A week in London and Paris
Mario and I headed to London and Paris for a few days last week. This was Mario's first trip to both cities and I was excited to show him around. It has been 10 years since I have been to London and this marks time #4 for Paris. The weather was sunny and warm and we lucked out with only encountering a few rain showers. I'm glad to see sun since we have been getting tons of rain here in Germany!
One thing about Mario and I when we travel is we enjoy walking around the area to see the attractions and only take public transportation when the distance between attractions is far. We see more of the area and feel more connected, but with saying that you do see a great deal of interesting things on the train, this trip would be a person on the metro in Paris had a real pet rat on his shoulder. On this trip we walk about 74 miles and 174,429 steps.
Our trip started Monday morning when we headed to the train station which took us to the airport. From there we boarded our flight and flew into Gatwick Airport. Since the airport is on the outskirts of London we needed to take the express train. We boarded the train and within 30 mins we were in London, arriving at Victoria Station. We walked a few blocks and arrived at our hotel. Our hotel was in a great location with a tube stop (subway) nearby and a few blocks from attractions such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey. Then we dropped our stuff off at the hotel then we headed out to explore London. We walked over to Buckingham Palace which is the London residence and administrative headquarters for the reigning monarch of the UK. One thing to remember in London is that they drive on the opposite side of the road so you have to look the opposite direction than you normally would when crossing the street.
Did you know London has eight Royals parks and we explored three of them; Green, Hyde and Kensington Park were the ones we saw. We saw a great deal of the park including Peter Pan statue and Italian garden just to name two. Then we found some Harry Potter sites and walked along the Thames River taking in the views of London.
Tuesday: Today we explored London by using the London Pass and our Oyster Card. The London pass grants admission to numerous attractions around while the Oyster card can be used for unlimited travel on public transportation for the day. We started out day off by walking the few blocks to explore Westminster Abbey which staged the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, now the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge. We also saw Big Ben and House of Parliament.
Then took the Westminster tube to the Tower of London where we saw the crown jewels and the White Tower. From there we walked to Tower Bridge where we traveled to the top and saw views of London from atop of the bridge. A short distance from there is Shakespeare’s Globe, which is the reconstruction of the theatre where Shakespeare’s worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays. We were given a tour and the opportunity to watch rehearsal for the upcoming play of Macbeth, which was incredible! We weren’t allowed to take pictures so I can’t show you how it looked. Then we walked across Millennium Bridge which for all you Harry Potter fans is where the Death Eaters twisted and collapse the bridge in the movie Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.
Wednesday: Today we took a bus tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Oxford for the day. Our first stop was Windsor Castle which is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world and an official residence of her Majesty the Queen, it is her favorite weekend home. We had to chance to see the changing of the guards there and explored the grounds.
Next was Stonehenge. After being dropped off at the visitors center we boarded a bus for a short drive to Stonehenge where we could walked around and took in the views. I am standing by a stone which represent the size of those used in Stonehenge. Our final stop was Oxford where our tour guide gave a walking tour around the campus. A few buildings were used in the Harry Potter movies. We didn’t have much time to explore the inside of the buildings but still very interesting to walk around. We had an evening arrival back in London.
Thursday morning before our departure we walked to Lambeth bridge which was used in the movie Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban where the Knight bus had to shrink to miss the two double decker buses. From there we walked to King Cross Station & St Pancras International which were used in Harry Potter movies. I was able to take my picture at the 9 ¾ platform after waiting in a long line. We board the EuroStar which is the high speed train which travels in the Channel Tunnel to numerous locations. We took it from London to Paris which was only a few hours.
We arrive in Paris early evening and walked to short distance from the train station to our hotel. Our hotel is located in the Opera district with a short walk to Hard Rock Cafe and then a few blocks from the Louvre and very close to a Metro stop. Later that evening we took the Metro (subway) to the Arc de Triomphe and walked some of the Champs-Elysees. Then headed to Moulin Rouge and Sacre Coeur Basilica.
