England & Paris 2005

AIRLINE: Air Canada
HOTEL: 3 nights at Hotel Clos Medicis, 3 nights at Novotel Mississauga

REVIEW

The reason we took this trip was to attend 2 weddings. His cousin, Becky, was marrying her sweetie June 4 & childhood friend, Mark, was set to marry his hunny the following weekend. The weddings were planned over a year in advance, so Nick & I had plenty of time to wait and plan our trip.

It’s May 26, 2005, the day after my 26th birthday. Our bags are packed, it’s cold and rainy, and we’re ready to leave for Boston! On the way to the airport, we drop our dog Kali off at Best Friend’s pet resort for a 2 week stay. We’ll dearly miss our gal. There’s no traffic on the highways as we head into Boston, so we make it to the extended stay parking lot within an hour. Our luggage is loaded onto the bus, and Nick & I settle in our seats for the drive to Logan International Airport.

Mark, Nick’s friend from Canada, hooks us up with a first-class upgrade on our Air Canada flight from Boston to Toronto. The flight is uneventful with the exception of the near-miss crash landing on the runway in Toronto. Luckily, our pilot aborts landing just before we touch down. We circle around the airport for another approach and safely land. We meet up with Nick’s parents in the airport and board our flight to London. This leg of our trip is horrible. It was a full flight so our meal service and drink service takes forever! In addition, this Air Canada aircraft does not have personal air vents above the seats. I am miserably hot the entire flight. I, of course, did not sleep a wink. Luckily, I am able to erase the sound of crying babies by putting on earphones and watching Ocean’s 12.

May 27: We arrive in London around 6am & Heathrow is a mad-house. Getting through immigration and baggage claim takes us over an hour! We board the rental car shuttle and head over to the off-site rental car lot. Each of us has 1 large Pullman and 1 carryon sized bag so finding a car that fits 4 adults and 8 bags proves troublesome. In addition, we try to find a car with minimal damage. The attendant explains that most renters bring back cars with dents, scratches and dings. Uh oh!

We finally succeed and we’re off on the motorway with Nick’s dad at the wheel. He’s a little rusty driving on British roads, but we arrive in London safe and sound.

Nick’s mom, Barbara, is a real estate agent & one of her *wealthy* clients allows us to stay in her ‘little’ flat in Knightsbridge. Well, of course, the flat is not little nor is it shabby! Her flat is a million dollar pad on a gated street. Rolls, Range Rovers, and other pricy and exotic cars line this elite street. The flat boasts 3 bedrooms, 4 baths and plentiful other amenities a standard hotel would not have offered. We are definitely hooked up!

After picking up our jaws from the floor, we change and head out to have a bite to eat. We hit up a pub to have some yummy greasy food. I opt for a huge burger with chips since I feel a little lightheaded after a long night of travel. The meal is just what I needed to pep me up for a walk down to Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly, the temperature sores into the 80s and it’s quite hot and sticky. We snap photos of the Queen’s digs and continue walking. We buy tickets for the Big Bus tour so we can rest our weary feet after walking, what seems, miles and miles. This tour is amazing! You get a great bird’s eye view of all the sites in London. It’s a fabulous introduction to this amazing city! We purchase a two day pass so we can continue our tour tomorrow.

After hitting up a local market for bread, milk, and other necessary items we head home to nap until 8:30pm. We awake with a hankering for Indian food. So, we quickly dress and walk to a nearby Indian restaurant called Haandi. The Vindaloo, samosas, and Tikka Masala are excellent! We all agree that we MUST return to this restaurant before returning to the USA. We hit the sack around 1:20am that night. 

