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Trip Report Reykjavik, London (plus sidetrip) and Paris in 10 days..

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I got home last night and will try to briefly summarize my latest crazy vacation with my DH and DD.

This trip came about last July when my husband was asked to attend a 2 day meeting in London in November. I found cheap flights on Icelandair ($561 open jaw return BOS>KEF>LHR, CDG>KEF>BOS) and on a whim I booked a 10 hour layover in Iceland on the outward journey.

While researching our 'layover' I decided we had to spend more time in Iceland we've already booked to go back next summer!

As we hadn't been back 'home' in over 2 years this vacation evolved into a complicated social whirl spanning 4 countries and I'm very pleased to say it all went like clockwork!

Thursday NOV 4th overnight flight BOS>KEF. We arrived in Iceland promptly at 6.30am GMT which was the middle of the night for us.

First impressions.. loved the airport! It's won awards and I can see why. It sparkled with its glossy wooden floors and fab design. Outside it sparkled too as the season's first snowfall dusted the ground!
Car hire for one day with Thrifty ($100). We were picked up and driven to the car rental place (literally 30 seconds away).

Our plan was to drive to Reykjavik (about 45minutes away) have coffee and meet up with Edda plus spend a relaxing couple of hours at the Blue Lagoon.

I was surprised at how easy it was to drive into the city even in the dark (clear excellent roads with regular signs). We saw the sun rise just before we arrive in downtown Reykjavik.
We parked on a side street and had coffee in Kaffitar (supposedly a wannabe Icelandic Starbucks but it has it's own charm and excellent lattes but @ 4.50ISK each not cheap ).

I called Edda, who is the owner of an apartment we will be renting via VRBO next summer and we arranged to meet at her place.
The 3 bed room apartment was lovely and we're looking forward to staying there. It's very central, comfortable and has huge windows. We loved it!
http://www.vrbo.com/238291

After a quick snack at the bakery just steps from 'our' apartment we drove up to the church, Hallgrimskirkja. We agreed to skip the climb to the top due to time restraints and put in on the list for next year then headed to the Blue Lagoon.

It's quite surreal swimming around in the milky blue hot water in clouds of steam but much more expensive than the geothermal swimming pools (24 euros each but 13 yr old DD was free). We plastered on the silica mud and convinced ourselves it took years off us... but warning ...it isn't kind to hair! Hat head is infinitely better than 'Blue Lagoon hair"!

Too soon it was back to the airport for our flight to the UK.

We arrived in London to the best firework display ever...flying along the Thames we saw the Eye lit up and I lost count of all the displays we watched from the air. Good timing to arrive on Nov 5th ;)

more later..

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    avalon, Iceland surprised me in a good way and I highly recommend Icelandair too.. my DH flew 'Saga class' (business) and I swapped with him for one leg of the journey but even Economy was good (individual TV screens).

    We met up with 20 out of the 22 people we had planned to see on this trip and so sometimes our sight seeing plans had to be shelved to accommodate long leisurely lunches or squeezed in before late dinners.

    London..
    I had a few things on my wish list but meeting up with friends and family took precedence so I didn't make it to the V&A for example.

    Here's what we did
    Friday/Saturday nights @ Novotel Waterloo. We've stayed here before and like the location (number 3 bus stops right outside) and a 10minute walk from Waterloo station or Lambeth North tube. Weekend rate 99 pounds a night inc buffet breakfast for the 3 of us. My DD said the sofa bed was OK; the bed had a memory foam top and was very comfortable.

    Saturday after a late breakfast (jet lag!) we headed to the Barbican to meet my best friend and her daughter who works at Queen Mary College.
    We enjoyed some pieces in the Damian Ortega exhibition but overall I preferred the exhibit I'd seen at the ICA in Boston. It was interesting to see which news article he'd chosen each day. We were very unimpressed with the 'shoe advertisements' and I think he must taken most of the day off to enjoy a leisurely pub lunch on those days!

    http://www.spoonfed.co.uk/london/venue/city-17/barbican-the-curve-1403/

    We all had a great lunch in the Foodhall @ the Barbican. I had cold salmon with 3 salads (7.50 pounds). We revisited the Foodhall after looking at the Japanese Fashion exhibition and had coffee and cakes that were also very good.

    The Fashion exhibition was well done and we really enjoyed people watching here. Apart from the regular patrons my daughter was especially interested in the cosplayers and it was a fitting preview for our trip to Japan next year.

