30 November 2011

Oui Oui Paris

So....I loved Paris.  LOVED it.  Ryan was kind of nevous about going since I "Disnify" things and he didn't want me to be disappointed.  There was absolutely nothing to be disappointed about in Paris though.  It met all my expectations.  Did I expect to hear live music on our romantic stroll along the Seine?  Yes.  Did it happen?  Yes.  Did I expect to see painters on street corners, beautiful architecture, historical artifacts, gorgeous artwork, and cute/yummy pastry shops?  Yes, yes yes.  Expection = met and exceeded.  We only spent a couple of days in the City of Love but we'll go back someday.  Maybe not someday soon but someday.

We left London by way of train and took the Chunnel to France.  I was a bit nervous because I have never travelled to a foreign country where I didn't know the language but everything worked out great.  We figured out the metro (after a few minor glitches) and made our way to our hotel right near the Arc de Triomphe.  We stayed at the Etoile St. Ferdinand (run by Best Western) which definitely wasn't fancy but it was still very charming (hello, it is in Paris). Unfortunately we had no view at all.  It looked liked this:

I was still excited about it - such a cute little building (at least it wasn't some ugly run down place)

We didn't get to our hotel until late so we went to bed and got up the next day with big plans to get as much jammed in as possible.  We successfully jammed.  Our first day included:

A trip to Notre Dame
A walk along the Seine
A small stroll through the Tuilleries
A walk through Montmartre
The Sacre Coeur (one of my favorite spots)
A quick trip through the Louvre
The Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars
SLEEEEEEEEEEEP - we got really tired

Oh, and pictures?  Loads and loads.  I'll post an unoverwhelming amount.

Sparkling Seine - so beautiful 

Notre Dame

We didn't go up to the top or see any hunchbacks roaming around but we did go inside and look around.  The rose windows were probably my favorite part and cathedral is just...well, just.  I can't think of a word to descibe how incredible it is.


Even the metro signs are fabulous is Paris.

The windmill  Moulin de la Galette at the top of  the hill

The Sacre Coeur - also beautiful inside and out.  Ryan loved loved loved it.  It reminded him of Minas Tirith.

The views from the Basilica are awesome.  After taking them in we walked down the hill, through the park, past the carousel, and by the guys who guilt you into buying cheap bracelets.  We need to learn to be mean because we did end up purchasing the cheap bracelets.

After Montmartre we went to the Louvre.  It was actually free admission the day we went so it was CRAZY.  We had tried to go earlier in the morning but the line was nuts so we decided to go back later.  The line in the afternoon was still so so so long but we discovered another entrance that had no line at all and got right in!  We only spent around 3 hours in the Louvre which is definitely not long enough to see everything but we were pretty efficient and saw quite a bit.  I'm not a stand and stare at paintings kind of person anyway - I enjoyed looking at the statues and different artificats much more.  I also forced Ryan to wander around with me as we tried to find Hammurabi's Code.  We were successful - I was excited.


On our way out we took the classic standing where the two pyramids meet picture:

We of course had to get a picture outside the Louvre by the main entrance as well

After the Louvre we went to the gaze at the Eiffel Tower.  It did not disappoint.  It sparkles in the sun and lights up at night - what more can you ask for?

We took lots of pictures - one with the little baby Boyo.
I made Ryan take a kissy picture - his favorite (ha!).   I am in love with this picture though.

We hung out on the Champs de Mars for a while and then went back to the hotel because we were beat.  My poor little feet hated me. 

Our next day wasn't near as busy - it was actually quite rainy and several museums were closed.  We walked by the Arc de Triomphe, strolled on the Champs Elysees, and went to the Musee de l'Armee (saw Napoleon's tomb)

Arc de Triomphe
Dome des Invalides and Napoleon's tomb

We also hung out in the Tuileries, stopped by the Pantheon, and took a trip up the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower at night was somehow even prettier than the Eiffel Tower during the daytime

I don't know how Parisians ever thought it was ugly - glad they gave it a chance and kept it in place.

