Posts Categorized: Europe 2012

Jan 19 2013
0

The not too long flight home…

Ahhh the last post about Europe! It is strange when you are on holiday. You don’t want it to end and then, when it does you just want to get home RIGHT NOW. We got to Heathrow early enough so we could have a relaxing time in the Lounge and do some last minute shopping at Boots and just take it easy.

The American Airlines lounge at Heathrow was ok – nothing like Qantas Club. We are so spoiled when we are at Tullamarine at the lounge there, but it was nice for some quiet time at Heathrow as that airport is just crazy!

We took off on time and then I realized that I had packed my headphones in my checked luggage. So being headphoneless meant being angry with myself for ten minutes and then back to back reading of Hello! and OK and reading my Royal Family special edition book. It made a short flight longer but I survived.

Now for the part you’ve been waiting for… the plane food! Much like the journey over, it was pretty average but it did the job.

Our main meal was this generic creamy pasta with salad. The salad was really fresh and better than Qantas salad –

AA - LHR - LAX - Dinner and Snack

The attendants then came around with a snack about two hours out of New York. Now seriously, we had just come away from eating copious amounts of awesome pizza and pasta in Italy and then we were confronted with this…

AA - LHR - LAX - Dinner and Snack

Oh dear. When we opened it, this is what we got –

AA - LHR - LAX - Dinner and Snack

It was as bland, rubbery and as awful as you could imagine. Yes, we definitely were not on holidays any more!

Landing at JFK was horrendous due to long long immigration lines. The US Citizen line was just as long as the visitor one and they were both moving slow. It took us two hours to get through so it was a crummy way to end the holiday but the blessing was an easy cab ride home. Within 20 minutes of exiting JFK, we were walking into our building. We were home and our vacation was well and truly over. Ahhhhh!

Now… we have under three weeks to go until we are back in Rome and we are literally counting every single hour until we are back there!

Jan 13 2013
1

European Vacation – the last day

Our last day in London was another busy one.

We got to Kensington Palace before it even opened. We were about third in line! Even though they aren’t even living there yet, I just wanted to say “Yoohoo.. Wills? Kate? We are hereeee!”

Hyde Park was a flurry of activity –

Hyde Park

Getting to Kensington Palace early meant that I could show Bill where I lived in South Kensington as well!

South Kensington

South Kensington

South Kensington

I spent half of my life in this phone booth when I would call mum and dad using dodgy phone cards –

South Kensington

Our block.. awww I miss it!

South Kensington

Our old place! The bright blue door has now been painted –

South Kensington

Inside the Palace itself, the new museum was really well done. Our Royal Historic Palaces membership came in very handy again and we were able to spend time quickly getting through the displays (that were really quirky and original) as we had so much planned for the day.

Palace Gates –

Kensington Palace

Bill beside ‘his’ statue –

Kensington Palace

Peace in the middle of London –

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Will and Kate’s backyard –

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

We then went down to Buckingham Palace again for the Changing of the Guard ceremony. This was the biggest waste of time compared to what we saw earlier in the week and also there were so many (very annoying) people. We just wandered through the crowd and jumped on a bus and thought we’d go on a bit of a ride. There were massive traffic jams everywhere…

Traffic jams..

We were watching the world go by when little did I know, we ended up near Shepherd’s Bush – the Australian expat capital of the world. When I lived in London, I remember Fiona and I coming down here one night after a cricket win and then… never again.

But, when we got off the bus I saw a place called ‘Jumbuck Pies’ I ran so fast into that place and immediately shrieked. REAL pies, REAL chips, REAL gravy and Australian groceries. STOCK UP TIME!

I had a pie with chips and gravy and washed it all down with a Solo. I bought Samboy chips, lollies and chicken salt to bring home. It is so awesome knowing I can fly just 7 hours away get chips and gravy that tasted real. YES! This was just awesome –

Jumbuck Aussie Pies

Jumbuck Aussie Pies

Jumbuck Aussie Pies

Jumbuck Aussie Pies

Jumbuck Aussie Pies

Being sidetracked at Jumbuck Pies meant that we then had to head back in a hurry for our tour of Parliament. Due to a car accident, we were a little late but they just put us on another tour.

