i’m throwing my arms around paris

On our third day in Paris, we woke up early to get to the Louvre first thing, hoping to avoid the crowds.

It took no time at all to get in and find the wing with Mona Lisa, but by the time we got there, there were already swarms of people. We had to fight our way to the front to get a glimpse of her. She is very heavily guarded.

We couldn’t admire her for too long before being pushed out of the way by other tourists. We made our way through a lot of the Louvre and saw Venus de Milo, Vermeer’s The Astronomer, and Nike of Samothrace.

We made our way outside and marveled at how big the Louvre is.

We walked through Jardin des Tuileries and got a view straight down the historic axis (L’Axe historique) — a straight line starting from the courtyard of the Louvre Palace to the outskirts of Paris.

We saw the Centre Georges Pompidou – a building that was built inside out.

Then we stopped at Église Saint-Merri at a cafe opposite Fontaine Stravinsky for some wine and tiramisu.

We then took a train up north to see the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur – a church high on a hill overlooking Paris. It’s quite a climb to get there. Even after taking several flights of stairs to get above ground from the train, we had to walk up steep streets and more steps to get to the foot of the Basilique.

It provided another great view of Paris.

Later that night we had dinner at Atelier Maitre Albert – a Guy Savoy restaurant. It was delicious!

Walking back to the hotel we stopped again at Shakespeare & Co. At about 11pm, it was still packed.

Across the street, we got a great view of the Notre Dame Cathedral all lit up.

On our last day in Paris, we took the train out to Versailles in the morning.

See those cement pillars along the sidewalk? Minutes after taking this picture, I walked across the street, looked back at Drew as I was walking, and BAM – I walked right into one of those cement pillars. Besides embarrassing myself, I completely bashed my knee into it and it immediately swelled up. I was in sheer pain the rest of the day. Great start to my day at Versailles…

The palace at Versailles was incredible. I had no idea how big it was and how ornate all of the rooms were – each of them different. And the gardens were amazing.

The Hall of Mirrors was pretty packed, as was the rest of the Palace. But by this point in the trip, we were pretty used to all the travel groups.

We headed back to Paris around lunchtime and went to Musee d’Orsay. By now I was limping stiff-legged, but we kept on truckin’ through. I wasn’t about to let an injury slow me down on my last day in Paris! Well, maybe it slowed me down a bit, but it didn’t stop me!

We saw paintings by Van Gogh, Manet, Degas, Monet, and Renoir among others.

Our last stop of the trip was to Jardin des Plantes.

What a perfect cap to a perfect trip, a leisurely stroll down a tree-lined lane.

Sadly, it was time to go. One last dinner al fresco at a cafe in the Latin Quarter. One last bottle of Bordeaux. We had to pack our bags and get ready for our early flight the next morning.

Au revoir Paris, tu vas me manquer!

Check out more of my pictures from Paris on Flickr.

*Blog post title is a lyric from the song “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” by Morrissey

give paris one more chance

From London, we boarded a Eurostar high-speed train through the Chunnel and into France. We got to Paris in 2 hours flat. It was neat to see the countryside fly by (England has cows just like we do!)

We got to the Paris Gare du Nord and took a local train to the St. Michel stop – right on the banks of the Seine in the Latin Quarter. Our hotel was 2 blocks from the river and right in the heart of a bunch of pedestrian streets full of restaurants and shops.

Once we checked in and grabbed lunch, we headed straight to the Notre Dame Cathedral, which was right across the bridge a couple blocks from our hotel.

From there we walked through La Conciergerie, past the Prefecture of Police and stopped in Shakespeare & Co. It’s a very old, very packed bookstore. A lot of history in that bookshop. Lots of famous writers used to hang out there. Back then, the owners would let aspiring writers live upstairs for free, as long as they volunteered for a few hours in the store and promised to read one book a day. This was one of Drew’s favorite spots in Paris.

We headed down through the Latin Quarter to Sorbonne (the Paris University) and to the Pantheon.