    Saturday night was spent shopping on Oxford St for shoes.. I arrived with 2 pairs of boots and of course the weather was unusually mild and dry (of course it didn't remain dry!).

    I found a pair of green suede moccasins in TopShop and after a quick late dinner in Soho at the West End Thai restaurant we turned in for the night.

    Sunday
    Late breakfast again, picked up a car at Victoria and drove to Surrey where we visited friends and ate out at the Indus (an Indian restaurant in Banstead).
    We spent the night at the Travelodge in Leatherhead (19 pounds.. tired looking but adequate) while our DD stayed with her friend so that she could spend the next morning at her friend's school.

    Monday
    Off to Bath after a late breakfast with friends; we picked up DD from school @ 11am and arrived in Bath just in time to check in @3pm.
    Stayed at the central Travelodge in Bath (slightly nicer room than Leatherhead and just 25 pounds).

    We wandered around the city centre and admired the outdoor exhibit entitled 'Britain from the air'
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2010/sep/23/britain-air-exhibition-bath

    Popped into the Fudge Factory for some homemade fudge and later on ate at a Nepalese restaurant called Yak Yeti Yak.
    Food wasn't spicy enough for us but it was our fault as the menu did say that food would be mild/medium unless otherwise requested.

    This was the one night when our plans to meet up with friends fell through and after our quiet dinner we walked back to our hotel.

    Tuesday
    Mad dash to Wales for a 4 hour lunch with 3 school friends plus my elderly aunts (87 and 80 years).
    We ate at the Glancynon in Hirwaun which is where my aunts live and my friends came from Neath, Aberdare and Lampeter to meet us. Typical pub lunch in a 'tidy' pub (Gavin and Stacy would have loved it).
    We had to be in London by 11am on Wednesday so we stayed in the Holiday Inn Express Slough on Tuesday night. Why Slough? Bad planning but it seemed like a good idea at the time!

    We had a basic late dinner that we'd picked up at Waitrose at a service station on the M4. I was very impressed by the little M&S food stores and Waitrose outlets that have sprung up in service stations. Ate far too many Welsh cakes as a result (on sale at M&S!) but it enabled us to shop for goodies to bring home.
    Arrived at hotel about 10pm and left next morning at 9am.. 89 pounds a night inc breakfast. Nice bathroom otherwise a fairly ordinary room but definitely more upmarket than a travelodge (by about 60 quid! guess you get what you pay for).

    Wed/Thurs nights back in London at Novotel Waterloo (more expensive during the week almost 400 pounds for the two night inc breakfast).

    We'd had great weather up till now (it rained on our drive to Wales but brightened up when we arrived and we missed the storm in London).

    more later..

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    Wednesday
    Met a friend at the Tate Modern for lunch. We looked at the sunflower seeds in the Turbine Hall (Ai Weiwei)and picked up our tickets for the Gauguin exhibition.

    I was very surprised how crowded the Gauguin exhibit was and I would have enjoyed it more if there'd been fewer people. It did provide an interesting overview of his life.
    He was a great traveler and I was fascinated by how his creative life evolved.
    Loved the ceramics!
    Although he arrived in Tahiti many years after the Christian missionaries he wanted to depict their spiritual origins and made his own word carvings of deities to include in his paintings.

    Several of the paintings I'd already seen at the Met and there was even one from Worcester Art Museum which is on my doorstep.

    Wednesday night
    There was protest rally (students protesting against increases in tuition)going on at Millbank tower that had turned violent. We saw the police vans lining the streets and helicopters buzzed overhead so we were a little late heading out for dinner.
    We met up with my SIL for drinks on the Strand and then we met up with another friend in Covent Garden. We had dinner at Masala Zone. I love this chain and this branch has hundreds of colourful Rajastani puppets danging from the ceiling.
    I had the grand thali which is always excellent and cost about 11 quid.

    Thursday
    I left my DD at the hotel to catch up on homework and went to Leicester Square to pick up some theatre tickets (Lion King). There were lots of Potter fans queuing around the red carpet set up for the premiere and music from the score was being played. The previous night we had passed a few tents that were set up by overnight campers!
    I took a few photos and then at exactly 11am we stood quietly for the 2 minute silence (Armistice Day).

    I took the tube to Shepherds Bush where I met a friend who works at the BBC. We went for lunch at the cafeteria in Television Centre so that I could see the Blue Peter Garden... woohoo! The weather was a little grey and it was not the best time of year but it brought back some happy memories. Lunch was cheap but awful!

