Marla's London and Paris Trip Report

Oct 30th, 2001, 01:01 PM
  #1  
Marla
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Marla's London and Paris Trip Report

Another London/Paris trip report! If anyone has any questions, just ask.

DH and I left NW Arkansas, flew to Chicago and on to London Heathrow via American Airlines. The flight was good, mostly because we used FF miles to fly business class.

Arrived in London at 7 am, took the Heathrow Express (wonderful and very convenient) to Paddington station. Headed off to the hotel, near the Gloucester tube station, to dump our luggage.

We stayed at the Millennium Bailey's Hotel. Great hotel with an incredible location. Directly across a side street from the Gloucester tube station. Across another street were 3 pastry shops, a 24-hour grocery store and a host of restaurants. (Can you tell what was on my mind --- Food!)

I booked the hotel through Londontown.com for 60 pounds (not including VAT or breakfast). Great rate for a 4-star hotel. Also next door is the Millennium Gloucester Hotel.

Off to Saint Paul's Cathedral---
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 01:07 PM
  #2  
Marla
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Took a stroll through Saint Paul's, hitting the more interesting parts since we had visited before. We did, however, climb the 532 steps to the top! What a view! But, man did my legs hurt!

We meandered around Leicester Square, Piccdilly Circus, and ate a light dinner in Chinatown. Visited the internet place at Pepsi's Trocadero place to send messages to family members back home. Exhausted, we headed back to the hotel to recharge for tomorrow.

Next day --- off to the London Eye!
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 01:19 PM
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Marla
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This was by far our busiest sightseeing day. We visited the London Eye (lots of people wondering around, but no line for tickets or boarding at 10:30 in the morning). Security was tight at the Eye, with ALL bags checked thoroughly!

Back across the bridge to the Cabinet War Museum. Very interesting place if you're into WWII history.

Once outside, the day was beautiful and seeing how we're just across the street from the park, we strolled through the park enjoying the scenery. Circled around Buckingham Palace and saw even more highly visiable security types!

Enough strolling and historical sightseeing --- on to Harrod's for chocolates and goodies!

We managed to drag ourselves out of Harrod's in time for the 5:00 pm evensong at Saint Paul's. What a treat! And free!!! Because we arrived reasonably early, they let us sit in the choir loft area. The service lasted about an hour and was angelic. Just to hear those little boys voices echoing around in that huge cave-like space. (I have two little boys and they certainly don't sound like that when they sing!) Definitely a highlight of the trip and highly recommended. Saint Paul's has evensong Monday-Friday at 5:00pm. Although we didn't go there, Westminister Abbey has evensong every weeknight, except Wednesday, at 5:00pm.

Dinner that night was at a french place recommended by Rick Steves --- La Bouche' or something like that, near the South Kensington tube station.
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 01:30 PM
  #4  
Marla
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The next day was Thursday and we're off to Cambridge. No, not to see the University and college sights, but to the Duxford Air Museum. DH is a huge, HUGE, aviation buff, and Duxford was a dream come true.

We purchased train tickets at the Kings Cross train station, arrived one hour later in Cambridge, and took the free Duxford shuttle bus to the air museum 9 miles outside of Cambridge. Duxford was an air base for P-51's during WWII. DH was like a kid in a candy store --- this is Britain's largest aviation museum and they have one of almost every British plane known to mankind! In addition, many of the planes are flyable and fly regularly for the public to see. While we were there, they were flying 2 Spitfires and a Blenheim bomber.

Part of the Duxford Air Museum includes the American Aviation Museum. At the American Museum, we researched information for DH's uncle who was a B-17 navigator during WWII and based about 20 miles from Duxford. We found several references to his bomber group, the 447th, but not his 710 squadron.

On to the American Military Cemetary and to visit Frank's grave---
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 01:37 PM
  #5  
mike
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Thanks Marla for the report. Tell me more about the grocery store at Glouster Rd. tube station. What types of food do they have and what are the prices like. Good selection of coffee?, cooked chickens/entrees?, prices?, wines? I'll be staying at an apt. at Gl. Rd. stop in Jan. Thanks much. M.
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 01:43 PM
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Marla
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We headed back into Cambridge, stopped at a local flower store and purchased a bouquet of flowers for the American Cemetary. Hopped on the Hop on/Hop off tour bus and slowly headed to the American Cemetary 3 miles outside Cambridge.

