Whirlwind tour of London and Paris

Jul 2nd, 2014, 05:20 AM
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Whirlwind tour of London and Paris

This was the year to take our granddaughter to Europe. It was a present for her 13th birthday. We finally chose a date in June between school, sports, and camp, 9 days was all we could get. Considering 2 days travel time, a week was not long but enough to give her a taste of London & Paris.

We have been to Paris many times but London was new for us. A different way of traveling for us, we chose a tour instead of going on our own. Why a tour? 4 days in London and 3 days in Paris is certainly not enough and we wanted to maximize our time to see the highlights.

Globus offers a family tour with 1 day touring London, the Chunnel, and 1 day touring in Paris. the rest of the time is on your own unless you wish to sign up for extra tour sites. We chose it for the skip the line sites plus the fact that there would be other kids on the tour days, and we would have time on our own to explore.

So off we go!

Our British Air flight from Chicago to London was comfortable and noneventful---just what you want. Upon landing a Globus fellow was there with our name on a sign to take us to our hotel. An hour long, jerky ride in heavy traffic took us to the PARK PLAZA WESTMINSTER BRIDGE HOTEL.

A bit corporate, but a very nice surprise. Arranged by the tour we expected to be underwhelmed. This is an excellent property. Right across from Big Ben, The Parliment, & Westminster Abbey, and very close to The Eye, we were in a position to walk almost everywhere we wanted to go.

It was only 10am but our room was ready. New, modern and larger than we expected, it had a separate sitting room with a comfortable pull out sofa bed and it's own large TV. The big, again modern, bath separated this from our bedroom with a king bed and another large TV. Not that we planned on watching much TV but our GD liked it before bedtime.
We were to be there 4 nights ( 1 pre-tour and 3 included in tour price.) At $432US for the 1 pre-tour night we were totally happy with this property.

We went out for a walk & lunch. The weather was beautiful---is this gray, rainy London? The restaurants along the Southbank walk were all packed so we walked on. Found Bar One and had lunch. Fish & Chips, Steak sandwich, plus a shrimp starter & a bowl of edamame for our GD, it hit the spot at 38BPS.

After a nap we headed out for dinner. Seeing the weather was warm & clear again the Southbank restaurants were all full with lines waiting. After searching for about an hour we ended up at MacDonald's. We were starving and jet lagged and just wanted to eat. Big mistake, we should have gone back to the hotel restaurant. This was the worst McD's we've ever seen. Oh well, it was food and we needed to sleep.

Actually the whole Southbank experience was not impressive at all. Full of mediocre-crammed full restaurants, street entertainment you could see anywhere, and lots of bums, it was not a place we wanted to spend time.

That said, it was a good place to walk along the river to some of the sites without encountering traffic.

So that was day 1 in London. we were looking forward to the next day of famous sites before joining the group. I'll try to include websites and prices where I can.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 2nd, 2014, 05:42 AM
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I will love reading this! How many more grandchildren will hit the 13th birthday mark? What a wonderful thing to be able to do!
kansas is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2014, 01:27 PM
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Looking forward to more...it's been ages since I went to London. My first trip to London was combined with Paris (years ago). Still want to do both cities - Chaz would love London!
denisea is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2014, 04:12 PM
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Following along. Please also include your GD impression of things. We took my DS to London and Paris for the first time when he was 10 (it was our first time too) and it was interesting to compare his view with ours.
europeannovice is offline  
Jul 2nd, 2014, 04:59 PM
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I love your and denisea's trip reports. We did a whirlwind of London and want to go back now and take it at a slower pace plus spend more than an hour at Harrods. Did you do tea with GD?
flpab is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2014, 06:26 AM
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Kansas--just 1 more, her sister in 4 yrs. I hope we can do the same.

denisea--we enjoyed London more than we expected.

