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kpilling Oct 11th, 2005 01:19 PM

Trip Report - London, Wales, Paris
Hello Fodorites,

Just got back Saturday from my first European vacation. I am still jet lagged but am getting better every hour.

We had a wonderful time and can't wait go go back. Thanks to all who offered advise, it really was so helpful.

Day one and two Friday and Saturday September 23rd and 24th 2005

Left Ontario, CA airport for Dallas/Fort Worth. Plane trip was uneventful - connection in DFW was a breeze and landed at Gatwick in London at 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning.

We were greeted with an immingration line that was 1 1/2 hours long. That was horrible as we were operating on 0 sleep and 8 hours off of our body clocks.

Eventually got to our hotel the Thistle Marble Arch - booked from Cost of 208.00 per night. The room was small, but quaint and very clean. It was around the corner form Hyde Park - so location was good. I was overwhelmed that I was actually in London, England. It was so cool to see the taxi's and red buses. Our first venture out was to find food. We stumbled upon a chain place called Pret A Manger - a nice sandwich place with lots of choice in baguette and other types of sandwiches. It is a really popular place in London. After lunch we walked through Hyde Park where we encountered a peace rally. There were some pictures of George Bush that were not very flattering. There was alot of Tony Blair/George Bush bashing - but it was a peaceful event.

We walked to Buckingham Palace and on to Harrod's Dept. store just to check out the food court. Wow! what am amazing display of beautiful food.

We were starting to wear down by this time, so we went back to the hotel, changed our clothes, and headed to our first pub. It was down the street from our hotel. I will get back to you on the name as it is eluding me at the moment. We had beer and wine outside (inside was a little to smokey) and marveled at the quaintness of the street we were sitting on. After, the beer and wine we headed for the Victoria a pub we found from fancyapint. What a cool place this was. The interior was beautiful with lots of gold and brass fixtures. We ordered a beer and wine and I had my first real British food - a fishfinger sandwich and some wonderful chips. After dinner we decided to call it an evening as we had now been awake for 33 hours.

Day 2 Sunday September 25

Woke up at 2:00 a.m. body clocks all screwed up. Layed in bed and talked for 3 hours before going back to sleep. Woke up at 9:30 a.m. and went out looking for the Big Bus tour. We bought tickets and boarded. What a fun time! Our guide was a frustated comedian named Paul Roberts - he made the sightseeing a real hoot!!

Of all the sights we saw I loved Big Ben and the Houses of Paliament the best.

We rode the hop on hop off bus all day. Getting on and off to see Tralfager Square, Piccadilly Circus, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey and St. Paul's Cathredal. We tried to have lunch at the Bag of Nails - but they had an hour wait for food. We went down the street to another pub that was owned by the same owner. We had fish and chips and Fullers beer. Later that afternoon we took a cruise on the Thames. The weather in London was around 70 degrees and sunny - it was a beautiful day for a cruise. Later than evening we had dinner at a chain pub called Weatherspoons. It was okay - had cheese and pickle sandwich and more chips. After dinner we walked over to the Tower of London for our reservation at the Ceremony of the Keys. That was really cool. Our guide dressed up like a Beefeater and we watched the ceremony of locking of the tower that has been a ritual for hundreds of years. Afterwards went to another Weatherspoons (by accident -didn't know it was another one until later) and my husband had more beer and I had a White Russian. Apparently the British do not seem to know how to make a White Russian or a coffee drink. (I know I should be drinking beer in the land of beer) but I felt like an alocholic coffee. We were encouraged to leave (drink up) at the 10:30 p.m. closing hour (way too early). We took a wild bus ride back to our hotel and went to bed.

I will continue with the rest of our adventure later .....

crefloors Oct 11th, 2005 02:18 PM

Your trip sounds wonderful. I felt the same way my first trip to London. I was sitting in a pub and just pinching myself to be sure it was real. I LOVE London and I'm glad you liked it too.

Travelnut Oct 11th, 2005 03:31 PM

kpilling, your London notes bring back my first trip, which also started in London... oooh, that jet lag was something else.

I would like to advise you that the guide you had at the Tower of London was not 'dressed up' as a Beefeater, he WAS a Beefeater, properly known as a Yeoman Warder. This is a position of high honor, earned by an exemplary career in the military.

I remember having that first delicious European-style coffee at a cafe called "le Dome".. do they still have those..?

crefloors Oct 11th, 2005 06:08 PM

Funny about the coffee. On my first trip I simply could not find a decent cup of was just horrible and then I took the tube down to Piccadilly Circus and was wandering about and there it was...Starbucks!!!! I know, I know..and when at home it's actually NOT my favorite..but I swear I was almost in tears with the joy of seeing that sign..I wanted to kiss the sidewalk in front of the door. Two lattes later, I was fine. LOL

Simone1 Oct 11th, 2005 07:09 PM

I am enjoying your report. I think you might also want to call it “my first European pub tour”.