We spent most of our last day in France at Versailles - another fantastic day trip!  The Palace itself really is so extravagent and lovely but they cram way way too many people inside so it is hard to really enjoy each room.  The Hall of Mirrors was still pretty cool though.

We had to stand in line for about 3 hours before entering - but I'd say it was worth it

The ornate lifestyle of an absolute European monarch - craziness.

I enjoyed the gardens much more than the palace itself.  We spent most of our time there.

None of the fountains were on while we were there which made me a little sad.

See why I loved grounds so much?  By the time we were finished walking around I thought my legs were going to fall off.  We had a really early flight the next morning so we left mid-evening and went to bed pretty early.  I was so so sad to leave Paris.  There is so much we still have to do someday.

After walking around London and Paris for days and days though we were ready for a little break.  Ireland was just what we needed - more on that to come!

13 November 2011

Mind the Gap

I am finally getting around to writing about our incredibly amazingly awesome trip this summer - London was our first stop.

Well....actually - Charlotte, NC was our first stop.  We got stuck there for a night after U.S. Airways cancelled our flight to London for "mechanical issues."  I wish I was the type of person who could just say "C'est la vie" and be okay with it.  But alas, I'm not - I cried instead and spent hours on the phone to get us a flight out the next day. 

We flew into Heathrow and got to London around 6am and then went straight to our hotel to drop things off.  When we got there (and since we had to pay for the hotel the night before anyway) they told us that we got free full English breakfast everyday of our stay - including that morning.  Ryan was in heaven with all of the meat, eggs, bread, etc.  I think I had cereal and then threw up.  Yay.  The Hotel Russell was awesome though - so happy we decided to stay where we did.

After breakfast and a little sleep we headed out and walked around to see the sites.  We did a fun walk along the Thames, had fish and chips (that were decent, not amazing), and pretty much just took everything in.  It was a very laid back day - extremely hard on the feet though.  Some of our stops included:

Kings Cross

I will always wish that Harry Potter actually existed

Tower of London
(we didn't actually pay to go inside and now I wish we had)

Tower Bridge

 The Thames and St. Paul's.

London Eye

Us with our friend Big Ben


Parliament Building

Westminster Abbey

 We couldn't resist taking a picture with the red telephone booths

The next day it rained and rained and rained.  We didn't do much outside at first - we ventured to Buckingham Palace and then went to the British Museum.  The British Museum is SO spectacular.  Unfortunately every other person in the city had the same idea as us and visited the British Museum as well so it was very very crowded. 

Our hotel was right by the British Museum so we went back and waited the rain out.  It eventually let up so we wandered around Hyde Park (which is gigantic).  We found the Pan statue which made my day. 

 We also went back to our river walk and took in the views of London at night - beautiful.

The next day we departed on a day trip to Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford.

Warwick was really fun - they've preserved this Medieval castle well and the experience is supposed to take you back to the time period.  They hold jousting touranments, archery shows, and have knights and princesses walking around.  We only got a to spend a couple of hours there since we were on a bus tour but we really enjoyed it.

There were some gorgeous views atop the castle of the English countryside

 Statford (birthplace of Shakespeare) was fun as well - actors performed lines from Shakespeare's plays and we got a quick tour of the home he grew up in.

Oxford is just architecturally magnificent.  We only had about an hour so we didn't get to see all of the grounds but it was a definite highlight of the trip.

Our tour bus dropped us off in the evening near Buckingham so we actually got to see it without pouring down rain.

On our very last day in London we had a little bit of time before our train left to Paris so we did some more walking and toured some more museums near Trafalgar Square

We didn't want to leave without taking a picture of our hotel - it was huge and so so pretty.

Ryan in Trafalgar Square

Things I wish we would have done differently:

Spent money that we were too cheap to spend on tours of Parliament and Westminster

Actually planned out when we were going to see a show - it never happened (probably would have if we would have had our missed day though)

Found GOOD Indian food - we spent way too much money on some very subpar Indian food.

 All in all, we loved London.  I'm looking forward to going back because there is a lot that we didn't get to do/see.  Paris was my favorite though.  Sometime in the near future I'll post about our time in the "City of Love."