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London and Paris Trip Report

Old Sep 24th, 2007, 12:52 PM
  #1  
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Join Date: Dec 2003
Posts: 113
London and Paris Trip Report

From July 21 to August 1, 2007, my husband (DH), 15-year-old daughter (DT) and 11-year old daughter (DD) enjoyed a fabulous trip to London and Paris. Because of all of the helpful hints and great tips we learned on this message board before our travels, we wanted to reciprocate by posting our trip report (in sections) in the hopes that it will help others.

Day 1 – Departed Miami 8:05 p.m. on American Airlines. Seated 2 and 2, which was great. Ate dinner, watched movies and went to sleep.

Day 2 – Arrived London at 9:45 a.m. Weather was sunny and perfect temperature. We used a car service to take us to hotel. The driver was late and we had to wait about 15 or 20 minutes for him to arrive. Followed him to car park and traveled in a large van –very comfy. We checked in at Marriott County Hall – huge building, with long beautiful driveway to reach hotel. Room wasn’t ready, so girls changed clothes and we walked to Waterloo Station, where we bought our 7-day Oyster cards and took 16-minute tube ride on Northern Line to Camden Market. We LOVED the tube – always amazed at how spotless the cars and the stations are kept. What a pleasure! We came up from tube right at market(s). Very crowded, but great shopping for DT! A teen paradise, and definitely not all goth! She woke up instantly as she shopped for “bargains” (at least prices were not terrible even at double US prices). She bought a dress, some shirts, and rings. DD got London jacket, rings, etc. DH and DD got tired and went back. DT and I shopped at a few more stores and smaller markets. We headed back, only to find out that Camdentown tube station closes Sunday afternoons due to heavy traffic. We were told by a subway employee to walk a few blocks to next station. It was about a 15 minute walk. We returned to the room - beautiful room with awesome view of the Thames and the London Eye. The cars from the Eye passed right by our window! When lying in one of the beds, we had a great view of Big Ben! What a treat! Took naps around 4 p.m., woke up and tubed to Leicester Square. Great area. We had dinner at Belle Italia – nice, casual Italian restaurant – good pastas. Returned to hotel, watched “On Stage” channel highlighting London plays, and went to bed.

Day 3 - Woke up to a cloudy day, but no rain. We had breakfast at Starbucks across street, and learned that prices differ whether you eat there or “takeaway” (a few pence cheaper). We wanted to beat the lines at London Eye, so we got there when it opened and walked right on! Even though the day was gray, we had wonderful views of the city in all directions. We walked along the river, DH had fresh waffle for breakfast on the waterfront, girls had ice cream! Started the Original Bus Company double decker bus tour in front of our hotel. It was a wonderful way to see the whole city and to get our bearings for later visits. We arrived at Buckingham Palace in time to see the Changing of the Guard. We wouldn’t have rushed to see it since we’ve seen it before, but the timing worked out, and actually this was the best that we have ever been able to see the guards and the ceremony. We returned to the bus pickup point and enjoyed watching a group of ladies across the street, all dressed up and all wearing fancy hats. We were told that they were likely attending a “garden party” with the Queen, who often hosts these parties for various charity representatives. Hopped back on the bus and continued to enjoy the sites, but girls were tired from time change, and they stretched out and went to sleep. We passed through areas of Westminster, Belgravia (admired all the white buildings which are in sharp contrast to the rest of London), Piccadilly, Oxford Circus, Covent Garden, Trafalgar Square, Marble Arch, Green Park, etc. We got off the bus at Covent Garden and had an enjoyable lunch at Belgo Centraal on Earlham Street. Waiters dress like monks and the restaurant is downstairs in a cellar/basement. Great goat cheese salad and steak frittes – french fries were the best! Then we returned to the bus to pass by the City, Tower Bridge, Tower of London, etc. We exited at Tower of London and walked down to the pier to take the River Thames Boat Tour, which was included in our bus admission. Weather was rainy and misty by this point, so we sat indoors in the boat and listened to the commentary. Got off the boat at Westminster, walked across the bridge back to our hotel and took naps. Since the weather was very rainy when we woke up, we went through County Hall and ran across the street to Locale for Italian food – very nice atmosphere, good food and lots of locals. Returned to hotel.

