Wales & Paris - 2001
Welcome to our trip description of Wales and Paris. This was our first trip to Wales (northern Wales) and our second trip to Paris. I updated our European Trip Advice page to encompass a little more of what we discovered on this vacation, so be sure and check it out if you want to determine what worked best (and worst) for us and the things that can save you a lot of time for your trip to Europe.
We began our trip by flying from Denver, Colorado to London Gatwick non-stop on my favorite airline - British Airways. We are definitely getting better at this since we followed our tried and true method for avoiding jet lag as described in my European Trip Advice page. We took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and then a taxi to our Hotel (the Bonnington). We spent our first night in Bloomsbury (outside of London) and walked about one block to the Hertz car rental center to pick up our medium sized car for the drive to Betws-y-Coed in Northern Wales for our week long stay. The drive was long in the sense that it took us four hours to get there, but it was a nice drive on nice roads. After our stay in Wales we came back to the same hotel, dropped off our car and then the next day left for Paris via London Heathrow where we stayed for another week. We returned from Paris to London Gatwick and took a taxi from Victoria Station to the same Hotel, stayed two days and returned to the U.S. Our airfare was about $800 total for the roundtrip to London and the roundtrip to Paris from London. One of the kids got a 20% discount for being under 12 years old. Not bad airfare price since it included two trips. Quite a nice visit to Wales and Paris with no real problems and look forward to another visit. Check out the info below to read more about our trip and to see some of the nearly 800 pictures I took using my digital camera.
What a beautiful place Wales turned out to be! Not that I would be that surprised given all the comments I had read on the Internet, but it turned out to be much more than I imagined. We chose to focus on northern Wales this time, and will try southern Wales the next time (probably two years from now). Northern Wales is a very lush, green area with lots of trees and the Snowdonia mountain area nearby. There are many things to see while in Wales and you can also take a day trip up to Chester, England and see another medieval city much like York, England.
Driving To Wales From
Castles In Wales
Slate Mines And Train
We also took a narrow gauge train to Blaenau Festiniog that was quite fun. Be sure and get the first class tickets since it isn't much more of a price and you will often have a railroad car to yourself. If you forget to buy the ticket, relax - you can upgrade the ticket there on the train when the guy asks to see your ticket. One thing to watch out for though is the favorite past-time I have - drinking a pint of beer in a local pub. This train ride is rather long and you might have to use the bathroom if you leave the pub and get on the train. It doesn't have a bathroom in the private first class cars (not sure any of the cars had bathrooms) and the ride is long.
In closing, this area of
Wales is beautiful and rich with history. The Welsh are proud
people and you get the feeling that
you are in a distinctively different country based on the language, the
signs (never saw so many consonants in names), and the history
associated with Llywelyn
ap Iorwerth the great Welsh statesman. I think you will find
the visit to northern Wales a journey you will always treasure. I
could write much more, but do yourself a favor and go to Northern Wales
since verbiage will do it no justice.
This was our second visit to Paris as a family (the last visit was two years ago) and this time we decided to stay closer to the heart of downtown. We stayed at a nice Hotel (Bersoly's) that had a very good air conditioned rooms (very important in late June since it can be quite hot and humid that time of year), and were near most of the sites you would want to see such as D'Orsay, the Louvre, the Seine, and many other areas. It was also within easy walking distance of bus lines (you can use your Metro pass to ride the buses) and a nice people-watching cafe - Les Deux Magots (where Hemingway used to hang out). Quite a few good restaurants were within easy walking distance as well. We found our Hotel to be nice and quiet since the road outside was narrow and had little traffic. The proprietor was a nice lady and the staff couldn't have been better. The Hotel was a step up from most hotels and is rated a three star hotel. Since there were four of us we required two rooms - two people per room. The rate was 800 FF per night per room, so that's 1600 FF per night at about $217 U.S. That may seem like a lot, but considering the quality of the rooms, the location (location matters), and the friendly staff it was well worth the money. The Hotel is on the Left Bank not too far from D'Orsay on Rue de Lille. By the way, it's called the Left Bank because it's on the South side of the river which would be on your left side as you travel down the Seine river which flows towards the west.
Sites We Visited
We had seen many of the other sites on our last trip two years ago and added Invalides and Montmartre that we had not seen. Montmartre has a small museum and once we visited the museum we sat down for a drink of Leffe beer. One big mistake we made was that we let one guy come up and start sketching one of us. He really wasn't that good but his work attracted two other "artists." Before we knew it each was demanding quite a bit of money and wouldn't take no for an answer. They were pleading with us to pay them and kept dropping the price until I said OK. We finally left with some cheesy "renderings" that we will probably put away so that years later we can laugh about how the "artists" took advantage of us. I wish I would have had my buddy Ed with me since he would know how to blow them off.
Pick Pockets In Paris
All in all this was a very nice visit with nice weather although they said it was "unusually hot" for that time of year (late June). I always hear these statements about the local weather so it doesn't surprise me all that much. The kids really appreciated the Louvre and D'Orsay this time and I look forward to going back and seeing even more the next time we travel to Paris.
Go here to see some Paris pictures.
Remember to 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.