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Trip Report Trip Report - 10 Days in London and Paris

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DAY 00

This is a 10-day trip to London and Paris.

In the course of researching airfares for Paris, at the time flights to Paris were $200 more than flights to London, and the Eurostar was ~$90 round-trip. A two-city trip seemed a good idea.

Departure of USAir 728 was delayed after boarding for about 40 minutes due to some sort of non-specific computer maintenance. Also, this flight seemed to be scheduled pretty late – 9:50 pm – very late considering that is nearly 3 a.m. UK time. I suppose they did this so that the arrival (10 am) would be after rush hour, but that is overkill. If it had been scheduled an hour and a half earlier and on time, we still would not have gotten to the tube till after 9 am – after the real crush.

Other than that, the flight was as usual – a few hours of off-on sleep but nothing substantial. As I get older, my ability to sleep on a plane gets worse.

DAY 01

Arrived about 40 minutes late. Went through control and customs quickly -- we never check luggage. Topped up our Oyster cards, and jumped on the Piccadilly Line. Serious delays due to a “defective train” further up the line. Eventually ran out of patience and changed to the Victoria line at Green Park. (Should have gotten off at Hammersmith...but I guess we were hoping for improvement.) Finally arrived at St. Pancras. Got some cash at the ATM to add to the money we brought (left over from our last trip), and checked into our hotel nearly two hours later than we had expected -- The Alhambra, on Argyle Street less than a block from the station.

We picked this hotel for location -- we are taking the 6:53 Eurostar to Paris tomorrow. Other than that, I do not recommend it. They put us on the third floor in a room in a building across the street -- no lift, no telephone. We booked this room in January -- there was no reason for the third-story room.

Lunch at the Lucas Arms -- a very nice pub a few blocks away, with decent, inexpensive food. Then a self-guided walk around Bloomsbury from one of the Frommer’s books (can’t remember which one). Before we leave I enhance this type of walk with additional text researched online.

By this time we were completely exhausted, so we went back to the hotel for a couple hours sleep. Dinner at the Lucas Arms and then to bed. Due to the great fear of missing our early train, I set two alarm clocks and also had a wake-up “call” arranged (not really a call, since we had no phone ... a person knocked on our door in the morning).


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    LONDON & PARIS – MAY 2011

    DAY 02
    SAT MAY 07

    The Alhambra Hotel boasted a full English breakfast, but we had to leave too early to get it, and there was no reduction in rate. Yogurt, pastry and coffee at St. Pancras.

    A slight misty drizzle this morning. A week ago, the 15-day forecast had bummed us out. All five days in Paris had a chance of rain and 3 out of 5 in London as well. However, this drizzle that we had to walk through for a block was the ONLY rain the entire trip.

    Got the 6:53 Eurostar without any difficulties. Naturally, an on-time arrival at Gare du Nord. Took the RER to Chatalet (with tickets left over from our last visit) and walked to the Hotel de Nice at 42 bis Rue de Rivoli across the street from Place Baudoyer. We really like this hotel having stayed at it our last visit. Great location: on the edge of the Marais and near both Iles; two blocks from Metro 1 with good bus routes even closer. The room we wanted was unavailable, but after one day in a smaller room, they moved us into the room right above it -- identical but one story higher (but they have a lift).

    Saturday is a market day across the street in Place Baudoyer, so we first picked up some beautiful oranges and strawberries to keep in our room for breakfasts, and then headed out for a quick walk to Notre Dame and Ile St-Louis.

    We then took a self-guided walk from the Bastille eastward and along the Viaduc des Artes -- beautiful – we had never been on it before. A lunch of salade nicoise at a café on Blvd Diderot, and then back to the hotel after picking up a carnet of Metro tickets. We usually load Carte Oranges (do they still call them that? I think it was a Hebdo Passe last visit.) onto our Navigo cards because we stay longer, but arriving on a Saturday for 5 days made that untenable.

    Nap!!! But shorter this time – perhaps 20-30 minutes.

    Went down to Luxembourg Gardens to watch the kids play with the boats and enjoy the beautiful day – we were still under the impression that rain was coming either later that day or on the other days. Then walked all the way back to our hotel.

    Dinner across the place at Sant’Antonio -- pizza and a salad -- then a couple of blocks walk to Amorino’s for ice cream, and back to much-needed sleep.

    NOTE: In some previous thread a few months ago, I had asked about a flavor I “remembered” that was chocolate and cherries. I couldn’t seem to find anyone that remembered it, and it wasn’t on Amorino’s website. There is a good reason why -- I was just mis-remembering (in the words of GWB) -- I had really ordered chocolate and amarena, a cherry flavor and ate them together!! My brain is getting old. My wife Linda loves the dark Ecuador chocolate flavor.

