - light colors, arched ceilings. Right above the table with the food, there is a fantastic black and white photograph set in the 1940’s - it’s of the employees, and they have it set up where the only female is at the head of the line pouring coffee, and the men are in a line, arching there heads to get a good look at her! DS noticed right away that it was actually the employees the have now, and they just set the photo to look like it was in the 40’s…then you have me, who when discussing the photo with DS a few days ago, only now realized it wasn’t a photo from 60 years ago, but just meant to look like it. Well, I did say I wasn’t a morning person :)

    We arrived at 7:30am since we knew we would have a scant 15 minutes to “enjoy” our breakfast. I was surprised we got such a lovely spread for breakfast, as I was just expecting some cornetto’s and coffee. An array of pastries, cereals, milk, orange and pineapple juice(what’s with the love of pineapples in Italy and England - we saw it all over the place, and we did not notice it at all on our last trip), meats & cheeses, a small carafe for “American coffee“, yogurt, breads…and even a toaster if you wanted it toasted! We were also amazed that they had a coffee bar, with an employee making you whatever type of drink you wanted!

    When we arrived, they gave us a newsletter talking about all the employees - they mentioned that the man who worked the coffee bar made the best cappuccinos in Rome. Very high praise that we all sort of rolled our eyes at, but both DF and DS said it was the best cappuccinos they ever had! DS even tried the American coffee and said it was very good!

    We didn’t have to move like the speed of light like I thought we needed to at breakfast, and we were ready by 7:45am. The shuttle still hadn’t arrived, and by 7:50am Stefano asked if the shuttle was still coming. He was very polite about it, but we all thought he must have been thinking, “You should have booked through us!”

    We waited a bit more, and we finally asked if Stefano could call the company for us. He called, and they told him they would be very, very, late - I’m scared to think what exactly that means for Italian time!

    We decide to just take a taxi, and we ask Stefano to call us one - I think he had a hard time finding one at this time of the morning, but it arrived in about 5 minutes…thank goodness. We all enjoyed our stays in various apartments on this trip, but sometimes, you really appreciate staying at a Hotel!

    The taxi arrived, but I was really upset that the shuttle service was so unprofessional - I had taken the time to do a lot of research on various companies on Fodors, and this one seemed to get a lot of good reviews. When I got home, a wrote an email to them stating what happened, but I never got a response back.

    We were going to Ciampino airport in Rome, not FCO. DS and I had only been to FCO, and we actually had good experiences at that airport. We were flying home on an Easy Jet flight from Rome-Gatwick in London. Our taxi took about 30 minutes to get to the airport, as we caught a bit of traffic. It actually cost the same price as our shuttle would have cost, about 35 euros.

    CIA airport was incredibly busy, especially the area you wait in to board the planes. We ended up sitting on the ground as all the chairs were already taken. We picked up some food for our flight at the airport, but the area was really like a zoo - people cramming all over the place.

    For some reason, you need to show your passport when you enter the area to wait to board the planes - DF was the first in line, and the worker seemed amazed that she was from Hawaii. I was next, and by this point, he pulled his friend over, and showed him where we were from - they seemed amazed that we had traveled so far! DS was last, and he seemed to get a real kick out of the fact that we were from Hawaii!

    Our flight ended up being delayed for about an hour, and I think airport procedures and jet lag has finally made DF crazy paranoid -we all notice a young Italian guy waiting in the same line as us with his mother and grandmother. He sorts of stares at everyone(although many Italians were doing the same) and DF seems to think he looks shifty.

    As we are finally boarding, DS drops the ticket portion that they rip off at the gate, which you then need to show as you board the aircraft. It’s dropped into the grating on the ground, but the worker assures DS that it will be fine. We get to the plane, and DS is requested to give her passport for them to check-up on it. I think we are all to tired to panic about it, and it ends up being fine, and DS passport is returned to her.

    Our flight is uneventful, apart from the fact that DF’s paranoia of shifty Italian man has grown, and she now thinks he is part of a terrorist cell. He has a video camera, and DF notices that he has been filming the jet engines for a while. DF is getting agitated, and she half-jokingly remarks to DS that she is going to report him to security. DS and DF sort of laugh about it, but I think DS is concerned that DF has seriously lost her marbles.

    Our two hour flight goes by fairly quickly, and we arrive into Gatwick airport. We are off to pick up our luggage from Left Luggage, and I try not to think to much about the loads of money it cost us to keep our bags there. We head toward that Gatwick Express, and we get on the 2:45pm train into London, which arrives at 3:15pm.

    Getting all our bags on the train is torturous - DS and I are flushed and panting slightly as we try to hoist our bags onto the luggage rack area. Some of the business men seem to look at us as if we are crazy, and I’m surprised I don’t pass out…I can almost hear that British’s women’s voice right now - “Please mind the unconscious women between the train and the platform.”

    As we settle in, DS turns to me and thinks it’s not allergies, and that she is getting sick - No! We still have so much to do today! I’m happy that DF is sitting in a separate area, since I doubt I could have contained my crazy eyes from her today.

    Today was going to be our “extra” day in London - anything that we missed out before, and was originally supposed to be quite leisurely - who were we kidding right!

    more coming soon...

