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Planning first time trip for my sister - please help with plans!

Planning first time trip for my sister - please help with plans!

Oct 17th, 2007, 01:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 2,184
Planning first time trip for my sister - please help with plans!

Background: I recently moved to the Thames Valley and my favorite sister is coming to visit me for two weeks in November. Yeah! She hasn't travelled very much -- Hawaii, Disneyland - that's it. This is her first time out of the country but as I don't plan on going home any time soon this hopefully won't be her last! I've planned what I think is a great itinerary. I would love any suggestions that you have. Most of the things I have personally done before and loved and want to share with her. So, here goes:

Saturday -- Arrive 6 am at Heathrow. My husband and son will say hi -- then take her luggage back to our house while she and I tube into London
Meet HOHO bus at Victoria Station
Hop off at Tower of London
Then off to the Eye or Saint Paul's for a view of London
Home on Train
no dining plans - I am not sure of the timing and we'll just eat when we get hungry

Home Day
Thanksgiving Dinner

Spa Day to recover!

Train into London
Tea at the Savoy
Mary Poppins
Late Dinner after
Train back home

Open day
Day trip to Bath? Somewhere else
(Toddler in tow)

Drive to Stratford upon Avon for Christmas Tree Lighting
(Toddler in tow)

Train into London
Somerset House Ice Skating
Ghost Walk
Train Home

Early flight to Paris
Hotel: Sully St. Germain
Crepes on Saint Germain!
Explore the Latin Quarter, maybe follow Degas Walks
Tube to Tuillleries, walk the Champs
Bateaux Ride from Eiffel Tower
dinner (somewhere where we can see the tower, will search for rec's later)

Shopping/Exploring the Marais, another Degas Walk?
Lunch in Marais
Musee Rodin
Musee D'Orsay
Splurge Dinner (again, I haven't picked one yet -- will do a thorough search on this board, I promise!)

Walk to Notre Dame
Up the Steps to see the gargoyles!
Ste Chappelle
Lunch on Ile De la Cite
ice cream at Berthillion

Evening flight back to London

Drive to Lakes District
Hotel: The Punchbowl
Toddler in Tow


Drive home -- detour for Christmas Markets? York? Bath

Day of rest!
Another trip to the spa?

Flight home from Heathrow
I go home relieved to finally be alone with my husband and child -- for 10 minutes, and then I start planning our next trip together!

I know there are things missing. Here's my list of 2nd choices. If you see something here that must be put in the calendar -- let me know!

Westminster Abbey (I loved it -- but we are planning on St. Paul's and Notre Dame -- I don't want to load her up on too many churches)
Cabinet Rooms
Imperial War Museum
Changing of the Guard
Buckingham Palace
British Museum
National Gallery
Any market!

Sacre Couer

With London -- if we decide to, we can go into town earlier on Tuesday (before the play) or Friday (before the walk) and see more. I was just trying not to overdo it -- but now I worry that I am underdoing it!

With Paris -- our time is so limited that I don't know if I could squeeze anything else in. I think I could lose the Louvre if I had to -- but not the D'Orsay.

Last note: Christmas is very important to both of us and this will be our first Christmas without the whole family together -- so we want to stock up on the Spirit hile we can. Any suggestions? This is the last two weeks of November so we may be early, but we'll take what we can get. I read that there are Christmas Markets in different areas that we can try and visit. I also read that there are Carol Services at St. Paul's and Westminster but no dates. Any ideas?

Whew -- I guess that's it! It feels so good to have it all out. I also want to thank everyone on these boards -- I have read so many trip reports, questions, and answers! This is a very important trip, I know that I am putting a lot of pressure on it and myself, but I just want it to be perfect for her. Thanks, in advance, for any insight or suggestions you can provide.

BKP is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 04:07 PM
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topping for BKP

If you don't get replies you might repost mentioning London and Paris in your title, since that's more important, as far as getting input, than the fact that your sister's visiting, even though that's the most exciting part for you!
suze is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Why don't you allow your sister to decide on a few of the places she wants to visit? Put together some info and maybe even websites for her to look at on the Cabinet War Rooms, British Museum, etc., and see if she has any favorites?

You will probably find that you won't be able to accomplish everything on your list everyday. You should allow adequate time to just wander.
bettyk is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 05:05 PM
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In Paris, I don't think it's essential to walk the Champs Elysees unless you have your heart set on it. Yes, everyone has heard of it, but it is just a big street and if it was once charming, I don't think it is any more.
Nikki is online now  
Oct 17th, 2007, 05:17 PM
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Dittos to Nikki. The walk up the Champs isn't worth the long time it takes (boring).

