Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rearview of our trip to Europe

The good things;
- we enjoyed the castle stays- especially Thornbury, but why wouldn't we they were first class
- we enjoyed Stratford-upon-Avon -- and Warwick Castle
- we enjoyed the little village of Arundel, the castle was closed but the village was wonderful
- we especially liked Stonehenge, it was a lifelong dream
- Bath was very interesting - we love the architecture
- we enjoyed the motorcycle rally we happened onto in Brighton
- I think our favourite hotel in the countryside was at Salisbury.
London - just a dream to see all the sites we did see, Wellington Bridge, Tower of Big Ben, Parliament, Tower of London, Buckingham Palace, millennium bridge, Trafalgar Square, St. Pauls, Baker St. (especially 221b)
Paris - Loved all the sites here we saw too, Notre Dam, Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Seine, the architecture, the shopping and little neighbourhoods.
the Bad Things
- the driving in England- especially the round abouts so we missed a lot of the side trips we had planned.
- the things we missed seeing
- unable to get Nancy into the castles
Nancy had fun ordering our food in french whenever possible, we did have problems getting more butter, whenever we asked for la buerre we got quizzical looks and one time at breakfast we got two croissants and when we asked for more butter, we got 2 more croissants!!
We also have noticed that we have been saying "Merci" a lot since we got home-- soon everything will be back to normal!!

Home at last

We are finally home!! Charles de Gaul airport is a nightmare, but the plane ride home was much better although it was a very long flight -- 7 plus hours....we got to the airport early but the pilot and crew did not -- they were trying to get from Lyon to Charles de Gaul by train but were delayed because of the strike in Paris, so we were delayed  over 1 hour before we left Paris -- the arrival in Toronto went smoothly and we got thru customs and got our luggage and car easily and were on the road quickly and home by 4:30!! by the time we got in the house with the luggage we collapsed on the couch and later we had egg sandwiches for dinner. Nancy made it to about 7:30 before she collapsed in sleep and I managed to last until 8:45 before getting to bed. I slept in until 6am but Nancy was up at 4am. We are both still tired today and full of aches and pains but managed to get to the farmers market and out for breakfast before getting home and continuing unpacking and putting stuff away in between long rests. We don't think we are suffering from jet lag but are just very tired, luckily we will have the rest of the day and tomorrow to get back on EST

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pictures from Paris

Nancy was surprised at how small the Mona Lisa is
The pyramid entrance at the Louvre
Here I am feeding the birds at Notre Dame .. they fly up and land on your hand to eat. At one time there were at least 6 on my hand and arms.
Nancy at our last sidewalk cafe at one of the cafes close to our hotel
view of the Eiffel Tower from the rooftop terrace of our hotel
a view of the Arc de Triumph from the top of the Eiffel tower

Thursday, September 23, 2010

our last day

It's hard to believe our trip is almost over!! We are sitting now in our room after packing up our suitcases and generally getting ready for an early morning ride to the airport. We had to buy another suitcase just to fit in all the stuff we bought!! We have had a wonderful time and the weather has been extremely good but I think we are ready to go home!!
We spent the first part of the day at Notre Dame again, this time to see inside, we were unable to get up to the tower as it was closed because of the general strike (more on that later) -- we then took off to find any and all shoe stores for Nancy -- that was the plan at any rate--- we didn't expect the marching and demonstrating and road closures caused by the general strike!! suffice it to say that we ended up walking in the wrong direction, the wrong direction alot!! When I stopped someone for help getting back to Notre Dame which is very close to our hotel she said to me "oh you are very far away --very far-- about a 30 minute walk!!" As we went back we came across the demonstrators at least 2 more times -- they were everywhere!! We finally made it back and Nancy never did get the shoes she was looking for (at least not at the price she wanted to pay). We had a nice dinner at another sidewalk cafe and went back to our room to pack and get ready...
A big surprise for us was to find so many Starbucks here in Paris -- they seem to be everywhere and there is even one in the Louvre!! (I won't go into one in Canada or the US so there is no way I was going into one here!!) The coffee here is Horrible!! they call it Cafe American and it is strong and bitter, Nancy suggested I put some sugar in it, but that only made bad coffee sweet -- it was still bad!! I can't wait for a Timmys when I get home!! I have enjoyed the tea and Nancy has had hot chocolate and there are some delicious beers!!
We are all packed and ready to go, now all we have to do is get to the airport on time and get home.
I am unable to post any pictures for some reason and will try when I get home. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Paris day 2 -- 2010

Nancy at the inverted pyramid

Nancy in the grand gallery

Jeff by the Venus di Milo

Nancy and the Mona Lisa -- Nancy is on the right
What a wonderful day today, weather was gorgeous, the temperature at 7pm was still at 26 degrees celsius!!
We slept in to 8 am and didn't leave the hotel until 9am and headed for the Louvre. My idea was to get in and see the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo and get out but Nancy had us stay and view much more which turned out great. We spent most of the morning at the Louvre and actually didn't leave until after 2pm!! Even if you're not into art you can spend more than a day there and still not see it all, there are over 400,000 pieces there so there is something for everyone. With Nancy's scooter we bypassed the lines and the other good things to do would be to pre-order your tickets and get to the museum either early in the morning or late in the afternoon to miss the lines. we got there late (after 930 am) but by the time we left the crowds had easily doubled, and even at 9:30 in the morning the Mona Lisa room was already full!! We saw the Egyptian, Greek and Italian sculpture sections and also there is a wonderful exhibit in the basement about early Paris. Would also strongly recommend the audio guides as all signage is in French.
When we left the Louvre we took a cruise along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Word of warning to anyone who has mobility problems or having to carry a stroller etc be aware there are many stairs to most of the on and off stops along the way.
Got off at the Eiffel Tower and had a quick lunch there before heading to the tower and up to the first floor all that Nancy and the scooter could get to (luckily that's were many of the gift shops were). I went up to the top just to say I did it. It cost another 5 euros and I think for that price it was worth the effort although the line up was insanely long and the worst problem with a long line to get up to the top is the equal long line to get down. The view on such a clear day was worth it and I can say I did it, however I probably would not do it again (of course I wouldn't go to the extra level at the Empire State Building again either).
We walked home and that was well worth the trip as we walked along real Paris streets as apposed to the tourist type streets. We got back to the street our hotel is on and stopped by one of the many sidewalk cafes' and got a Lasagna to take back to our room -- we don't think they do a lot of "take aways" but did it anyway and it was delicious!! We were both exhausted from a very long day and were both looking forward to a nice long sleep!!
We will have a free day tomorrow so we plan on a good old sleep in tomorrow. We have only one day left before we head home!! It is hard to believe our trip is almost over!!