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    Well, I seem to have put everyone to sleep ;)


    Before we got into London, we tried to decide what to do. DF had wanted to return to Fortnum and Mason’s for there chocolates - they turned out to be fantastic! I loved the milk chocolate truffle with passion fruit filling, and DF loved the chocolate champagne truffles. DS and I had also wanted to get really good fish and chips, especially since the ones we got in Bakewell were awful! DS and I also needed to pick up some touristy items for family back home, and we all said we wanted to see a movie if we had the time.

    Ok - so what do we do first? I had wanted to do fish and chips as a late lunch option, but we soon found out we would need to push it to dinner. Which fish and chips? Doing research on the board suggested two places were the best in central London - either North Sea Fish Restaurant in Bloomsbury or Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden. Bloomsbury seemed to far away right now, so we decided to go with Rock and Sole Plaice.

    We caught a taxi at Victoria station back to our apartment in Chelsea - it turned out to be a fantastic taxi ride as our driver was originally from Aberdeen, Scotland. He had lived in London for decades, but he loved talking about his home town, and we enjoyed asking him lots of questions about Scotland! We arrived at the apartment, and it was already past 3pm!

    We found out that the company loved us so much for a return visit, they had given us a room on the third floor - one floor higher than our stay 2 days ago. We lugged everything up, and I ran to check the computer that is available for use.

    We had little time in London today, but we all decided we needed a break, and a movie sounded wonderful. It might seem crazy to others, but I think seeing movies in foreign places are wonderful! You always remember where you saw it, and like supermarkets, you really feel like a local when going to the movie. Also, DS and I had seen Attack of the Clones at Leicester Square in 2002 and we loved seeing it in London - we sort of wanted to have the same experience with another movie.

    DS and I knew that Pirates of the Caribbean and Spiderman had just opened up in London, but didn’t know what else did. Well, there where two problems with the movie listed above. DS and I share a loathing for Spiderman, partly because of the acting, and partly because when the first Spiderman came out, it was in direct competition to Star Wars - Attack of the Clones. Now, yes, I agree that AOTC is not the greatest Star Wars movie, but loads of our friends kept on comparing the two movies. The generation below us kept on going on, and on about Spiderman and how the whole Star Wars saga is awful, boring and overrated. Well, they are obviously a bunch of morons. I am quite a loyal fan, and I refused to see Spiderman in the same theater that I saw a Star Wars movie in 5 years ago.

    Secondly, we loved the first Pirates movie, but hated the direction it took in the second movie. But, it that was the only option, it would be fine with us. I got onto the website for the Odeon, and I was scanning what other movies they had there. Unbelievably, I ran across “Becoming Jane” - it was supposed to be a biography of Jane Austen’s life, but from reviews I had read, it contained more fiction than fact. I ran upstairs and told the others about my discovery - both DS and I had no clue it had already come out in London. We all thought it would be fantastic to finish our stay in England with watching a movie devoted to Jane Austen's life.

    It seemed as if we were completely fortunate - they only played the movie on Wednesday’s and Thursdays, and they only had one showing for the whole day - 5:30pm. Ok, well that threw our schedule a bit, and we had to work fast! DS needed food as she was really feeling terrible, and we really didn’t have lunch. I suggested that we hit the Mark and Spencer’s near by, but DS thought we could kill one bird with two stones. We were completely brain-dead about where to find souvenirs, but DS and I knew Harrods would have something. DS thought we could go to Harrods, pick up some souvenirs, and she could pick up some food.

    DS was unsure about what to do - she thought she should stay with us until Fortnum and Mason’s, and then head back to the apartment without seeing the movie. She was worried that if she didn’t rest, she would feel completely terrible for the flight home tomorrow. I thought she would miss out on a lot of memories if she didn’t come, and I rationalized that she just might feel the same tomorrow. She loaded up on vitamins, and decided to see the movie.

    We rushed out, and hurried to the Sloane Square tube station. DS’s Jason Bourne-ness returned at full force, as she barely looked both ways, and crossed the busy street with cars barreling toward her. DF and I wisely restrained ourselves from following her, and DF said a local near her called out, “Oy! Watch out!” No harm done and we walked into the station to pick up our tickets. We get to Harrods and we decide to split up - DS will get some food, and DF and I are headed to the souvenir area.

    DF and I look around, and I finally spot a “Harrods - London” type coffee mug - it was really hard to find the work “London” on it, and that was specifically requested by a family member. I found a cute black taxi cab key chain, and a red telephone booth magnet for myself. I would have been much more fun if I hadn’t almost been running though the area.

    We meet up with DS who found a wrap, which was pretty cheap - around 3.50 pounds or so, but she tells me that we can’t eat it in store - huh? Apparently, if you don’t eat at one of there stalls, you cannot eat in the store…at all. My blood sugar was a bit low, and I was really irritated with that rule - are they serious? Will one of the scary guards leap forward and take me down if I start unwrapping the contents of our sandwich?

    I headed for the bathrooms, and DS and DF looked around the food hall for a bit as DF also wanted some food. I had noticed a gelato counter, but DS reminded me that I would have to eat it there. Well, the gelato was quite unremarkable, and actually quite sweet. We decided to just eat outside of Harrods - our wrap was quite good, but DF seemed unimpressed by her sushi.