Take the bus or metro up to the Arc. Then you can metro from to the Eiffel Tower area for your Seine cruise.
JeanneB is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 05:33 PM
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I wouldn't be able to handle your first day because of jet lag. I'd start with a spa day to refresh after the overnight flight!
Do be flexible regarding the weather. Check a day or two before and skip the London Eye if it's raining obviously.
We spent Thanksgiving in London in 2006 and it rained and rained and rained. I hope you have better weather!

I'd skip the Champs as well. L'arc would be a better choice. You could climb the steps to the top and enjoy the view.
highflyer is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 05:35 PM
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Oops forgot to add that I'd include the British museum and try to get tix for the king tut exhibition... it'll be over when we get there in April!
highflyer is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 05:56 PM
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Your overall itinerary is just fine - I agree - have you got input from your sister? or if not, is she happy w/ having everythinbg planned out?

My one big problem is your plan for your first Saturday. I would NEVER plan that sort of first day for her (or you for that matter). You say she has never traveled overseas - she is likely to be stressed and totally exhausted - and very excited too of course..

The blur of dragging her in to London would be too much IMHO. She won't yet have her sea legs. Why not a fairly quiet day in your home village/town, a nice pub lunch, maybe a drive through some pretty parts, dinner w/ the family, early to bed. And THEN throw her in the deep starting the next days after she has recovered at least a bit.
janisj is offline  
Oct 17th, 2007, 08:56 PM
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Hi BKP, I too immediately noticed the plans you have for the day your sister arrives. I am assuming she is flying in from the states?

If so if I were your sister I would want to go to your house, have some coffee, tea whatever and no doubt a bite to eat. I would want a good hot shower or bath and of course a change of clothes. I would want to take it easy the first day as janisj suggested. Just my thoughts. Do enjoy the time with your sister, it sounds like fun!
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:40 AM
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I agree that the first day is too much. Even if I didn't have a transatlantic flight to recover from I would want to see my sister's new house and home town asap, and just spend some time catching up on things, enjoying niece/nephew etc before starting the tours.
hetismij is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:43 AM
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Oops pressed the wron button..
I assume you will be in the UK for a while, so why not make the visit more relaxed, don't try to fit too much in, and leave her wanting more, so she wants to come again
hetismij is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 02:10 AM
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Thank you for looking this over. I agree, the first day is too much. I knew that even as I was typing it! I have read so many posts about what to do on our first day with jetlag -- the HOHO bus is usually the answer. But, as I think about it -- it also seemed to be used as a time killer until hotel rooms were ready. We don't have that issue. We can't completely switch Saturday with Sunday because of Thanksgiving dinner planned with friends that night, but maybe we can spread Saturday out over both days? My other idea was to leave Saturday's "plans" as they are but be ready to call it quits whenever she is done. We can always come back and do the Tower or St. Paul's another day if she isn't feeling up to it.
Thanks for your suggestions to skip walking the champs. I think we will skip it. I'll just have to go to Lauderee's other locations.
I sent her the itinerary before I posted here and she approved. She's been going through a lot, her daughter just started school, major surgery, and trying to find childcare for 2 weeks! Every time she starts thinking about the trip she gets hung up on the people she has asked to watch her children; another sister and the in-laws. As I type that I realize that this will be a pretty stressful trip and I definitely don't need to throw her in the deep end on her first day. Thank you all, for making me think through this a litte bit better. Back to the drawing board, I guess!
BKP is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 05:56 AM
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You are a good sister.

A few comments:

>Saturday -- Arrive 6 am at Heathrow. My husband and son will say hi -- then take her luggage back to our house while she and I tube into London....etc

Please. Have some pity. It is 07:00. She has been up for 20 hrs. She is jet lagged. She needs to wash up and change her clothes.

Is it easier and cheaper to fly to/from Paris than to take the Eurostar? I see RT fares in mid Nov for 59 GBP for adults.

>Tube to Tuillleries, walk the Champs

I suggest that you take the metro to the Arc de Triomphe and walk downhill to the Tuileries.

You might want to buy a daypass for www.batobus.com and see the tower in the evening.

Enjoy your visit with your sister.

ira is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 05:59 AM
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Even more reasons for an easy start.
I can see you wouldn't want two consecutive days at home but she might like a shower before hitting the town.
Do you have a local spa you could go to for a treatment in the afternoon maybe? I'm not sure I understand the spa day after Thanksgiving dinner...
highflyer is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 06:08 AM
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I personally would not go in to London at all that day. The advice for visitors staying in London to do the H-o-H-o bus are because 1) they may need to wait to check in, 2) are IN London and have to do something to fill the time while they recover.