I didn’t really know what to expect of the Pantheon. I was not prepared for how vast it felt inside and how tall the ceilings were. And in the middle was Focault’s Pendulum which demonstrates the rotation of the earth.

Next stop was Jardin du Luxembourg – a really lovely park with Luxembourg Palace overlooking a large fountain and very manicured gardens.

While trying to photograph the fountain, I was stopped by a guy who said I just walked onto their movie set. I looked to my left and saw a whole camera crew. Oops! They were filming a scene with two little girls playing near the fountain. Here, the little girl walks right up to the camera for her monologue.

Before it got dark, we wanted to get over to Tour Montparnasse – the tallest building in Paris. You can go to the top for a view of Paris. Here you can see the Louvre in the distance.

By now, we were ready for dinner. And some wine.

We really enjoyed the Latin Quarter at night – it was so lively. Our room had a juliet balcony that we could open and watch the crowds go by.

Our first stop the next morning was none other than… the Eiffel Tower! I was very excited to see it up close and take plenty of pictures. And did I ever. I took 56 pictures of just the Eiffel Tower.

It was cold and windy that morning, but that meant it wasn’t nearly as crowded as it probably is. We took the lift to the middle section and got another nice view of Paris.

There was a maintenance crew working. I had no idea the Eiffel Tower was painted brown. I guess the old girl needed her makeup re-applied. It does make her glow a nice bronze color in the sun!

It cleared up as we walked through Parc du Champs de Mars. You have to be pretty far away from the Eiffel Tower in order to get the whole thing in the shot.

Ouch! The Eiffel Tower is sharp.

We checked out the Musee Rodin – where most of Rodin’s sculptures were scattered around the gardens outside the museum – including Le Penseur.

From here, we walked past the Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, Esplande des Invalides, across Pont Alexandre III bridge, past the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, and along Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe.

I went to the top (via another tight spiral staircase) to get another great aerial view of Paris. You’d think I would have learned my lesson from the experience in London and try to conserve the rest of my energy for walking, but I’m glad I didn’t pass this up. It was a great view at the top.

That night we had dinner reservations at La Maree Verte where I had the most delicious mussels I’ve ever had. (It was the first time I ever had mussels.) As we ended our second night in Paris, we had seen a lot, but there was still so much to see and do!

Check out more of my pictures from Paris on Flickr.

*Blog post title is a lyric from the song “Give Paris One More Chance” by Jonathan Richman

al fayed take me home, to the place where i belong…

Craven Cottage
By the river
Al Fayed
Take me home!

Our last morning in London brought us to Hyde Park for a leisurely stroll towards Prince Albert memorial and the Princess Diana memorial. There was a lot of activity going on the in the park – footy games, lots of runners, and a boot camp workout class.

Towards the west side of Hyde Park is Round Pond and Kensington Palace. Round Pond attracts lots of families, sailboat enthusiasts, and every kind of bird you could think of.

You could literally walk right up to these giant swans.

Kensington Gardens, next to the palace, are some of the most lush and colorful gardens I’ve ever seen.

Then it was off to the Fulham game! Drew’s soccer buddy has a friend who works for Fulham (our favorite English Premier League team) and was able to get us tickets and passes to McBride’s lounge. The game is the real reason why we planned this trip – we planned the entire agenda around this game. So yeah, we were looking forward to it. We took the train out to Fulham early so we could walk around the stadium and shop in their team store.

Craven Cottage is right on the bank of the Thames, to the west of residential Fulham – lots of quaint little streets that look like this:

The grounds didn’t even have a parking lot, and only a little two lane road passed in front of it. A far cry from the stadiums we’re used to frequenting here in the States.

A whole store of Fulham stuff? Drew thought he was in heaven. He picked out a new Pantsil jersey for the game and I wore his Davies jersey.

Before the game started, we walked through the stadium and got a good view of the empty pitch on our way to McBride’s Lounge for some pre-game drinks.

The game was beyond exciting. Craven Cottage is a pretty small stadium and the fans get really into it. They played Everton and won 2-1. It was amazing to be at the game and have them win.