Website to view hotel

Day 2 and we were all well rested and ready to go.
A breakfast buffet was included with our room and I must say that it was one of the best we've had anywhere. A huge array of items, our GD claimed the scrambled eggs to be the best she'd ever had. We al loved the espresso-cappuccino-latte-hot chocolate machine that was available along with a good selection of teas and of course coffee poured at the table.

Another beautiful day--who says London has bad weather?
We crossed the bridge towards Big Ben and walked along the river bank through a beautiful small park. I had asked a lot of questions about the parks here on Fodors but this was the closest we got to one--time restraints.

Actually I asked a lot of questions and made a lot of notes then, as usual, glanced at the notes & put them aside and went from there.

Trafalgar Sq. was our 1st stop. There was some music "Happy" by Farrell which seemed appropriate. Our GD had to have photos with all the live statues---somehow a better looking group than we had encountered on Southbank.

She is a budding artist and wanted to see the "real" Sunflowers. Entering the National Gallery(free) at the Getty entrance, just to the right of the main entrance, was the way to go. A guide pointed us to the impressionist rooms close by. We saw some famous Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, etc. paintings that were memorable. It was a quick & easy way to see just what we were interested in.

Next was St. Martin's in the Field. There was a rehearsal going on so we couldn't go in the church. We went down to the crypt for a snack. Our GD of course had to take her photo standing on the gravestone with the skull & crossbones. Kind of creepy but interesting just the same. The buffet style food was fresh and better than expected with a large selection offered at a good price.

Next was Covent Garden. What fun! So many shops, restaurants, etc. We stayed quite a while. We heard an opera singer and wandered over to watch. Not what you would expect at all, here was a beautiful (20ish) young girl in trendy, ripped jeans and a cami singing her heart out. She was part of the opera school and I imagine she will be a star some day.
More street entertainment and our GD had to give all of them a few coins and take photos.

Across the Jubilee Bridge and through Jubilee Gardens back to the hotel. We were to meet the Globus group for a welcome dinner at the hotel.

As it turned out there were only 19 in our group. The dinner in Brasserie Joel was excellent---we're beginning to like this hotel more all the time. Chestnut soup or salmon starter, some of the best risotto I've eaten, followed by a chocolate or fruit dessert along with wine.

The weather was so beautiful that we took a walk after dinner across the bridge to Westminster Abbey. Our GD bought a black "I love London" sweatshirt form a vendor and we took lots of photos.

On the bridge were a few scary looking costumed cowboys wanting you to take a photo of them with you and then get money from you. The police had viewed them on the many cameras in London and were on them in minutes. I have to say that we felt safe anywhere we walked in London.

I'd love to add some photos but we just got a new computer system and I can't figure out how to do it yet. I used to use Kodak Gallery & Photobucket but I guess I have to find a new way.

Yikes, this is long. Hope it's not boring.

Tomorrow was to be our 1 tour day with the group in London.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 3rd, 2014, 07:36 AM
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flpab--no tea this time, bit it sounds like a great idea for next time. No Harrods either---good reason to return.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 3rd, 2014, 10:03 AM
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Glad to know someone else can't always get their photos loaded up.

Looking forward to more.
denisea is offline  
Jul 3rd, 2014, 05:16 PM
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I find you never can get to everything you have on your list. As long as you enjoy what you do.

You were lucky with the weather. Believe me it rains buckets in the UK. The last time we were in the UK was during the deluge of 2012 with a lot of flooding. We kept dashing in and out of downpours as we traveled up to York and Edinburgh. Plus recently the Southeast had massive flooding too. I hope they are drying out now.

Enjoying your report.
europeannovice is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 03:12 AM
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i love finding out what you "foreigners" think of London and the UK so I'm tagging along for the ride. Great start - lucky you to hit such nice weather though I have to say [and thank you for your concern, e/novice] that we have mostly dried out very nicely from the storms and floods of this winter [which far eclipsed those of 2012, BTW!].