The tour of Parliament which was absolutely fantastic – no photos allowed so I cannot share any with you. If you are in London, a tour of Westminster is a must. I don’t know why I never visited there when I actually lived there, but we loved every moment of the tour.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the cafe for a bit, where we enjoyed Official Parliamentary Water. Oh yes indeed!

Proof that we visited Parliament

We then got to marvel at Big Ben one more time –

Untitled

Big Ben

Before we knew it we had jumped back onto the tube to get out to South Kensington.

South Kensington Station

Getting off the train at my old station, everything seemed different. I was kicking myself for, what I felt, not really getting into London when I lived there. But then again, that was over 10 years ago. I was so much younger, so I guess, I was how any other 21 year old would be.

I would love to go back there and work for 12 months now as a ‘grown up’. I think it would be just fantastic.

We deliberately got off at South Kensington and we officially wound down the end of our trip with Mass at the Brompton Oratory. It is a lovely church that is well suited to South Kensington. That bit of downtime was very much needed before we realized that it was time to get back to the hotel and try and pack all of our stuff.

Packing :(

Our European vacation was now, nothing more than a few pages of my typed itinerary sitting in a hotel bin. But, after what was easily the best vacation ever, it was great to know that we planned so well, we walked far and… we were heading back to New York. I still pinch myself when I realize that is where I get to go when I think “It is time to go home..”

Jan 12 2013
1

Royal Windsor Horse Show and Jubilee Pageant

On Friday, we had another Royal event. I really was loving all of this pageantry!!

This time we were heading up to Windsor to attend the Queen’s Jubilee Pageant. It was also at the same time as the Royal Windsor Horse show. So we tied that all together with a visit to Windsor Castle.

We hopped on the bus outside our hotel and got that to Paddington Station. We then got some snacks at Marks and Spencer and Boots and jumped on the train to Windsor.

Waiting for the train –

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Paddington Station

Ticket machine photo for Ev –

Paddington Station - Ticket Machines

On the train –

Train to Windsor

We had to change trains at a lovely little station called Slough –

Paddington Station

Slough Station

Arriving in Windsor was fantastic and we did the short walk to the castle. A lot of the castle was cordoned off as the Queen was in residence and then also, because of the pageant that night, the place was a flurry of activity!

Home sweet home –

Windsor

There was not many visitors at all so we had ample opportunity to relax in the grounds. For about half an hour we sat down on some chairs, looking over the gardens, pretty much on our own, eating Salt and Vinegar chips and watching the planes take off from Heathrow. It was peaceful, quiet and beautiful. We were just hanging out in Windsor Castle – how fabulous!

Our pre-packed M&S lunch –

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Our Marks and Spencer's Lunch

Now let me fill the post with an excess of photos of the castle –

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

After going through the various displays and a spot of shopping in the Windsor souvenir shop we decided to go and discover a bit of the town of Windsor. This was when I discovered Cath Kidson. Think of a more English style of Vera Bradley… then you have the Cath Kidson store. It was gorgeous – with an upstairs/downstairs shopping area and everything in the most gorgeous prints ever. As soon as I saw the Hampton Rose print, I was in love. I got a case for my Metrocard/Dining Room card and work ID and also a new iPhone case.

Screen Shot 2013-01-12 at 8.00.03 PM cath-kidston-hampton-rose-iphone-case1

Pretty hey? I love that store!

We then went and grabbed a cornish pastie and sat in the main street and watched the world go by as we watched some of the performers leave the castle and make their way to the arena for the pageant.

I just had to capture Bill devouring his first cornish pastie. They were REALLY good.

Bill eating a pastie

Windsor - Main Street

Windsor

Windsor

We took all of this activity as a hint that we better make our way over there. It was a good 15 minute walk to the castle where we passed literally hundreds of Land Rovers and ladies in hunter boots. Due to the rain, the area was muddy and it was then we realized that with our pageant ticket, we also got entrance to the Royal Windsor Horse show. It was SO GOOD and very muddy after the rain we experienced the day before.

