Final Day of Vacation

We woke up in Paris for the last time today, but I think we were both ready to get back to London for one more night!  It was another bitterly cold and foggy morning, nevertheless I was determined to get in one last bit of sightseeing… Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphie!  I know there is much more historical and cultural significance here, but for me it has always been the setting of the last stage of the Tour de France… and where I watched Lance ceremoniously sip champagne with his teammates en route to victory – 7 times!  So I made Brian get up early in the freezing cold so we could get our Paris rental bikes and experience riding on the famous cobblestone road.  Unfortunately, it was not nearly as spectacular on this morning due to rush-hour commuters and lots of fog.  We took some cool photos and then raced back down the Champs-Elysees one last time.  After earning some very hot chai tea lattes, we checked out of our hotel and said Au revoir! to Paris as we headed to the Gare du Nord to catch our train back to London.
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Once back in London we couldn’t wait to make the most of our last night here.  But the first stop was some great British pub food!  Adjacent to Hyde Park was a place called on Kensington Road.  Our very late lunch included two giant Stella’s, a burger for Brian, fish & chips for me, and sides of fried mushrooms and onion rings.

We then hopped on the Underground and headed to see The City skyline at night!  Scroll down for Brian’s photos.  The views from the London Bridge and the Tower Bridge were incredible.  We both agreed that this stroll along the River Thames would not have been nearly as spectacular in the daylight.

We decided that our last meal on vacation, and last night in London, would be at Signor Sassi!  We ate dinner here on our first night in London, and couldn’t wait to revisit the menu and try some more delicious Italian food.  They took excellent care of us all night, with special appetizers, bonus desserts, wonderful wine recommendations, and lots of friendly Italiano banter.  Signor Sassi himself was there that night, and made a point to come over and pat Brian on the back!  We felt like celebrities.  Ha.

So sadly we had reached the end of the vacation, but both agreed that London needed to be revisited (perhaps in warmer weather) because we had so much fun exploring such a cool and interesting city.

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Our last night in London!!

Janella will surely be able to construct a much better description of our last day in London but I can at least post some pics. Details to follow 😉

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Guess where we went.

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Day 3 in Paris

Today was the big day to finally go to the Eiffel Tower!  We left our hotel and quickly learned that it was going to be a very cold and rainy journey.  After breakfast (another “salad” for me, and a ham/egg/cheese melt for Brian), we bought some cheesy souvenir shop umbrellas and headed out… not as many photos to share today because our hands were too frozen to mess with the cameras!  Once on the other side of the Seine, the wind was less blustery and we had a nice walk through the neighborhoods of St Germain-Des-Pres and Invalides.  Hotel des Invalides is the site of Napoleon’s tomb… kind of ironic that it is this enormous monument and museum for such a little guy.  Ha ha.

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I don’t think either of us realized how massive the Eiffel Tower was until we were actually in front of it.  We took some token photos out on the lawn of the Parc du Champs de Mars (with a million other freezing tourists!) but I am ashamed to admit that when it came time to take the elevator to the top, I chickened out.  I never used to be afraid of heights, but the thought of riding up over 200 stories in a tiny, rickety, claustrophobic elevator petrified me.  Brian however took the risk and came away with some incredible shots of Paris.  I stayed warm and dry in the adjacent gift shop and attempted look French.  C’est horrible, I know.

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We then took a taxi to the legendary Angelina for the world famous hot chocolate… founded in 1903, and famous apparently for past literary patrons Marcel Proust and Gertrude Stein.  After that I consulted my trusty tour book to find the nearest place for us to wine taste.  Formidable!  We ended up at a place called Willi’s WIne Bar in a cool neighborhood just north of our hotel near the Palais Royal.  It is still so impressive to see so many beautifully old buildings on nearly every corner.  Anyway, back to the wine tasting, once inside we learned from our charming sommelier, Ollie, that this was the first wine bar in Paris, established in only 1980… weird, no?  Oui.  Anyway, he explained that wine tasting bars aren’t that popular in Paris because the French are so arrogant and self righteous about their wine, that they prefer to stick to what they know and not try anything new… hilarious.  So we sampled some French reds, then tried a really interesting and delicious Spanish white called Saint Joseph something or other (can you guess we were a little over served?) and enjoyed the rest of our last day in Paris drinking wine in the afternoon.  This guy, Ollie, convinced us to come back later and try their dinner… after translating the whole French menu for us, of course, and pointing out the variety of vegetarian dishes I could have, and indicating all of the animal options for Brian.  We made an early reservation for 7pm and then wandered the streets some more to find an internet cafe that served drinks… coincidentally, “happy hour” translates to “happy hour” in Paris and we ordered a few Tequila Sunrises for only 6 Euros AND got free Wifi.  Sante!!!

