London to Paris Day 5

DAY FIVE- MONDAY- MY BIRTHDAY!

When had decided to do both London and Paris, I KNEW I wanted to wake up in London on my birthday and go to bed in Paris. As soon as that thought entered my head, it was to be and I adjusted our plans around that.  PLUS Tim had an amazing idea for me…

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Seriously. It was pretty perfect.

That morning we had woken up and grabbed a coffee on our last visit to Big Ben as well as grabbing some touristy gifts before packing up and taking the train up to King’s Cross where we just got a quick sandwich… and I did not wait in the line for a picture of Platform 9 3/4. Sad. But I was still able to get a few Harry Potter experiences in.

We travelled from London to Paris via the Eurostar. SUPER EASY PROCESS! Future trips to Europe (crossing my fingers), I will be keeping this in mind. From London (London St. Pancras) to Paris (Gare du Nord), trip time was like 2.5 hours exactly with super easy check in and no need to check baggage.  I was excited to experience going in the Chunnel- the underground tunnel for the English Channel-  and I honestly thought I was paying attention, but next thing I knew we were in France. It was that quick!

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Upon arrival in Paris, we took a cab to our hotel and checked in. We stayed at Hotel Derby Eiffel and though the room was very small, it had cute french doors that opened up to a street view- where we could see the Eiffel Tower. SWOON!

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A stroll down to the Eiffel Tower (and already many pictures of it in… how many is too many?!) that night led us to grabbing a drink or two and eating at the touristy piazza down by the Seine, near the base of the Eiffel Tower. Major Paris vibes.

A bottle of champagne and some French cookies back at the hotel while we planned out our next day was a nice transition and good way to end my birthday!

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London Recap Days 3 & 4

Cheerio. Getting into the spirit of things. Reliving phrases overhead, such as “oy we have been playing tennis phone all morning” and “that’s tosh”.  Good stuff.

DAY THREE- SATURDAY

We “hopped down the frog and toad” (sorry, last one, I think) in the morning for a proper Full English Breakfast per Tim’s request; he had found Terry’s Cafe online with great reviews. Small neighborhood place in which you could tell who were regulars with great food. I would do this again. Easy.  Also- it introduced us to beans on toast. And now, I LOVE BEANS ON TOAST (well the British version, which when we got back, found out Heinz makes it in the light blue can! Yes please!)IMG_3337.jpg

After filling up, we took the tub out to Olympic Stadium (home of the 2012 Olympics) which is now the Stadium for West Ham United- Tim’s soccer team. So we walked around the stadium and bought some official West Ham gear onsite. All pictures at this time have Tim straight up cheesin’ it.

Otherwise… not too much out that ways. Maybe in the future, but I can see now why they say Olympic village areas become a bit like ghost town areas…  anyways, quick tube ride back and we were back in our area. We had purchased a Big Bus Tours pass and decided now was the time to hop on, listen to some London history and enjoy the sights for a bit. Most of this we had already seen, BUT we got to drive on the Tower Bridge which is pretty cool- see more Harry Potter inspiration- see more old pubs including Punch Tavern (Punch and Judy dolls I only know about because of Gone Girl)- and of course, every time we could see Big Ben and Parliament, it had to be announced a la National Lampoons.

We stopped off at Hyde Park for a bit and wandered down Oxford Street (shopping mecca, oh hi Selfridges- I used to watch a show about you on PBS, ha) for a bit before we had to catch the tube up North to Emirates Stadium.  Arsenal game! Going to a real live Premier League game (lord, I hope I got that right or Tim will give me so much crap) is insanely cool. The walk alone from the tube to the stadium, through neighborhoods and with a throng of people cheering/chanting/marching to the stadium is worth it. PLUS we went to the 300th game in Emirates Stadium (which I think is cool) as well as a AF cup game! Future note: you can’t drink in the stadium. You can drink in the concourse but not in the stands.