After the game, we took the train back to London and grabbed an Italian dinner. And thus ended our stay in London. 😦 London is a pretty spectacular city. For realz.

Next up – the Paris leg of our trip! I didn’t think I could handle any more excitement. But I was wrong. 🙂

Check out all my pictures from London!

*Blog post title is from a Fulham Football Club fan song

london calling to the faraway towns

Drew and I finally took our long-awaited trip to Europe. We kept it simple by only visiting London and Paris. We wanted to see as much as we could (within our time limit and budget) and boy did I pack it in. I had spent months preparing. How did people plan trips before Google Maps and TripAdvisor?

We took a red-eye straight to London and tried to sleep on the flight. That didn’t happen. Too excited. We arrived at Heathrow, found our luggage, got some GBP’s and grabbed a train to our hotel in the Bloomsbury neighborhood (near Soho) – The Kingsley. The hotel was on Bloomsbury Way. Well, we found Bloomsbury Ct., Bloomsbury Square, Bloomsbury Place, Bloomsbury… ok I exaggerate. But we had a hard time finding Bloomsbury Way and then we realized we went in one big circle, dragging our suitcases with us the whole time. Once we checked in and cleaned up, we jumped back on the train to Regent’s Park.

Regent’s Park was beautiful. It has, among other things, Queen Mary’s Rose Gardens and the London Zoo. We walked through the park for a while and took a bunch of pictures of the roses.

Then we shopped around Soho and the West End. By shopping I mean, walking past all the hoity toity shops. Of course I had to snap pictures of the red phone booths.

We found a pub for dinner where Drew could get his much anticipated Guinness. I had fish and chips.

I ended up picking a pretty awesome location for our hotel. Our neighborhood was full of corner pubs and bookshops, but our street was quiet. The train was around the corner, which had 2 of the main lines. We were both amazed by the Underground tubes – they were clean and smooth. And we never waited more than 30 seconds for a train.

The next day was a busy one. We woke up to gorgeous weather. Clear skies in London? We started out at Trafalgar Square with our Starbucks.

Then through Admiralty Arch and down The Mall, through St. James Park, and finally to Buckingham Palace.

From there, we walked under Wellington Arch and then back around towards Westminster Abbey, the Parliament and Big Ben.

Hey look kids, there’s Big Ben!

That night, we had reservations at Bedford and Strand, right on the bank of the Thames. It was a neat atmosphere with a long bar and quaint little tables and chairs.

The next day we started at St. Paul’s Cathedral.

My great, great grandmother was raised right next to St. Paul’s Cathedral. Her father was a book seller and had a bookshop at #4 Panyer Alley, just off Paternoster Row. The bookshops are no longer there – they were leveled by bombs during The Blitz of 1940-41 and have long since been replaced by big office buildings. But I did find the street sign!

Then we came upon the Monument. That’s its name – Monument. It’s the tallest free-standing stone column in the world. I was the adventurous one that decided to climb to the top (not because it was tall or scary, but because it required you to climb 311 steps in a tight spiral staircase to the top). Was I nuts? I was going to be on my feet ALL day! Yet, I took on the challenge – the view from the top seemed promising.

It was much easier going down. I did get a certificate for making the climb!

We continued on to the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, which required more stair climbing to walk across the top bridge.

We continued along the bank of the Thames, saw the Southwark Cathedral, Shakespeare’s Globe and stopped in the Tate Modern Museum for a bit. After we were both pretty exhausted, we headed back towards the hotel and hung around the bookshops. One of Drew’s favorites was the London Review Bookshop. And then much needed R&R (and in Drew’s case – another Guinness.)

Later that night we had dinner at Boxwood Cafe – one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants. It was fabulous. The soup! Oh the soup. It had sweet corn and lobster. I filled up on the soup, but somehow made room for the rest of the meal and dessert. Because that is what I do on vacation.

Stay tuned for the rest of our London trip replay!

See all my photos from London

*Blog post title is a lyric from the song “London Calling” by The Clash