    We still needed to go to Fortnum and Mason’s, so we headed for the tube. We arrived at Fortnum and Masons, and we all pick up a few more items, including a few boxes of chocolate for family. Leicester Square isn’t far, but we decide to take the tube. We are amazed we covered everything so quickly, and it’s only around 5pm right now. We pick up our tickets from the booth, and head in.

    I believe Pirates is the movie playing in the huge theater(the one we saw AOTC in), the ones with leopard print seats and the one that is used for the BAFTA’s. We are directed to a smaller theater, and the usher kindly shows us our seats. DS and DF head to the snack counter, and DS returns with both sweet and salty popcorn - we love that they have sweet popcorn here…it’s great!

    We are the only tourists here, and we laugh to ourselves as we notice it’s mostly mothers with their teenage daughters in the audience - no males at all! The movie was better than I expected, although they did seem to make great efforts at making Jane’s mother into Mrs. Bennet - which I’m sure Mrs. Austen would be horrified with :) I think they took huge liberties with the story, and I was especially sad that Jane’s sister, Cassandra, was used so little in the film, considering how close they were. James McAvoy played the lead, and we really hadn’t seem him in anything before. DS and I both noticed how much he resembled Gerard Butler…well, that gives him a few points! Not award winning, but we all enjoyed it, and DS was very happy she decided to come with us.

    The ac was a welcome relief to the muggy weather that day, and it was nice to actually relax in what a been a really hectic day. The movie finished at about 7:30pm, and we were all really tired at this point. But, DS and I really wanted to try “good” fish and chips, so we walked the short distance to Covent Garden - we were surprised how close it was. I noticed a Mark and Spencer’s along the way, and we made a mental note to return after dinner.

    We finally arrived at Rock and Sole Plaice - I don’t know what I was expecting, but I didn’t think it would look so…rustic! The place was packed, which we thought was a good sign, and made up for the lack of ambiance. We got a table quickly, and looked over the menu. DF decided to get haddock and DS and I both got Plaice. We noticed that it was mostly full of tourists, which disappointed me, and I wondered if the food would be any good.

    We got huge portions of fish, and the batter was really good. I think DS and I should have gotten a firmer fish like haddock, as DF’s fish looked wonderful. DF pointed out that her’s still had the skin on, which actually seemed like a good sign to me as I know most locals like to eat the skin as well. The chips were disappointing - they weren’t greasy, but really flavorless…not seasoned at all. DS had a good view of the front, and she noticed that a lot of locals did come in, but most got it as take out.

    We finished up our meals, and headed back to Mark and Spencer’s for a few things. I needed water, and we all picked up items for breakfast tomorrow - fruits, cheese, and a really yummy looking yogurt with heather honey. It was getting late, and we walked to the nearest tube station.

    I was surprised with the Covent Garden area - it was much less touristy than I thought it would be. Throughout our stay in London, we all noticed the lack of English accents on the streets - it seemed that we heard more European speakers than locals. We did notice that there was on area we could depend on the locals to be - supermarkets!

    We got to the Sloane Square tube station, and DS and I both noticed that it seemed safer now than 5 years ago. There are loads of street lamps all around, and there was a definite lack of them on our last stay. We finally got home after 10pm, and we tried to pack up quickly and get ready for bed - of course we still got to be after 12pm!

    Coming Up: More angst with shuttle companies, leaving Europe, and dealing with Imperial Troops in SFO airport.








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    Anna, I can remember having wonderful fish and chips in Scotland, Yorkshire and Brighton many years ago but the chips we had on our recent trip just weren't the same, even when they were cooked nicely. The potatoes were too mushy, perhaps because of all the rain. An English friend told us that commercially grown potatoes are now forced to grow too big so she buys organic ones for old fashioned potato flavour. Maybe someone living in England can elaborate as I may not have this correct. Perhaps the potato change is the reason why chicken tikka marsala has now replaced fish and chips as the most popular take-out food in the UK!

    Here are a few photos of Troutbeck and Kirkstone Pass so people can see where you stayed in the lake district. Sorry I couldn't take more. As you know from being there, it's not always easy to find a place to stop and take photos while you are driving past spectacular scenery. People have to go there and see for themselves just how beautiful it is.

    http://tinyurl.com/237pky


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    Moolyn -

    Thanks for posting the photos - are these from your recent trip? I could never figure out where and what kirkstone pass was - where the photos of windermere from Kirkstone pass?

    Info on potatoes are interesting - never heard that before.

    Josser,

    So even salt isn't added to the chips? I wished I had known that beforehand so I wouldn't be expecting it.

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    Anna--- will you be posting tonight? Just wondering if I should stay awake much longer. When this is finished I'll certainly miss your style of writing and humour.Thanks for all the time you've put into this report.

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    Ism,

    Thanks for the compliment - I never realized how much time went into posting a trip report, and I will really appreciate other's reports in the future!

    No, I'm sorry but I won't be posting tonight...I don't think I will be posting until Monday, and I think I will have only two more posts. One for our last day in Europe :( and my last post about final thoughts and lessons learned.