Europe -- Paris 2010

The chunnel trip was very nice -- very much like an upgraded Via train, we were served breakfast which was very continental consisting of juice, coffee, yogurt, croissant & bun with jam but it was good and welcomed as we had only had coffee so far. Once in Paris we got in the line to get out of the Gare du Nord station to get a cab, we eventually got out of line and crossed the street to get a van/cab because of Nancy's scooter. It was here that we discovered that most folks in Paris speak only french, although as we tried our high school french the cabbie (Yves) became very friendly and tried to point out things as we went along. It is here that I should tell you to believe all you hear about the driving in Paris!! The streets are narrow and the cars motorbikes bicycles and pedestrians are everywhere and no one seems too interested in the rules of the road ( if there are any).  We passed the Louvre and eventually got to St Germain which is where our hotel is on Rue Danton Our hotel is a converted gov't building in a quaint neighbourhood that Nancy says looks like a postcard or painting. We checked in and oriented ourselves and then went off to explore our area of Paris. I knew we were close to Notre Dame but I didn't realize how close until we walked a short distance and turned a corner and there it was! we continued on and as Nancy was looking to find the perfect black patent leather shoes we stopped in every ladies store and shoe store we could find. As we had lost 1 hour and it was getting late we headed back to our neighbourhood and had dinner in a little outdoor cafe -- this was very good with large portions too. I even bought Nancy some roses from a passing seller (we are in the city of romance after all)
We then headed back to the hotel to watch some french only TV and collapsed into bed....tomorrow is a big day with the Eiffel tower and Seine cruise and the Arc de Triumphe so another big walking day....

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

catch up on my posts -- this one about London

Nancy trying to get the guard to move!

The statue in the background is George Washington -- here in Trafalgar Square

Best tea of the trip at Buckingham Palace

Getting ready for tea with the Queen

Jeff disguised as Sherlock Holmes

Nancy being taken in by the long arm of the law outside 221b Baker St
This trip has been an experience, both good and bad...we were very disappointed with the hotel at Warwick outside of Stratford but it could be that it was too economy after the castles, but then we went to drop off the car at the train station at Stratford and I was very careful to take pictures of the condition of the car when we dropped it off in case they say there was a big dent or something, I then filled out the proper form and put it in the proper slot then double checked that the car was locked so that there would be no problem there and put the keys in the proper drop off slot and it was only then that I realized that the only thing I had forgotten to do was to get the luggage out of the boot!! (the boot is the trunk for those that don't know) -- we got in touch with the rental company and to make this long story short we were able to get our luggage and were soon on our way to London...still I felt like a dolt!!! -- the train trip was nice but uneventful and we got into London Marylebone station on time and we walked the 20 or so minutes to the hotel and didn't get lost. London is a lot like Toronto but on steroids. For a photographer who love architecture and old buildings I was in heaven. We checked into the hotel (this is when we found this 3+ star hotel charges 5 pounds for 1 hour of internet!!) and this was an experience too. This was not a cheap hotel but not much was right about it other than the location which was right by Regent Park. We freshened up and then took off to Baker Street which of course is the address of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker St. then off to the Beatle store almost next door --- the Beatle store was very expensive so I didn't stay long, we then went off to the Marble Arch and speakers corner in Hyde park and then off through Green Park through Canada gate to Buckingham Palace --- from hear we walked down to Wellington bridge to see Big Ben (which we all should know is the name of the bell in the bell tower and not just the tower). By this time we were very tired and took a Black Cab back to the hotel and collapsed into bed after a quick dinner.
Next morning we took another cab -- and what a strange feeling to hear Nancy say when the cabbie said "where to Ma'am?" she answered "Buckingham Palace please" like we were going to visit the Queen, which in a strange way were were as we did the tour of the Palace which was wonderful. We even had tea in the Queens garden (actually it was a little cafe set up outside the Palace but you get the idea) it was also the best tea I've had since being in UK, which considering it was probably from her kitchen (haha) one wouldn't expect less.
We were then off to the Thames at Wellington bridge and off on a cruise of the river to Tower Bridge, and then to the Tower of London and to see the Crown Jewels, which suprisingly enough Nancy really enjoyed. We saw most of the rest of the Tower of London and then crossed over the Tower bridge and walked along the south side of the river to the Globe theatre and then crossed the Millennium bridge to St Pauls cathedral and then slowly made our way back to the hotel to get ready for our morning trip to Paris. We saw a lot of London in our short stay and the only bad things were that there were so many things that we missed and Nancy took another spill off her scooter (the cobble roads were very difficult and the curbs were not always cut down low and the spills she has had were mostly from these uneven bits) -- up early for our "chunnel" train to Paris!!!