Afternoon Tea and Gyros

I am VERY late in posting this wonderful trip report from Andrea and Eric’s June “escape” to London and Greece. But in some ways the timing is just right, as the snow falls outside and we all start dreaming about summer vacation. So enjoy this little daydream of Europe. And then give me a call to start planning your trip for 2020 🙂

Hi Ann — We got back yesterday evening and both agreed that was a trip of a lifetime. It was fantastic! We’ve adjusted back to east coast time pretty quickly, but getting on Europe’s time required some effort. 

Greece had so much to offer. Our stop in London was brief but we squeezed in quite a bit. St. James Court hotel was just a few blocks from Buckingham Palace, so any time we wandered out we got to pass by and appreciate the view. We booked an afternoon tea time at One Aldwych Hotel. The tea party theme was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and was so well done. We then did an afternoon ride on a hop-on-and-off bus tour. Unfortunately, Big Ben was covered in scaffolding and the tour guide said it’ll be under construction for the next few years. 

In Athens we had our skip the line walking tour you booked us for the Acropolis and the museum. It was really interesting and helped us appreciate the history much more than I was expecting. Our hotel was centrally located in Athens and fairly basic but nice. Everything was walkable and we had a great view of the Acropolis from our hotel.  

A perfect trip combo- Greece & London! Oh the sites you can see and the things you can do! Here's a potential itinerary

Mykonos was our next stop and was our favorite! The Myconian Utopia Resort was so well kept and so impressive. Words can’t describe this place. The views, the infinity pool, the service, and private beach were all fantastic. We’d love to visit there again someday. Our days here were spent either on the resort or the private beach (we even jet skied), not much else was easy to travel to with our limited number of days there. But that was perfectly okay by us.

 

infinity pool in Santorini Greece

We then got to Santorini by ferry and we were unsure on that process, but it was pretty easy. Our transfers to and from the ferry didn’t work out. The pickup car in Santorini didn’t show, so we ended up having to take a shuttle to the hotel. The hotel views of the caldera were so amazing it’s hard to describe. Our hotel, Chromata, was literally on the cliff! The town of Imerovigli, where our hotel was, was great since there’s so much there. There are little markets, rental car shops, and plenty of places to eat so we felt less bound by the hotel than we did in Mykonos. Our room itself was pretty basic, but the view was fantastic. They were completely booked so they didn’t have any available upgrades.

The hotel service was amazing. We took a semi-private sunset luxury boat tour through Volcano Yachting. We booked it very last minute – the night before. It’s the best thing we could have done in Santorini. It traveled through the caldera and stopped at the red beach for swimming, stopped at the volcanic island for us to swim in the hot springs, and included free drinks and dinner. The sunset was unbelievable. They even picked us up and dropped us off at the hotel. The next day we rented a tiny smart car and drove to the black beach. It’s actually black and pretty cool. But since the sand is black is extremely hot to walk on. I wish I brought my water shoes. Flip flops weren’t enough!

View of Santorini Greece on the cliff
a beautiful balcony overlooking the sea

Our trip came to an end and we had a very long day traveling back (Santorini to Athens, Athens to London, then London to Dulles). We were extremely lucky that we made it to London a few minutes early, we knew there was a United flight from London to DC at 12:15pm and thought just maybe we could get lucky and get on that flight instead of our 4:40pm flight. We stopped at the United desk, they called the gate, and they let us onto the 12:15pm even though they already finished boarding everyone. This was the moment having no checked bags really paid off! Ha. So glad because we got home 5 hours earlier than expected.

By the way, we ate a lot of gyros – all were great! Oh, and I attached a few pictures from our trip! We have hundreds on our phones need to sort through still 🙂

 

the view from the stair of Santorini

Thank you again for being so available and helpful with this entire process. Booking this trip on our own just seems so daunting and I’m glad we avoided the black hole of reading hotel, tour, and other reviews online. Made our lives much easier. Thanks again!

 Andrea & Eric

A Popular Pair

Peanut butter & jelly. Milk & cookies. London & Paris. Some things just go together naturally! And visiting the two cities in one trip could not be easier, with a quick, fun train ride through the Chunnel in between. Read on for Ashley and Jared’s feed back about their recent trip.

We loved our Paris and London trip. The Hotel Pont Royal was in a perfect location, we were able to walk to most of the sites, including the Louvre, so easily. Proximity to the river was great. The hotel room was cozy, as expected for a city, and we loved our little balcony window.