    DAY 03
    SUN MAY 08

    We got switched to room 6 in the front. The street tends to be noisy, but the windows are double-pane. We were very happy to be in that room.

    We got up pretty early, and decided to visit Notre Dame during mass -- something we had never done before. It was a great experience. Hardly any tourists, and the mass was great, even though we’re not Catholics.

    Quick stop at an ATM. We had brought about 60€ with us left over from a previous trip, which got us through the first day, but it was time to replenish.

    Breakfast: oranges, strawberries, coffee, and pastry (flan for Linda, tarte rouge for me) from the hop around the corner. OK…I plead guilty to getting our coffee at Starbucks. It’s close, quick, and easy to take back to our room.

    Walked over to the Carnavalet Museum, but it was closed -- May 8 is VE day.

    We took a self-guided walk around Butte-Chaumont which included the Butte Bergeyre neighborhood with its wonderful art deco architecture and its great view of Sacre-Cour and a walk through the enchanting park. Another first for us.

    We picked up some sandwiches and ate lunch in our room with our fruit.

    There was a fair in front of the Hotel de Ville called Fait L’Europe -- promoting trade and tourism. We stopped by the take in the music, demonstrations, dance, etc. Then we walked along the river watching the kids play boules.

    Back to our rooms for a rest.

    Dinner at Equinox (on Rue Rosiers in the Marais), a restaurant we like. Linda had endive and blue cheese salad (which she didn’t like very much) and I had salad piemontaisse, a very tasty potato and ham salad. We both had escalope crème -- chicken cutlet in a creamy sauce, and a brownie-like chocolate dessert. Then we walked to Ile St-Louis and along the river before heading back for sleep.


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    LONDON & PARIS – MAY 2011

    DAY 04
    MON MAY 09

    Breakfast -- the usual: coffee, orange, pastry.

    We started the Passages Walk posted here by Degas, but it was so early, not much was open, so we decided to take the No. 13 Metro to Saint-Denis Basilica first and come back to the walk later in the day.

    Saint-Denis is our favorite church. Though not as beautiful as Saint-Chapelle or as majestic as Notre Dame, it has a combination of airiness and mysticality (is that a word?) that carries one back to the middle ages. Built on the burial site of the patron saint of France, it is reputed to be the model for the rest of French gothic architecture. Also, if you are into history, it cannot be beat. Seeing the tomb of Clovis I, Charles “The Hammer” Martel and so many other early royals is, to me, an amazing sight.

    Back in Paris, we finished the Passages walk (Thanks, Degas!) including a stop for lunch at a small corner sandwich shop (Chez Agnes) where we had sandwiches and wonderful salads. Loved the shops that sold books and maps in particular.

    We then walked all the way back to St. Eustche. We were hoping to enjoy the market street of R. Montorgueil, but, being Monday (or maybe too late in the day), the stalls were not out, so we proceeded back to our hotel for a short rest.

    Dinner was back at Sant’Antonion: spaghetti bonognese and salad; then a walk over to Amornio’s (on r. Vieilles du Temple) for the obligatory ice cream. It was still light out, so we walked to Place des Vosges and hung out there awhile before calling it a day.

    DAY 05
    TUE MAY 10

    After the usual breakfast (this with time apricot and pistachio tart and apricot flan), we decided to do another of Degas’ walks posted here -- the left bank.

    Early on we got side-tracked into the Jardin des Plantes, and spent some time there. The mosque looked like it would be a really nice visit, but it wasn’t open yet, so we could only see it from the outside. We could see the gardens through the iron fence, though, so that has motivated us to be sure not to miss it next visit to Paris. [Note: the entrance was on R. Georges Desplas, not on R. Saint-Hilaire.]

    We ended the walk prematurely at the Pantheon (which we visited last trip), because most of that part is not new to us. Instead, we decided to visit the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris on Av. President Wilson. We love this museum. It is small but has a great collection of early 20th c. paintings. We also had lunch in their cafeteria - salads and quiche.

    Back to our room for a rest. Then a quick walk around our neighborhood to two churches: St-Gervais-et-St-Protais (right across Place Baudoyer from our hotel) and Cloitre des Billettes, around the corner on R. Archive, both new for us.

    Dinner at Equinox again. We had identical means: herring and potato entrée (very good), endive and ham plat (also good), and cherry tart. Then we walked around Ile St-Louis for awhile.


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    LONDON & PARIS – MAY 2011

    DAY 06
    WED MAY 11

    Same breakfast as yesterday -- mmmm!!

    Today is our day for the Louvre. Our first stop is always the 17th c. Dutch paintings, but we also spent some time with the French paintings 18th-19th c. and the antiquities.

