Wednesday, June 29, 2016

London

On the last leg of our whirlwind adventure, we journeyed to London. Like I said, the train to get there was a fiasco and if there is another train line besides Eurostar, I would highly recommend you try it.

The apartments we procured were exceptionally clean and well appointed, though they did take a bit more of our budget than I liked. That seemed to be the norm in London however. The tube was much more expensive than the metro in either Paris or Rome. We bought the Oyster card, which you could reload if you needed to. I needed three passes and I put 25 pounds on each. I got a very small amount back at the end of our three days there.

On our first morning, we ventured out to the nearby Borough Market to get some breakfast food for the next couple of days. It had all the charm an open market should have and I enjoyed our leisurely stroll from stand to stand. After a late breakfast, we headed out to the London Eye. The weather was overly wet, even for London. Many of the tube stations were closed due to flooding. (Peter had come up with a great way to see the sights...for him. For me, my arms and back are still feeling the effects. He would walk for the first little bit and then request to be carried. Then, he would fall asleep while we waited in line for tickets, waking only when the fun began.) He was disappointed at the slow speed at which the London Eye went around, when he awoke mid-ride. We had planned to make the British Museum our next stop, but the weather was not cooperating. We would have about a 20 minute walk in the heavy rain. So, we stepped inside a store out of the downpour to make a new plan. We could see Hamley's Toy Store without such a long walk. Of course the kids were most happy with the change in plan. After thoroughly exploring every nook and cranny of the toy store, we headed to Chinatown to find dinner. My sister's family is vegetarian and they are more adventurous in their cuisine, so my family went to a more traditional style restaurant and we met back outside to find a street band playing "Hit the Road Jack". It went on for at least 10 minutes and everyone who passed by could not help doing a little jig. We then walked toward the theatre district and were paused by a street magician. He was quite entertaining. Then Jack turned to see that a theatre across the street actually had on display the Ecto 1 from the new Ghostbusters movie. He just finished building a Lego model of the original one, so he was thrilled to see this one.

The second day, we decided our legs needed a break and got on the Hop on-Hop off tour bus. We hopped off at the Tower of London and toured there. We hopped back on and rode until we needed to head to the train station for our Harry Potter Tour. My niece is a huge Harry Potter fan. So is Olivia. Anna has read only the first book so far. (When the older girls read these books, they were just being released, so they grew up along with Harry. They read the first book around age 11 and the last when they were 16 or 17.) I am making Anna read them the same way, much to her chagrin. The tour was interesting in the fact that I had no idea how much work it takes to make a movie and this really showed how they made every little prop and set. On our train home, it broke down just outside the station and we sat there for quite a little bit waiting for it to be repaired.

The last day, we packed up our bags and headed back to the Borough Market for breakfast. I really wanted to sit down to a nice breakfast since most of meals the whole trip were on the go between sites. The place I chose did not disappoint. It was the best food I have had in a long, long time. The table was situated on a balcony overlooking the market. Perfect. We then finally made it to the British Museum so that Anna could see the Egyptian exhibit. We also saw the Rosetta Stone. The clock and watch room was amazing too. Not wanting another fiasco when travelling, I gave myself plenty of time to get to the airport. Turns out I needn't have worried. Our flight was delayed and we ended up sitting in an airport restaurant for nearly three hours. When we finally saw that our plane was boarding, I paid the bill and headed for the gate, which was yet another train ride. I got in line and went to get our tickets and passports, only the tickets were missing! I checked every bag, beginning to panic. The woman behind me suggested I step up to the counter and let them know so they could be looking it up. There were my tickets, sitting on the counter! The waiter had found them and then had them sent to the gate. If only I could thank him! When I stepped through the door in the airport to see Tony waiting there for us, the relief that our journey was over filled my heart. Truly, truly, there is no place like home!

view from the apartment


view from the London Eye

a dizzying view

not enjoying the view


"It is not going fast enough"


Hit the road, Jack

obligatory photo of phone booth








cousins at the Tower of London











Car from Harry Potter...who is driving this thing?








How we all felt by the end of the trip

Monday, June 27, 2016

Paris

With our backpacks repacked for the next leg of our adventure, I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to make sure we were ready. We walked from our house down to the train station, stopping at the bakery for breakfast. Tony was able to join us just for the day, but I am so glad he was with us for even a short time. Upon arriving, we navigated to our flat, waited for the owners and checked in. It was in a very old building, the wooden steps creaked and groaned under our feet as we climbed to the third floor. It was definitely a quaint flat, harkening back to a much earlier era. We then headed out to meet my sister and her family at the Louvre. We said goodbye to Tony and went to find dinner and strolled past the Eiffel Tower. Then back to the flat to get some sleep.

Our second day started out a little rough. I could not get the wifi to work, nor would my phone work. I decided to shower and try to not stress. I went to plug in the hair dryer that was at the flat, only to discover there were no outlets in the bathroom. None. So I blindly dried my hair in the hallway. I walked down the street to the small grocery store to get some breakfast food and juice. I put some bread in the toaster and walked into the bedroom to start getting the kids up and moving. Therese wanders in about then and tells me the water is boiling for my coffee. Only I didn't put water on to boil. I walked out to find smoke pouring out of the toaster! We opened all the windows to air out the flat and hoped that this was not an omen of how the rest of the day would go! We started out at St. Chapelle, then Notre Dame, and then the Orsay Museum. After some food, we went to the Luxembourg Gardens, stopped in at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore, and finally made our way to the Eiffel Tower. To say that I was exhausted is a gross understatement! This day also coincided with the Northern Ireland soccer team making it into the final round for the first time in 34 years. They were quite a lively bunch. I had been worried about possible problems with all the sports fans there, and as we got on the subway that night, I was questioning out loud if we were on the correct platform. The Irish fans not only made sure we made it back to the flat, but serenaded us all the way there and gave the children their flashing headbands to boot.

Our last day in Paris, I got us packed and ready to check out. We dropped off our luggage at the management company of my sister's flat and then walked to the Sacre Cour, which was only a five minute walk from our own flat. While I walked back to turn in the keys, Olivia stayed there to let the kids ride a carousel. We stopped at a pub for lunch, strolled to the Moulin Rouge, and then found a playground to give us all a rest before heading to the train station. There was a debacle getting on our train, and all I will say is that Eurostar has terrible customer service.

Now for the photographs....

Anna has been reading the Percy Jackson series and recognized all these statues. I did not.


This man painting in the Louvre is exactly how I pictured Paris to be.


She actually napped here for about 15 minutes.

So did she.


Our first glimpse! Notice the soccer ball underneath. The World Cup thing was happening while we were in Paris.









The start of day 2.
















view from the first level of the Eiffel Tower. Only Jack and Olivia were brave enough to go all the way to the top.

Day 3