A Travellerspoint blog

London Day 2

A slowish start - out the door by 10:30 - no reason - just lethargy and of course social media demands of certain tourists! We caught a bus right outside the hotel door after figuring out that the shop 20 metres down the road sold the tickets. Five quid each for buses and trams all day (never saw any trams though!). We caught the bus to Trafalgar Square and went to wander down 'The Mall' (Pall Mall) when we saw a crowd gathered in front of what turned out to be the Household Cavalry's stables but now is their museum. There was no changing of the guard today at Buckingham Palace so we were lucky to stumble across this which was one troop coming from nearby Hyde Park quarters replacing the ones going back. Beautiful horses and dashing Calvary soldiers ! We then walked down to the palace itself through St James Park then walked back to the St James Cafe which was such a nice place to eat we returned later for a late lunch! We then walked around past Downing Street (blocked off) and over London Bridge and went on the London Eye. Ticked that box and then went back for a stroll past Parliament, through the grounds of Westminster School and then headed back to St James Park where we saw the pelicans (yes pelicans) being fed before lunch at the cafe. Somehow we then had the bright idea of going to Notting Hill. Anyway the bus trip through town Regent Street, Oxford Street, Edgeware Road etc took forever. We got there, walked around a few streets and then caught the tube back to Oxford Street to see Marks & Spencers. We then went on a wild goose chase looking for some luggage scales at what turned out to be an online store - so you could buy them but would have to wait a week to get them! We had some trouble then finding how to get back by bus (because the tube was so bloody expensive and we had bus tickets anyway). The bus system is so complicated it took us a while to figure out which street we needed to get onto to catch buses going in the right direction, but once that was sorted we were honky-dory. We got back to the hotel around 8pm, still incredulous at the number of after-work drinkers still milling around outside all the pubs - but believe it not there were still heaps of them still there when we went across the road to The Chamberlain Pub at 9pm - talk about a drinking culture! We had a reasonable meal there and retired for the night as we have an early start tomorrow, going on a full-day trip to the Cotswolds.

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London Day1

We left the hotel for Gare du Nord at 10:15 , having ordered minivan - to our disdain found out that they are priced differently than normal taxis - so it was 35 euros instead of about 15! To his credit the driver was quite apologetic about the charge but that didn't lessen the pain. We arrived to find heaps of people milling around outside the station because of a bomb scare (a wayward bag). That was cleared quite quickly though. We were glad we had left ourselves plenty of time because there were two passport checks (police & customs) and a bag security check. To be frank we were glad because we were just discussing how easy it would be to put a bag onto a European train and just bugger off - a major security weakness in our view. The train left on time at 11:15 and we soon found out that the 1.5 hour trip was actually 2.5 hours because we gained an hour! The train was not as smooth as the ones we experienced in Italy and France but the service was impeccable - attendants at all doors as we boarded and a really nice lunch served (with wine if desired) followed by tea and coffee. We arrived on time at St Pancras Station and got an Uber (driven by Faisal, a nice Pakistani from Dubai) to our hotel in Tower Hill. Our rooms are basic but comfortable enough - no fridge is a pain though. We also found that the Poms don't seem to readily accept euros - bloody typical! We found a Travelex and changed the euros we had but were left with about 15 euros in useless change... We decided to look at the local attractions but bypassed the Tower itself - 28 pounds seemed a total rip-off and visited the Tower Bridge. We all enjoyed this, it was informative and well-interesting and a journey through relatively-recent history. Patrick was still being troubled by his tum so we went to Boots the Chemist and spoke to a pharmacist who gave him some tablets and some advice about his diet over the next day or two. We wandered around the neighborhood a bit more and it has a nice vibe - heaps of eateries and a pub and just about every corner - all being well patronised by local office workers after work. We had a freshen up and had a meal at a restaurant across the road and the two dicky tums had soup and John a steak and ale pie. :-)