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    Thursday, June 7th 2007 (London-San Francisco-Maui)

    Final Day

    We had a 10am flight from LHR-SFO, so I had wanted to be at the airport by 7am, which meant we needed to get up early today for our airport shuttle pickup. I had decided to use Just Airports since they were highly recommended on the board. We had used Ray Skinners company on our last trip, but his prices had increased and we decided to try Just Airports - bad mistake. On this trip, we got burned from not using the same airport shuttle we used on our last trip, all of which worked out perfectly.

    I had set up a pickup with Just Airports at 6:15am for our pickup and had reconfirmed it before our trip. I had just woken up at 5:30am, and had just gotten dressed, when the airport shuttle pickup came to get us at 5:45am - a full 30 minutes earlier than our scheduled pickup! DF went down to see what was happening - the driver told her that he had a very early pickup at LHR, and he wanted to get there early. DF told him that our pickup was supposed to be at 6:15am - he told her that since he needed to pickup someone at LHR, we needed to go now! DF reported what had happened, and all of us were not thrilled, to say the least.

    Thankfully, we had packed up all our bags the night before, but we still had to scramble for last minute items. I was barely dressed, and we all were running around the room for anything we might have missed. We all dragged our bags down, and of course, had no time to eat the items we bought for breakfast the night before - I never did get to taste my heather honey yogurt :(

    We left the apartment by 6am, and we were on our way - DF and I were still quite upset about the incident by the time we got to Heathrow. The good thing is that we arrived at about 6:30am, having missed a lot to traffic, and there was barely anyone in line at the United counters. We had already separated our bags up, and we all made the weight allowanced - yay!

    We headed for security which only took about 20 minutes, which is basically nothing for Heathrow standards. We did see many passengers pulled over for having more than one bag, and many gave the security agents grief about it. Passed a lot of time in the waiting area, eating breakfast and walking around the shops. Empire magazine was doing a special dedicated to Star Wars, and all there were about 30 covers with various characters - they had ran out of the Obi-Wan covers, but I did get the last Han Solo cover!

    Flight back to San Francisco was uneventful, but our stewardess was really unhappy about her job, and looked like she would blow a blood vessel at any moment - any we had only just taken off! Disappointed as we did not have individual movie screens in front of us, just a large one in our area. Food was surprisingly good, with a southwestern style chicken, mashed potatoes, and even ice cream for dessert.

    10 hour flight went by surprisingly fast, but neither DS or I could sleep on the plane. Arrived at SFO at around 1pm, and DF’s ankles are completely swollen. She mentions that they were swollen last night, but had gotten worse on the plane ride. She hadn’t walked at all on the flight, and DS and I were concerned about DVT and blood clot issues. We phoned mom back home, and she told DF to call doctor. DF is now freaking out that see will not be able to get back on plane, and is quite upset that we are making her more scared - well, she did tell us she gets irritable after plane rides, and I guess we should have believed her!

    We head off to immigrations, as cute but scary beagle has not indicated that we are drug smugglers. We are go to different agents, and they ask the normal questions, and then look at you as if you are a criminal no matter what you say. On the plane, we notice that the immigration card asks if we have been on a farm - well, our B&B was on a farm - does that count? We all tell the agents this, and for our honesty, we get a big fat red “A” on our cards - oh no…what does this mean?

    We remind DF that she also need to inform them that she went horseback riding in England. We get taken to another area, and the guy is really not happy about his job. He asks us why we were on a farm, and then decides to let us go. He does inform DS and I that we need to go through customs again on Maui - what? I know that you only stop at customs when you enter the US - doesn’t he know Hawaii is part of the US? DS is surprised and tells him she didn’t know that - he sort of rolls is eyes at us, and mutters that since we are from Hawaii, we feel “above” having to go through customs again…what?!

    We leave the customs area, but we need collect our bags again which will put it on our flight to Maui. We see an agent in the distance, and it’s only the three of us heading for him. As we walk up, he gets irritated and states that we must approach him single-file - he says we are being very disorganized, and we need to not be in such a rush…there is seriously no one else in the area. Apparently, we are much more threatening then we think we are - either that, or he’s heard of DS’s Jason Bourne-like abilities.

    We re-collect our bags, and he sends them on it’s way for our flight home. We need to reenter security to get to our gate. The other guys really needed customer service training, but these guys act as if they are Imperial Troops for the emperor. A man with a slight southern accent parades up and down the length of the line barking out what is allowed and what isn’t allowed past security.

    He takes on a military like stance, and completely gives off the “you do not want to mess with me” vibe. A women directly in front of us must not have been listening(can’t imagine how since our ears were ringing by this point), and forgets to throw away her water bottle. Evil Trooper man eyes gleam with delight, and he really seems to enjoy publicly humiliating her - he shouts even louder that if we don’t follow the rules, we will hold up the line, and other passengers will be really mad at us…right.

    We thankfully make it through security, and head over to grab some food. It’s around now that not sleeping starts to catch up with you. We need to wait about 3 hours for our next flight, and we wait at our gate. San Francisco is having a marvelously sunny day, and home is ever closer. All of us are quite depressed that our trip is actually over, and we are not ready to get back to reality.

    Plane from SFO-Maui is about 5 hours long, but it really feels much longer - I really want to sleep, but noisy family behind us won’t let me. DS and I are having a hard time dealing with another flight - please get me off this plane! We finally arrive into Maui at 6pm, and everything seems so surreal - it feels as if we have been away from home for months!