Your case is entirely different - you have someplace comfortable to go, no waiting for a hotel room, are family w/ a lot to catch up on, etc. To drag her in to the city and then back before she even cleans up, sees your home -- I just wouldn't do it.

When I lived in the UK I initially was also really anxious to rush my visiting friends/family around to all the sites right off the get go. But I soon learned it was MUCH better to bring them home, relax, walk down to the pub, drive along the river that sort of thing.

You don't need to see/do everything. And if you take it easy on Saturday you can do the Sat. things on Monday. That is what I'd do instead of the spa day. Easy Sat, Thanksgiving dinner on Sunday, and then ready to run starting Monday.

In what area are you living (Thames Valley covers a lot of territory) Maybe there is something nearby you can visit Saturday afternoon if your just feel you must take her somewhere.

janisj is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 08:16 AM
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I stay with friends who live in Europe. The first day all I do is manage to get myself to them, and relax at their home. Maybe go out for dinner. I would *never* want to do any type of touring around on my first day... too stressful. Plus you want to have time to visit with your sister since you haven't seen her in awhile. That's more important than seeing every single tourist attraction in London imo.
suze is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 08:46 AM
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My thoughts: do check out the Eurostar vs. flying to Paris. The train will probably be an interesting new experience for your sister. And with getting to the airport early and getting into Paris from the airport, flying won't save much if any time. (I assume Heathrow is relatively close to your home.) But do get the Eurostar tickets ASAP.

Walking in the Lake District in November? Well, I'm all for exercise, but that time of year I'd pick something more urban, like York or Bath. York would probably be more interesting for your toddler.
Mimar is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 12:47 PM
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I think you'll have difficulty finding a proper carol service in November.

There's an advent carol service as Keble College, Oxford, which might be reachable for you as you're in the Thames Valley, on Sunday 25 November: http://www.keble.ox.ac.uk/alumni/eve...arol-service-1

And another at Christ Church (admission by ticket only): http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/index.php?o...ate=2007-11-01

Also: http://www.spc.ox.ac.uk/event/22/61/...l_service.html

Bath Christmas Market starts on Thursday 29 November: http://www.bathchristmasmarket.co.uk/
Winchester Christmas Market, which might be closer for you, depending where exactly you are, doesn't start until Friday 30 November. This magazine-sponsored fair in London 14-18 November might be a possibility: http://golondon.about.com/od/novembe...rylivingxm.htm
Nonconformist is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:10 PM
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Thank you all for your thoughtful suggestions. I am currently working on changing this itinerary. I'll just respond to a few suggestions -- Eurostar v. Plane. We already bought our tickets for the plane. I wanted to take the train (I thought she would dig the tunnel). But she said no way. Apparently flying in a steel tube 1000's of feet above the earth is more comfortable than travelling in one below water!
I know the timing doesn't make a lot of sense but I was trying to work around my husband's work schedule so that my sister and I could go into London by ourselves. I just told him he was going to have to take the time off because I was going to make us crazy if he didn't. Monday was the Spa day, not because we needed the trip after Thanksgiving, but because our spa has a creche and therefore that was something we could do without interfering with my husband's work.
We chose the Lakes District because my sister is more of a nature lover than a city lover. After spending so much time in big cities, I know she is going to need some fresh air. Hopefully all the mud that I am expecting to be there will be enough to occupy my son for the duration!
Noncomformist -- thank you for all the links. It's too bad that all the Colleges have their concerts on the same day. I know it is for Advent, but that's the weekend that we'll be in Paris. Have you been to the Bath Christmas Market? Did you enjoy it? We are planning on going to the one in Stratford -- do you think they will be very similar?
Thank you, Suze, janisj, et all, for helping me gain perspective. This is a trip for two sisters to get to see each other with some amazing cities in the background, not the other way around. Funny, just thinking about it in those terms makes me calmer. Thanks again.
BKP is offline  
Oct 18th, 2007, 01:47 PM
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OK - keep the spa day - we all need pampering

But puleeze re-think your Saturday. I've been there, done that with lots of visitors while I lived in the UK for 5 years. You'll be in London several other days so don't drag her there right off the plane. From all you say is going on in her life/stresses - let her unwind a bit before the major march through days and days of sites.
janisj is offline  

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