The dinner at Willi’s Wine Bar was in fact very good… so good that Brian and I each ordered a 2nd entree, and a 2nd bottle of wine.  Why not indulge?  Last night in Paris, then back to London in the morning…  Bonsoir!

(Note: Brian will post all the “cool” photos in a later post.)

I made it to the top and man it was cold!!

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Valentine’s Day in Paris – Day 2

Well, Paris has been frustrating in that we do not get internet at our hotel… seriously, they should spend less on sculptures and fresh flowers, and get some WiFi!!  So apologies for the less frequent updates.  There are only a couple places nearby where we can sit and use their internet… consequently, we have to buy something to eat or drink, so we’ve consumed lots of coffee & pastries!

On to the fun stuff… Day 2 in Paris started with a long walk to find breakfast.  I am very difficult to eat with (thanks, Brian) because everything here is ham, cheese, eggs, etc.  But fortunately we found a place that had a giant salad with rice, artichokes, tuna, asparagus, and olives.  It was delicious!  Then we trekked around the Louvre – oh my gosh, it is enormous.  Brian took some amazing photos… the architecture is just spectacular.  Next stop was a long walk further south along the Seine to Norte-Dame.  The detail and craftsmanship of this cathedral… there are no words.  You’ll have to scroll down to check out Brian’s gallery.  I was in awe.  In front of the entrance is the “Place du Parvis” which is the spot from which all distances to and from the city are officially measured.
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We couldn’t find that famous ice cream spot, Berthillon, but I was relieved when I checked my tour book and it is closed this time of year anyway.  So next we attempted to rent the bikes here, and it proved to be far more complicated than the rental process in London… but we persevered and hopped on the bikes for our ride up to Montmartre.  The goal was the top of Sacre-Coeur, but the map distorted my perception of the distance, so it took a bit longer than I planned, ha ha… Brian took some more great video of the bike ride and our view from the top.  My book said that it is the second highest point in the city (after Eiffel Tower).  Pretty foggy and gray, but you can really see the whole city from up there.

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The ride home was another adventure… I navigated our route through some super dirty and seedy neighborhoods, and we were right in the middle of rush hour traffic, AND it conveniently started raining.  We had a good laugh when we made it back to our hotel safely… but seriously, the roads here are called like seven words that all look the same, and there are no bike lanes in the roundabouts!

Brian made some friends, Kathy and Gilles, at a little cafe while I was trying to find a depot for my bike.  Fortunately, he had a corner table out front with two glasses of wine waiting for me when I returned.  This couple was from London and just in town for Valentine’s Day, and they had a great sense of humor so therefore Brian had a blast bantering with them… they thought he was hilarious.  Naturally 😉

After we had a good wine buzz on, we ventured back to the hotel to clean up for our Valentine’s Day dinner.  The concierge recommended a little Italian place within walking distance, and a place for last minute/no reservations, called Cafe Romantica.  Delicious wine, yummy food, and cute ambiance made it a perfect place for our little romantic dinner.

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The high point for me, was walking back to the hotel along the Seine with the lights and Eiffel Tower as our backdrop.  C’ est magnifique!

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We made it to France!

It was so sad to leave London this morning… I hope Paris is just as wonderful and fun as London has been.  Thank goodness we are going back in a few days!  Brian wanted to take some photos at Hyde Park this morning, so it was a perfect opportunity for me to go for a little run.  Across the street from our hotel is an entrance at Albert Gate and the southeast side of The Serpentine.  We walked to an adjacent cafe where Brian enjoyed his coffee and I could run around the lake.  So beautiful!  I could run around this park all day long… so many cute dogs, fit and happy people, and adorable cafes.

Our next challenge was to take the Underground to the Eurostar station for our ride to Paris.  Brian settled in and immediately turned on a movie… while I panicked and immediately researched our Paris book and my French dictionary so we would be prepared for our arrival into France.  Not sure how much I retained…

Once at the Paris station, we both learned that we have to pay to use the restroom… 70cents to be exact.  Wtf!?  There is a concierge at the entrance and you have to ‘check in’ to use the facilites.  At the train station.  No joke.

Fortunately, we had an English speaking cabbie who gave us some good information on eating, drinking, and shopping around town.  Our hotel is well located adjacent to the Louvre, Champs Elysees, and the very first Ritz, according to our cab driver.  We checked in, then headed out for a late lunch/early dinner, although who the heck knows what time it ever is here!  The late lunch included a large salad for me, and a fancy ham & cheese sandwich for Brian, and our first glasses of French wine!  Oui!