Crefloors – too funny.

Travelnut Oct 12th, 2005 03:24 PM

CONTINUED (copied from a new post):

Author: kpilling
Date: 10/12/2005, 05:12 pm
Well Fodorites here goes:

Day 3 Monday, September 26 through Sunday October 2nd 2005.

Monday brought us to Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. What pagentry!! after which we went back and forth over which fish and chip eaterie that you all recommended would be best. Would it be Rock, Soul and Plaice or North Sea Fish and Chips. We settled on North Sea Fish and Chips. What a sweet little place. The atmosphere was quaint, and the fish and chips were top quality. My husband loved the chips, I like mine a little browner and crispier. We had a bottle of wine with lunch and then spent a little time talking with a couple from our own California before going window shopping. The shopping in London is amazing. We walked around Russell Square and found a Sainstbury market. There I bought my Davidstow cheese and some french wine. That cheese would be used for picnics on many occasions over the next few days. Later that evening we had dinner at the Victoria pub in Marble Arch. The cumberland sausages and chips were great. Of course we had more ale and this time the ale of choice was Leffe a Belgium ale. wow!! I loved this one - so spicy.

Tueday morning September 27th we caught the train from Euston station to Llandudno station for our trip to Northern Wales. The car rental company picked us up and off we went on the left side of the road (yikes). We had never done this before and it was a real adventure. My husband drove over many a curb!! The fact that it was raining didn't help much either. We drove to Betys-y-Coed to the Ty Gywn Hotel (thank you Annie for the suggestion). It was a wonderful hotel. We had a four poster, balcony and a jacuzzi tub. Our dinner at the hotel was great, the room so romantic. I had a pasta dish with some local cheeses and my husband had a mushroom strogonoff with rice and of course we shared a bottle of wine. After diiner we retreated to the cozy pub for a night cap. The next morning we drove over to Swallow Falls as we were on a mission. My husband's father passed away last year. He was born in England but his heart belonged to Northern Wales. So there in the pouring rain overlooking a huge waterfall we scattered him to the wind. It was a touching and beautiful moment. Afterwards we drove to Capel Curig for a picnic of Caenarferon Welsh cheese and the Davidstow along with bread and some florentine cookies all in front a a little lake - oh yes, we had wine also. We then headed for the little cottage we had rented in Llandullas. After a real effort we found the cottage. However, the keys that we were given seemed to need a special sequence to open the cottage doors. We feeling frustated drove down the road to the general store and there the shop keepers kindly called our caretaker and their daughter drove with us back to the cottage for assistance. They were unbelivably kind. Once we got in the room, what a suprise - beautiful views of the Irish Sea from every room. We cooked our own evening meals every night for the next 3 nights and ate our dinners in front of the cottage fireplace. We shopped for our groceries at the local market - what fun to check out all the foreign brands. We spent the next 3 days touring castles. We saw Conway, Caernarferon, and Beaumaris they were all beautiful. We got lost alot in Wales, as those round abouts are a nightmare. We did alot of back tracking. We ate british food like cheese and onion tarts, sausage roll, and a spinach, cheese and potato tart all yummy. On Saturday morning we reluctantly left Wales on the train and headed for our relatives home in Sutton Coldfield England. We had a picnic on the train of more wine, cheese and bread. My husband is a train nut so he was in heaven riding all those trains. I thought that the aisles were a bit narrow especially for the "too much" luggage that we had brought. We had a nice time at our relatives and we were taken to their local pub the Fox and Hounds for dinner of steak and salmon. The next morning we headed on the train back to London to position ourselves for our trip on the Eurostar Monday morning to Paris. We spend Sunday in London at Covent Garden shopping and watching the street scene. I had my first potato/meat pasty - it was great but how much more fried food could I eat! We had a drink in the Salisbury pub in Covent Garden and then headed back to our hotel. We made a bid on Pricline ($150.00)for the Russell Hotel. It was really nice. Our room was spacious and nicely decorated and had been recently redecorated. For 25.00 sterling we could have upgraded to a luxerious room. We declinded because we knew we would spend little time in the room our last evening in London. We had our last meal in the Victoria Pub in Marble Arch and it was packed. Sundays are apparently a popular night for pub goers. We ordered bangers and mash and fish and chips and of course more Leffe. The next morning off to Paris on the Eurostar. More to come....

Sorry I posted this originally on the U.S. site - jet lag is not quite gone!


Author: obxgirl
Date: 10/12/2005, 05:48 pm
Loving your trip report, especially your description of Wales. The part about your father in law was so moving.

Would you recommend the cottage to others, and if so, please consider posting how you found it!

Can't wait to read the next installment.

suze Oct 17th, 2005 03:50 PM


elaine Oct 18th, 2005 07:44 AM

continuation of this report is here;tid=34691217

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