This was by and far my favorite museum. The building is a reclaimed train station and the architecture is as stunning as the art. It’s beautifully restored. This is one of the things that makes Paris, Paris. Why can’t this be done more often? Why does the past have to be torn down and replaced by the new?
My husband and I both love impressionism so the Musée d’Orsay was high on our list of things to do in Paris. The impressionist collection is, of course, world class. The setting is perfectly intimate. It’s upstairs, tucked away. It’s not overwhelming or intimidating like the collection at the Louvre.
I also promised that I would show pictures of our apartment, however I should first warn you that these pictures were taken a few days into the trip and we had really made ourselves at home. It really was nice I promise. It had everything we needed, including a washer and dryer in the bathroom. I don’t think we ever got the TV to work but it didn’t matter anyway because we just watched Netflix on our iPads.
Even if you have no interest in shopping (Though I don’t know how you couldn’t, it’s Paris after all), you have to visit the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann. To call it a department store doesn’t do it justice. It’s not only beautiful inside you’re also allowed to go up to the roof which has fabulous views of the city.
From the moment we started planning our vacation I knew I wanted to
take the train from London to Paris. I think I had images of the Orient Express in my mind when I booked the trip. It wasn’t quite that romantic, nor was the scenery as impressive as I had pictured. Though I can now say I’ve been through the Chunnel, which of course wasn’t very impressive either. So I guess my advice is don’t bother with the train unless you find a good deal but make sure you shop around, the plane tickets are surprisingly reasonable from London to Paris.
Our First Fabulous Meal in France
The restaurant was Auberge Des Deux Ponts, it was located a block away from our apartment on the Ile Saint-Louis. The carpaccio, the duck the steak, the wine and the creme brulee, it was all perfect.
Our Vacation Apartment
The Île de la Cité where Notre Dame is one of two islands in the Seine. The other island is Ile Saint-Louis where our rental apartment was. We went through Homeaway.com for this one and the stay went much smoother then our apartment stay in London did.
Here’s the view to the left of our little island. You can see the Ile de la Cité where Notre Dame is. Tomorrow I’ll post pictures of inside the apartment.
Since we only had five days in London we tried to get in a much sightseeing in as we could all in one day. It was fun to play the part of a ogling tourist for a day, usually I try to blend in as much as possible.
Traveling around London wasn’t difficult, all you need is an Oyster Card and load it up whenever you get low. (Or as they say in England top it up) The card gives you access to the tube system and the buses. We never tried any of the buses, we stuck to the tube for long distances and then walked everywhere else.
The London Bridge … or is it?
This is easily the best known bridge in London and the most misidentified because guess what, it’s not the London Bridge! It’s actually called the Tower Bridge. The current London Bridge is much more modern looking. So it’s very easy for tourists to get confused and lost by assuming that the Tower Bridge is the London Bridge.
There have actually been many London Bridges over the years, the one from the nursery rhyme fame was likely the one built between 1179 and 1209, though many of them did have a habit of falling down, that’s way the bridge had been replaced so many time. One London Bridge was bought by an American in 1968 and now resides in Arizona!
Tower of London Grounds
A short walk from the Tower Bridge is the Tower of London. This is where they keep the crown jewels if you want to pony up the £24.50 it takes to enter. We didn’t venture inside but we did take a look at the grounds. While we were there they were installing red poppies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I. The 888,246 poppies were suppose to represent each British serviceman killed during the war. It was both beautiful and sad.
Our Second Day in London
Whoever said breakfast is the most important meal of the day was right, however I don’t think they were thinking of Cronuts when they said it. If you haven’t yet experienced the croissant/donut combination you are really missing out. We tried out first in a little bakery on Connaught St. It had flaky, layers of dough and icing and was too good for words. Some people might consider this small but I assure you it was so sweet I almost couldn’t eat it all.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
Now for all you history buffs, let me clarify and say, no, this isn’t the original Globe Theatre. The original burned in 1633, however this theatre was painstakingly recreated by a man names Sam Wanamaker.
Tours were 13.50 pounds for each adult and was well worth the money, our tour guide really made the history come alive. The tour was about 30 minutes long and they welcomed questions at the end. We were so enthralled with the place we considered getting tickets to see a performance but the shows for the day were already sold out.
There were a few British meals that I knew I had to try, a meat pie and mushy peas were two items on the list. Borough Market was the perfect place to find both. If you want to sample some great local cuisine this is the spot for you. If you visit make sure you arrive hungry and bring someone who will share with you so you can sample more food. The prices are reasonable and the choices are abundant, make a few rounds before you settle on what you want, otherwise you might stumble upon something you really want to try but no longer have the room for.
On our first full day in London we visited the British Museum. We took a guided tour, which I highly recommend because the museum is so large that it’s overwhelming unless you’re a history buff.