Day 4 – Woke up to a gorgeous, sunny day. Got the girls moving because we wanted to be at Tower of London by 9 (when it opened) to avoid the crowds. We had breakfast at Starbucks on our way to the tube. Arrived at Tower of London by 9, and were thrilled that it was virtually empty. We walked right into the Crown Jewels and went on the moving sidewalk immediately at least two more times. Saw crowns, scepters, and lots of gold, including world’s largest “punch bowl” and “drinking mugs” – at least we joked that’s what they looked like. We then joined the first beefeater tour of the morning at 10 a.m., and by then, we felt like we were in the world’s largest tour group. There had to be at least 80 to 100 people, but the yeoman warder had an incredibly loud voice (I’m sure his throat was sore after our tour) so it was not a problem at all to hear him. The tour was fantastic – not to be missed. The stories, history and information were told in a fun and extremely humorous way! It was also interesting to learn that the yeoman warders actually live inside the Tower property! We left the Tower of London after the Tour and headed down the Thames to the Tower Bridge. Took the elevator to the top of the bridge, which was an unexpected treat! It was very cool to be standing on the top of the bridge looking at the views. We looked at some of the pictures displayed in the bridge and read some of the stories, but didn’t do all of the exhibits because the girls were “toured out.” We walked back along river to Wagamama next to Tower of London. We had read so much about it before we left, and we liked it – lots of Asian choices. We tried various dishes and liked most of them. We then tubed to Oxford Street for shopping. DT was in heaven in Top Shop – 4 floors of a “Forever 21” type store, including a beauty salon, café, etc. Oxford Street felt like the middle of Manhattan – so many people on the streets! DH and DD headed back, and DT and I looked in a few more stores, including Monsoon, and Miss Selfridge’s (part of Top Shop). Met back at room for a short nap, then headed to Leicester Square. We finally found the actual square which was buzzing with people. The huge Odeon movie theater playing Harry Potter was on the square. Walked around a bit and ate dinner at Burger Shack off of one of the side streets, which was a sort of “restaurant row.” Burger Shack is a Smolensky’s restaurant (where we took the girls 10 years ago), and it was a perfect casual dinner – cute atmosphere, good hamburgers and fish & chips, nice waiter. We then walked over to Picadilly Circus for a few pictures and shopping in tourist store. We finished up there and tubed to Tower of London to watch the “Ceremony of the Keys.” This was a definite highlight of the trip and worth ordering the (free) tickets months in advance! A Yeoman Warder met us, and only one other family of five, at the gated entrance. He let us in the gates and gave us a history of the Tower of London, including what would transpire during the ceremony, which has taken place every night without fail for more than 700 YEARS! This includes one night during WWII when the Tower was bombed, but the ceremony still took place, albeit 20 minutes late! We essentially had our own private tour of the Tower for about 15 minutes before a group of about 30 people who were attending a dinner function at the Tower met up with us. The ceremony lasts approximately 7 minutes and it was amazing. It included the following: Chief Yeoman Warder walked up the path alone with a lantern in hand, and a Tower Guard headed toward him from the other direction. The Tower Guard pointed his gun at the Chief YW and yelled: “HALT! Who Goes There?” The Chief “YW” replies, “The keeper of the keys!” “Whose keys?” “Queen Elizabeth’s keys!” “You may pass!” The Chief YW then meets up with four other guards who escort him back to the gates to be locked, and then the keys are delivered to another important guy who resides in the Tower for safekeeping for the night. The girls loved the ceremony as much as we did! We will try to get tickets again for our next trip to London. Definitely something to see! Headed back to hotel for the night. TO BE CONTINUED...

keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 24th, 2007, 02:08 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2004
Posts: 5,950
So far, it sounds great. Waiting for more. . .
Carrybean is offline  
Old Sep 24th, 2007, 07:51 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
What a great beginning! I'm glad to hear about Marriott County Hall; it has always seemed like an intriguing location to me.

My girls love Top Shop also, and we have visited many times on our trips to the UK. They are actually disappointed that it will be coming to the US soon.

Looking forward to the rest...
noe847 is offline  
Old Sep 24th, 2007, 10:40 PM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Aug 2005
Posts: 301
Great trip report - looking forward to the rest!

It sounds like you did a LOT! I am truly impressed - with a family of four you were able to get out so early in the day and do so much. I am truly ashamed - I went to London for a week last month and in the 6 days I was there, I was not able to cover as much as you did in 3 days - bravo

Looking forward to the rest...
Manisha is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 03:25 AM
  #5  
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Day 5 – Since the girls were tired during the first two days from getting up so early, we decided to let them sleep in. They didn’t care about missing the morning sights, and we were able to enjoy the extra hours of sleep. This was the perfect arrangement – DH and I had time to do what WE enjoyed in the morning, and when we got back to the room to pick them up each day, they were dressed and ready to go (no nagging about hurrying up!). In the morning, DH and I tubed two stops to London Bridge to look around Borough Market. The market was quiet today because it was Wednesday, and the market gets going on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It was still interesting to see a few of the open vendors (yummy bakeries, etc., where we bought the world’s best brownies and chocolate croissants). Strolled the cobblestone streets around Borough Market, passed Vinopolis, Clink’s Prison and Anchor Pub (where Shakespeare dined). The whole area was very “old London” and reminded me of the setting of “Oliver.” Grabbed a bagel at a very cute sandwich shop on the corner. Went back to pick up the girls. Headed to Harrods. We walked through the food halls, which were amazing, but the prices were insane! Harrod’s was the first place in London that we really felt like we couldn’t afford anything because it was outrageously overpriced. We left the store and searched for a place to eat in Knightsbridge, but nothing caught our eye. We decided to cab over to to High Street Kensington with the thought of going to Orangerie, but we were concerned it would be more of a dessert place than a lunch restaurant. Instead, we went to Giraffe. Although a chain, it was funky and fun, and we enjoyed our lunches – hamburgers, chicken wings, chicken nuggets, and humus/pita/tatziki plate). We then tubed back to the hotel to rest. DD had the most fun standing in our hotel room window and waving to all the people in the London Eye pods as they passed so close to our room. She counted the number of waves that were returned and the number of people in the pods who took pictures of her. That was definitely one of her favorite activities on the trip! DD was dying to see “Fame” based on her viewing of the “Onstage” channel on TV. We saw an ad in the tourist newspaper about ½ price tickets for Fame, and when we called, we asked about any family discounts, and were able to get 2nd row tickets for less than $30 apiece! Truly amazing! We tubed to the show at Shaftesbury Theatre – what a beautiful ornate theater. The show was FANTASTIC! The girls loved it – with its boisterous singing and dancing. They also enjoyed the Haagen Dazs ice cream cups at intermission! Tubed back to hotel, picked up subs along the way, and lo mein from Ned’s Noodle Shop (delicious) across the street from Marriott. Ate the food in our hotel room and went to sleep.