What an experience! It was 4:30 and the cemetary was empty. Nothing but 3,300 white crosses, beautiful green fields, trees decked out in their fall colors, a stunning chapel, and an American flag!

I should probably explain that visiting the cemetary was a late addition to our London trip plans. When we told DH's uncle we were going to Duxford, he became very emotional and said "Would you go by and visit Frank for me? We left him over there." Evidently, Frank was a gunner on Uncle Bill's B-17 and was killed on a bombing run to Berlin. Uncle Bill, still remembered the day, 8/24/44, that his buddy died. He asked us to visit the grave.

The supertindent at the cemetary was very helpful, wanted to know if we were next of kin, and gave us the directions to Frank's grave. DH and I placed the flowers on his grave, said a prayer for him and all American's protecting our country, and took many photos and videos for Uncle Bill. Needless to say, it was a very emotional experience!

On the way out of the cemetary, even though it was closing time, the supertindent volunteered to give us a tour of the chapel. He explained the significance of items in the chapel and directed us to the wall with the names of more than 5,000 MIA's that never came home. Included on the wall were Big Band member Glenn Miller, and Joe Kennedy, (older brother of President JFK).

Back to London ---
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 05:46 PM
  #7  
cdf
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Marla, that was great! Keep writing! It is so nice to be taking your trip with you through your report and the visit to Franks grave was very touching, and the little boys voices was very familiar, why is it our own little boys never sound like that? Waiting to hear more~C
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 06:33 PM
  #8  
Marla
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Mike, I think you'll be pleased with the grocery selection near the Gloucester tube station. In addition to the 24-hour grocery store, there is another more full-service "supermarket" type store adjacent to the tube station. It's in a small mall. The prices were slightly higher than NW Arkansas, but seemed reasonable. Both store had deli areas, bakeries, produce, etc.

Back to London---
Our last full day in the city was spent wandering around. We headed off to Portobello Road and we were disappointed. I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't that. If you're in the mood to dig for bargins, I'm sure there are some in there somewhere! However, I didn't find anything that struck my fancy! It was a hodge-podge mix of expensive antiques and 1950's junk. Just not my taste

We visited the British Library. Another great FREE thing to do! We saw the Gutenberg Bible, Magna Carta, and the original handwritten lyrics to several Beatles hits!

From the Library, DH and I headed to Hamley's --- London's largest toy store--- What a nightmare! It was crowded and loud--- I can't even imagine what this place would be like at Christmas time! Yuck! But, we had to come home with sufficient "treats" for our two young boys, so there we were pushing and shoving with the best of them. One good thing, Hamley's did have a fine public bathroom and it was free!

Our last lunch in London was traditional fish and chips somewhere back behind Hamley's! Yummmmmm! From there we headed to the afternoon showing of Mamma Mia. What a show! We laughed until we cried! What more can I say ---I highly recommend the show!

After the show, we had the only uncomfortable security experience during the whole trip. When Mamma Mia was over, an announcement was made, saying "Your attention please, we have a security alert outside the building and you will not be allowed to leave the building. Please return to your seat." Hummmmmm --- what's going on? No one knew! We were allowed to leave the building after about 15 minutes. Upon exiting the building, the streets surrounding the theatre were empty except for policemen and men in suits talking into their wrists! I don't know where the people were who were coming in for the next show, but evidently the police had moved them away from the area. DH and I quickly took off walking away from the area. While walking we saw many more police and 2 fire trucks cruising the area. Never did find out what happened.

Off to Paris tomorrow----
 
Oct 30th, 2001, 06:52 PM
  #9  
Boomerbabe
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Marla,
What a nice, fun trip report!
Thank you for sharing your London with us.
Looking forward to Paris . . . . .
 
Oct 31st, 2001, 04:18 PM
  #10  
mike
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Thanks for the feedback on groceries Marla. Sounds great. Looking forward to your Paris report. M.
 