    Our final Paris self-guided walk is the Opera neighborhood. We started at Saint-Trinite. We were pretty hungry, so we picked up some food at a local market and ate al fresco in the little park in front of the church. Our walk included a stop at the little Fragonard (Perfume) Museum. We ended at the Tuileries.

    Wednesday is another market day at Place Baudoyer, so we picked up some fruit on the way back for our afternoon rest.

    Our last outing was to another of our favorite museums - the Carnavalet (History of Paris). Then back to our hotel to pack for tomorrow’s ride back to London.

    DAY 07
    THU MAY 12

    Up early taking the Metro & RER to Gare du Nord. Picked up some yogurt and pastry to go with our fruit and boarded the train. Arrived in London, bought 1-day travel card for tomorrow, and took the tube to our usual hotel, the Cherry Court Hotel, on Hugh Street a couple of blocks from Victoria Station. This is our fourth stay there, and we intend to continue to go back on future visits.

    Today was a day for something we had never done – a play (All’s Well That Ends Well) at the Globe. We took the tube to the Courtauld Gallery’s café for a nice lunch (chicken & tabouli salad for Linda, smoked salmon sandwich and potatoes for me); then walked to the Globe. The play was fantastic; a real memorable experience that I highly recommend. We had bought our tickets online before we left USA - very easy to do, and the mailed them to us.

    [A note about the tube in London: It’s a mess lately! They are in the throes of a massive improvement scheme and seem to be doing work on some part of every line with numerous closings of stations and sections of lines. The entire Circle line was shut down over the weekend. I assume this is all in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. We took buses whenever practical.]

    After a rest, we had dinner at our local pub, The St. George Inn – fish and chips and ale. This pub is right on the corner of our street, and in past London trips we had eaten at it regularly. However, it has been taken over by a chain, and the menu is less pub-like and more restaurant-like (with fewer low-cost choices). This seems to be a trend in London.


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    LONDON & PARIS – MAY 2011

    DAY 08
    FRI MAY 13

    The Cherry Court Inn is a small family-run hotel. The rooms are tiny, but we really like it. The breakfast is a basket of fruit (two each bananas, apples, tangerines), juice, powerbars and cookies. Not your typical English breakfast, but good for getting a fast start to the day’s activities.

    We took a self-guided walk around Belgravia - from Victoria Station to Hyde Park Corner. Our intention was to visit Apsley House but it was only 9:30, so we decided to take the tube to the location of a Soho walk. During the walk we stopped at the Dog and Duck pub (a very historic place) for pulled pork sandwiches and ale.

    Then we went back to Hyde Park, visited Apsley House and Wellington Arch using our travel card and and 2-for-1 rail coupons, followed by a short rest in Hyde Park.

    Took the bus to the V&A. The following sections were on our menu for today: Arts & Crafts Movement, Gothic Stained Glass and Snuff Boxes. We also stopped in the beautiful café ( a must see!) for some drinks as well as the gift shop for some things to take home.

    On the way back for our daily afternoon rest, we stopped at Victoria Station to get our train tickets for tomorrow’s visit to Hampton Court. Since it was a Saturday ride, we bought a 1-day off-peak travel cards (zones 1-6) for £8 each. This was a real bargain, since it also included any tube/bus transport for the day.

    We had “burger and beer for £6.10” at the Willow Walk pub nearby – standard pub fare at a great price.

    Tonight the National Portrait Gallery was open late, so we went over there by tube and enjoyed the paintings of the Tudor, Stuart and Hanovarian dynasties. Then the bus home.

    DAY 09
    SAT MAY 14

    Up early, getting the train to Hampton Court. The train departs from Waterloo, but we took the train from Victoria and changed at Clapham Junction - a very easy connection. Used our 2-for-1 coupon for entry.

    This is an amazing place. The last time we were here was 1970, so we had forgotten how great it was. We were there for six hours! Ate lunch in the cafeteria. Walked the maze. Walked the gardens. Saw pretty much all the sections of the palace. Took part in a little skit with Henry VIII and Catherine Howard. My favorite thing is the indoor tennis court – real luxury for the 16th century! (There were two people actually playing tennis when we arrived.)

    Got back around 5 pm and rested for awhile before going to dinner at the Jugged Hare, a nice pub that we had been to on our previous trips. I had a beef pie and Linda had a chicken pie, both with roasted vegetables and potatoes – and, of course, a pint.

    We noticed that the Tate Modern was open late on Saturdays, so we got on the tube. The circle line wasn’t running at all, and the district line only ran to Embankment, so we got off there, walked across the Hungerford Bridge (I think it may have different name now.), and had a nice walk along the southbank.
    We are not big fans of the Tate Modern.