The first day we went straight to the Louvre and had a great time exploring. Was 100% worth buying our tickets online ahead of time from their website —  we got in very quickly. We did the same for the Eiffel Tower and that saved us a from standing in a pretty lengthy line. We ended up deciding to do the Paris Big Bus hop on hop off bus that afternoon and we grabbed it directly from the Eiffel Tower. Some of the buses were a bit crowded but once we got one where we could sit on the second level we loved the ride around the city. We got off at the Galleries Lafayette and loved the shopping and food in that area. We spent all afternoon on the bus and also went to the Champs Elysees and took the blue route to see the Moulin Rouge. We had a good time.

The last day in Paris we did the Boutique Bike Tour in Versailles and I cannot rave enough about this tour. It was a trip highlight, and I would recommend it to anyone! We toured the chateau, went to a local market, had a picnic by the canal, and toured Marie Antoinette’s hamlet before ending the day in the gardens. The tour guides were fantastic and made the history so interesting and fun. We ended our last night on a river cruise dinner, which we liked the cruise but wouldn’t recommend the dinner portion, the food was just ok. We filled our trip with so much wine and croissants, we really loved our time in Paris.

The Eurostar may have been the easiest way I’ve ever travelled and we enjoyed the ride.  Once in London we went straight to Fortnum and Mason for afternoon tea while we waited for our room to be ready. This was the perfect intro to London, we really enjoyed it. We also enjoyed the shopping in the huge store afterwards. The hotel itself {the Chesterfield Mayfair} was in the most perfect location, we walked everywhere! We also loved the Mayfair area. Jared, being a big car fan, was shocked by all the luxury vehicles parked on the streets of Mayfair and loved just walking around to see them.

We walked everywhere in London! It was such an easy walking city and the hotel location was a huge help. The hotel itself was so charming and we loved the gin and tonic bar with nightly live jazz. The breakfast was also fantastic! They left a different treat every night at turndown and it was a really nice touch.

The next day we had our Harry Potter tour. The bus ride went smoothly and it was nice that we were on our own once we got there. We filled up almost the whole time we had allotted and both really liked the tour and butterbeer! This is great for any Harry Potter fan. There is so much to see it can be overwhelming but there are tons of cool photo ops too! When we got back to the city we had to check out Harrods.

On our final day in London we were recommended to the free tour by foot of Westminster. This was fantastic as well. The starting point was a 10-minute walk from our hotel which was very convenient. We loved seeing the changing of the guard, Buckingham Palace, and Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, Big Ben was under construction. This tour was about 3 hours and put us in Trafalgar Square. From there we had Dishoom for lunch (a must!) and went to Covent Garden for some more shopping. We loved this area.

Overall we had an amazing time and although we only had a short time in each location we made the most of each and now we just can’t wait to go back!

Uh oh, Mom and Dad are on their way

When I was in college, waaaay back in the ’80s, studying abroad was not nearly as popular as it is right now. These days, it seems nearly every college student takes the opportunity to spend a semester in another country  — and why wouldn’t they!! — which means that I get the opportunity to help parents/siblings go visit them 🙂  I know what an amazing time I had visiting my own daughter when she was studying in Buenos Aires, and I absolutely LOVE helping other parents have that experience. In that vein, here’s a trip report I just received from Sue, after a fabulous visit with her daughter in France (with a quick stop in London first!)

Hi Ann,

I am still getting back to reality but wanted to let you know about our trip.  As mentioned we had a fabulous time and appreciate your planning for us! 

The St. Ermins was a lovely hotel and the staff extremely helpful.  Our room and bathroom were incredibly small though.  There was no room for both of our large suitcases and we were literally tripping over each other.  We were going to ask for a larger room but since they got us in earlier than check-in and it was only two nights, we didn’t bother.  Someone also told us that rooms in London hotels were smaller than we’re used to in the US. The location of the hotel was perfect to walk to lots of sites and we found some great pubs nearby! 

The Eurostar train was fun and we enjoyed that trip to Paris. We absolutely loved the Eduard 7 Hotel!  Our room was very nice and it had a balcony overlooking the main street.  We spent a lot of time out there admiring the view with a glass of wine.  Again, great location for us as we became experts on taking the metro back and forth to Nicole’s place. 

The Versailles tour was great and the guide was very friendly and knowledgeable.  We enjoyed the Normandy tour as well, and had a fantastic guide.  We even got an extra stop at Omaha beach on the way home.  It was a very long day but well worth it.  

The train to and from Nice was also fun and we enjoyed the scenery.  The AC Marriott was very modern and not really our style but our suite was huge, we had a great view of the sea and the location was unbeatable to walk along the water.  We also enjoyed the roof top bar! 

St. Tropez was was absolutely beautiful and we enjoyed exploring it.  We didn’t realize how far it was from Nice but traffic wasn’t bad since it was a Saturday.  Our guide was great and even took us for a tour to the top of Nice when we returned as we had some time left.  The other tour was fun as well – it turned out just to be the three of us and we really loved walking around Eze. 

