Trip Report: London and Paris, Part 1

Old Jun 10th, 2002, 04:34 AM
  #1  
Beth
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Trip Report: London and Paris, Part 1

After having such a great time in Europe last year, my husband and I wanted to return again this summer -- but we only had one week's vacation. We decided to go back to Paris for a couple of days and then head over to London, where neither of us had visited since we were teenagers.

Paris was as wonderful as we had remembered it. We stayed in the Hotel Muguet, as we did last year, and enjoyed it again. It is very well located, the rooms are very pleasant and clean, although small by American standards, and the staff is helpful. Since we had beautful weather, we spent much of our time in Paris just walking and visiting parks and gardens. We stopped in the Rodin Museum, and while I wasn't that overwhelmed by the museum interior, the gardens are fantastic -- all of the roses were in full bloom. It is worth going to the Rodin Museum just to see the gardens.

A few tips on going to Versailles -- get there early! We went out on a Tuesday and arrived at 9 am (we also had gotten a one day museum pass for the day). We signed up for a 10 am guided tour, and then had an hour to see the State Apartments -- we literally were the only people in the Hall of Mirrors. I thought Versailles was fantastic, but I can see how you might not enjoy it as much if you were inside when it was crowded. I would highly recommend the guided tour -- especially if you're interested in French history.
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 04:40 AM
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Beth
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Trip Report: London and Paris, Part 2

We also went out to Chartres on this trip -- another great day trip from Paris. Two words of warning, however. We decided to climb up the bell tower before taking the Malcom Miller tour -- and it really wiped us out. I'm fairly young and in decent shape, but these stairs were a killer. I would advise doing the climb after the Malcom Miller tour -- our legs were so tired that we decided to opt out of Mr. Miller's tour, which I was sorry about. Also, everything in Chartres seems to close up around 2 pm -- it was difficult to find a place for a bite to eat in the mid afternoon. This probably is typical for small French towns, but new to us.

We also visited Monmarte and Sacre Couer. The area right around the Abesses metro and leading up to Sacre Couer is pretty junky and touristy. Sacre Couer is interesting to see close up, and the views are great. We then spent a couple of hours walking around Monmarte, which I really enjoyed. The further away you get from the church, the less touristy it is and very charming.
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 04:47 AM
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Beth
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Trip Report: London and Paris, Part 3

A few small observations and tips about Paris: we arrived via the Eurostar into Gare du Nord and wanted to take the Metro to our hotel. The lines for the metro ticket counters in Gare du Nord (and at all of the train stations) were really long. There are automated machines, but they only take coins. So, we just bought a bottle of water so that we could use the machine and not wait 1/2 hour in line. From then on, we bought the carnets so that we didn't have to worry about buying tickets all the time.

I know that there are pickpockets in Paris, but for the second straight year, I didn't observe anyone on the Metro, in the train stations, or in crowded tourist spots who seemed suspicious. Of course, I still wore a money belt! But, Paris to me is a very safe major city.

We departed Paris via the Eurostar -- if you're doing this, arrive at the station about an hour ahead of your train, especially on a weekend. You have to go through a security checkpoint to get back to the waiting area for the Eurostar. They start boarding about 20 minutes before departure.
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 06:02 AM
  #4  
trying
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Beth: Thx for the report. As far as not seeing anyone suspicious, I would grant you that, but we were amazed at the begging at Gare Du Nord. We went through Gare du Nord several times and each time we came across at least one gypsy-looking young woman with a baby. It was both sad and annoying. One must question whether it wouldn't be an easier living working a "normal" job.
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 06:13 AM
  #5  
C
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Hi Beth,
Thanks for your trip report.
To each his-or her!- own, but I'm sorry you didn't enjoy the Rodin museum. It does seem very "understated" until you learn about Rodin's affair with Camille and then the sculptures mean so much more. I'm not being insulting, that's just my experience or IMHO as they say on these boards.
What did you see/do in London?
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 06:38 AM
  #6  
Beth
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Trip Report: London and Paris, continued

As for the Rodin museum, it was a warm afternoon, quite hot inside, and very crowded. I probably did not give the interior exhibits enough time or energy - maybe I'll have to give it another try next time.

We arrived in London to absolutely pouring rain - thankfully had the rain gear handy. We stayed at the Aster House Hotel in S. Kensington -- a wonderful recommendation from these boards. Our room was lovely, the Tans, who manage Aster House, are very helpful, and the breakfast room was a great place to start each morning. Plus, we were just a 2 minute walk from the Tube. The area is filled with restaurants and a great pub is just down the street. We definitely plan to stay there again.

The first night we were there, we went to the Victoria and Albert, which is open until 10 pm on Wednesdays. I would recommend taking advantage of some of the late openings London museums have. A string quartet was playing, and we spent a few hours just wandering -- what a great museum. A highlight of London for me.

 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 06:41 AM
  #7  
Beth
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The rest of our time in London was filled with seeing places like the British Museum, Tower of London, and the Cabinet War Rooms. We did the Jack the Ripper Walk with Donald Rumbelow, which was fun, and did another London walk through the Little Venice part of the city. Also excellent -- I would really recommend the Original London Walks.

For the Tower of London, I would strongly suggest getting there early (at 9 am), seeing the crown jewels first, and then doing the guided tour and other things. Also, you can buy tickets to the Tower at the Tower Hill Tube stop.

London has quite a few special exhibits right now for the Jubilee -- the Queen's Galleries at Buckingham Palace have a fantastic exhibit on royal collecting through the centuries. I pre-ordered my tickets on the Internet.
 
Old Jun 10th, 2002, 07:03 AM
  #8  
Beth
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Trip Report: London and Paris, cont.

We found in London that it is easy to get overwhelmed by the quantity of museums -- we tried to pace ourselves by going to gardens like Kensington Gardens, doing window shopping, and going on walking tours. It is easy and safe to go on the tube at all hours -- it helps to have coins for the machines in the station -- there usually only is one machine in each station that takes bills and/or coins.

Oh -- and the day we arrived in London and had to get to the Eurostar, we took the train from Gatwick, changed at Clapham Junction, and went into Waterloo. It only cost 9# total. The way back, we took the Gatwick Express from Victoria, which was #22 total. Both were convenient and easy to figure out.

Our trip was great, thanks to everyone here for their advice. I'd be happy to answer any questions.
 
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