10.31.2011

Pepe Le Paris

We arrived in the most romantic stinky city in the world by train. It was our first of five train journeys and was uneventful as we snoozed the whole time.

After checking into our hotel in Paris, we climbed a MILLION stairs to go to the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur or Sacred Heart Church. It's the highest point in Paris and interestingly enough, overlooks the Moulin Rouge and sex-district. The view of Paris was pretty remarkable. 


Our teeny, tiny Paris Hotel.
We were huffing and puffing at this point.


Our next stop was the Arch de Triumph. We had to walk underground to actually get to the arch because it's surrounded by non-stop traffic. Upon arriving at the Arch, it actually seemed like we were in China because there were Asians everywhere. I remember reading not to long ago that Asians are the #1 tourist group right now. That is not a lie.




At this point, we decided to make our way to the Eiffel Tower because we had a 9:30 reservation and didn't want to risk being late. Getting around Paris was a little more confusing than London. The underground system there is not as organized, and of course every sign is in French. 

At one point, we thought we were right around the corner from the tower and I just happened to glance backwards and saw it over my left shoulder. 

There were a lot of things I didn't enjoy about Paris like all the trash EVERYWHERE in the city, the smells (body odor, urine, etc), and the people in general weren't as friendly. BUT, the Eiffel Tower is with out a doubt amazing. It was much bigger than I expected it to be and when they turn the lights on, it glows gold and bronze. 



Ugly fence...
I so wish I would have taken a picture of the line to get tickets for the tower. OMGOSH, the longest line ever. I would have never stood in it if we hadn't already had a reservation. 
Bryan and I were able to go straight to the second floor. The 360 degree view of Paris was magnifique! We totally saw a couple get engaged. I kind of wonder if that happens like every hour there...? The elevator to the top level seemed to go forever. Once there, you are "caged" in but still outside and it was scaring me. 
I loved it and hated it at the same time, so we didn't hang around too long. One sweet thing about the top level is they tell you how far other countries are from the tower. New York was 5849 km away.



City of Lights
Day 2 in Paris started early. We wanted to make good time before leaving for Rome that night. Our first stop was the Louvre Museum. The outside is massive and is a piece of art in itself. We did the touristy thing and took a lot of pictures of the Louvre Pyramids and statues. 

So we go to get in line to enter the museum and we see a sign reading: Closed on Tuesdays. It's Tuesday. Seriously?! Really?! Yes, they definitely make sure to put that sign in English. 
I was majorly bummed. I really like art and I was pumped to see the Mona Lisa. Oh well, live and learn. Or just be really mad at the French...they don't care, they hate us anyways :) Since we had perfectly good tickets that were good for a year, we decided to give them away to some friendly Asians.
This picture is only posted because I didn't get any INSIDE. But the design is pretty good.


Since we had a lot of time to kill, we went to the Church of Notre Dame and then got a bite to eat. This activity always puts me in a better mood. The church was good and the food was better. We shared French Onion Soup (how appropriate) and a tuna sandwich on a baguette. Only their version of a tuna sandwich is different, but still delicious. I also got a crepe with nutella. YUM city. 
Notre Dame.



After eating, it was time to go to the train station. Our trip to Rome was long so we got a couchette. This is a non-private sleeping car on a train. There are three beds (bunk-bed style) on one side and three on the other. I was a little concerned about sleeping with strangers...I mean just saying it sounds wrong. Mostly, I was really worried our car-mates would stink. I know that is so shallow. We got really fortunate though and only had 2 other people in our car instead of 4. And they were Americans, thus they practice the habit of using deodorant. 
Overall the ride was good. We slept decent and the time passed quickly. 
Apologies for the awkward/seductive pose, but here is a glimpse of the train. We slept on the top beds.
Bryan and I have decided that Paris was our least favorite city. I think that anyone who goes to Europe should go there because the Eiffel Tower was definitely awesome and so iconic. But after seeing that and the Arche de Triumph, we weren't super impressed.


Up next: Roma!

10.23.2011

Tours & Tears - London Part 2

Okay, London Part 2: Go!

On the third day, we woke up early to head to Wellington Arch and join this free walking tour. Our guide's name was Andrew and he definitely had that dry British humor and thinks all American's are fat and lazy. Which after being in Europe, we may have observed this to be true. sigh...

Wellington Arch

Ready to see London
Take a moment and enjoy this. Just soak it in. People watching is good all over the world :)
Our stops along the tour included:
-The Apsley House
-Green Park (where there are no flowers because one of the Queens found out the King had cheated on her and ordered all his flowers removed...she told him)
-Constitution Drive
-Buckingham Palace
-Pall Mall (a really expensive street in London)
-Number 10 Downing Street (Prime Minister's Residence)
-Big Ben
-Parliament
-Westminster Abbey

Andrew knew a lot of sweet, random information at each place. And he made fun of all the nationalities along the way, which was entertaining. 

Buckingham. The Royals weren't in. How Rude.

For as jam-packed and crowded as London is, this is a HUGE courtyard where they used to have jousting-like competitions.

Our guide, Andrew

Westminster
Parliament
After the tour, we went to the Evensong service at Westminster Abbey. Since it's actually a church service, we didn't have to pay to enter. We are smart tourists, yes we are. 
The service was breathtaking. We got to hear the boys choir that sang at the recent royal wedding. Moment of truth: we both fell asleep in the service. Like head nodding then looking around to check if anyone noticed. Give us a break. We were still recovering from jet-lag and the choir was like a bedtime serenade.

We were starving at this point in our day and went to Fire Station Pub in London. Another great choice. I had a fancy chicken sandwich and Bryan had a meat pie. 