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Paris Day 2

All of us were feeling a little worse for wear today, Julie the worst, Patrick not great, John do-so. All of us had squirmy tummys and Julie more flu-like symptoms. Julie stayed in bed while Pat & John caught the Foxity hop-on hop-off bus (if you are in Paris don't pick this line) - again waited for close to half an hour instead of 20 minutes and twice stopped for 15 minutes in a journey of not much more than an hour. We did have some entertainment whilst we waited, the Police were giving a crew of female pick-pockets (presumably) a real going-over. They were not taking any crap from these girls and essentially body-searching them on the street before stripping ghem of various items and then sending them on their way all in different directions. They are everywhere - Romanian or other Eastern Europeans who look dodgy and try to engage you in conversation on what pretext I don't know because we avoid them or tell them to bugger off! We got off close to the Palais Royale and it was well-worth visiting. It's essentially a huge block with an inner courtyard of trees, columns, landscaped gardens and an enclosed stream. Originally called the Palais-Cardinal, the palace was the personal residence of Cardinal Richelieu. The Construction commenced in 1633 and was completed in 1639. Upon Richelieu's death in 1642 the palace became the property of the King and acquired the new name Palais-Royal. Louis Philippe II, who controlled the Palais-Royal from 1780 onward, decided to commercialise the residence by letting out the area under the colonnades to retailers and service-providers and in 1784, the gardens and surrounding structures of the Palais-Royal opened to the public as a shopping and entertainment complex. It still houses up-market stores today and is still open to the public. We then walked through the grounds of the nearby Louvre Museum before heading back to the hotel. In the late afternoon we coaxed Julie out of bed to go and do the laundry. This took us through a nearby Park named after Nelson Mandella and we had a light lunch at Starbucks while waiting for the laundry. It seems Parisians love to go out on Sunday afternoons and the parks and cafes were packed. It was sunny on and off and in the low 20s so quite comfortable. Back at the hotel Julie and Patrick were still feeling crook and John had a headache so it was quits for the day. Hopefully all feeling better tomorrow!

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Paris Day 4

Today was all about Versailles as we had been told it was a must-see. Julie and Patrick still had dicky tummys so John ventured out to see Notre Dame before we caught the bus to Versailles. We had requested 'skip the line' tickets when we purchased them yesterday but skip the line they were not. NOTE - avoid the booking offices 'France Tourisme' if you go to Paris as they are just glorified ticket offices and have no useful information to impart (find an 'Official office de Tourisme' office). We took the bus to Versailles at 11am but were just dropped at the normal gates to join the queues.
Today there were queues of up to 2.5 hours to see the chateau! We gave up after 30 minutes as we could see it was going to take at least two hours to gain entry so we decided to visit the gardens first. We had to pay 10 euros each extra (as it was a Tuesday) to see two fountains in operation and some Baroque music - that's a rip-off. These should be going every day! This place has been a visitor's attraction for over 150 years generating how many millions of dollars? So why are the gardens full of dozens of non-functional fountains? These were the heart of the garden - why aren't they all going all the time? Anyway that aside, the gardens were impressive - vast! Some 3500 acres so it takes a bit of getting around. We purchased tickets for a mini train to try and reduce the time and it did help. There are golf carts and bikes for hire but they aren't well promoted and hard to find. There are a couple of satellite buildings at the bottom of the gardens - for some reason our tickets did not give us access to one of these - another failure by the booking office to advise us. The chateau itself is another thing entirely - a total display of extravagance and obscene decadence. A must-see? Not in the view of us three. The Royal Palace in Amsterdam is just so much more tasteful and impressive. So we left feeling we had wasted a day in Paris and could have spent the time more effectively. C'est la vie! At 9:00 pm John decided to hire a bike from the stand across the road and cycle the 4kms down the road to Pont D'Alma to see the Eiffel Tower light show we had missed the night before. After he got back he had a meal in a pub around the corner whilst the other two munched on crackers in their hotel rooms :-)

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Paris Day 3

Despite still both having dicky tummys Julie and Patrick decided they could not waste a day in Paris so we ventured out around 10am to see what we could tick off. We purchased tickets to the Louvre and tickets to go to Versailles the day after. We decided to do the Eiffel Tour now and caught a taxi there. Arriving about 11am the queues were long but nothing like we had observed on Saturday when we went by in the bus. It took around an hour to queue and there were signs that said the top was closed. This was disappointing but it was more disappointing to find after being on the second level for half an hour or so that you could buy tickets there to go to the top, but by the time we found it we figured it was another hour to wait for tickets and then the lifts so we flagged it. We descended and walked through the Parc de Champ du Mars and then caught a taxi to the Louvre. The Louvre is phenomenal - you could easily spend a week there and not see everything! We took in Egyptian and Roman antiquities and French and Roman Art. In the process we saw both the Venus de Milo and Mona Lisa and wondered what the fuss was about for both. There were far more spectacular examples of both Roman statues and Italian Art than either of these (our uneducated views of course...). We then went to see the Palais Royale for Julie to see this and then walked back to the hotel which wasn't too far. After a brief rest we decided to do River Seine evening cruise and caught a tax to the Batteaux Mouches berth and bought tickets before we took in a bit more of Paris on both sides of the Seine before boarding the boat at 9:30. The views were amazing as Paris seems to be just as alive at night as during the day. Parisians make use of the promenades alongside the Seine to gather and eat and dance and play. The lit up buildings are fantastic and the Eiffel Tower is a treat. Unfortunately we were too far away when the lights were set to 'sparkle' so we will have to try and get closer tomorrow night around 10pm. Patrick and Julie's tummys seemed to be settling so we grabbed a quick bite at Maccas before returning to the hotel around 11:30pm.

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