DAY 6 – DH and I woke up at 8 and headed out at 8:30. We walked over Westminster Bridge to the Cabinet War Rooms in the Department of Treasury Building. This was a very interesting tour. They are the actual war rooms used by Churchhill and his cabinet during World War II. The rooms have virtually been left intact and we saw conference rooms, sleeping quarters, dining room, kitchen, map room, etc. An excellent audio guide accompanied the tour. After finishing up in the gift shop, which had a lot of unique items, we crossed the street so we could take a quick walk through St. James Park. (I needed to walk through one of the beautiful city parks during the trip). The park is gorgeous, and the caretaker’s house on the perimeter of the park is even more beautiful. The garden outside the house was breathtaking. The other side of the park abuts Buckingham Palace, and we learned that all palaces in the city have parks adjacent to them. We crossed back over the street and stumbled upon the changing of the horse guard, which was a formal ceremony with new guards riding up the street from the palace – very ceremonial. The old guards all wore red uniforms, and the new guards which were to replace them all wore black uniforms. From there we walked past 10 Downing Street, and had a lovely chat with an informative policeman named James (“St. James Park is named after me.” “When you’re tired of living in London, you’re tired of living!”). He told us he actually has been inside the residence and it is immense, even though it looks small from the outside. So much history is inside, including Winston Churchhill’s smoking chair (which still reeked of cigars), etc. We then wanted to get into Parliament to attend a session – we were told it was the last day for a while – but there was a 1 ½ hour wait, which we didn’t have time for. We made a quick stop inside to the main interior entrance area and saw the beautiful stained glass windows. We then headed back across Westminster Bridge, picked up the girls, and walked across the street to Yo Sushi restaurant. This is a chain (although we didn’t see any others), and was one of our favorite restaurants in London. The place was hopping at lunchtime, so we had to wait for four seats together on the conveyor belt. We loved the conveyor belt and the different hot and cold foods that you pulled off, the price being denoted by the color of the bowl. DH and girls also ordered chicken teriyaki and chicken fried rice from the regular menu. I had delicious breaded pumpkin, various sushi, etc. We then tubed to Covent Garden to spend more time, but it started to rain and we let the girls spend an hour at an internet café instead (1 pound/hour – very cheap!). Had dinner at Papageno in Leicester Square area – we saw it earlier in the week and loved the funky décor, so we had made a reservation. We sat in a tent-like area and admired all of the kitch, statues, wall murals, etc. The service was rather awful, and the girls’ meal never arrived!! (I liked my salmon, though!). We walked from the restaurant to Prince Edward Theater to see Mary Poppins. The show was INCREDIBLE – definitely not just for children!! The acting, sets, singing, dancing and special effects made it a true spectacle! We all loved it! When we left the theater at the end of the show, we were surprised to see how packed the streets were with people in pubs, restaurants, etc. This is definitely a city that doesn’t sleep (at least until the wee hours!). At 11 p.m., the place was wild. We walked next door to have a late night snack at Pizza Express, where we fell in love with the dough balls! This is another great restaurant chain with a pretty décor. Headed back to hotel for bed.