We wandered around a bit, hopped in another cafe for some more wine, cheese & bread, and lots of espresso!  On the walk along the Seine, we caught our first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower!!!  There is so much more to explore here… so after a long day, we passed out very early (like 10pm Paris time) to be rested for a full day tomorrow! Au revoir!

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Checking in… Parlez-vous anglais?

Brian is finite!

The view from our balcony

The first (distant) view of the Eiffel Tower!

Just in case you want to look at our whole gallery. Click here

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More from Day 3 in London

This morning was the most difficult for me to wake up and get going, especially when my watch still said 1am… so the morning didn’t go as well as I wanted, and therefore we got off to a late start.  After a quick breakfast, we hopped on the Underground again, this time on the Circle line to Westminster, en route to Buckingham Palace and Parliament Square.  Brian took some incredible photos as we walked from St James’s Park, through Queen Anne’s Gate, to the Wellington Barracks (and the Guards Museum), on towards Buckingham Palace via “Birdcage Walk”.  I could not believe I was actually standing there in front of a such a historical and spectacular place!  After some silly photos and touristy moments, we proceeded towards Parliament and Westminster Abbey… although it was hard for me not to giggle while hearing Clark Griswold saying, “Parliament, Big Ben…” in repetition in my head.  HA.

Next stop, the theatre district for our recommended show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert… um, so the look on Brian’s face when he realized we were seeing a drag queen musical… priceless.  I promise I didn’t know, nor did I expect in any way that we were going to see over 2 hours of singing and dancing dudes dressed in full drag… seriously, we could not stop laughing because I don’t think Brian could have been more uncomfortable.  All I can say is, at least it wasn’t boring… and we have never seen anything like it before… (except maybe in the Castro for Folsom Street Fair?!?!)  Ooops.

Exiting the show, I knew we needed a new adventure… hey, Brian, let’s rent some bicycles and ride home instead of taking the train!  Great idea, Janella… but do you know where we’re going? Or how to ride on the busy streets of metro London with buses, trolleys, taxis, and cars?  …oh, and it’s dark out now and we don’t have helmets.  Brilliant!  Super fun and something I will never forget.

Once safely back to our hotel, we cleaned up and strutted out for our last night in London.  Just for fun, we sauntered through Harrod’s for some serious fantasy shopping, then arrived promptly for our 9pm dinner reservation at Mr. Chow.  Delicious dinner and wonderful wine left us full, buzzed, and satisfied with our short time in London.

Enjoy the photos and silly video (at the bottom of this post, hit play), and then scroll down for more shots from Brian.  We depart in the morning for Paris so more to come…

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London day 3

So we slept in a bit today but when we got started, we got some Sh*t done!
We started out by grabbing breakfast at a little cafe, then took off on our journey to see Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Parliament, and Buckingham Palace. We finished up the day with a quick walk through Harrods then dinner at Mr. Chows, which just happened to be delicious!! Here are some pics from the day.

Westminster Abbey:


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Day 2.5 Dinner in Knightsbridge

After a long day of walking and sightseeing, we came back to the hood in Knightsbridge and ventured out for the evening.  Per our concierge, a hip and “boisterous” (apparently he thought we’re not the quiet type) restaurant called, Sale e Pepe (salt and pepper? clever) was his recommendation.  It did not disappoint!  We also observed that everyone here seems to speak a combination of Italiano, Espanol, and “English” and sometimes all at the same time.  After a loud and entertaining dinner (Brian always manages to make besties with the owner, hosts, waiters, etc) we took a long walk/detour home to explore the high-end shopping district… all I could say was, “are we in designer heaven?”  I am not a label snob, but the collection of stores was impressive…

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Brian wondering, what’s a Louboutin?

ooh… so pretty!!  Is this a museum?

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Day 2.1 Leicester Square

I know that Brian already made a post today with his uploaded photos, however I was a happy snapper myself and wanted to include some photos as well… we started off today with some coffee and croissants at a nearby cafe then proceeded to the Underground to catch the Piccadilly line to Leicester Square.  We scored some discount theater tickets then explored the area and wandered up to Soho for lunch.  Lots of laughs and interesting people watching!

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This is the show (Priscilla Queen of the Desert) that our cute little flight attendant recommended us to see!  Stay tuned… we are going tomorrow for the matinee!

So not that I would ever ride a Vespa, however this hot little pink one tricked out with the cool stickers was tempting me…

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Day 2 Leicester Square

I Love the architecture!
You dont see a lot of this, so I had to take a snap.
Janella wants me to wear this!!
Yup, they have China town too.
And a little musical entertainment!

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