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Windsor

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Royal Windsor Horse Show

Here I was, wandering around in my RM Williams when, out of nowhere – there was an RM Williams stall! The clothing and field goods were amazing. Bill had been searching for an Akurbra style hat since he first visited Australia. Unfortunately, he could never find any that fit! It was then, while we were browsing a random stall that I suggested Bill try on this ‘Australian bush leather’ hat. IT FIT! Of all places in the world, we found the perfect bush hat… in WINDSOR… and it was a GREAT price. We were high-fiving and cheering! I assume people would have thought we must have been crazy… or upon hearing Bill thought of us as one of ‘those strange American people’!

Here he is modeling his new hat –

Royal Windsor Horse Show

We did some more wandering (and AWESOME people watching) and we finally made our way over to the special marquee where we were to join other guests with our package for some pre-pageant English hospitality. Slight problem, after walking all day (and for the past 2 weeks) my feet were killing me and there were NO chairs. Upon entering the marquee, we also realized, we were one of the youngest people there! We were assigned a stand up bar table and quickly became acquainted with the other guests.

Blurry photo of our marquee –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Many were charming English royal enthusiasts from all areas of England. One gentleman who I got talking to simply said “Our beautiful Queen gave up any kind of normal life for us and has served us so well – we wanted to come here to say thank you…” Awwwww! They were very excited to meet and chat with the resident New Yorker who was a Monarchist… and Bill was loving the attention!

Bill managed to find me a chair and we settled in for our sample of foods from around the world (we had the Around the World package) and it was lovely! We were all so excited and full of anticipation for the pageant. I found out earlier in the day that for our night, we would have Prince Edward and Sophie as the Royal guests and they were sitting just two bays from our seats! By the way, it was really chilly that night which is why we are all rugged up!

Queens Jubilee Pageant

We got to the stands that was a small outdoor arena and we got talking to some of the people around us. Also, as part of our package we got a lovely plate and book and tote bag – as well as great seats! We were so lucky to experience such a great event – it was really one of those ‘pinch me’ moments!

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Before we knew it, we were all standing for the Royal arrival and to sing God Save the Queen.

We were both a bit excited and this resulted in blurry photos. Here are Edward and Sophie arriving –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Then, the entertainment started. This was essentially a show of horses to reflect the Queen’s love of equestrian and we took a trip around the world with horse demonstrations from the countries the Queen has visited during her reign. I gave some loud cheers for the Australian performance which focused on the New South Wales police horses, but our favorites were the kossacks. The New Zealander’s did a haka directly to Edward and Sophie and they loved it!

New South Wales police horses –

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

Queens Jubilee Pageant

The crowd cheered and there were lots of collective “Ohhhhs” and “Ahhhhs” throughout the night. Each of the performers were absolutely amazing and it must have been such an honor for them to be selected and to be flown to England to perform. Our show was on Friday night and there was also going to be the same performance on Saturday and Sunday – with the Sunday show being in front of Her Majesty herself.

It ended way too quickly but we were also exhausted and now, had to get the train back to London. Everyone was quiet on the train (exact opposite of the Collingwood crowd after a night match!) and I was pretty much dreaming of my pyjamas. When we got back to the hotel at midnight, I just had to call mum and dad and tell them all about it. We got to enjoy a real slice of England and had a brush with royalty – it was definitely a day and night that we would never forget!

Jan 12 2013
0

A restful day in London

On Thursday in London, we had a bit of a sleep in and a bit more of a ‘vacation’ day. This sleep in was one of the few we managed to get on our ‘holiday’ – oops! We were going over to visit our colleagues at the Cadwalader London office. It was SO great to see the offices and also chat about the differences between working in London and New York.

Here is the exterior of Liverpool St Station – it was a very busy area –

Exterior - Liverpool St Station

Our London office has fantastic views –

Cadwalader Offices

Cadwalader Offices

View from the Library –

Cadwalader Offices

Cadwalader Offices

After our lunch, we then went and did a great load of shopping at Marks & Spencer Food Store where we stocked up on chocolates and ‘English stuff’ to bring home for everyone.