Friday was our day to explore more of Paris. We started off at the Louvre exploring many sites of this massive museum. Then walked some of Garden of Tuileries before taking the metro to Notre Dame where we explored the inside and outside of this great cathedral.
Since it was only lunch time we decided we had time to plan a quick trip to Monet’s Garden which is located in the city of Giverny which is a short distance from Paris. It has been 15 years since I have been to Monet’s garden and I was super excited to share this place with Mario. We headed to the train station where we bought our round trip tickets but then accidentally got on the wrong train but after fixing our error and taking the long train we arrived at the train station at Vernon. We boarded a trolley train which took us to Giverny. The gardens were just like I remember and after seeing it you truly see why Monet’s water lily series are incredible.
We headed out early Saturday morning travel to Palace of Versailles. We were able to take the RER train from Paris to Versailles which is located on the outskirts of Paris. We arrived a little after opening, however the line to get into the palace was already HUGE, so we decided to explore the garden first. Since it was Saturday the gardens hostess a musical show with the fountains on a certain time, which is special because they are not usually on. This is extra special for me, because this is my third time to Versailles but my first time seeing the fountains on and seeing some of the fountains and groves for the first time. We had lunch at La Flotille which is located right outside the Versailles gardens. Then headed down to Marie Antoinette’s Estate and The Grand Trianon.
After spending most of the day at Versailles we took the train back to Paris and got off the Eiffel Tower stop. We had tickets to see the tower at 8pm. I didn't realize when I booked the tickets was that there was a Euro 2016 showing right behind the tower, so there were tons of fans everywhere but security was everywhere. At 8pm, we headed up the tower and saw the views. Since it was crowded we didn't want to wait for the elevator down, so we walked down the Eiffel Tower stairs from the 2nd floor to the ground. I have always wanted to do this, so another thing checked off my bucket list! I couldn't find a right number of stairs but looks like around 1,700 steps...wow! Then headed home after a long day of traveling.
On Sunday, we left Paris by taking the high speed train back to Germany arriving in the late afternoon.
Today, we headed to the Wilhelma Zoo. We did get caught in a quick rain storm but for most of the visit it was sunny and nice!
The weather has been very rainy lately, which makes exploring difficult and wet. We didn't let that stop us, we grabbed our raincoats and umbrellas and headed out to explore Schloss Lichtenstein which was about 1 hour from the house. We explored the castle's courtyard and captured some nice pictures even in the rain. The best part was I got to share it with my favorite person, my hubby!
A little about the castle from their website:
Lichtenstein Castle is a historicist castle built in the 19th century. It is located at the edge of the Swabian Alps, 817 metres above sea level. Inspired by Wilhelm Hauff’s novel “Lichtenstein” Count Wilhelm of Württemberg had it built in 1840-42. The site around the neo-Gothic castle is composed of other buildings from the 19th century, a chapel, an ample garden and the romantic courtyard. In the bedchambers of the count the opulent grandeur of late romanticism’s domestic culture appears at its best. Built to pay homage to medieval times, Lichtenstein Castle is also known as “Württemberg´s fairytale castle” as it adheres to romanticism in style and furnishing.
Flower Island and a ferry
Yesterday, I took a USO tour to Insel Mainau and Meersburg. After a short drive we arrive at Insel Mainau which is known as the flower island. It is located on Lake Constance which is situated between Germany, Switzerland and Austria. A guided tour of the garden in English was given and then we had extra time to explore. Intel Mainau has a collection of flowers, trees, fountains, a castle, chapel and a butterfly house.
In the afternoon, we took the ferry across Lake Constance to the city of Meersburg where we were given a few hours to explore.
The forecast had called for t-storms and showers all day but I lucked out and had a wonderful sunny and warm day instead. I spend some time just sitting by the lake enjoying the view and the sun! On the drive home we did get some rain but saw a wonderful rainbow to end the tour.
A teacher who loves traveling the world.