DAY 7 – We were sad that this was our last day in London. DH and I tubed to Leicester Square in the morning for one final stroll through the streets. We started early and many of the shops were closed, but it was still fun to walk around. We came upon Seven Dials, a roundabout where seven streets intersect. We also saw Neal’s Yard, which I wanted to find – although it was a very small area behind a main street, it was adorable and colorful and we took some great pictures of the buildings and the courtyard. Walked over toward Covent Garden and had breakfast at the White Lion Pub upstairs – our first English breakfast. We were the only customers because the stores hadn’t opened yet. Didn’t love the breakfast but it was an experience – A’s veggie sausages (that came with the eggs) were like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and baked beans for breakfast was a little hard to stomach. Still, we were glad to be eating in a pub. Walked through Covent Garden. We then tubed back to Waterloo and walked along the South Bank because this was our last day, and we hadn’t really seen the waterfront sights. Behind the Marriott Hotel and continuing past the Anchor Pub is a wide promenade for strolling. We passed very interesting fountains (people with water shooting out of their mouths, heads, etc.) and the large concert hall. We shopped a little at Gabriel’s Wharf with cute little crafts stores and I went into the Tate Modern for a few minutes. Didn’t have time to really look at the art, but the building was worth seeing. It’s immense and interesting because it used to be a power plant. Ran through a few galleries and met DH in front of the museum. We continued walking past the Globe Theater and the Anchor Pub past Clink’s Prison back to Borough Market. It was packed! All the stalls were open, and it was great fun to walk around admiring all of the food. DH grabbed a hamburger, and I had a veggie shepherd’s pie and banana cake for dessert. Both were delicious – finished them on the tube back to Waterloo. We met the girls at Starbuck’s where they were finishing their breakfast. Then we all took the Northern Line back to Camden Market. Since this was DT’s favorite place in London, she wanted one more opportunity to shop. DD was happy to return, too, and they both bought some more goodies – shirts, purses, bracelets and earrings. We then took 3 tubes to get to High Street Kensington so that we could have our “high tea” before leaving London. It took about 40 minutes or so to reach H.S. Kensington stop. Walked a good few blocks to Kensington Palace and had tea at the Orangerie, a really pretty building on the palace grounds with high white walls and large picture windows overlooking the park. We ordered from their a la carte menu – tomato soup, bread, millionaire’s shortbread, chocolate cake, and of course, tea! It seemed that there were many Americans dining there and not many Brits, but it was still lots of fun and worth the trip. We treated ourselves to a cab ride back to the hotel as we were short on time. We had a very nice cabbie who told us he loved the Eurostar and we chatted with him about that. We also took a taxi from the hotel to the Anchor Pub for dinner. DT was excited to eat in the same restaurant in which Shakespeare ate. It’s a lovely pub inside and out, and we enjoyed our dinner (mushroom risotto, steak and ale pie, hamburger). Then we walked to the Globe Theater, made a quick dash to the cute gift shop to buy some small souvenirs, and took our seats in the theater. It was a fantastic experience – the open-air theater, the “groundlings” all standing below us, the costumes, the actors, the lack of microphones, the Shakespearean music – definitely something to experience! The play was “Love’s Labour’s Lost,” and we watched for about an hour, but we were pretty clueless about the story line (other than the general summary provided in the program). The play was almost three hours long, and we didn’t want to sit through the whole thing, so we left and headed to the Pizza Express next door. More dough balls and ice cream as our final London treat! Tubed back to Waterloo and finished packing.

keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:07 AM
  #6  
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Noe847, do you know where Top Shop will be in the US? That IS disappointing to hear!
keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:20 AM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 2,850
I think I responded first to this trip report on another thread . . .

Anyway, I enjoyed your experiences in London. We will be going there next year.

Looking forward to the Eurostar to Paris experience.
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:25 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 949
keefmick,

Really enjoying your report - sounds like the trip was lots of fun! I don't know if you noticed, but you actually have two threads going for this trip report. Just as a small suggestion, would you mind posting the day's events into paragraphs instead of one large chunk - it's a lot easier to read that way
Anna1013 is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 11:54 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Jan 2004
Posts: 3,700
I am enjoying your report very much. All the more so because I am leaving in a couple of days for London and plan on seeing many of the same things as your family. Looking forward to the Paris part of the report.
cynthia_booker is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 01:41 PM
  #10  
 
Join Date: May 2004
Posts: 760
I'm really enjoying your trip report. You sound like a really fun family who knows how to travel well.
aggiegirl is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 04:48 PM
  #11  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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The shop will be (or already is) in New York City:
NEW YORK
35 Howard Street, New York, United States of America, 10013

We're finally getting H&M in Atlanta, which my girls are resigned to, since it is already in so many parts of the US. Of course my girls are now out of the house and out of the region, so it matters little, actually. The other European shop that they really enjoy is Promod, which is not in our hemisphere as of yet.
noe847 is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 04:56 PM
  #12  
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DAY 8 – We all woke up about 5:30 and cabbed to Waterloo at 6:30 a.m. We waited on a security line like the airport lines to check in. When we got into the Eurostar terminal, it also felt like an airport terminal with restaurants, shops, etc. It was very busy as several trains were departing to Paris and Brussels within a short time frame.

We grabbed bagels and snacks at a couple of the restaurants and then boarded our train around 7:10. We left our luggage at the end of the car and proceeded to our “family seats.” They were in the center of the car facing each other with a table in the middle. This was perfect for us because we could all talk to each other. For the rest of the seats, all faced the middle of the car, so half the people travel forward, and the other half travel backward. We left London on time and made one stop about 20 minutes outside of London. The train ride was completely comfortable and enjoyable. The ride is remarkably smooth, and it was hard to tell we reached speeds of 180 mph, other than when we were zipping by cars on adjacent roads. DT slept the entire 2 ½ hour ride, and DD was busy making bracelets. I slept through the entire Chunnel and woke up just as we were exiting in Calais. Loved the French countryside out the window.

