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Four gals footloose and fancy free in Europe - What a Trip

Four gals footloose and fancy free in Europe - What a Trip

Dec 18th, 2007, 04:26 PM
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Four gals footloose and fancy free in Europe - What a Trip

We had 7 nights in London, 7 nights in Paris, 5 nights Loire Valley, 1 night on Le Mont St Michel, 4 nights in Prague and one final night back in Paris.
Our accommodation was an apartment in Soho Square in London and an apartment in the 10th arr. In Paris, a beautiful chateau near Tours and the rest was hotels. We were very happy with all our accommodation and it exceeded our expectations in all cases. We were on a fairly tight budget so our apartments were probably at the bottom end of the market but nevertheless although they were older in style, they were very clean, very practical and very comfortable. Living in an apartment lets you feel that you are a local, shopping in their supermarkets and dining in the nearby restaurants etc.
With only 7 days, our sightseeing consisted of the ‘biggies’ such as Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, St Paul’s Cathedral etc. Westminster Abbey was closed as they were preparing for a special service to celebrate the wedding anniversary of the Queen and Prince Phillip – quite a disappointment but what can you do? We did a day trip up to Oxford, The Cotswolds and Stratford upon Avon. It had been a whole 2 seconds after the bus started on its merry way when from behind my seat came the sound of snoring. This slowly built up to quite a crescendo, so much so, that it was drowning out our guide on the microphone. The snorer was an older lady, travelling on her own, whom I suspect, was suffering from jet lag. It was suggested we should nudge her awake but in the end nobody was game to do this and so we left her to sweet dreams.
At our first destination she awoke, joined the tour group and then again once back on the bus almost immediately fell asleep and into her snoring again. What a dear! Well, it kept us amused I suppose.
We also did a London Walks Da Vinci Code Tour – at only £6 each it was very good value. We found our way to Portobello Road and Abbey Road and had a lot of fun with everyone else who wanted to get their photo taken on the infamous crossing.
We had an absolutely wonderful afternoon tea at The Capital Hotel, quite near Harrods. This was only £18 each and exception value. The setting was very cosy and intimate and William, our waiter was wonderful. Again, we had a lot of fun and lots of laughs, this seem to happen wherever we went. We went on to see Les Miserables after our tea and we all thoroughly enjoyed the show. We also saw The Mousetrap and although some Fodorites bagged it somewhat I still really enjoyed the play and the whole theatre experience. I loved London and our time really flew by but after seven nights it was time to board The Eurostar and head off to Paris.
Our apartment was within walking distance of the Gare du Nord and we arrived on time and our landlord Alex, was waiting for us. This young man was extremely friendly and helpful and he lived in the apartment above ours. The first afternoon in Paris consisted of getting out and walking, walking, walking. We got home probably around 11pm that night and headed straight to bed as we had Michael Osman booked for the next day. The next morning we were in fact met by Scott Emerson, as Michael was ill. Well, we all got on like a house on fire and I knew that this day was going to be a lot of fun. Scott took us first to the Arch de Triomphe where he asked if we were going to be able to climb to the top. Well, yes, Scott but we will just have to have a few pit stops along the way mate. He was very good and I think we had to have about 4 rest stops on the way up but it was certainly worth the effort.
Next we started our walk down the Champs Elysees. Now I can tell you that we were dressed in jeans, parkas, and comfy walking shoes and it would never have been our plan to enter into any of the shops on the Champs Elysees however, Scott assured us that we would be most welcome and so he took us into Louis Vuitton, Coco Chanel, Guerlain, Prada etc etc. The best part was that Scott knew where all the good stuff was such as handbags, shoes etc.
I don’t know what it is, maybe (I am always told) that we Aussies are quite a friendly bunch and everywhere we went we just seemed to get along so well with everybody – shop assistants, waiters, bus drivers (yeah we managed to charm a French bus driver – can you believe it?) and so with Scott who really has a great sense of humour we had the best day ever. I also think 4 women arriving into a restaurant etc, certainly seem to turn heads etc and people were curious about us. We said goodbye to him around 7.30pm but happy knowing that we had him booked for another day touring on the Thursday. Wednesday we took ourselves around Paris to the sights such as The Eiffel Tower, where I was amazed at the size of the queue, even in late November. We had a wonderful day getting about and as usual didn’t get back to our apartment until quite late.
Another day with Scott where he took us to Notre Dame, The Louvre etc and again it was a most enjoyable day. The day carried on and we didn’t say goodbye to Scott until about 8.30pm that night. We paid Scott and instead of a tip (I informed him that Aussies do not customarily tip) I had bought from Australia a packet of Tim Tam Chocolate Biscuits – quite famous here – and presented him with that and he was delighted and told us that he had heard of them. I informed him that in Australia they were as good as cash! I also presented him with a piece of aboriginal art work and he was absolutely thrilled with his ‘tip’. Our time in Paris also consisted of a day trip to Reims – which turned out to be quite a surprise – as we had an absolute hoot of a time there. Again, mixing it up with the locals, lots of laughs, Christmas markets, drinking champagne – really who could ask for more.