As I write, London is still enjoying temperatures into the mid 20sC, but here in Cornwall we are taking a pause for a little rain before the sun returns tomorrow. But generally in the UK we are having a terrific summer.
annhig is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 03:35 AM
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Ann, just to be clead "op north" it's been miserable. Had the central heating on last week and we still point out that big yellow thing in the sky when it pops out.
bilboburgler is online now  
Jul 4th, 2014, 07:32 AM
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Day 3
Today was our tour day with the group. Not our usual way to travel, it was a nice way to see a lot in one day without standing in line at the attractions.

We got on our private double-decker bus and headed out. After a drive by several iconic land marks with good commentary by our guide the first stop was Millennium Bridge---after all, there were kids on this tour. Featured in Harry Potter films, the kids liked walking on it and taking lots of "selfies."

Then it was off to Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard. We had a good spot to watch. It's amazing that this goes on every day (weather permitting) with all the costumes, horses, bands, etc.

Next we had a pizza lunch. I don't know where but we each had our own and could choose the ingedients.

Back on the bus to the Tower of London. We had a talk and photos with a Beefeater and then 2 hrs. to explore on our own. It was very crowded but we managed. A big hit was the Crown Jewels, beautiful.

Then we got on a boat to The Eye. It was a hop-on, hop-off boat and not interesting at all. It was just a way to get to The Eye without getting on a bus in heavy traffic again.

We were very glad to again the "skip the lines" with the tour as the lines were very long. I'm not good with heights so I sat on the bench in the middle of the pod and looked out but not down. It was still gray out so the photos turned out kind of dull. It was a highlight for our GD though. After seeing it from many places we walked, she was happy to finally "Ride The Eye." It was very slow but the views of the city were amazing. I can only imagine that on a sunny day the photos would be beautiful.

Long day, we didn't return to the hotel until 6:30pm. We had an 8pm reservation at Skylon for dinner. Seeing that we were all tired, and with the gray weather the views wouldn't be good, we had to find a plan B.

MDH went down to Brasserie Joel in the hotel and talked to the host. I can't remember his name (he was Eastern European & Russian but sounded French)but he saved the day. He cancelled our reservation at Skylon and squeezed us in B. Joel, plus he held the early evening price fixe menu for us for an hour.

Our GD had trout, ff's, & profiterols(sp?)
MDH--poached egg salad, beef bourginion(again sp?) and fruit
I had goat cheese salad, beeg bourg. and profiterols
2 wines, lemonade, & coffee
99 BPS
It was all delicious and our server was excellent. He paid attention to our GD and helped her choose her items, adjusting the usual menu choices.

One more day in London tomorrow and it turned out to be our best.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 4th, 2014, 12:41 PM
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Ann, just to be clead "op north" it's been miserable. Had the central heating on last week and we still point out that big yellow thing in the sky when it pops out.>>

bilbo, apologies for being "Cornwall-centric". it's grim "up north" tha' knows.

TPAYT - nice to hear about your getting such good service from your hotel. I've only stayed in London hotels a handful of times and my experiences have been mixed. I'm pleased that yours was so good. [BTW, profiteroles, and bourguignon are the normally accepted spellings but I've seen many others!]
annhig is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 01:23 PM
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TPAYT, I am really enjoying following along as you explore London with your dear granddaughter. I have stayed at that hotel - rooms very commodious.

Did your GD enjoy interacting with the other kids on the tour? Were there many?
latedaytraveler is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 02:19 PM
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annhig---thanks for the spelling lesson. I should have looked them up but I was being lazy.

latedaytraveler---our tour group was small, only 19. there was 1 girl older(she looked totally bored) and 1 girl younger(she stayed mostly with her parents. There were 3 boys my GD's age and she sat with them on the back of the bus. They were laughing and telling jokes and seemed to get along well enough.
My friend was on the same tour a few days later & had 41 in their group so more kids. I'm glad our group was smaller. We didn't expect her to make good friends on this short trip. We just thought for the bus part of it at least it wouldn't be a bus full of seniors. It worked out well IMO.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 4th, 2014, 04:25 PM
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"There were 3 boys my GD's age and she sat with them on the back of the bus. They were laughing and telling jokes and seemed to get along well enough."