Ewwww –

Marks & Spencers Chips

OH YES YES YES – NOTHING BETTER THAN CHICKEN CHIPPIES!!

Marks & Spencers Chips

Then, we headed over to Westminster Cathedral to take refuge from the rain (we got experience lots of rain while we were in London!) and do some sightseeing. It offered the peace that we were yearning for as well after a busy time.

After this, we headed back to the hotel for a breather. I wanted to do some more shopping on Oxford Street and Bill wanted to see The Avengers. Now – funny story time. Bill booked his tickets for the 5pm session earlier on his phone and it was 3.50pm when he looked at his confirmation. He actually booked the 4pm session. EEEEK! So trying to get his wallet, watch and everything together, he bolted out of the hotel to the cinema and made it JUST in time. When he went to use his ticket they realized… not only had he booked for 4pm session he had booked it for the FOLLOWING week. OH DEAR! It was a BIG ordeal for them to swap his tickets around. But he STILL made it to the film – one that he had been so excited about seeing for the past 12 months.

Park Lane

My shopping trip was not without drama either. As I was having a horrific experience in the change rooms at Marks and Spencer. The air conditioning was not working and it was SO hot it was unbearable. I gave up and went and waited outside the cinema for Bill and we ended up strolling back to the hotel for an early night as we had a HUGE Friday planned.

Here is something interesting to share on our quiet day. On Park Lane near our hotel there is the Animals In War Memorial. It really is beautiful.

Animals In War Monument

Animals In War Memorial

Animals In War Memorial

Jan 11 2013
1

We saw the Queen and stepped back in time

We had grand plans for our first full day in London. Checking out the markets and lots of shopping.

This was all thrown to the wind when I checked Twitter and found out that the Queen would be opening Parliament that day and there would be a full procession down the Mall to Westminster. I was literally jumping out of my skin. I saying over and over to Bill – “WE ARE GOING… WE WILL SEE HER… OH MY GOSH!”

We got up early and had our first breakfast upstairs in the executive lounge. Wow – it was amazing. I took full advantage of the chance to have real English breakfast sausages and eggs and awesome porridge. The best part of this was filling up on breakfast meant that we were never hungry at lunchtime.

We quickly made our way down the street to the Mall and the flurry of activity. We were in a great position just past the Queen Victoria Memorial. So we stood there and waited patiently, then the procession started.

Everyone waiting along the Mall –

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Oh look – it is a brunette Polly from The Bill

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Here we go…!

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Playing God Save The Queen –

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

I cannot describe the surge of adrenaline that you feel when you are viewing something so amazing. I am getting goosebumps just typing it now. The marching bands, the pomp and ceremony – it is amazing. Especially when you realize you are seeing something that has happened for so many years.

I kept craning my neck thinking “Is it her? Is it her?” It was then that we saw a carriage turning the corner.. I was SO excited yet it was then we realized, it was her crown. Yes, in it’s own carriage.

Then, we saw her. Sitting in the carriage, waving to the crowd and it all happened so fast. In all my time living in Australia, I had never seen her and I had never seen her while I lived in London either. Yet, here we were – seeing Queen Elizabeth in her Jubilee year. It was exhilarating.

Here she is!!!!

Queen - leaving Buckingham Palace to open Parliament

Before we knew it the procession was over and the crowd were dispersing. I was still looking at Bill saying “Ohmigosh we saw the Queen!” and he was just as excited. Then we heard a HUGE bang. I jumped back and screamed – then we realized. In Green Park they were firing cannons. A full 41 gun salute. They were amazing historical canons on little carts and in the fog that was surrounding the park, it was like we had been transported back in time. There were cannons firing and not many people paying attention so it almost felt like it was just us and the military. It was awesome and then seeing them wheel the canons back to the assembly area – truly a moment where we forgot that we were in 2012. It was THAT good.

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

Here is a Bobby ushering us away –

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

41 Gun Royal Salute in Green Park

So here is a video where you can see the Queen going past, where you can experience the full calvary and then also the cannons firing in Green Park. It is long but worth it, especially for the horses!