    Of course, we don’t go through customs here - I have no idea what the custom agent in SFO was talking about. We wait for our bags, which all arrive, and head home. We pass familiar scenery, and I can’t believe that we were just in Europe. Arrive home and I’m feeling completely terrible - I will be very happy to never fly on a plane again :) Jet lag is really bad right now, and I try to stay awake till a reasonable hour before falling asleep.


    Coming up: Final thoughts/Impressions and lessons learned



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    Anna, sorry to see your trip end. I'll look forward to your wrap-up. Did you find that you all 3 needed some space after spending so much time together?

    For what it's worth, I had a less than optimal experience with Just Airports. I don't know if I'd call them again, although their rates really are quite a bit cheaper than the others.

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    I'm sorry to see this trip report coming to an end!

    >>I’m happy that DF is sitting in a separate area, since I doubt I could have contained my crazy eyes from her today.<<

    Crazy eyes... :-))

    Lee Ann

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    Noe,

    I can't believe it's almost over either! I'll post more about traveling with friends in my next post. I'm guessing your experience with Just Airports wasn't so great either?


    Lee Ann,

    It's nice to know I made someone else laugh - DS usually tells me I enjoy to amuse myself :)

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    Anna, if you drive north out of Troutbeck towards Ullswater you will go through Kirkstone Pass. It's quite spectacular and a good way to feel what it's like at the top of one of the mountains without actually having to climb it on foot. There's a road near the top of the pass leading back down towards Ambleside and that's the one we took that had glimpses of Windermere, the lake.

    I'm so sorry that you are almost finished your crazy and wonderful report! I'm amazed that you were able to get started so soon after your return and that you remembered so much detail. I have so many things to do now that I'm back so I'm just trying to organize my photos and notes and my thoughts until I have time to write my report.

    If you'd like to try using kodakeasyshare to post some photos I'd be happy to advise you as other fodorites did for me. You can contact me at moolyn@hotmail.com

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    Moolyn,

    Thanks for the info about Kirkstone Pass - hopefully we will be able to do that next time! Thanks for the offer about the photos - things are crazy busy for me right now, but maybe when things calm down, I be able to post some pictures!

    I was realy tired after our trip, but I was far too excited to wait to post my trip report - that, and I was worried that if I didn't post it soon, I never would :)

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    I’ve finally come to the end of my report, and I’m a bit sad that’s it over. But I did want to post some final thoughts about each of the places we visited, as well as things we learned along the way. I could never had done this or our previous trip without the help from everyone on Fodors, and there is no way I could repay what I have gained over the past 5 years.


    Paris

    1. Carte Orange: I went back and forth on the idea, and decided it would just be easier to get carnets for all of us. Turned out to be a wonderful idea, as it was much cheaper, and we ended up using all our tickets. Of course, it’s different for everyone, but you really need to think if something is going to be worthwhile in the long run.

    2. Museum Pass: We had purchased one for our last trip, and it worked wonderfully. But, we didn’t do it for this trip for various reasons. The price was a bit steep, and it would force us to see various sites on consecutive days. We also only visited the Orsay and Louvre museums so it really wasn’t worth all the money. I was nervous that we would run into huge lines, but we thought going to museums in the afternoons would help that.

    3. Museums in the afternoons: I see a lot of posts about this and I think it’s a fabulous idea if it works out for you. We didn’t want to miss out on the street markets, so we often put the museums in the afternoons, around 3-4pm, and we never, never ran into any lines. However, I did notice that I was too tired to really appreciate anything by this time of day. It probably didn’t help that I had jet lag mixed with exhaustion from pre-trip stress. I’m glad I did the museums in the afternoons, but I think we might want to do them first thing in the morning next time if our schedule allows it.

    4. Walking: I had seen sooo many people go on and on about the value of walking around Paris. We didn’t do this the last time as we mostly traveled by taxi or metro, and I vowed to do more of it on this trip. I couldn’t believe the amount of things I saw and experienced just from walking more - I actually had wanted to walk more than we did. It can’t be said enough - you really don’t get the feel of a city until you have walked around it.

    5. Apartment vs. Hotel: We had a hotel on our last trip, and we opted for a apartment on this trip. We loved it, just as we knew we would. You do lose out on the help a front desk would normally give you, but we love the experience of feeling like a local, and we would do the same thing next time.

    6. International Worries: A lot of people are often chastised on the board for worrying about clothes or fitting in and speaking the language. These are all legitimate concerns and I can always relate to these questions. On our first trip, DS and I had done months of planning accommodations, learning about the sites, figuring out our routing etc, but we were completely unaware how scary it can initially be in a foreign country. Paris was our first stop, and although we loved it we were…terrified. The metro intimidated us, and we were scared to venture into restaurants, feeling unprepared about cultural differences.

    I regret not doing things on our last trip, and before this trip, I felt that I had missed out on a lot in Paris. I was determined not to do the same things - I wished I had pushed past the fears, and just dived into new experiences.

    However, on this trip, I was initially nervous when speaking with locals at cafes, boulangeries, etc. but it really got easier the more I tried it. DS and I were amazed how comfortable we were in Paris this time around - nothing seemed foreign or scary anymore, and I really feel like I experienced the city. We have always loved Paris, and I can’t wait until our next trip to learn and explore more of the city.