Oct 31st, 2001, 05:22 PM
  #11  
Stephanie
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Marla: I am leaving for London with my son in a little over 2 weeks, and your report could not have come at a better time! I have tickets to Mama Mia, and now I just cannot wait!!! Looking forward to reading more.....
 
Nov 1st, 2001, 10:32 AM
  #12  
Marla
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Ok, I'm back and ready to move on to Paris!

I purchased Eurostar tickets directly from the Eurostar folks in London via telephone. Received the tickets via mail about 2-3 weeks later. We purchased a roundtrip ticket leaving early Saturday morning and returning Sunday morning. The roundtrip tickets were significantly cheaper than the one-way tickets. We destroyed the unused Sunday ticket.

Took a cap to the Waterloo station at 5:30 AM --- didn't want to schlep through the underground station with luggage OR take a chance on the underground being late. Eurostar was easy and comfortable --- just like in a previous visit 3 years ago. Read for a bit, and fell asleep listening to the rain on the roof. Completely missed the "chunnel" portion of the trip! Dang it! Oh well, at least I had done this part of the trip before!!!

Arrived in Paris to pouring down rain at 10:30. Purchased metro tickets through the english-friendly machines downstairs, but elected to take a taxi to our hotel because of the rain. The cab ride for 2 from Gard du Nord to the rue Cler district was about 90 francs. Definitely a good use of our money --- the french people didn't need to see DH and I mumbling cuss words under our breath in the rain, trying to find the hotel.

We don't speak any French other than the polite words (please, thank you, good day, etc.) One thing that helped tremendously with the taxi driver/hotel location thing --- I had printed off a map of the hotel location with the hotel name and address and handed that to the taxi driver. He spoke no english, but understood where we wanted to go and how to get there.

Stayed at the 2** Hotel Valadon just a street away from rue Cler. Great location, nice 12-room hotel AND our room was ready at 11:00 in the morning. Great room --- recently remodeled, small but well-appointed bathroom, and a couch/daybed type thing to set on instead of the bed. We paid approximately 650 FF for a double with breakfast. Breakfast was ok, a crossiant and roll with butter and jam, hot tea and coffee.

Luggage was dumped in the room and off to see Paris! We headed to Notre Dame in the pouring down rain. Although we had visited Notre Dame before, we didn't have a camera. So back we went. Although the place was crowded, it was still quite an experience to just sit and appreciate the building and what the French had accomplished in 1163.

We wondered around the city, and headed off to meet Elvira and Sandy for drinks!
 
Nov 1st, 2001, 10:58 AM
  #13  
Marla
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We had arranged to meet with Sandy C and Elvira at L'Ecluse along the Seine. DH was a bit leery of meeting strangers that I had conversed with via the www, but went along willingly!

We strolled up the street, found the restaurant, and saw this incredible-looking woman, sitting at a table for 4 with her glass of wine and her FODORS pin. Yessirreee --- none other than the Elvira that we've all read about. Sandy showed up a tad bit later and we had a wonderful time. Visiting, drinking, and picking Elvira's brain about France and her many travels! If you have the chance to meet other Fodorites while traveling, do it! We all have a love of travel and have a lot of information to share!

OK, on to Sunday, because of the Paris museum strike, we couldn't visit the Louvre --- one of DH's favorite places. So, we stolled under the Eiffel Tower, looked at all the tourist bus crowds and decided we would come back later at dusk! Walked down the Champs Elysee', shopped along the Seine for an acrylic painting of Notre Dame, lunched somewhere around the Saint Michel metro stop, and headed to the catacombs.

DH had his heart set on two things --- the Louvre and the catacombs! Well, the Louvre was closed during our entire visit, but the catacombs were open. What a sight to see---- more bones than you can imagine--- a dog's dream come true!!! Interesting, but it would have been nice to read french and know more about what we were looking at.

Headed back to Hotel Valadon, dumped our purchases and moved on to the Eiffel Tower. We had not been up the tower at night before. It was great!!! It always amazes me, just how BIG that tower really is. Pictures will never do it justice!

