London & Paris - 1999
Intro - This is kind of a disclaimer notice that you find on the Europe trips we take each year since I often get email on this subject. You may notice that all of our trips to Europe seem to include a trip somewhere in the U.K. every year, and other times we add Ireland or France. There's a good reason for this. We have been traveling to the U.K. for years mostly due to the ease of getting a non-stop flight from Denver, Colorado to London, either at Heathrow or Gatwick (depending on the airline). We really have the travel down pretty well and always know what to expect. Some folks ask me why we keep going to the U.K. year after year and why we don't try somewhere else. The reason is that the U.K. has a long rich history that cannot be fully appreciated by going there once or twice for a week at a time. Our families are from England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland, so for us, it is a way to reconnect with our heritage. I imagine that when it becomes somewhat boring we will probably stop going to the U.K., but I don't really see that occurring in this lifetime since there is so much to see and learn about these great countries. I've listed some of the trips over the years that we have made to the U.K. as well as a few trips to Ireland and France with the descriptions of what we saw and how we felt on each trip dating to the year of our vacation. You can read our impressions of the vacations as they changed over the years and possibly pick up some ideas for your vacation to these wonderful countries.
Learn what we discovered about London and Paris - sometimes the hard way. Don't forget to check out my Europe Trip Advice page to discover things you might not have known about international travel (at least when traveling to London and Paris).
Arrived at Gatwick about 6:30AM as part of
the non-stop trip from Denver, Colorado. Big time change for
us! It was 11:30PM to us and we had the entire day to go.
Man were we tired that first day and even somewhat the second
day. One piece of advice is DO NOT GO TO SLEEP EARLY! Stay
up and get adjusted or you will pay for it for days while your body is
all whacked out on your sleep patterns. We would recommend
taking a small tour of the city by bus (the double-decker kind that is
open air on the top). You get to ride around and see lots of
sites around the city without ever having to really get off of the
bus. This won't stress you so much given how really crummy you
will feel. We would also suggest getting tour bus (coaches
as they're called) trips arranged since you probably will not want to
have a rental car if you will be staying in London. We used a
company named "Frames Rickard" and were very happy with
them. If you go to London in the summer, do not sit in the very
back seat of any coach! The engine heat rises from directly
below you and you will be miserably hot. We discovered this the
hard way one day and really ruined it for us while riding. You
will probably want to check out my Europe Trip Advice page.
Once again, we couldn't get a plane trip that
had times that were anything "normal." Instead, it had
to be get up at 4:30AM, hire a cab from where we were staying in
London to take us to Paddington Station (cost us 8 Pounds), then a
Heathrow Express train ride to the Heathrow airport, and on to
Paris. One thing about British Airways, those folks don't screw
around when it comes to rolling out the food cart. The plane
wasn't even level when we left Heathrow for Paris and they were rolling out the food cart.
Kind of debunks the myth of how long it needs to be before they roll out
the food cart on airlines. They
gave us cold scrambled egg and ham sandwiches that were really pretty
good. All that for a one hour flight. Didn't get food on
the way back from Paris to London. Paris can be a shocker if you
don't speak French. I don't blame the locals for not wanting to
speak English since after all, it is their country. It would be
kind of like them coming to the U.S. and expecting us to speak
French. That would seem rude to us, and likewise, it's rude to
them to just assume they will speak English. We found that some
people did speak English, but not that many when you got away from the
museums and normal touristy sites. The best thing is to tell them
in French that you don't speak French and ask if they speak English (in
French of course). I like the way we arrived (other than being
extremely early) as far as not being really tired from the international
flight. I would recommend that if you want to go to England and
France (and you're English speaking), then go to England first.
You can spend the first couple of days readjusting and at least language
won't be a barrier to getting around. Then you'll be rested and
can enjoy Paris much better.
We also went to Fontainebleau, the Eiffel tower (yes, we
were able to go straight up the tower on a cloudless day with absolutely
no wait at all - very unusual), Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des
Champs Elysees, L'Obelisque, Sainte Chapelle, Place de la Bastille, and
Le Pere Lachaise. The one place we missed but I wish we would have
seen is Versailles. I've been to Versailles before, but we just
couldn't squeeze it in given all the things we were doing coupled with
our exhaustion. Le Pere Lachaise was different in that it is the
cemetery where Chopin, Maria Callas, Ernst Max, Sarah Bernhardt, and Jim
Morrison of the Doors is buried. Many other famous people buried
there too. The cemetery is huge and the most favorite place to
visit seems to be Jim Morrison's grave site. It's a rather small
grave but with huge groups of people hanging around - mostly young
people. They had a police woman standing guard at the site and
told me that I couldn't videotape the gravesite. Is that dumb or
what? I had the camera running while I was explaining to her that
it took digital photos (it does) so I got footage anyway. Kind of
funny seeing all these people that were born years after Jim Morrison
died and yet seemed so fascinated by him. Being from Florida, I
saw the Doors twice in concert and actually attended the last concert
Jim Morrison gave (in Miami, Florida). The last concert was really
a bad one when you consider how drunk the guy was, so not much of a way
to end things.
You can check out all the things to do while in Paris via the Internet, but if you're only there for a few days, I'd say to go the Louvre (plan on at least an all day stay), D'Orsay, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, and the Eiffel Tower. Arc de Triomphe will take you down famous boulevards and the circular drive at the end is a riot to watch. Don't know how many lanes wide the street is but cars just go round and round and there's often a wreck there.
Check out my page on European trip advice to align expectations that you may have about traveling to Europe as well as ways to make your travel experience a little simpler.