    In the evening my daughter and I wandered around Covent Garden and browsed through the shops. Two shops, East and Molton Brown that we went into provided bubbly and snacks for the evening shoppers. :)

    Later we saw the Lion King at the Lyceum. DD loved it.

    Friday
    Eurostar to Paris

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    Friday
    We took a taxi from the Novotel Waterloo to St.Pancras @ 10am (we had a lie-in after a late night at the theatre followed by a leisurely breakfast at the hotel).

    We took Eurostar to Paris at 11.15 and bought our light lunch at M&S at the station.
    There are so many excellent places to eat and drink at St.Pancras but after eating a huge breakfast we just needed some more Welsh cakes to tide us over until dinner.
    We arrived in Paris just over 2 hours later (but Paris is GMT+1 HOUR) and took the Metro to Chatelet-les- Halles and it was just a few steps to our hotel.

    We stayed at the Novotel Les Halles for 160 pounds a night including breakfast.
    The room was identical to the ones we'd stayed at in London so much so that I was became confused about which floor we were on (room 527 in London/5th floor and room 257 in Paris/2nd floor).

    The breakfast buffet was excellent here and they even had cartons of 'Innocent Smoothies', my favourite brand.

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    Hi sassy_cat, I just caught up with your trip report. What a great airfare you got - I really should consider flying Icelandic Air next time, and include a stopover!

    We really crossed paths quite a number of times in London, though your schedule was way more hectic than mine. Funny about your comment about the Ortega show - I thought the shoe thing was very very funny, esp when I see the other pair around the corner. In any case, I also saw his ICA show, and I'm afraid I don't know how to appreciate his work.

    Looking forward to the Paris segment!

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    Thanks, yk and excuse me for bragging but for the same route next summer we paid $817 for flights. I love Icelandair especially Saga class ;)

    Paris was the relaxing end to a very busy trip. We did nothing but walk and eat!

    I'll finish this tomorrow as I'm off to see Harry Potter now..

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    Friday

    We dropped our bags and set off without an particular plan in mind but I knew that just around the corner was the store that inspired a scene in the Disney movie Ratatouille.
    http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rue_des_Halles

    We took some photos as my DD averted her eyes and then decided to get some coffee at L'Imprevu
    http://www.parismarais.com/gay-guide/l-imprevu/l-imprevu.htm

    It has lots of little rooms and eclectic decor so we enjoyed our coffee and read for a little bit.

    We now had a plan to see the Opera Garnier and Galleries Lafayette. We walked in the general direction but took a rather circuitous route as I wanted to check out some possible places for dinner with my sister the following night. It was getting dark by the time we got to L'Opera.

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    We didn't go into the building as there was obviously a performance on that evening and a few ticket touts waved their wares at us.

    We strolled on to the Galleries Lafayette to look at the Christmas window decorations. It was pretty busy around the store so we went inside and stood under the giant baubled tree in the centre of the dome.

    We have several photos similar to this but I think this is actually last years tree as there are more colours this year (purple, green and red )
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/cathou/4186930790/

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    We walked back in the general direction of our hotel and then took a detour to pass the Louvre and took more photos. It's very prettily lit up at night and not just for the holidays.

    We ate crepes for dinner from a stand near our hotel and the man was very chatty. He happily corrected my husbands French explaining that Nutella nature was more appropriate than Nutella seulement but he then proceeded to offer all manner of extras including rum!

    Saturday

    The weather was iffy but we headed out after breakfast to get well some more breakfast! We walked for a couple of hours and then found Boulangerie de Papa just as it started raining more seriously.

    My sister arrived early afternoon and we walked some more, criss crossing the Seine until it was dark stopping for icecream at Berthillon... salted caramel was excellent ;)

    We arrived at Lezard for dinner a little early as they didn't start serving until 7.30pm but we were ready to rest our feet and enjoy some wine.
    http://www.lezardcafe.com/
    This place was recently renovated and the link has lots of photos of the work done.

    Dinner was very good and the service was friendly and professional.

    We said goodbye to my sister and her partner over breakfast (they were staying at the same hotel) and after packing we took the RER to the airport for our flight @2pm.
    My sister's flight was at 8pm but of course she was still home before us as she lives in the UK!

    Last thoughts

    We really were very lucky to meet up with so many friends and family on this trip and it was good to reconnect with everyone we hadn't seen for 2 or more years. One friend I hadn't seen for almost 30 years but it felt like we'd never been apart. It's good to keep in touch!

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