Good. I am sure that they had a grand time. No doubt, they had their devises.
latedaytraveler is offline  
Jul 4th, 2014, 11:56 PM
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Enjoying your report, was smiling at your description of your Covent Garden day. Memories for you which will last a lifetime.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Jul 5th, 2014, 07:12 AM
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Day 4
The warm, sunny weather has returned to London and were on our own today.

We had originally planned to go to Hampton Court but there was till so much to see in London. On to Plan B.

Shakespeare's Globe Theater and St. Paul's were our goal. Our GD had been studying Sh. in school so was interested. We tried to get there on day 2 but time ran out.

We walked down the Southbank to the theater only to be disappointed. It was closed for rehearsal. If I had read my notes I would have noticed that I put it on day 2 for that reason. Oh well, she took a lot of photos of the outside and we went in the shop for a few things.

Across the bridge we went to St. Paul's stopping along the way to buy some fresh sugared nuts--yummm!

We were amazed at the beauty of the interior of the cathedral.
MDH sat down and our GD and I headed up to the Whispering Gallery. She then talked me into going up to the top. OMG! What was I thinking. 538 steps up to the dome! Of course, she's 13 so it was an easy climb for her. Not so much for me. I was very slow on those spiral steps.

The view from the top was stunning. She laughed at me--as I said on The Eye--I'm not real big on heights so I was hugging the wall while she flew around taking photos. Then it was back to 538 steps down. Yikes! My knee hurt for 3 days after that and I didn't think I had knee trouble.

I was glad I did it though as she thought it was terrific.
Unfortunately, we hadn't informed MDH that we were going to the top. It took a long time and he was getting worried.

As it was getting late and we had early dinner reservations, we took a taxi back to the hotel, about 15BPS. I must add that everything was so close we never took the tube or public bus. We walked most of the time and took a few cabs at a reasonable cost.

We had 6pm dinner reservations at Hawksmoor Seven Dials before seeing "Matilda." We chose it for the proximity to the theater. Excellent choice I might add.

We had the nicest server, Richard. This is a steak restaurant and he explained our choices along with some suggestions for our GD and MDH, who is on a somewhat restricted diet.

The food was absolutely perfect.
Caesar salad
3 ribeye steaks
Potatoes & mushrooms
2 dessets, wine, lemonade, and coffee
I can totally recommend this restaurant(there are several locations) as we had delicious food and attentive service.

"Matilda" was one of the highlights of our whole trip. It was like the perfect storm--13 yr. old GD, warm summer evening, outstanding dinner, fantastic seats in the dress circle, and a great show that we all enjoyed. Coming out of the theater the streets were crowded, it was dark so all the signs were lit up. It was the experience you hope to have when you set up a trip---that ahhhh moment!

Even though it is children's play we enjoyed it tremendously.
There were enough adult sidebars and the actors were top notch. The kids were absolutely amazing. The theater is small so I would think all seats are good. We bought tickets a few months ago on the "See" ticket sight. The site will show you the view of the stage from the seat you choose, a nice perk.

So as our London visit was coming to an end we took a cab back and again walked on the Westminster Bridge. We were finally out late enough for it to be dark--11pm and we got some beautiful photos of the lit up Eye, Big Ben, riverbank, etc. All in all, we enjoyed London but didn't have enough time---reason to return.

Tomorrow we're off on The Chunnel to Paris.
TPAYT is online now  
Jul 5th, 2014, 08:13 AM
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Can't wait to hear about Paris. My niece and I considering a similar trip
hdswofford is offline  
Jul 5th, 2014, 08:19 AM
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London really is a great city-really need to get back there. but, you know I am waiting for my Paris fix, TPAYT!
denisea is offline  

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