After standing for so long, it was time for some adventures so I decided to take Bill back to the first neighbourhood that I lived in London – Holloway! We boarded the tube and everything fell into place. The announcements, the station map. My heart was bursting – it was wonderful to be back as I had basically avoided London for 13 years. Getting off the train at Holloway Road it was almost like I was living outside my body. I could picture my 21 year old self walking these steps, so far removed from all I knew in Australia but now, I was walking the same route as a New Yorker, a nearly American and with my wonderful husband. WHAT???!!! It was a crazy experience and when we got outside the station, everything seemed smaller than I remembered. Busy roads in London are nothing compared to what I see in New York, yet for a 21 year old from Melbourne, I remember just being mesmerized at all the people, the traffic and the transport. It is amazing how things change. I looked over my shoulder and saw the ticket window. It was where I got my London Underground ID photopass and bought my first monthly train pass. There were bits of my own memories scattered all over this town and it was weird to be reliving them again.

After trying to jog my memory, I found the old place where Fiona and I first lived. This is a story in itself. I remembered our horror the first time Fiona (who I took this London adventure with) and I saw it. Two young girls from Melbourne, arriving off a long haul flight, now standing on the other side of the world. We had to meet the owner at a laundry nearby, then they would take us to our new London home. I was sitting in the back tray of the ute/pick up truck of the owner as it sped through the streets. (How am I even here to recount this story??!) Remember people, this was organized in 1999. The internet wasn’t the bevy of information and photos that it was now. We found someone offering this place and were able to ensure we had accommodation when we stepped off the plane so we took it. I remember dropping our bags and then Fiona and I found a phone, rang our parents and cried down the phone that we wanted to come home. Mum suggested we go and get breakfast, that we were tired and everything would be better tomorrow. Of course, she was right but I still don’t know how we did it!

How our place looked from afar –

Holloway

Our flat was the one on the ground floor on the far right –

Holloway

So this was my little London dream home… before we moved to South Kensington! Looking at this picture reminds me of being excited to pick up the latest issue TNT Magazine from a pub around the corner, racing home from work to watch Blind Date with Cilla Black, discovering Ambrosia Creamed Rice, walking blocks to an internet cafe (that I could only afford to use once or twice a week for an hour) and my first ever Indian restaurant experience.

I wish I could go back and stay in Holloway for just a few weeks to rediscover this little pocket of London. The funny thing is, by the time we were due to move to South Ken, Holloway had actually grown on us and we had got to know the area.

Our tube station –

Holloway

Holloway Road –

Holloway

I remember getting dinner from this Chinese restaurant on the corner –

Holloway

Down our street –

Holloway

On the other corner of our street –

Holloway

So after that little tour, Bill and I jumped on a bus just to see where we would end up. Up on the top deck, right at the front, London zipped past us. It was relaxing and a great way to see the city.

Harrods

We then ended up in Harrods. It was different to how I remembered it and now, apart from the Food Hall, it pretty much just plain ol’ tacky. While we wandered around, we both had the same reaction of “We are not buying anything in here..” and we were both happy with that decision. If you want to experience the best of London shopping, Harrods is not it and it is just a shame that so many people think that that epitomizes London. Ugh. Harvey Nicks or Selfridges please.

By this time, it was pouring with rain and we made it back to the hotel for a room service dinner and a lazy night in… Jason Donovan was on TV so that just about sealed the deal. It was such a great day – I finally saw the Queen and I still couldn’t believe it!

Jan 09 2013
1

Au Revoir France and ‘Allo England… and the Tower of London!

Eurostar - Paris to London

Eurostar - Paris to London

Eurostar - Paris to London

Leaving Paris was a blast as we took the Eurostar. I thought the train from Rome to Venice was fast but this was just off the charts. My ears popped and the way the train swayed when we went around any kind of bend was actually kind of worrying. To travel at those kinds of speeds was an amazing experience but I cannot say I was all that relaxed!

Arriving at Kings Cross-St Pancras was glorious. We were so excited as is evident by this iPhone picture!