Arrived at Gare du Nord around 10:30 (with the hour time change). The weather was gorgeous, sunny, and much warmer than London. DH went to ATM to get Euros and we waited on a long taxi line, which took about 20 minutes. The taxi dropped us off at our hotel, Les Jardins du Marais, on Rue Amelot. We did not know what to expect, since we booked it on Hotels.com and had just stayed in a beautiful Marriott in London. Boy, were we pleasantly surprised! The lobby was very art-decoish with black tile floors, lime green and purple accents, and Lucite chairs. Very modern. The restaurant at the end of the lobby was very pretty. The best part, though, was the beautiful Parisian courtyard between the buildings, with cobblestones, wrought iron, gazebo, pretty landscaping, etc. We were in the back building, so we got to walk through the courtyard quite a bit.

Our room was simple but very nice – it had 2 single beds pushed together, a third bed and a cot. All were very comfy. We had a standing portable air conditioner which worked well – it just required DH to dump out water when it got full. We had a mini fridge and stove top, which we never used. Anyway, we dropped off our luggage, the girls changed into shorts (for the first time on the trip), and we walked across the street to the San Sebastian metro stop (very close – much closer than Waterloo and Westminster stations from our London hotel).

We tubed to Montmarte via the Chateau Rouge metro stop. We walked through the streets toward Montmarte and came upon a huge set of stairs, which we proceeded to climb up. At the top was Sacre Coeur Cathedral and a fantastic view of Paris. We took several pictures and shopped at the street vendors selling inexpensive souvenirs (Eiffel tower key chains, which we bought by the dozen, and yarn animal key chains made in front of us). I went into the cathedral, which was large and beautiful. We then walked down the street to the central square in Montmarte. We loved it! It was a great introduction to Paris. Even though it caters to tourists, it was so much fun to watch the artists paint beautiful scenes of the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, etc., right in front of us. We were also surprised at the number of portrait artists who were busy with customers. We had lunch in the center square at La Boheme, and began the tradition of trying to order a bowl of French onion soup with every meal. Also had pasta and salad. After lunch, we had chocolate crepes on the street and watched the artists paint. We then shopped at the stores off the square, and I was happy to get a cute scarf for 3.50 Euros, which I later saw on Rue di Rivoli for 12 Euros. It was very surprising to get a bargain in Montmarte, since it’s such a tourist magnet!

We left Montmarte and thankfully went downhill to Abesse metro stop, admiring the patisseries along the way. The metro stop had a carousel, and we noticed carousels all over Paris. Went back to hotel and napped – we were tired from waking so early to catch the train. For dinner, we crossed over Boulevard Beaumarche and headed into the Marais, but went the long way and finally came upon the Place de Vosges. This is the oldest square in Paris and absolutely beautiful. “King Henri IV built a Royal pavilion at the southern end of the square, and ordered all 35 other buildings bordering the square to follow the same design. The result, an early example of urban planning, is a symmetrical square surrounded by buildings with red brick and white stone facades, steep slate roofs and dorm windows, all constructed over arcades.”

We had dinner at Royal Turenne Café on Rue de Turenne, a block off the square. We sat at an outdoor table while three young girls jump roped on the sidewalk next to us – one or two of them were related to the owner, we think. We thought it was cute because it was a good taste of life in the city. We walked back to the hotel which was about 6 blocks away.


DAY 9 – DT’s 15th birthday!! We woke DT at 8:00, the time she was born, as this is her annual tradition. We all went back to sleep until 9:30. Unfortunately, it was a rainy morning, so we left the hotel, but returned to the room to grab our mini umbrellas and ponchos for all of us. (So glad we took these from home, as they were used quite a bit).

We took the metro to Ecole Militaire for the Eiffel Tower. We hoped to find a patisserie for breakfast, but we didn’t find any open ones around Ecole Militaire, so the girls did not have breakfast. We walked a couple of blocks and got our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, where we proceeded to take pictures, including creative ones where the girls looked like they were holding the ET in their hands. We walked through a big park/walkway toward the Eiffel Tower – it was very windy, rainy and cool! Our umbrellas turned inside out, so we had some good laughs about that. The lines at the ET were enormous, but we were able to walk right inside because of our lunch reservation at Altitude 95.

We took the elevator to the first level and went inside the restaurant. We had to wait about 15 minutes, and were then seated at a window table, as we had requested in advance. The restaurant was very cool – a lot of metal in the tables and chairs – similar to the metal in the ET itself. We had a wonderful lunch and DT was very happy. The restaurant is one of Alain Ducasse’s, so the food was terrific. DT loved her hamburger. I had my favorite meal of the trip – delicious roasted salmon and asparagus risotto. DH and DD got the most unique and gourmet macaroni and cheese dish – it was one long loaf and really good. We had scrumptious molten chocolate cake for dessert. Our waiter was rather unfriendly, but we didn’t mind because it was part of the ambiance! The views (including two carousels right below us) were wonderful from our table – even though lunch started out misty, we could still see everything clearly, and by the time we finished lunch, the sun was starting to shine.