    On a side note - as I had mentioned earlier, DF had no desire to visit Paris before our trip. While we were there, I was amazed at how much she loved the city, the food, and her experiences there. Even when we reached England(which was the place she had most looked forward to) she lamented the fact that we were no longer in Paris. When we returned home, our mutual friends told DS and I that DF really went on and on about Paris - I’m so glad she really enjoyed one of my favorite places.


    The Lake District

    This was our first experience of seeing parts of England that wasn’t London. We loved it even more than I thought we would, and we can’t wait to go back. DS and I really want to do more research about the areas, as we left that up to DF on this trip. DS and I did come to the conclusion that if we stayed anywhere besides Troutbeck, our trip wouldn’t have been the same. It’s probably not as convenient as the other towns, but it was exactly the small town feel that we wanted.

    We do however, do not want to visit in Bank Holiday again. Our plans made it impossible to change the time of our visit, and from what the locals tell us, it was actually quite slow for Bank Holiday!

    Derbyshire - The Peak District

    We did feel a bit rushed at this point of the trip, and I would have liked to stay longer than the 2 nights that we where there. The roads were much better here than in the Lakes, and that helped with the driving. The only problem we have is that DS and I would also like to explore Southern England next time - would it be possible to get 2 months paid vacation?

    London

    We had initially thought we would willingly, and quite happily sacrifice our days in London for time in Italy. The result that our time in London was far too rushed than we would have wished. On our last trip, we had spent a full 7 days in London, and DS and I really enjoyed the calmer pace. I did discover something on this trip to England and London - breakfast tea! I had never even had this before, only paying attention to Darjeeling, Earl Gray’s, Fruit Teas, and Green Teas. I drank this every morning at or B&B’s in England, and I have grown quite addicted to it!

    I never understood the comparison between London and New York - they seem like two completely different places to me. Even on our last trip, DS and I felt the most comfortable in London, and we just loved every aspect of it. The people have always been so friendly and polite, and there is just something about supermarkets there that make us happy.

    Florence & Rome

    I never really loved Florence, and this trip sort of solidified that for me. I think DF was a bit disappointed with the city also, but we weren’t there for very long, and I hope she visits there again to get a more rounded perspective.

    On the other hand, DS and I love Rome - I think part of it is that we love cities as it seems so different from home. Rome is at the some time crazy, wonderful, and maddening - it’s really like no other place in the world to me.


    Lessons Learned

    1. Traveling with friends: I was a bit worried when I started planning this trip - I had seen so many negative stories on Fodors about traveling with friends, and I really didn’t our trip to be the same. We had a bunch of meetings before the trip, and we talked about accommodations, money, if people were morning or night people, etc.

    I guess we were fortunate in that all three of us shared extremely similar interests, and we had spent long hours in each other’s company before the trip. However, we had never traveled together and we have only known DF for a couple of years.

    We never had large fights or issues with each other, but there was the occasional “difference” of opinion. Our budget didn’t allow it, and we couldn’t have separate living units for the majority of our trip. I think we did pretty well for both living and traveling together for almost a month. That being said, the next time, I think I would try to get different rooms - especially for the end of the trip. At that point, everyone wants there space, and I really think it helps - more so than I thought it would.

    Since DF hadn’t traveled internationally, she wasn’t comfortable with going on her own - this didn’t bother DS and I because we totally understood where she was coming from. I do think it bothered DF more than she realized - she is really independent and likes doing things on her own at home and on trips. In Paris, it seemed like she wanted to venture on her own, but was too scared about the language barrier, and just ended up being frustrated with herself in the process.

    DS and I were amazed that on this trip, we felt we could do things on our own. This might pose a problem next time as we have a proposed trip that is supposed to happen in 2010. DS and I will be taking another one of our DF’s with us, but we have known her since childhood, and have some experience traveling with her. I think DS and I learned loads of things on this trip about traveling with others, and I hope we know what to change on our next trip.

    For this trip, we all did come back as friends, and I think we all had pretty positive experiences with each other. Our next trip might be tricky - it will be our 3rd trip for DS and I, while it will be the first international trip for DF. I know DS and I will be comfortable doing things on our own, while DF won’t…I can already see that it’s going to be a great trip report!

    2. Trains vs. Airports: Lots of discussion about this topic, and if I could, I would rather travel by train vs. airports on our next trip. Like others, I really noticed on this trip that huge amounts of time that you spend traveling to the airport, getting checked-in, going through security, etc. With allergies, plane travel really makes me dehydrated, and in the end, airports are just more stressful than train travel. Plus, at least you get to see some scenery, and the train ride really goes much faster than the plane ride…at least to me.

    3. Luggage: On our next trip, I vow to re-read my own trip report to remember how awful it was to trudge our bags into apartments, on trains, and through the airports. I am definitely traveling lighter, and hopefully we will have as good an experience with washers/dryers that we did on this trip.

    4. Planning an Itinerary: After this trip, DS and I have really found out that we love staying in one place for a long amount of time. We love spending a week in one place, and there is so much that you gain from not rushing through a city or a country. I told DS that on our next trip, the shortest amount of time we will stay in a place is 3 nights - no less. Even that feels short to me, and I can already tell planning our next trip will not be easy…to many places and too little time.