Eurostar - Paris to London

We had a wonderful cab driver who dropped us straight on Park Lane with some nice shortcuts through Mayfair.

London Cab

Driving though the streets of London at that time was quite emotional for me. I had not been back to London in so long and all the memories came flooding back. I was so fortunate to be able to live and work there and all of a sudden I was overcome with regret for not staying longer and not enjoying my time there as much. Saying that, it was in 1999 – the world was different and I was much younger!

Now here was the fun part. Our loyalty to Marriott hotels has paid off as we were able to stay in the Marriott Grosvenor Square for ZILCH. Yup – our whole 5 nights in London was free. I can wholeheartedly say that one of the best choices I made when I moved to America and was decided what brands I would be loyal to, the Marriott Rewards program has to be one of the best out there. We love it!

Check out our room –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Our view –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

The hotel was gorgeous and the staff were lovely and bonus – we were able to check in early! Also, because of our Gold status, we had access to the executive lounge which meant a gorgeous selection of hot and cold foods for breakfast and drinks and snack through the day. We were starving when we got there so we ordered room service for lunch to see what it was like. Oh my gosh –

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

Marriott - Grosvenor Square

We got unpacked, relaxed and decided to head out onto Oxford St (a short walk from the hotel) to get our bearings and to start our sightseeing. Right around the corner was the US Consulate. In their garden is a gorgeous statue of Ronald Reagan –

JFK Memorial - US Consulate, London

I also couldn’t believe how much the Consulate looks like the Department of Premier & Cabinet Building in Melbourne!

Here is Oxford St –

Oxford Street

We then headed straight for the Tower of London. We wanted to spend our time visiting there there so that we could go and grab some dinner before heading back there again later at night to see the Ceremony of the Keys. As we are members of Historic Royal Palaces we didn’t have to line up and could come and go as we pleased. This is how the Tower looks as you exit the Underground –

Tower of London - Tube Station

Tower of London

The crowds weren’t bad at all although and the Crown Jewels display was empty because of the opening of Parliament the following day. We relaxed in the gardens of the Tower and then admired Tower Bridge for a little while… ahhh I love holidays!

Tower Bridge

We love being TOURISTS!

Rule Britannia!

We then jumped back on the bus to head back to Piccadilly Circus for some late afternoon shopping and some dinner. Does this feel like the longest day ever or what?!

From the top deck –

View from the top deck

London Bus

Of course, the first place I went was Boots.

Boots!

I felt like I’d jumped from the land of Duane Reade straight into the land of Boots and I did a stock up of my favourite ‘skin fix it’ product – Witch Doctor Gel! I cannot be without it and it is been this way since I lived in London. Since they stopped selling it in Australia in 2007, it is now only sold in the UK. So for years now I’ve resorted to buying it from eBay in bulk for not only me, but mum and dad too. We then had a look through some of the touristy shops and went off to find some dinner.

Then, down a little street, we found Wagamama. We didn’t want anything huge for dinner so this was perfect. I remember first going to Wagamama when they opened in Melbourne and was so excited about it! After all of our Italian and French food, sitting down to a huge Asian soup was awesome. It was just what we needed!

Wagamama

Wagamama

By the time we finished at Wagamama it was time to head back to the Tower of London for the Ceremony of the Keys. It was VERY eerie at night –

Tower of London

The ceremony that we got to experience was AWESOME. We couldn’t take photos or film it, but this ceremony of locking the Tower has gone on every night for 700 years. It was dark and spooky as we heard the Beefeaters walk and lock each gate, their keys rattling loudly and then, their march up through the tower grounds. We got to follow them while they did it and there was absolute silence. The air was cool and it was so eerie – it was a really good experience and after about half an hour it was all over and we were escorted out of the tower. We both really enjoyed it and I am glad I organized it, even though it involved mailing international reply coupons and too many fingers crossed that there would be a spot for us!

We capped off the night by hanging out at Westminster way past our bedtime just admiring Big Ben and thinking “We REALLY are here!”