The Opera Cadet hotel was a perfect location near Nicole for that last night.  The room was small but clean and comfortable. 

Thanks again for doing such a great job with our trip!  We hope to get to Italy in a couple years with our kids after they graduate from college and will let you know when we’re ready for that trip :).

 

Sue

Paris is always a good idea

Longtime clients Linda, Fred, Marcia and Bill had a fabulous trip planned to Paris and London … and then the Paris and Brussels terror attacks made them question their plans. We talked about the pros/cons of postponing their “escape”, and I am so glad that they decided to forge ahead. As you can see, they had an amazing time!

Hi Ann — another fantastic trip!

Paris was fabulous. The hotel staff (Hotel Edouard 7) was extremely helpful in giving us restaurant suggestions and reservations.  Hop on hop tour off was about 3 blocks from the hotel, and the Champs-Elysee was within walking distance, along with shopping and Notre Dame.  We used the bus for 3 days  — we were very late arriving on the first day (plane delayed for 3 hours) so by the time we got on the bus they gave us an additional day.  Ate in some great restaurants  — Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower,  the boat cruise was fabulous, lot of cafes –  the food everywhere was wonderful.  The last night we ate in a traditional small French restaurant close to the Eiffel Tower suggested by the hotel, and  it was awesome. Bill and Marcia had not seen the Eiffel Tower at night when the lights blink, so when we got out of the restaurant we were just in time to see the light. Then we went to the Champs-Elysee for chocolate crepes (MMMM!!!)

view of a street in paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe A old car on the streets of Paris

Another great place was the Capucine Café on Rue de Capucine. We had fabulous onion soup and good wine too!

In case you weren’t aware the lights on the Eiffel Tower blink for 5 minutes starting at 9 pm ( the first night was 10 pm) it is an awesome sight to see. If you want any more specifics of the trip would be happy to provide them for you. The guide at the Louvre was unbelievable; he was so knowledgeable in history and art, and with a great sense of humor.  He was amazing. For us the half day tour in Versailles was enough, and was very beautiful.

The Eiffel Tower lit up at night

FYI  — for the boat cruise we dressed up but there were people in jeans sneakers and shorts – we were happy to dress up though. It made it more special and it just seemed appropriate. Our Parisian haircuts were a very interesting and fun experience (we did not come out with punk pink haircuts)

two couples on a boat cruise in Paris

There was a lot of security around – military and police walking the streets and also around the attractions – security was evident at all attractions, with bag checks and some metal detectors.  At first it was a little unsettling, but then it was somewhat reassuring that they were around.  The only place I felt a little uncomfortable was the Eiffel Tower.  There were just so many people around and the security walking around seemed to be more focused.

The Chunnel was a nice trip – but a little confusing finding our way in the train station as the signs were not always pointing you in the right direction.  We decided on the Tube after we got to London because of the marathon – we found our way just fine, however it was not an easy trek with 4 suitcases and 4 carry-ons and no escalators up and down.  The stairs were a real task.

Again, the hotel (St Ermins) was perfectly situated, a 5 minute walk from Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey.  We rode the London Eye, took a boat down the Thames ( hop on hop off) again found some great pubs and ended our London trip with a traditional pub for fish and chips.  We ate at a great steakhouse called Hawksmoor in Langley. It was amazing — highly recommend it.
Big Ben in London The Tower Bridge in London  The London Eye Royal Guards in London
Our transfers were always there on time and waiting for us. Unfortunately the weather was not as cooperative.  It was very cold the entire time in London (had so many layers I looked like the Pillsbury dough boy).  It even snowed in London on our last day.  The first few days in Paris were beautiful but the last day got cold there as well.
Thank you again for another fabulous vacation with wonderful memories.

Linda

You provided excellent guidance for us. I appreciated that you really had us think about what was most important to us when we were selecting the right cruise – and not to totally focus on what other people had to say. THANK YOU for helping to make this a memorable trip for our family! It really was a trip of a lifetime!

Clare and Mark (family cruise to Alaska)

The level of service we experienced was out of this world (and we did NOT make it easy on Ann). We weren’t quite sure where we wanted to go, when we would be able to go, or what “vibe” we were going for. After asking us some key questions (what we liked, didn’t like, why, etc.) Ann helped us narrow down our trip details and planned the honeymoon of our dreams. She helped book some of our excursions, answered some emergency questions while abroad and was always available/willing to help. I think it’s safe to say we won’t be using anyone else for future travel planning – Ann is a rockstar!

Carli (Italy and Spain)