We also did a half day tour to Versailles. We also had seats booked for the fashion parade at Galleries La Fayette and have some photos of the 4 of us with the gorgeous male model. We thoroughly enjoyed the show and as we had front row seats it made us feel just that little bit ‘spesh’ (special). After the fashion parade we did a Cityrama tour consisting of dinner at the Eiffel Tower, river cruise and the Moulin Rouge Show. I was very surprised but our dinner at the Eiffel Tower was actually lovely. The food was excellent, the setting superb and our fellow diners and wait staff were a lot of fun. I thought the Moulin Rouge show was just okay. We have similar shows here at home and I’m sure Las Vegas puts just as good a show on too. So I would not do the show again but the rest was great.
We loved Paris, had a wonderful time, ate a remarkable amount of food, glorious food and would have to say it was one of the highlights of the trip. But next it was up to the Gare de L’est to pick up the hire car and drive down to Tours. MMMmm I always knew that this was going to be a little bit stressy and so it was but we did get there in the end – I do believe I may have cut off a police car for when we pulled up to the red lights together he wound his window down and had an awful lot to say – none of which we understood – so we just smiled sweetly, waved and said bonjour. I think he was a bit gobsmacked so we just hurried along our merry little way. Our Chateau near Tours was wonderful. We each had our own bedroom and there were 3 bathrooms between us. Very comfy. We had 5 nights in the Chateau and we saw Chenonceaux, Amboise, Cheverney, Chambord, Azay le Rideau, Abbey at Fontevraud, de Close Luce. We broke up the 5 days by doing a day trip to Il de Re, half way through. We had a thoroughly enjoyable day and it broke the trip up well. We absolutely loved the Chateaux and there were no disappointments. We cooked dinner in the Chateau each night and this was lovely as we had a roaring fire, great music, the odd drink or two and great company. It was a relaxing time after the hustle and bustle of London and Paris.
Next we drove over to Le Mont St Michel and spent the night there in the Auberge St Pierre. This was a magical day and night and another real highlight as well. I had the best foie gras I’ve ever tasted at dinner that night. Of course, the Abbey is just spectacular and the whole ambience of the place is quite unbelievable.
Next day up and off to Charles de Gaulle airport via Rouen. It was rather cold, wet and miserable and didn’t make sightseeing very appealing I’m afraid but we had a nice lunch, saw the Joan of Arc Museum and the memorial at the spot where she was burned.
Driving into the airport was a bit of a disaster and not easy but we got there in the end just in time for our Smart Wings flight to Prague. We arrived around 11pm so it was straight to the Hotel Residence Mala Strana and bed and up the next morning for our private tour down to Cesky Krumlov. We were picked up by our driver Rusty (well we’ll call him Rusty for the sake of the exercise) and Martina our guide. We had a lovely day seeing the beautiful town of Cesky Krumlov but it was also very interesting talking to Rusty and Martina about their lives in the Czech Republic both before and after the revolution. How amazing to talk to people who lived through a revolution. All in all a great day and again money well spent to have such a personalized tour.
The next day was exciting for us because we have friends who had been working in Turkey for the previous 9 months (he is a hot air balloon pilot) and their contract finished in time to coincide with them catching up with us in Prague. So today was the day we would see each other again. The reunion was great and after a large bottle of Moet & Chandon and some red wine we headed out for dinner into the Old Town Square, which was an easy walk from our hotel. The highlight for me was always going to be St Nicholas Day. By about 5pm the Old Town Square was really filling up with people and families. The Christmas markets were in full spring and there was a concert with various performers and of course there were all the St Nicholas’ walking through the square. They were accompanied by the Angel and The Devil and the atmosphere was wonderful. We had lots of photos taken with St Nicholas and even got a chocolate or two for being good girls.
Of course, Prague is famous for the Charles Bridge and the Palace both of which are just spectacular and all in all we had a fabulous time in Prague but we had to fly back to Paris after 4 nights so we could catch our Singapore Airlines flight home the next day.
We four girls had the best trip ever – we all got along so well and we had so much fun interacting with everyone we met be it Barry the rail worker in London, Thierry our wonderful French waiter, the gorgeous Simonus at Krispy Kreme in Harrods in London, that little French bus driver – yes we really had a good time. I haven’t even told you about the times when Naughty Jan came out (after a couple of Vodka’s) or the time Miss Lisa set off the alarm in The Louvre but you know ‘what happens on the road – stays on the road’. I hope I haven’t been too boring but it is easy to waffle on isn’t it. Anyway, have a Merry Christmas everybody and hope you have a great New Year.
stormbird is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 04:46 PM
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Sorry guys, but the spacing hasn't happened the way it was supposed to. I apologise if this is hard to read.
stormbird is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 04:47 PM
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This sounds so fun, stormbird!!! Thank you for sharing. I can't wait for our trip to France in May. We will be guided by Michael Osman, and I hope he has the same info about the designer shops