MAY 28: Nick wakes me up at 8:30am (we sleep in different rooms since the only large bed is in the master bedroom. Nick and I have to sleep on a twin sized bunk bed. Ahhhh, to be a kid again). After a breakfast of toast, we head out for another day of sightseeing in London. Blue skies greet us but it is windy and brisk. After a little confusion, we find the nearest bus stop for the Big Bus blue line at Hyde Park. This line is not live, so we settle back and plug into the audio commentary. It is a bit chilly sitting on the top today, especially in the shade of tall buildings and trees. We get off at the end of the blue line and wait in line for the red line- it takes us to Westminster. The Westminster is packed with visitors. Note to self: don’t recommend going on a Saturday! After following the masses around the Abbey, we decide to visit the Tower of London (we only see the Crown Jewels and the White Tower before calling it a day). Another noteworthy occurrence: I had my first experience having to PAY to use a public restroom (50p per person).

Tonight we have tickets to see Blood Brothers in the West End. The show is very good and I’d highly recommend it. After the show, we tried to find a place to have a drink. Wow! What a circus Picadilly is in the late hours. It’s a sea of people- many, many strange individuals wearing bizarre outfits. We each have a round of drinks at a nearby pub before they close. Then we walk over to Adams Rib Restaurant for a quick bite to eat before taking the tube home. We are in bed at 1:30am.

MAY 29: Nick & I wake up early (around 7am) so that we could pack and get on the road to Eaton Square and Durham Cottage. I’m a huge Vivien Leigh fan so I couldn’t leave London without seeing where Vivien Leigh lived. The cabbie drops us off, with our luggage in tow, at the corner of Elizabeth and Eaton Square. Unfortunately, Vivien’s building is under scaffolding, but I snap some photos for my website. Then we make the .8 mile walk to the Cottage. It is a bit cool and slightly overcast morning. After snapping photos of the Cottage we hail a cab and enjoy the ride to Waterloo station. We are off to PARIS!! Woo hoo!!

Our Eurostar train was scheduled to depart at 11:30am so we are allowed to check in at 11am. We grab a quick breakfast (croissant and cappuccino for me) and pay to use the Toilet. Security is a breeze- they did not care about Nick and his pocket knife. Last minute we realize we don’t have any Euros, so we exchange 100 US for 60 E before getting onboard the train. The train stops once, briefly, before arriving in Paris. The Eurostar seats are similar to airplane seats but perhaps a bit more comfy. The ride lasts 2 hours and 40 minutes and goes by quickly. It’s a bizarre sensation riding a train backwards. Some fellow passengers feel a bit sick because of it. Upon arrival, we find the RER B train very easily even though figuring out how to use the ticket machine proves a bit challenging. En route to our hotel, we experience a couple ‘downer’ situations. There’s no need to documents them and hopefully they will soon be forgotten. One word of advice- don’t loose your RER ticket!

Our hotel is small but personable. Here’s the review I wrote for Trip Advisor: My husband & I stayed at Hotel Le Close Medicis May 29-June 1st in a “Classic Double with shower.” Yes, the room was very small (smallar than a cruise ship room), but I knew this going into the reservation. Overall our experience was a positive one. I’d recommend it to my friends and family.

LOCATION: You can’t beat it! It’s located on a small, quiet street one block from the Luxembourg Gardens. Rue Monsieur-Le-Prince boasts lots of Japanese restaurants and small little bistros like Chez Maitre Paul & Cremerie Restaurant Polidor (diners waited outside up to an hour before the 7pm opening to grab a seat in this little bistro). There are 2 convenience shops nearby that sell sodas, snacks, and wine. There’s also a pastry shop that has delicious sandwiches and eclairs! The closet Metro is the Odeon which is about a 5-10 minute stroll down Rue Monsieur-Le-Prince. Le Danton faces the Metro stop and is a great place for a quick Parisian breakfast. The RER stop is in the opposite direction and is less than a 5 minute walk away.

ROOM: The room basically is made up of a double sized bed, small desk with 1 chair, and TV embedded into the wall, and 2 narrow closets built into the wall. The bathroom was larger than I expected. The shower was large and had a glass door. The hotel supplies lots of little toiletries like a lotion, shampoo/conditioner, q-tips, shower cap, soap, hairdryer etc. Our room was very clean and quite comfortable at night with the large windows wide open. We did use the A/C during the day and it cooled the room very well. There is daily maid service and it is usually in the mid-afternoon. Don’t forget to drop your big tassel key off at the front desk when you leave for the day!