There’s a very nice gift shop in the center of the museum. I’ve always had a hard time buying souvenirs to bring home for family and friends. It’s not that I don’t want to, I just always worry if I buy something early in the trip then I’ll come across something later in the trip that would’ve been better for them, and on a limited budget I wouldn’t be able to buy both. I’m also not a big fan of knick knacks, I like practical gifts that people are going to be able to use.
So I cheated. I shopped online at places like the British Museum gift
shop to get ideas of what we would be coming across, for instant I had already decided that I wanted an umbrella from Harrod’s in London, I thought it would be very fitting and every time I use it I think about our trip.
As luck would have it Harrod’s was our next stop. Even if shopping isn’t high on your list of things to do, you have to see the food hall at Harrod’s. It’s gorgeous and mind-boggling the variety and amount of food. Anything and everything you can imagine is there and a lot of stuff you never imagined. Of course being surrounded by all that food made us suddenly very hungry.
There’s no shortage of restaurants to choose from, we decided on the Tea Room. I ordered a platter of tea sandwiches and little pastries with a cappuccino. Hubby ordered the duck which was also delicious. It was a bit of splurge but totally worth it. It was very fancy and fun to pretend that we lived like that on a daily basis.
Something exciting happened on the way to Harrod’s, we were stopped and asked for directions, this would happen to us a few times during the trip which thrilled me because where ever I go in the world, I love to blend in, I hate looking like a tourist.
Here’s a few pictures of us eating at Harrod’s, do I look like a Londoner?
Before we left for our trip I arranged for a car to take us to our vacation apartment rental, after traveling for about twenty hours straight I was worried about being coherent enough to get a taxi, however having a car service wasn’t much less confusing. When we landed we couldn’t find our driver. We first switched out the SIM chips in our phones so that we wouldn’t get slammed with international charges by our cell-phone carrier, after we did that we had no luck getting the number we had for the car service to go through.
Here’s a BIG warning for trying to make calls in England, it’s very confusing. I think we were suppose to use the country code but not the area code? If anyone can clarify please leave if in the comment section. Thankfully someone at a kiosk helped us get the call to go through and we discovered that our driver was at the terminal looking for us. Next up was getting the key to the apartment which was another fun little adventure but eventually we got the key.
We weren’t thrilled will the way the person with the key handled the transaction, he wrote down our credit card and told us he would give us a receipt later. This was a big red flag for us, with all the technology for card readers out there we weren’t comfortable with this person writing down our credit card number. The only thing that made us feel a little better was that because of a Home Depot hack our credit card had to be replaced with a new number anyway. At the end of our trip we had to fight to get a receipt to show that we did indeed pay the remaining amount. It wasn’t a great first experience with staying at a vacation apartment. If you’re more concerned with convenience then saving money, I would recommend going the traditional route and stay at a hotel. We however thought that the extra effort was totally worth it, especially because hotel rooms in Europe are very small.
Ready for some picture overload? I’ll try not to bore you too much and give only the most pertinent of details.
This is a picture of our stopover in Iceland. Not only do I recommend stopping in Reykjavik (It was nice to get out of the plane and stretch our legs a bit) but I wish we had taken a few days to explore Iceland. Icelandic Air does a fantastic job of selling its tourism industry. They have Hot Springs, volcanos that you can climb into, and of course a good shot at seeing the Aurora Borealis. Iceland really sounds like a fascinating country.
I also highly recommend Icelandic Air, they were the cheapest flight and they also were a great airline. I made a mistake imputing my passenger info, I got confused with the European way of recoding dates and put my birthdate in wrong, They do day/month/year while we here in the States do month/day/year. I was afraid this would somehow mess me up if someone noticed the discrepancy, I contacted the airline and they quickly fixed it for me without any hassle at all.
Here’s some of the souvenirs and snacks at the Reykjavik Airport. I kind of regret not getting the dried fish.
Next up: Landing in London
(Other side note; I’m glad we didn’t fly on the Irish airline, when their announcements were made at the various airports I had no idea what they were saying! Their accents were great, just too thick for me to understand over a PA system.)
A post from another blog (Write me a book, John!) got me thinking of how important music has been in my life. I’ve been going through my music collection downloading some of it to my new computer. It’s funny to look back at what I’ve collected over the years, it’s very much like a scrapbook, you can remember what was going on in your life when you downloaded that song. Remember napster? Those were the good old days.
One of the most prolific bands in my music library has always been Matchbox Twenty. I got to see Matchbox Twenty and Goo Goo Dolls at Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) last summer and it was the best concert I’ve ever been. It was all ages, though it was those of us in our late to mid twenties who were obviously the die hard fans. It was funny to see the teens and tweens whip out their iPhones to look up lyrics to songs that were popular before they were even born. It really made me better appreciate the staying power of the two bands and made me feel a little old.
What about you? What music will you always carry with you? What’s your favorite music memory?