After lunch, we walked all the way around the platform, enjoying the various views and reading the information boards which pointed out specific sites. We went into the post office on the platform, and got postcards stamped “Eiffel Tower, July 29, 2007” – a great souvenir, especially for DT on her birthday. We had to wait two turns to take the elevator down. It came from the upper level and was crowded by the time it got to us. We left the Eiffel Tower and stopped at a stand selling Tour de France merchandise.

Luckily for DH, this was the final day of the Tour de France, which finishes on the Champs Elysee! We tubed to the Champs, riding on a beautiful double decker train which was virtually empty. Came up from the metro to one huge party! The streets were packed with people waiting for the riders to come down the Champs a few hours later. An enormous television screen showed the cyclists live heading toward Paris, music was playing, Tour de France cars, trucks and floats were cruising down the street, and lots of Tour merch was for sale. We walked down the street, unable to cross over because of the blockades, hoping to find some open stores for DT to shop on her birthday. No luck. The Champs is disappointing to me because the shops are too commercial, and it lacks Parisian charm.

We then tubed to Concord, where the girls and I said goodbye to DH, who stayed in the area to wait for the cyclists. He loved every minute of it – as exciting for him as attending the Super Bowl! He made his way to the front of the crowd and was able to have a clear shot when they whizzed by – got some awesome pictures! Meanwhile, the girls and I started walking down Rue di Rivoli looking for more open stores. We found some souvenir shops which the girls checked out. We continued to walk and walk, past Angelina’s, past Tuileries Gardens, and we finally came to the shopping area we had heard about, which had H&M, Promod, and the other teen stores. Unfortunately, they were closed. The girls were getting tired, so we stopped for a short break at MacDonald’s to rest our weary legs. We turned left after MacDonald’s because I saw a sign for the supposed “mall”, but instead found an internet café. DT was excited to check her emails on her birthday, and DD was very happy, too. After 15 minutes online, we found the street leading to the Pompidou Museum and, more importantly, AN OPEN STORE!!! DT was successful in finding some shirts for her birthday. We continued on past the Pompidou, and saw a few buskers outside, along with the cool pipes and colorful sculptures.

We continued on our trek and entered the Marais, although we had no idea where we were in relation to our hotel, because the streets are so narrow and curvy that the map was not much help. However, the locals that we stopped to ask directions were extremely helpful and pointed us in the right direction. As we continued through the Marais, we realized that for shopping on Sundays, this was definitely the place to be. The stores, very chic and quite expensive, were packed! We popped into a few of them, but we were all worn out by this point, and just wanted to reach our destination. We FINALLY reached the Place de Vosges, and called DH to meet us at the restaurant on the plaza, so we didn’t have to walk all the way back to the hotel. While we waited for him to walk over from the hotel, we took pictures by the moving aluminum sculptures outside of an art gallery, and listened to a street performer singing really awful opera music (I think he was supposed to be humorous rather than talented.

DH met us with warm clothes for us to change into, and we had dinner for DT’s birthday at Café Hugo, which she had decided upon the night before. What an awesome choice!! We sat outside under the arched walkway, and we had a fantastic waiter who was really fun and spoke perfect English. DH and the girls thought their steak au poivre and onion soup was the best so far, and I really liked my salmon fettucini. We decided to stop at the hotel to drop off our packages. We changed our clothes quickly and cabbed to the Bateaux Mouche. We think the taxi driver took advantage because we seemed to go in a very roundabout way, but we got to see some new areas.

We timed our arrival perfectly, as we paid and were able to hop on board the boat immediately exactly at 10 p.m. The boat was an enormous 2-level vessel that held hundreds of people. We grabbed a spot on the top deck. The weather was cool and clear and it was hard to believe that this was the middle of summer! The highlight of this 75-minute boat tour for us was getting to see the Eiffel Tower twinkle at both 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. – truly beautiful and a treat to see!! We loved it. The boat ride was fantastic and a must-see at night – we went under all of bridges and saw so many historic and famous sites – Notre Dame, the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Ile de Cite, Ile St. Louis, mini Statue of Liberty, modern Paris, etc. We also saw waterfront restaurants and people dancing by the river! Very Parisian.