Now, I was a bit confused about the not tipping in Australia bit. My husband and I went for our honeymoon in Australia last October (from the U.S.). We were told that tipping was customary, but that we didn't have to leave as much as we did in the U.S. We tipped our driver, at restaurants, etc. Were we "taken for a ride?" Nothing I can do about it now - just curious.

lauraallais is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 04:49 PM
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Laura, tipping is not customary here at all. We will tip if we have had special service but generally no it is not expected.
stormbird is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 04:54 PM
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Oh well! Thanks.
lauraallais is offline  
Dec 18th, 2007, 05:00 PM
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Also meant to add a very big thank you to all who contributed to the planning of our trip. Just about every resource I used was from Fodors - couldn't have done it without you all!!!
stormbird is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 07:30 AM
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Great trip report - thanks for sharing! Sounds like you four girls had a wonderful time!
blh is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 07:37 AM
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Stormbird -- absolutely lovely trip report! Thank you! Do you have a website for the chateau where you stayed in Tours?
BKP is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 11:26 AM
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What happens on the road, stays on the road?!!!!!! Who made THAT rule? I want to know about the alarm in the Louvre?!!!!!.....and anything else "fun"!!!!! Come on now, spill!!!! Sounds like a grand time by the way.
crefloors is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 12:48 PM
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This is the chateau that we stayed in at Tours. www.chateauduplessis.com
We were very comfortable there.
stormbird is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 04:03 PM
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Could you please post more information about your Soho apartment?

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 04:08 PM
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This sounds like so much fun I wish I could have been along for the ride. Thanks for sharing with those of us who weren't.
Nikki is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 07:36 PM
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I love your trip report stormbird. And with your wonderful personality no shock that everyone was so good to you!

Yes, about setting off the alarm in The Louvre? Details please, lol.

Thank you for such an interesting and fun read! I wish you many more fantastic trips.
LoveItaly is offline  
Dec 19th, 2007, 08:00 PM
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Hi Lee Ann,
Our apartment was right in Soho Square (Oxford Street behind us). It was certainly older in style but very comfortable. There is a nightclub nearby which caused no problems but there were a lot of people out on the street on the Saturday night queuing to get in. Though no noise penetrated through to us upstairs.

You can contact Chris (who used to work at Scala House) at [email protected] for info on this and other apartments on his books. He is extremely helpful and a pleasure to deal with.

Now about setting off that alarm in The Louvre - we were in the King's Apartments section of the museum and Miss Lisa and I were admiring a very beautiful cabinet and Lisa really wanted a closer look and to point something out to me and so she leaned over and well she leaned over a little too far I'm afraid and off went the alarms and people came running. Doh!!!

Sometimes it's just a joy when you don't speak the language.
stormbird is offline  
Dec 20th, 2007, 09:00 AM
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You girls know how to have some fun! So glad that your guide Scott was great. Michael did the tour for my husband and I and the day was the highlight of our entire trip!
ilovetulips is offline  
Dec 20th, 2007, 09:56 AM
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Love those Aussie gals...how could they not liked you in Europe..
Nov 15th, 2008, 05:54 AM
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Thanks for sharing
yeadonite is online now  
Nov 15th, 2008, 12:53 PM
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Hi from another Aussie - loved reading your report and so glad you all had fun. I laughed out loud at your description of cutting off the policeman. So funny. Just as well you couldn't understand him!!

The chateau you stayed at sounds great. Was a car necessary to get around there or do you know if there is public transport?

KayF is offline  
Nov 15th, 2008, 05:23 PM
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Denise is offline  
Nov 18th, 2008, 12:57 AM
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Hi Kay,
I've only just come upon your post. Yes, I would say a car is most useful to tour the chateau region. It is very easy to get around though - oooh well, bear in mind that we were there in the off season however, so can't say what it would be like in summer for example.

But roads are extremely good and we did have a car with satnav and I would definitely recommend that for yourself as well.

We particularly enjoy visiting chateaux, old homes, mansions etc so we did put quite a bit of time in the Loire Valley but that is what we enjoy. I was so very glad we made the decision to hire the car and my travel buddies just kept on reminding which side of the road I was supposed to be on - mainly on roundabouts - 'turn right stormer - turn right'.

And don't forget 'Look left to live!!'

Let me know if you need anything further Kay.
stormbird is offline  

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