Big Ben

Big Ben

Jan 04 2013
1

Normandy Battlefields Day Trip

For our last day in France we ventured out early to the Normandy battlefields.

This involved an alarm at 5am, cab at 6am and train at 7am! Our B&B owner left us a breakfast to go in the fridge so we were able to make our way to the train without worry. I love regional trains and the two hour trip was really enjoyable and relaxing. I have linked to information on each area as you move through the post.

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Our train –

Normandy Battlefield Tour

We were met at Caen by a guide from the Memorial de Caen museum and with four other people, we would be driven around the beaches of Normandy and we were also given a guided tour of the museum with lunch.

The Memorial de Caen museum –

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Our tour van –

Normandy Battlefield Tour

First stop, Arromanches

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

The Longues-Sur-Mer German Gun Battery

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

American Cemetery at Colleville Sur Mer

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Omaha Beach

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Ponte du Hoc

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

Normandy Battlefield Tour

It was a long day but something we would both never forget and as you can see, we covered A LOT of ground. The museum was really well done – the displays were clear and it was easy to navigate through the complex. The beaches themselves? I could not believe how large the area was. The cliffs that troops had to climb, the hellish terrain – it was breathtaking and shocking at the same time. Our guide was knowledgeable and passionate about the history of the area.

Driving through the small towns in the countryside was fantastic. While we were driving through these areas, our guide was telling us about how these areas were affected at the time – it was heartbreaking but at the same time, we felt so fortunate to be there to see it. It was very bittersweet.

Being only part of a small group was a bonus. We were in a small van and we could hop on and off as we wanted. This was a major factor in us doing this tour and also, we enjoyed being able to organize it from home. If you can only spend one day in this area, we fully recommend Link Paris. They did everything for us so we just had to arrive at the train. It really is not recommended to visit this area in one day, but we are grateful that we were able to do it. We didn’t get back to La Villa until nearly 10pm but it was worth every moment.

Jan 03 2013
1

Sunday in Paris

So, let’s get back to our European vacation. I know.. this is turning into the most drawn out travel blog of all time!


When we left off, we had been to Rome, Venice and had arrived in Paris. We had a busy first day and got to see history in the making with the French election results rolling in. After an early night, it was time to discover more of Paris on Sunday.

We were up early (again!) to get to Notre Dame for the high Mass. It was lovely being able to walk through the park to the train station when there was hardly anyone around –

Paris

Paris

Even though Mass was all in French, it didn’t matter. Bill had printed us French – English Missals so we were set to follow the liturgy. The music and atmosphere was beautiful and we were able to spend time after the Mass in the Cathedral without a crazy amount of crowds.

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

When we were wandering around the back of the cathedral, they had some displays about the history of Notre Dame. There was one photo that both had us saying the same thing.. “That is Alec Baldwin!” What do you think?

Alec Baldwin lookalike

Bill tweeted Mr Baldwin with the photo and asked what he was doing at Notre Dame… and he got a reply saying “I hang out there a lot!”

After Mass, we made a mad dash to Sainte-Chapelle. This ended up being the longest queue we encountered on our whole holiday.

Sante-Chapelle

We waited outside for about 45 minutes and then when we got through the gates, it was about another 30 minutes. We were desperate to get a sneak peak. Much of our own church, Queen of All Saints was modeled on this chapel. When we finally got in, it did NOT disappoint! Stained glass windows surrounded us at every angle. It was absolutely beautiful. These pictures do not do the chapel justice.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle

We then decided it was time for lunch – so we ended up at a random bistro on the river where I had the most amazing Croque Monsieur EVER!

Parisian Bistro Lunch

Bill got quiche and it was as good as my sandwich –

Parisian Bistro Lunch

I need more nutella crepes. Every day. Without fail.

Parisian Bistro Lunch

They also had free wifi so we were able to FaceTime mum and dad and have them ‘virtually’ with us. Here I am showing them the Seine… crazy huh?

Parisian Bistro Lunch

After lunch, we wandered into a local homewares shop for some fun shopping and we picked up some prints for the kitchen and some cute espresso cups and tried to be ‘locals’. What was so funny is here we are, looking for French inspired things for home when all over the place they had prints of New York City, cups with Yellow taxis and so many other things with New York on them… it didn’t really make sense!