We had a nice young cabbie return us to our hotel – the direct route this time – and he gave us a great tip about entering the Louvre after 3 p.m., which we followed the next day. Back at the hotel, DT opened her remaining presents. Off to bed. DAYS 10-12 TO FOLLOW SHORTLY.
keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 25th, 2007, 06:01 PM
  #13  
 
Join Date: Nov 2005
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Love Paris! Can't wait for more.
LCBoniti is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 12:27 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 1,060
A nice report, but you scraped your fingernails on the blackboard twice.
High tea is a substantial meal eaten in Scotland and the North of England.
It is sometimes called a meat tea.
What you had was afternoon tea.
I think that Americans seem to think that "high" means posh.
You also used the dreaded "Chunnel" word.
The word was used right at the beginning by certain tabloids, but you never see it now.
For some reason, it still thrives in the US.
Josser is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 01:54 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
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ttt
annhig is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 03:32 AM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 349
What a lovely trip report, thanks for posting. How much was your lunch at the Eiffel Tower?
toni is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 03:28 PM
  #17  
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Join Date: Dec 2003
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Toni,
Our lunch at Altitude 95 in the Eiffel Tower was somewhere between $75-$100 (I can't remember the exact price) for 3 entrees and 1 dessert. We thought it was well worth it for the experience!
keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 04:15 PM
  #18  
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DAY 10 – DH and I woke up at 8:15 and headed into the Marais. We stopped at the corner newsstand to buy a few copies of Le Equipe newspaper which had wonderful pictures from the Tour de France the day before. Had croissants and hot chocolate at Café Musee on Rue Turenne. It was fun to soak in the ambience. The streets were still quiet, but we did see some people walking and bicycling to work. Bicycles are extremely popular, and there are bicycle stalls all over where you can rent bikes and return them to other stalls. It’s a great system!

We then went to the Picasso Museum, which is a beautiful mansion filled with Picasso’s treasures. We stopped for a chocolate éclair for DH at a cute patisserie, then continued down Rue Vielle du Temple to a very narrow street called Rue Tesore. We then turned the corner onto Rue Rosiers, the narrow cobblestone street housing bookstores, jewelry stores, Judaica stores and delis (which were closed). I ate a falafel at L’as Du Falafel (read about it as being the best), and it really was delicious.

We then headed back to the hotel to get the girls, stopping at the corner boulangerie on Boulevard Beaumarchais for a fresh baguette and chocolate croissant. We picked up the girls at the hotel and walked diagonally across the street to the “Italian Style Café.” We were very hot because the sun was beating down on us, but we enjoyed a nice lunch of pasta with pink sauce, and salad with cantaloupe. We then took the Metro to Chatelet. We came up at Rue di Rivoli, and hit all the teen stores – H&M, Promod & Pimkie.

We then took the Metro a few stops to Tuileries, and headed to Chez Angelina. What a glorious stop for an afternoon gourmet treat! Their famous hot chocolate is definitely like drinking a liquid gourmet chocolate bar – so rich and thick and amazing! We wound up ordering too much, not realizing that each pitcher serves 2 people. Oh well… we “forced” ourselves to drink it ! We also ordered their other specialty – a chocolate spaghetti-looking dessert called a Mont Blanc. It was incredible!! Made of chocolate cream, whipped cream and meringue, it had just the right amount of sweetness (much less than you would think), and was absolutely heavenly!

After we ambled out of the restaurant, stopping to buy hot chocolate for home and some macarons (their other famous treat), we crossed the street to enter Tuileries Gardens. We walked through the carnival to get to the gardens, which contained a pond with childrens’ sailboats, beautiful flowers and several statues. At one end of the gardens is the Louvre, so we entered via a quiet side door around 4:45 p.m., and walked in with absolutely no wait!! We headed right to the Mona Lisa, and boy, was she surrounded by swarms of people! Still, we were able to get close enough to snap several pictures and to gaze at her and wonder what all the fuss is about, although it is kind of exciting to see just because she is so famous! We had a lot of fun taking pictures of Mona, Winged Victory, Venus de Milo, and posing in the same formation as several statues around the museum. To exit the museum, we walked through the glass pyramid which was very cool and brought back Da Vinci Code memories. We then took the Metro back to the hotel to rest and plan for the night and the next day.

We headed into the Marais to find a specific restaurant with a great review from the message boards, but when we found it (right off Place de Vosges) we weren’t thrilled with the menu. This began a half hour search of all the restaurants in the area, looking for ambience and onion soup! The girls were complaining about all the walking, but we had a place in mind – Tesore, which we had seen in the morning, had a great atmosphere, although no onion soup! By this time, the girls were just happy to sit down. The restaurant was very charming, with stone walls, red plush couches, etc., We had a seat that was indoors but right next to the open air patio. Definitely a great choice because DH and the girls concluded that their steak au poivre was the best of the trip so far! We left Tresore and walked to Crepe Suzette, an adorable tiny restaurant with only 3 or 4 tables inside. We had crepes for dessert – all were amazing! Major dietary action was needed after this day of culinary delights!! We walked back to the hotel, with more complaining by the girls to PLEASE take a taxi, but we were too close to the hotel, and we definitely needed to burn some calories!