    I never thought I would ever go back to Europe, especially with so many attempts that failed to work out. We had a wonderful experience and I am a firm believer that trips are what you make of them - only you can let a problem that comes up on the trip ruin it for you.

    Feel free to ask me any questions about our trip and I thank everyone for sticking with me throughout this novel of a trip report :)


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    Anna, I've enjoyed your report very much but have to confess that I was pleasantly surprised by it for a couple of reasons.

    First of all, you seemed so meek and in need of help when you were planning your trip. I didn't expect you to be so interesting and adventurous in real life!

    Secondly, you often asked a question and then disappeared so I thought that you were one of the people who use Fodors to collect information and then never let us know how your trip worked out. Wrong on both counts and I'm so glad that I was because your report has been wonderful.

    I liked your summary at the end too with its very useful information, a great resource. Now that you're a seasoned traveller it doesn't surprise me at all that you plan to travel lighter the next time and that you want to stay at least three days in each place. It removes a lot of the stress. But I really think that everyone has to go through the process of moving to a new place every day in order to see everything before they realize it isn't the best way to travel.

    I love the English Breakfast Tea blend too and have a green Harrods English Breakfast Tea caddy that I refill from time to time!

    I received your email and will be in touch about photo sharing.

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    Anna -
    This has been a joy from start to finish! Great expression of the day-to-day of travel as well as very useful information. Your enthusiasm and possitive attidude are contagious.

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share this with us.

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    Wow - amazed by all the generous replies! Since I never wrote a trip report for our last trip, I do have a hilarious story about using the American Express Tours in Rome - our tour guide was quite a rebellious one! Let me know if any of you want to hear more about it.


    Moolyn,
    Ha! I have always been shy with people I don't know well, and I have always been a bit wary about voicing strong opinions(and I do have them)on this board in fear of being flamed. However, I am much more comfortable talking about my own experiences - my questions/replies must have been far more boring & generic than I thought ;)

    I guess I disappeared in the sense that I just ask questions, but I rarely respond to others questions - usually since I felt others have loads more experience than I do! I hope I did provide some useful information, and I agree that only time and experience allows you to be a better traveler.

    I'm sad to see that I have only 3 more tea packets left from my Fortnum and Mason Breakfast tea stash :( Thanks so much about the photos!

    LCBoniti,
    Thanks for all your kind replies - they really helped me to keep motivated when writing the report! I hope I have been able to give other tips for traveling, and I hope you have a blast on your upcoming trip! Make sure to tell us how it went!

    Samsaf,
    It really was one of my favorite stories to tell others about our last trip - I learned the hard way to just push your way through those doors!

    Sessa,
    Thanks! I love reading other’s reports as well!

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    Lee Ann,

    Thanks for all the encouragement along the way! I'm sad my report is over...it really feels as if our grand adventure has come to and end :(

    The good news is that I can sit back, relax, and enjoy all the other wonderful trip reports on the board!

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    LCBoniti,

    Well, since you twisted my are ;)

    I don't even know if Amex still offers these tours in Rome, but they did on our last trip which was in 2002. I always surprised that they don't get mentioned more on the board, since all the tour guides are professors at the university, and we really enjoyed our tours.

    DS and I had went to the Amex office near the Spanish Steps to buy our train tickets from Rome-Florence. While in line, we noticed that they also offered tours in Rome, but they are only offered on Saturdays. DS and I decided to take a morning Vatican Tour and an afternoon tour of the Coliseum and Forum.

    We arrived at 9am on Saturday for our tour of the Vatican - it was a small group, with only about 11 people altogether. We all got into our small tour bus, with the driver and tour guide in the front. The tour guide turned around to us, and mentioned that he and the driver needed to do something before we all left.

    Everyone in the group assumed it had to do with some sort of problem - the entire group starting laughing as we noticed they both had ran into a cafe and were drinking coffee as we waited!

    We finally got going, and we got dropped off on a side street directly across of the Vatican - there was already a huge line. As a group, the tour guide indicates that there is a huge line...he tells us we can either wait in the line(which may take a few hours) or we can do things the "italian way".

    We are look confused and ask him what does he mean? He produced a blank sheet of paper, and starts drawing up his plan to enter the Vatican. He specifically instructs us that we need to walk 'alongside' the huge line - so, the line would be to our left, and we would be walking on the road or sidewalk past the line.

    Near the top of the line, we would then casually join up with the line, and hopefully we would all see each other inside - he said that if anyone asked what we were doing, we just point in front of us and act as if we don't understand what they are saying!

    He said we needed to break off into small groups to get this accomplished - he then points to DS and I and tells us to go first! Oh no!! Apparently the 'italian way' is just a fancy way of asking us if we want to cut through the line.

    DS and I are the first to go, and to even get to the line at the Vatican, we need to run through 6 lanes of traffic...italian traffic!

    DS and I actually get through without incident, and we slowly meet up with the other people from our group - everyone can't believe we actually got through and it has become quite a bonding experience for everyone :) Everyone is breathlessly laughing and giggling over the fact that our tour guide seems to be completely crazy!