STAFF & LOBBY: Pierre (the young bald guy) is very friendly and quite helpful. He was a great resource for helping us with recommendations, reservations and directions. He lived in the USA for 15 years so his English is perfect and he even has an American accent. The lobby is small and cozy. We didn’t try the breakfast, but we did have a glass of wine on our last night in the courtyard.

RATING: I’d give this hotel 4 stars. I think the rooms could be a bit larger for 175 E a night. I’d come here again, but I probably won’t. I’d rather stay in a different area so I could get to know another area of Paris. 🙂

After unpacking we relax a bit. We are in Room 40, a double with shower stall. It’s a typical small European room- it has A/C, a small closet for clothes and an identical small closet with shelves and mini bar. They wanted 4E for a coke can!!  After relaxing, we wander aimlessly, not knowing what to do or where to go. We checked out some bistros but decided on the corner café since the sky threatened to rain (and it did). The meal turns out to be a three hour daffair, but we did not mind. We nursed a yummy bottle of Bordeaux. Nick and I sat at our table and did some people watching. “They are definitely AMERICAN” sort-of-thing. One family that sat down at a neighboring table had University of New Hampshire sweatshirts on. Small world!! We noticed it stays light longer here- the sun sets around 10pm. After a long day of travel and a bottle of red wine, we hit the sack.

MAY 30: We decide to skip the hotel breakfast and instead go to Le Danton, a local cafe. I have a cafe au lait and a yummy croissant. Nick has an omelet with bread bringing our total to 16.80 E (service included). We cross the street and head over to the O’Deon metro stop to catch the train to IIe de Cite. It was much colder and looked like it may rain but thank goodness it never did. First, we visit Ste. Chapelle (stunning stained glass), then the Conciergerie (a former prison that once housed Marie Antoinette), followed by Notre Dame cathedral. We waited in a 1 hour line for the Notre Dame towers, but it was worth the wait. The views of Paris from the top are amazing and the highlight of the trip. However, the climb UP was a bit daunting. I, a runner, had to take several ‘breathing breaks.’

After climbing down the towers, Nick and I shared a hot dog in a baguette and a chocolate crepe from a street vendor (with a glass of wine . . . sooo Parisian). We browsed in a couple touristy shops and I ended up buying several postcards (.30 E each) and a scarf. We walked down the Seine with the intent of purchasing a river cruise, but thousands of kids were in line awaiting to board the next vessel so we changed our minds. “Next time we’re in Paris . . .” Alas, we began our walk back to our little hotel. We stopped at a small convenience shop to buy wine for our room- some nice red Bordeaux. Since our room was bring cleaning (At nearly 4pm), we went to a nearby bar to have a drink and write postcards. After downing 1 vin rouge (me) and 2 beers (Nick), we return to our room to relax before dinner.

After a short rest, we head to the Eiffel tower. By this time, the sky had cleared up beautifully! The area surrounding the Eiffel tower seemed very residental. There were lots of Parisians running in the park, walking their dogs, and enjoying the early evening. Unfortunately, we arrived at the tower after many of the shops on the 2nd level had closed. So, after taking in the view from the tower, we rode back down. We ended up walking over a few blocks and finding a lovely corner cafe for dinner. Our waiter greeted us with “Hello” and “Table for 2?” Guess he knew we weren’t French?! Anyway, I had a delicious meal of Beef Bourginon! We finished dinner around 9:45 and headed over to the Eiffel tower to see if was lit up yet. When we first arrived, it was. Within 2-3 minutes, it began to twinkle like mad. This site, along with the sun setting in an indigo sky, made for a beautiful site (and photo op!!). Ahhh, another night in Paris.

MAY 31: After the previous day of intense walking, we accidentally overslept and didn’t wake until 10:45 a.m.! We planned out our day and decided to first do some shoe shopping. We stopped at a local pastry shop to have a bite to eat. Nick had a baguette sandwich and I had a chocolat éclair. We strolled down rue St. Michel during our shopping adventure. I ended up buying 2 pair of black flats and Nick purchased a pair of European sneakers. The sales lady turned her nose up at Nick’s beat-up white Nikes and called his new pair ‘beautiful.’