We then wandered to the Pont des Arts bridge and we took out the padlock that we had carried with us through our whole trip and put it straight onto the bridge. Awwww! Love time! I love you so much Bill!

Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts

Pont des Arts

After that we just wandered and wandered until we ended up waiting for our bus around the Arc de Triomphe and attempted so many self portraits of us but with our gigantic heads we were always blocking the main view. Gah!

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe

Here I was back in the same area and being a dork in 1999 –

I am such a tourist

After all our walking, we started to head back to La Villa Paris.

Paris

I loved our little neighborhood!

Our neighborhood in Paris

Our neighborhood in Paris

We wanted to grab dinner locally and get a head start on packing all our stuff. We had an early day on Monday as we were doing a 15 hour day long day trip to the Normandy Battlefields and then we had to leave for London early on Tuesday morning. No rest for us!

Nov 12 2012
2

The first day in Paris

Our first full day in Paris was full of adventure. We got up early and headed out to the Lourve.

On the train –

Paris

Ready to explore!

Paris

The Lourve

We ran around there quickly (Bill had to see the Mona Lisa – I had been beforehand) and back out before then, heading over to the Eiffel Tower for lunch. Tip – at the Eiffel Tour they serve the BEST hot dogs. Yeah here we are eating hotdogs and fries in Paris. But seriously they are awesome… and here they are –

Eiffel Tower Hot Dogs

No matter how many times you see it, the Tower is just awesome –

Paris

Paris

Here are some scenes that we enjoyed while in transit –

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Paris

Bottle Brush!

Paris

I have a thing for police boats and this was a beauty!

Paris

After that, we jumped on a bus and headed up to Sacré-Cœur. The buses reminded me of the new Melbourne trams –

Paris

Once we got to Sacré-Cœur – which is quite a hike, the view was sensational from the top but, the hoards of tourists, not so much.

View from Sacre Couer

I really felt for the security who kept SHHHHHing everyone. Most frustrating part of travel? People who want to have a full conversation in church. UGH.

The Cable Car area and looking back up to Sacré-Cœur –

View from Sacre Couer

View from Sacre Couer

Getting the cable car down to the bottom of the hill was a super idea because I was over walking… so with that we went and checked out McDonalds. I KNOW… Maccas in Paris… not something that people want to admit. BUT it was on Bill’s list. They introduced a 7 week special meal only for France called The McBaguette. Bill wanted to try it desperately. It was a let down but, we got to check out these amazing self ordering machines there!

McDonalds Self Ordering Machines - Paris

Untitled

Paris

Then check this out –

Paris

Paris

We then jumped on another bus and headed back to the Eiffel Tower area for a cruise of the Seine. I annoyed Bill so much because all I wanted to do was chat and be all romantic while he actually wanted to listen to the headset tour information!

Because of our late McDonalds snack we were not hungry though, we were most definitely tired. Our full day in Paris was awesome just because we fitted so much in and saw so much of the city. We crawled back to La Villa on the bus, not knowing why there was so much traffic around the place. Little did we know, history was being made not far from where we were.

France was getting a new President! We quickly ran up the stairs to our room, got in our jammies and watched the news. We really did ‘watch’ as we couldn’t listen as I couldn’t understand a word!

Oct 29 2012
0

Le Bouche à Oreilles

After settling into our room, drying off and relaxing, we headed out for dinner and ended up at this hip, cute little bistro nearby called Le Bouche à Oreilles.

This place was so cool – a mix of locals, students and more locals. Old records were pinned to the walls and the place was loud, dark and so cool.

Le Bouche a Oreilles

Le Bouche a Oreilles

Here is the bar –

Le Bouche a Oreilles

Menu –

Le Bouche a Oreilles

Le Bouche a Oreilles

The food was fantastic and we slowly walked back to La Villa in the dark and holding hands. The reflection of the street lights on the shiny streets and the small lights that on in the houses around us – it was all so gorgeous. We felt very much like Parisians!