DAY 11 – Another gorgeous, sunny day for our last day in the City of Lights! DH and I woke up at 8:15, and took a metro to Musee d’Orsay. On the way we realized we were on the line that stopped at Fauchon, so we had to stop and see what all the hype was about. I’m not even sure we saw the entire shop (I think there may have been one or two more shops around the corner), but we did see the most exquisite cakes and pastries, gourmet salads, spice room, jellies, wines, etc. DH got a caramel madeline, which he raved about for hours! Hopped back on the Metro for a stop or two and went to the Musee d’Orsay. This was our first encounter with a long line out front. We waited on line about 20 minutes to enter. DH proceeded to have his photo taken as Mona Lisa (with a cutout for his face). We loved it and thought it was hilarious! No one else seemed to be interested in posing as Mona!

The Orsay building and its architecture are gorgeous – they did an outstanding job transforming this former train station into a museum. We headed immediately to the 5th floor and the Impressionists. They were beautiful! Our first stop was the terrace which gave us a gorgeous view of Montmarte, Sacre Coeur, and the whole city. We saw Monets, Degas’, Manets, Van Goghs, and Whistler’s Mother. We couldn’t fully take our time and enjoy because we needed to get back to pick up the girls. We then started walking down Boulevard St. Germain which, from our books, we thought would be a quaint, charming street to stroll down. However, the area where we started was more like a wide boulevard in a big city, and we didn’t see anything much that caught our eye. By this point, it was approaching lunch time, so we headed back on the Metro to pick up the girls.

We made another stop at our favorite boulangerie to get the girls their morning French breakfast/snack of baguettes and chocolate croissants (picking up extra baguettes for the plane ride). Got the girls and walked directly across the street from the hotel to Santa Maria Pizza, a miniscule restaurant with about 4 tables. What a pleasant surprise! The food was wonderful – margarita pizza, spaghetti and cream sauce, salad with hearts of palm and corn – we loved it all!

After lunch, we took the metro to the Arc de Triomphe (entering via the underground sidewalk which is underneath the insane 8-lane traffic circle surrounding the Arc). It is surprising to get up close and see how huge it really is, and how ornately decorated the walls are. We took a bunch of “artistic” pictures (holding it up from the side, leaning against it, etc.). DD desperately wanted to climb to the top of the Arc but no one else wanted to – I had visions of getting to the middle and wanting to come down. So we passed, but later learned that there is a platform halfway up to take a break, and it would probably have been a spectacular view from the top. Next time…

We walked down the Champs Elysee for a short while to the George V metro stop and went to Ile St. Louis. We walked over the bridge to get there – our first bridge! We were disappointed to learn upon arriving that the Bertillon Ice Cream shop was closed until September, but quickly learned that every other restaurant on the street sold its ice cream. I got the world’s smallest scoop of chocolate, but it was definitely worth it – so rich and creamy!! The main street of Ile St. Louis is very cute, but not any more charming than all of the streets in the Marais – very narrow, cobblestoned streets with little shops and restaurants.

We then took the Metro to Galeries Lafayette, supposedly the largest department store in Europe with at least two or three separate buildings. The Metro stop comes up virtually inside the junior department of the store (how convenient for us!). The center of the store has the most beautiful domed stained glass/Tiffany ceiling, with stunning balconies on each level. It is completely elegant and old, unlike anything we have in the states and worth seeing! We took the Metro back to the hotel, packed and rested.

For dinner, we asked the front desk clerk for a recommendation, and she suggested L’Entrecote in the Bastille, which is probably two metro stops away. For our last night, we decided to cab over. The place was very local – we were the only tourists, which was awesome. The waitress didn’t speak English, so the owner took our order. The food was great and it was a fun way to end our Parisian experience. We decided to metro back because it was very close, so we walked a few blocks to the station. The neighborhood was hopping – tons of people in the cafes, walking the streets, etc. It reminded me of New York – it was a really neighborhood with few tourists, if any. Stopped at our last creperie! Back to hotel for our last night! (How sad!)

DAY 12 – Our taxi picked us up at about 9 a.m. for our 11:10 flight. The traffic to the airport was horrendous! Charles DeGaulle Airport was insane – the aisles are not wide enough for all of the travelers and their luggage carts so it becomes a mass of humanity! The all-day flight seemed a lot shorter than we had anticipated, and we arrived safely back in Miami at 3 p.m.

THE END TO A FABULOUS TRIP!!

If you have any questions, I would be happy to try to answer them. Happy travels!!!







keefmick is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 08:11 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 949
keefmick,

Thanks so much for your report! It brought back memories from our trip in May - it sounds like your girls had a great time...did they have a favorite between London and Paris?

Also, you mentioned Cafe Hugo as a cafe that you thought had the best onion soup - is this a cafe in the Place des Vosges?
Anna1013 is offline  
Old Sep 26th, 2007, 08:24 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 2,472
keefmick, you may have missed my most recent reply which was posting at around the same time as one of your installments, but our girls certainly enjoy the same shops. I've even found a few things for myself! Another favorite is Zara.

You and your husband worked out a great arrangement with your morning sighseeing and then meeting the girls. It's so great when they are old enough that you can split up. Ours are old enough now that they can navigate the transit systems themselves, so there are times when we split up partway through the day.

Thanks again for taking the time to write and post a report of your wonderful trip.
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