After the game, we walked the area to let the heavy traffic die down before we grabbed the tube and went back to Oxford Street to a little off the main road area called St. Christopher’s Place for dinner.  I would love to go back that way for the shops and restaurants when its really nice out- all pictures I have seen are so cute! IMG_3397

After dinner, it was pretty late so we just headed back to the hotel for a good night’s sleep.

DAY FOUR- SUNDAY

So we had found out that Borough Market is sadly not open on Sundays, so we sadly ditched that from the plans. BUT we had actually bought a two day pass on the bus tour and so we hopped back on and went to take it a little further West London than we had previously and take us out to see Chelsea, Kensington, Notting Hill…   First stop off the bus for us was in Chelsea for tea. Shared a honey cake with my honey while he had tea and I had some sort of latte with potpourri (?) on it.

Followed by a quick “shop” and drink at Harrod’s.

Little further on, we stopped at a pub and split a Steak and Ale pie. Meat pie. It’s a thing. It’s a GOOD thing.

Popped back on the bus to get us a little further up the road where we stopped at Churchill Arms! All pictures of this place are gorgeous and its a comfy pub inside… and the smells. OMG. Even though I was full, I was so mad that we did not try the Thai restaurant in back.  It smells amazing and I have heard great things about it. And I am still angry at us for not getting it.

Then I will skip how I might have gotten a wee bit off directionally after that pub stop, in which we may have went the wrong way and had to backtrack a couple times to get to Notting Hill. And by that time, we got to see some pretty houses and such but at the same time we were ready to just keep moving on. SO future trip, I will do better so I get to see more of pretty Notting Hill Houses. BUT we saw Kensington Gardens and then I got to live my Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen Winning London moment at the Peter Pan statue in Hyde Park. Totally worth it, right Tim?!

The next part I skip over is then how we book it WAY across town because we are starving and want to go to this place Tim found with good reviews and a great view… that because it is open 24/7, we didn’t think reservations and/or changing clothes. BIG MISTAKE, HUGE (side note: name that movie).  Literally, the guy looked us up and down and told us “we don’t accept walk-ins AND we have a STRICT dress code” while handing us a card with that info on it.  OKAY THEN.  So re-thinking that, we will just get some thai food at a place near our hotel that also serves a beer we want to try made by some friends.  LONG STORY SHORT: We paid for pub trivia, the kitchen was closed and they weren’t serving that friend’s beer, and then we got last in pub trivia. HA

Time to grab food at the hotel. Call it a night.

London Recap Days 1 &2

FINALLY getting around to writing this up. Going to try to keep it a bit brief, however I am not known for my “short” stories….  that is also why I am going to try to break this up into a couple days at a time.

DAY ONE- THURSDAY

First up, we took a non-stop overnight flight from O’hare to Heathrow- thumbs up to that. We did not plan on how we would get into London exactly from the airport, but so glad we didn’t. We bought our metro card at the airport and EASY PEASY took it in.  Would do that again in a heartbeat- especially because the trains were so easy to take and we took them multiple times while in London.

We stayed at a ibis London Blackfriars in the SouthBank/Southwark while technically not right in the touristy stuff, it was a SUPER central location that made it within walking distance to pretty much wherever we wanted to go- and was literally right next to a train station too if we needed it! Decent sized room, clean, nice staff.

 

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We got to our hotel and checked in, quick bite nearby, and 1 hour nap ( I argued Tim about it, but it ended up being golden). From there we were refreshed to get walking around.  And we just started walking and walking and walking… we saw London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace. First evening and already BOOM. Even obligatory photo with a telephone booth! ha

 

DAY TWO- FRIDAY

I had read that one should make sure to do the Tower of London/Crown Jewels on a weekday morning, preferably closer to when it opens. So if we had one thing ‘scheduled’ Friday, it was to do this. We got a coffee on our way and just started walking again. On our way to the Tower of London, we saw the Tate Modern, Globe Theater , walked across Millenium Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and the London Fire Monument.

No lines and no crowds when we got to Tower of London, which worked out pretty well. We also got the headphone tour which was worth it to get the history of the place and a detailed tour at our own pace, like the Crown Jewels… the spot where Ann Boleyn was beheaded… and the legend of the Ravens. I mean this place was built in the 1080s… and added to over the centuries. Crazy.