    [WARNING - Editorial opinion coming!] It does have some nice works, but it has a lot of junk (IMHO), too, and there is a lot of empty space. For instance, the Picasso room had five paintings and a lot of empty wall space. I noticed that they have a multi-million pound expansion going on – [sigh!] – I guess they reckoned that they could buy a lot of building space for 100 million and only a handful of first-rate paintings. I would have preferred four or five more paintings. The Courtauld Gallery has a much, much better 20th c. collection. [End of rant.]

    Walked across the Millennium Bridge and took the bus back to the hotel from St. Paul.


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    LONDON & PARIS – MAY 2011

    DAY 10
    SUN MAY 15

    Got an early start to the British Library, only to find that it didn’t open till 11:00 on Sundays. Took the tube to the Barbican station to begin a very nice Clerkenwell walk. This was a really nice walk in an area that we had not explored. It ended at the Farringdon station. I should add that Sunday may not be the best day for this walk – a number of buildings were closed.

    There was a nice sandwich shop where we had eaten several times on previous visits, and we planned to eat lunch there. Alas, construction had erased it – the entire building in which it was located – from the face of the earth. So we had pub lunch instead. We went back to the Jugged Hare to have their “Sunday Roast.” Unfortunately they did not have roast beef – only chicken and pork. We tried the pork – it was very fatty with hardly any meat – a great disappointment.

    Next was the British Library. This was actually my only “must-see” of the London visit. I never ceased to be amazed at all the wonderful treasures they have on display, from the Lindisfarne Gospels to the Magna Carta to a Gutenburg Bible to a 14th c. Spanish Haggadah to some really ancient biblical fragments to great maps to Beatles documents. We spent the entire afternoon in that one room.

    Back at the hotel, we paid our bill and took a test walk to the Victoria Coach Station – where we were to get our bus to Heathrow tomorrow morning – a four minute walk.

    We returned to the Jugged Hare for dinner. I had roast chicken (much better than the pork), Yorkshire pudding, and roast vegetables and potatoes. Linda had an artichoke, spinach and tomato quiche with a small salad. It was a very good meal. Returned to the hotel to pack.

    DAY 00
    MON MAY 16

    The bus from Victoria Coach Station to Heathrow was a very good ride. We did see a horrendous traffic tie-up on the other side of the road, however. Had that been on our side, it probably would have taken an extra half hour at least. As it was, we got there in about 50 minutes. It’s a very comfortable ride – not tube seats! It was also quite cheap – we bought our senior (over 60 yrs) tickets online before we left the US for £2.25 each – a real bargain – provided you are staying in the area.

    Cleared immigration, security and customs quickly, had a couple of sandwiches, and the plane was there when we got to the gate. However, there was about a 15 minute delay because the crew were caught in a traffic jam. However, the flight was uneventful and arrived on time. Since we didn’t check any luggage, we got through immigration and customs very quickly and were home by dinner time.

    Hope everyone enjoyed this trip report. We had a great time. I will post a link to my photos as soon as I can get them cropped, resized and uploaded.

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    Yes, thoroughly enjoyable. I so appreciate people's sharing, especially so soon! The immediacy of the memories makes it quite engaging. (I'll be there 3 weeks from this morning!)

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    Aren't the Globe plays fantastic? I saw "The Winter Tale" and while not one of the Bard's masterpiece, the atmosphere of Globe and the history really came alive.

    Thanks for sharing..

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    Thanks for the detailed report. I really enjoyed it. I lived and worked in London 40 years ago and will be back there on a visit in Sept, appreciate your pub listings as I prefer pub grub when it's good.

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    We leave in one week for our London/Dordogne/Paris trip - your information was wonderful! I'm seriously considering 'the Globe' but am hesitant because I'm taking 13 & 17 year old boys. Not sure they'll get it!

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    I share your hesitancy, but only you know your children well enough to decide. If it is a play with which they are familiar, the 17-year-old will have a great time (especially if he had some Shakespeare in school and was OK with it). Not sure about a 13-year-old.

    I tend to enjoy Shakespeare much more if I am somewhat familiar with the plot in advance. New plays can be a struggle at times.

    While it is true that your ear gets "tuned" to the language as the play proceeds, knowing the plot (or at least the beginnings of the plot) in advance helps get your through the early scenes.

    All's Well was new to us, so we read a plot summary in advance. I know it took the surprises out of it, but I'm sure we would not have enjoyed it as much otherwise.

    Getting tickets at this late date could be a problem. We bought ours a month in advance online, and there weren't that many seats left:

    The mailed them to us, but it is too late for that for you - I think you can buy them online and pick them up at the theatre.

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