 We dropped our treasures off at the hotel and had Pierre make dinner reservations for us. We were off to Musee Marmotton, an art museum that holds the world’s largest collection of Monet paintings. It took us a long time to find it even though Pierre had mapped out the directions. During our trek, we purchased 2 sandwiches and took a break in a park. A stray Parisian dog walked up to us and sat with us during our picnic. We fed him some left over ham from a sandwich. Finally we found the Monet museum- it was small and located in a residential neighborhood. We gazed at Monet’s masterpieces for an hour and then walked across the street to rest on a park bench and watch little children play. At this point we had an argument about what to do next. Ultimately we decided to go to the Arc de Triumphe. Afterward we walked down Champs de Elysees. It was very busy but a pleasant stroll. At this point we were tired and getting hungry for dinner. Our reservation wasn’t for an hour, so stopped at a local café just before closing and sampled some French wine. Our dinner was at LE BISTROT DE BRETEUIL was utterly fabulous! It began with a glass of kir followed by 3 divine courses and a bottle of yummy red wine. I dined on Foie Gras, veal medallions with candied lemons, and crème brulee. Nick dined on scallops in asparagus cream, crab ravioli, and profiteroles in hot chocolate sauce. This meal cost us 64 euros. After a coffee, we ‘metroed’ home and completed our night with a beer and glass of wine in the courtyard of our hotel. Paris was amazing and I can’t wait to go back!

June 1 – June 9: Nick and I were sad to leave Paris, but it was time to begin the next part of our spectacular vacation. We checked out of our hotel in the early AM and took the RER to the Eurostar train terminal. We take a nonstop train ride back to London. We did not pre-purchase tickets to Wakefield, England so we got in line at the ticket counter, hoping to find a deal. Foolish, foolish. First, we learned that the train was leaving in 15 minutes and second, we learned that it was packed and we’d be expected to pay full price. (Supply and demand, I guess?) So, we quickly bought the tickets, found a pay phone to call our relatives, and attempted to find the line for our train. We wandered around the entire terminal but had difficulty locating our train gate. After asking some fellow Brits, we found it and boarded. The train was similar to the Eurostar but not as nice or as clean. There were many stops along the way, but the train ride wasn’t terrible long. We arrived tired and rumpled.

During the next week, we hung out with Nick’s extended family. We stayed at his cousin’s house and went out for many dinners. Nick’s cousin Becky got married on June 4th to her boyfriend Ian at a lovely wedding outside of Wakefield. The wedding festivities were fun and I enjoyed seeing the differences between an English and American wedding. Following the wedding weekend, we did a day trip to York, England. Unfortunately, the rain washed out a day of sight seeing. On the drive back to Wakefield, Nick’s parents pointed out their previous residences. We spent a couple more days in Wakefield before returning to London. We spent our last day in London by doing some shopping, dining at a pub, and have one last Indian meal. Yum!

June 10-12: We boarded a plane and flew to Toronto, Canada for the next wedding bash. Our friends Mark and Meghan were getting hitched and Nick was a groomsman. We stayed at the Novotel in Mississauga during our 3 night stay. We did not get an updated room, so the furniture and sheets/bedspread were quite worn and outdated. The size of the room and bathroom were large and adequately stocked with amenities. We did not eat out during our stay since we had a wedding and several barbeques to attend. The weather in Mississauga during our stay was hot, hot, hot! After the mild weather in England and Paris, the humidity and heat was a shock. Our friend’s wedding was beautiful and the reception was the icing on the cake. Our 18 day trip was at an end. Even though we were sad to go back to work, it was awesome to see our dog and sleep in our own beds again. We were very, very tired after all the sightseeing and traveling so Monday morning wasn’t easy. Nick called me at work to see how I was faring . . .and to tell me that he just was told that we’d be moving from New Hampshire to Missouri!!! Eck! Now that’s some icing!

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