Bonus about Tower of London- great opportunities of pictures with Tower Bridge.

After Tower of London, we grabbed lunch at Leadenhall Market (a little inspiration in Harry Potter for entrance to Diagon Alley- look it up)- so gorgeous. Also,  never before have I had fish’n’chips, so it only seemed appropriate to get them in London!

From there, we turned it into a mini pub crawl-with a break at the British Museum (free entrance- plus we went when they had a late night) to see the Rosetta Stone and Easter Island Heads-  as well as exploring other areas such as Trafalgar and Picadilly, China Town, and the West End. One of our favorite finds was a pub called Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese; a friend had recommended it and then we came upon it organically and it was fate. Seriously, this place was rebuilt in 1667 and has ties to Dickens and Mark Twain… it may have even been a brothel or monastery before it was a pub. Very cool atmosphere- we sat in a couple different spots in the cellar-y areas. RECOMMEND IT.

And we walked home very cheerily that night with ‘crisps’ in hand. 🙂

In with a BANG

First real post on the blog and I am going big! HA

So, I just turned 30. Milestone birthday! AND I got to celebrate it BIG! I have always wanted to go to London and Paris… and now we have!

I want to try to do a recap of London and Paris separately with pics and highlights of the trip and such, but here I will go into some of the planning.

We have been wanting to do a big trip for quite some time and I have always been having my eye on trip deals. I have been socking some money to the side for such a moment that we decided to take the plunge. Just after this last Christmas, we decided we just needed to go for it. Add in that we would use this trip to celebrate 13 years together (February), my 30th birthday (March), and our 5 year wedding anniversary (July)=  Perfect!

So where to go? We tossed around ideas but I kept coming back to London and Paris. From there it kept evolving. Originally, Tim just wanted to go to one place and focused more on London. I kept looking at even a day trip to Paris with the train, but was noticing by expanding a couple days we could definitely do BOTH! Got Tim on my side and boom we had our “where”.  As for the when- we decided to go around my birthday since it is still technically winter/spring pricing, which is more affordable than summer pricing- PLUS MY BIRTHDAY, HELLO!

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I contacted a travel agent we had used in the past, as well as looking at like Costco travel deals and other online packages, but everything was more than we could and wanted to spend. Where to start doing it on our own??  I found an online travel agency that helped adjust travel dates and hotels to see what was out there and affordable- then I took that information and used…. Expedia! And it worked out great! Booked the flights (Chicago to London, Paris to Chicago) roundtrip, then also fine-tuned the hotel search and booked those as well. Being an Expedia member gets you a little bit more of a discount too! Add in the train through Eurostar to take us from London to Paris- and we were set with the big particulars!

Then it came time for me to do some “hard work”. I started reading blogs and websites for recommendations, tips, planning advice, etc.  Also, I am a big fan of lists on lists on lists- so of course I compiled so many lists! Created a list of top places we wanted to try and see plus operation times, tips on when best to go, and prices all in one spot. Itinerary wise we had a few things that were “set” but otherwise we just really wanted the freedom to wander, make impromptu stops, and basically re-adjust as we wanted to once we were there. For us, this typically means around at least 2 priority places a day followed by leisurely befores and afters; obviously this adjusts depending if we are doing tours of them or literally just ‘seeing’ it. We have found this type of formula to work out best for us.

Just talking about this makes me want to go back and do it all over again! Sigh.

I might just have to go look at trip deals now.

-Jess

 

 

First Post/New Blog

I have tried a blog in the past, but then got “too” in my head. And of course, I am not a professional foodie, photographer, fashionista, guru… so this blog is not going to be any of those things.

Basically, we learned in grade school Keep It Simple Stupid. So that is what I am going to try this time. Long vs. Short posts,  Planned vs. random, Frequently or sporadic, and pics or without pics.

BUT when I do post, I hope I do with “great enthusiasm and energy”.. or should I say ‘Zest’. Happy Days!