The rest of the evening was spent walking along the Thames River and seeing the Tower Bridge and the London Tower where the crown jewels are kept. 





The last and most anticipated day in London...the Fulham Soccer Match. We were pumped for this and headed to Fulham early. After going to the fan shop and getting geared up, we met an American who lives in London and told us to go the Crabtree Pub before the game. The atmosphere was just what Bryan wanted. Everyone was Fulham fans and were getting ready for the game. 
Walking from the pub to the match was sweet because everyone fills the streets, singing and chanting their team songs. 

From the states, we had bought neutral/away tickets because they were the cheapest we could find. So being the rule-followers that we are, we found our exact section, row and seat number and found ourselves in the exact middle of all the away fans. Wearing our Fulham Jerseys.
And for anyone reading this who isn't familiar with European soccer, fans are WAY different than here. Like super crazy, passionate about everything. They pretty much yell the F-bomb at the other team and even their own the entire game. Even the songs/chants have the F-bomb in it. Commonplace there, apparently.
So, I am literally scared.to.death. I'm trying (but failing) not to cry. And it's not me I'm worried about. I mean seriously, I am a girl, what are they going to do? But my husband on the other hand is going to be trampled on and beaten. I'm sure of it. Oh and it doesn't help that Fulham is killing QPR like 3-0. 
The guy next to us was actually pretty nice and kept telling me that he was sure we'd be fine. None the less, we moved at half-time and sat next to sane people. And I actually enjoyed myself and the game. 






Clint Dempsey (the American) had just scored.

The original Craven Cottage - the stadium name



When we got back into downtown London, we grabbed a quick snack and realized at the bistro that Bryan didn't have his debit card (insert heavy breathing and on-set panic attacks). We hurried to get back to Geoff & Sylvia's where we found that the card was left at the pub. They destroyed it and we had our bank cancel it, and that was our other minor step-up on the trip.


We said our goodbyes to the Shorey's and went to bed.
The Shorey's. Fabulous people!

Stay tuned: Paris awaits!


 

10.18.2011

Mind the Gap - London Part 1

As the Cheery, British, Underground Operator would ask you: Please Mind the Gap...between the last time I blogged and now! I kind of have a good excuse:

We've been in EUROPE! Yes, touring around Europe for 14 days with the hubs. It was UHHHmazing to say the least. I have always wanted to backpack through Europe. So when I got my job last year, we started saving.

And perhaps this is a glimpse into my weirdness, but I HATED planning this trip. I told Bryan that I had way more fun planning our wedding than planning this vacay. I think the reason was that there were so many unknowns. And, I mean, Europe is HUGE. It was certainly easier once we picked the countries to go to. But then it became: where do we stay, what do we see, how do we get tickets, how do we get from one country to the next, what do we pack, what do we pack it in...? At one point in the planning, we were getting up at like 5:00 in the morning to make international calls because of the time difference.

In the end, all of my worries were a lot of nothings. We were sufficiently ready to go and only had two minor "uh-oh's" once we were over there. 

So without further ado... I'm going to blog our trip by city. We went to 6 cities: London, Paris, Rome, Venice, Basel (Switzerland), and Prague (Czech Republic).

Bryan and I arrived in London on Thursday at noon after leaving Wichita on Wednesday at six in the evening. The flights over were smooth and uneventful. 
In London, we were staying with some friends of friends: Geoff and Sylvia. So after we arrived, we made the 25 minute journey to their house in the London Suburb called Bexleyheath. Little did we know, getting there would actually take about an hour. There wasn't really any reason for this except that we were taking the Tube (there version of the Subway) and didn't know how to navigate the system yet. So after a few unnecessary transfers, we finally made it!

Looking jet-lagged, on the way to Bexleyheath.

The gigantic escalators from the underground to outside...we were at least halfway up at this point.
Sylvia and Geoff picked us up from the station. We got settled in at their home and got to know them a little better. That evening, we had tickets to see Les Miserables. If you are thinking, "Wow, they were dumb for getting tickets to a play the day they arrived from traveling for umpteen hours," you are smarter than we were! We were very tired and almost decided to not go, but made ourselves anyway. 


Ahh! Driving on the wrong side!
Our Bexleyheath Home
Waiting at the bus station...looking a little sleepy.

This is literally and terrifyingly how close the oncoming train is to your train. Takes your breath away.
ChinaTown and the awesome London Taxis.


The musical was fantastic. Truly. But...we left at intermission because we were totally falling asleep! 

Day 2 started a lot later than we intended. We wanted to let ourselves sleep in a bit, but didn't get up until 11:30. After eating a fabulous breakfast prepared by Geoff & Sylvia, we set out for the city. Unfortunately, a lot of our afternoon was spent making train reservations for the rest our stay in Europe. It would have gone a lot faster but we ran into our first hiccup. Our debit card was declined! Even after I called Capital Federal and told them to put a travel note on our account. Frustrated was an understatement. We were finally able to contact my mom who contacted the bank and got the decline lifted. 

Once the reservations were made, we were starving! Being in London, we of course decided to get Fish and Chips! (I do have to say that eating was one of my top priorities on this trip. Okay, eating is one of my top priorities in life...I cannot lie.)  

We went to "The Mermaid Tail" to eat. Great pick! Fish, chips, and mushy peas were delish. After dinner, I wanted ice cream. We spotted a Haagen Dazs and headed for it. When we got there, we realized it was a full-blown restaurant. They seated us and we had a menu and everything...for ice cream! I'm pretty sure we're missing out over here because it was YUM city. We got four shot glasses of dessert. 




And since we were in London the longest, I'm breaking this up into two posts. 
London Part II coming soon!