Headed back to rue Cler and discovered the crepe stand on the corner. Oooo La La! DH had a ham, cheese and mushroom crepe for less than $3.00. I went the dessert route and chose, Nutella and nuts! Yummmmmm!
 
Nov 1st, 2001, 11:27 AM
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Marla
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Another early morning heading off for a day trip to the Normandy D-Day beaches. We headed to the train station, purchased our tickets and watched the French Army guys patrol the station with their loaded M-16's chained to their body. Yikes!!! Wouldn't want to make them mad! The train ride was 2.5 hours long, but a great way to see the French countryside.

We arrived at Bayeux and checked in at Hotel de la Gare for our 4-hour tour of the beaches. I had emailed Jean-Marc Bacon and made reservations for the Normandy DDay tour before we left home. We were early, so we headed off to see what we could of Bayeux. The cathedral was beautiful and we enjoyed grabbing a fromage and jambon sandwich and watching the people.

Time for our D-Day tour--- our guide was Samuel and he spoke very good english. We had one other American on our tour and a Brit. In 5 hours, we visited the museum at Arromanches (sp?), saw the remains of the manmade harbor, Pont du Lac bunkers, saw German pill boxes, visited Omaha Beach, and the American Cemetary.

Wow, where do I start??? So little time and SO much history! Seeing Omaha Beach was one of those WOW moments --- looking at the cliffs that the American Rangers were trying to scale that day --- it really makes you think. Only 90 of the 250 Rangers survived the ordeal. I don't know if I could have been so brave, believing in the "cause" enough to give up my life.

The American Cemetary, it was lightly raining and misty looking. Very fitting for the setting, I thought. The thoughts that go through your mind --- standing there looking at 9,387 crosses. Thinking of the circumstances that each of these poor people went through for their country and our freedom.

We did have one of those "you're kidding --- send chills up your spine" kind of experiences at the cemetary. If you've been following along on my trip, you will recall that we visited the American Cemetary in Britain and placed flowers on the grave of a gunner from our Uncle Bill's B-17. He was in the 447th bomber group in the 710th squadron based in Britain.

DH and I are walking through the cemetary in Normandy, just looking at the names and states on each tombstone cross, when I stopped by one that said "710th squadron, 447 bomber group". Another sargent from Uncle Bill's unit! We couldn't believe it ---what are the odds of us stopping at one of the 9,387 crosses and it being someone that flew with Uncle Bill. Personally, I think it's one of those happenings that God makes happen! We didn't have any flowers for this grave, but took pictures to send to Uncle Bill.

Back to Bayeux and the 2.5 hour train ride home. We were exhausted, so were visited the crepe stand for dinner again!
 
Nov 1st, 2001, 12:30 PM
  #15  
Diane
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Wonderful reports, Marla. We plan to do a London/Paris report in April. I'd forgotten about the cheaper RT than one way Chunnel tickets. Thanks for the reminder!
 
Jan 6th, 2002, 08:24 PM
  #16  
MaryC
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Just had to top a wonderful trip report. Thank you, Marla. : )
 
May 17th, 2002, 05:34 AM
  #17  
Lynn
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Marla - I had to bump this. What a great report. As my husband and I are contemplating a very similar itinerary later this year, it was extremely helpful.
 
May 17th, 2002, 05:44 AM
  #18  
Lisa
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Marla,

What a great report! Keep 'em coming!

When you took the train from Paris to Bayeux, did you purchase tickets ahead of time or did you just get them there on the day of? If ahead, how? And do you think it was necessary?

I am taking the same train in June and want to plan ahead.

Thanks!

Lisa
 
May 17th, 2002, 10:48 AM
  #19  
Doug
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To the top for Lisa.
 
May 17th, 2002, 11:42 AM
  #20  
Marla
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Lisa, I researched the train schedule on the internet and printed off the schedule. When we arrived at the train station, the ticket agent didn't speak much english, so the printed schedule was very helpful. She understood what we wanted, we paid, and we were off! The train wasn't full, so I don't think reservations were necessary.

I think it IS possible to reserve your tickets on the french train website, and using a confirmation code, claim your tickets at a machine. The machine was broke the day we were there. Good luck and have fun! Marla
 

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