    We finally get in, and we are directed to an area that has displays of what is inside the Sistine Chapel - we are not allowed to talk in the Chapel, so everything is explained here.

    Of course, we hit a problem - all the boards are currently taken by other tour guides explaining them to their own groups...does this stop our fearless tour guide? Of course not! He slides over to a display, and we see them talking to another tour guide in Italian. Hand gestures start flying, and the conversation seems to be getting more heated, especially on her side.

    She finally walks off with a huff, and takes her group with her. Our tour guides turns to us, and smiles, as if everything is perfectly fine! We go through the Vatican and finally get to the Sistine Chapel - he tells us that we are not allowed to take pictures. But he says that if we do, and if we are caught by the guards, he will claim to have no idea who we are :)

    Despite our rather treacherous beginning, he was a fantastic tour guide, and he really brought everything to life - it also doesn't hurt that he was very good looking!

    DS and I decided to take the afternoon tour to the Coliseum and Forum, and we were completely in shock, and quite happy, when it turned out that we got the same tour guide! This group was huge - about 30-35 people, and that seemed to really affect the tour.

    With our small group at the Vatican, if felt more personal, and we were often asked to give our own opinions to what we were seeing - the afternoon tour seemed lacking in personality, and our morning group had really bonded...DS and I wished we could have all been on this tour as well.

    We still tell this story to friends till his day, and it was on of the highlights to our trip in Rome!

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    "the Italian way" LOL!!

    I wish he had been our tour director because we did not do things "the Italian way" and waited in line for two hours. It's OK, though, because that was the fun part. Being herded through like cattle was no fun. Kind of soured me on the Vatican and I will not go again unless I can pay for a private, after-hours tour.

    Anyway, thanks for posting. You and your DS have lots of adventures and it was great fun sharing them with you.

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    LCBoniti,

    Thanks! I really think Amex does't get mentioned enough about there tours - perhaps since it's a bit more pricey than others. But, we loved it, and it really made the trip for us!

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    Wow - can't wait to hear about it. Question: an italian friend brought limoncello - well, the stuff with the lemon peels/vodka etc in it - I had to boil it down, add sugar etc - now I have let that mixture sit for a month. What do I do - add seltzer? Just ice? Not sure, forgot to ask and can't get ahold of her - would like to drink it for a special dinner tomorrow night.
    thanks -

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    lsm,

    I really want to post some pictures, partly since I have gained so much just from viewing others pictures. However, it probably won't be for a couple of weeks - I know most people post a separate thread when posting pictures, so I just might do that.

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    Anna,
    Fascinating, fun, unforgettable, and hard to "put down" trip report. I've been reading it for at least the past two hours.

    You are an excellent writer and how you recalled all of this with such detail and clarity is miraculous.

    Wonderful insight! I too was a bit deflated with the Florence portion of our Italy trip. Funny thing is DH was so looking forward to Venice and I to Rome and by the end of our trip we'd transferred affections. I am in love with Venice and he is infatuated with Rome.

    I very much loved the fact that you are a Jane Austen fan! While not as well versed about this iconic literary figure, I completely appreciate her romantic-al writings.

    We are planning a trip with another couple to England and France, specifically London, Oxford, the Lake District, and Paris, and your TR has added greatly to my anticipation, though it's quite a ways off, 2009.

    Anywho, it is quite possibly the best TR I've ever read and certainly will go down in Fodorite lore.

    Thank you so much for penning it!

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    lsm,

    I'm actually "in" those really busy couple of weeks that I've been talking about, and I didn't check this thread until today. Pictures probably won't be up until after August, and I'm really trying to be strict with myself and actually post them! Hope you won't be disappointed, but there won't be any pictures of the three of us - just of various sites and some accommodation pictures - would it be easier if I just posted them on this thread?

    ChicagoDallasGirl,

    Can you tell I'm blushing? Well, I am :) I've read so many travel reports in which I've spent hours reading them, and it seems completely surreal that someone is having the same experience with mine!

    I, however, and not a writer(not a true one anyway) - I've always been more of an observer(helps when you were the shy kid that hardly talked, but was intrigued with all the conversations going on around you.) The only reason I could remember all those random events is that I kept a daily journal - if you do, I'm sure you won't regret it...although you may come back with claw hands from all the writing :)

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    Anna, just found your report and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you so much for the time you took to post it for our benefit. I am also hooked on F & M tea since our first trip to England, but have a solution to your problem http://www.fortnumandmason-usa.com/. You never have to go through withdrawal again.

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    hausfrau,

    Thanks so much for your reply - I'm glad people are still finding it long after I finished it...I think it's a whole time difference thing as well, depending on where you live and when you post. I've found trip reports that are almost done, but I've never come across them.

    Didn't you post a trip report about Austria? If you did, I really enjoyed it and your pictures!

    bfrac,

    Thanks! I did try ordering F&M tea online, but I noticed that it almost tasted much older than the ones you find in the store - did you notice this as well?

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    Anna, I'm afraid it has been 5 years since I bought it in the store so my taste buds don't remember. I just know I can't make it through the afternoon without a cup of Royal Blend. Your trip report sure had me reminiscing about all the wonderful treats at F & M, Thorntons, etc.

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