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!

April in Paris

My mother turned 70 this year, and her birthday wish was a visit to Paris, which has long been on her bucket list. My siblings and I were happy to oblige, and we planned our trip for April 3 – 7. My mother, my sisters, and I have all traveled together before, and we’ve even done Europe together (you can read about our adventures in Italy here), but this trip was really special. The milestone birthday was occasion  enough, but we were also celebrating the fact that my mom could even handle a trip like this, after undergoing knee and back surgeries in recent years, and that my youngest sister could fully participate in all of the walking, etc. after a 100+ pound weight loss. I think we all felt giddy and light, and Paris was the perfect backdrop!

If you just want to check out the photos, they can be found here, in a Facebook album. And if you’re interested in what we did while we were there (and what we ate!), read on:

We arrived on a Friday morning, and I had a driver pick us up at the airport and bring us to our hotel to check in. We were sharing two connecting rooms in the Relais du Louvre, which is an adorable little hotel in the 1st Arrondissement, just steps from the Louvre. The rooms were authentically Parisian (read: cozy) but perfectly fine for our purposes, and the location was ideal. They welcomed us with a bottle of champagne for the birthday girl, and we headed out for a quick lunch and a stroll along the Seine to get to our pre-scheduled visit to the Eiffel Tower. Because this was high on my mom’s list, we had paid extra for a skip-the-line tour that included admission to the top floor of the tower — awesome views, and a great orientation to the city. Afterwards, we had an early dinner at a cute neighborhood bistro, and then we crashed.

Eiffel Tower

Saturday morning was gorgeous and sunny and the early birds ran out for croissants and coffee to enjoy back at the hotel. We took the bus to Montmartre and walked up to Sacre Coeur to admire the view over the city. We happened to catch the morning that the parish children were celebrating their First Communion, and we got to see all the French families dressed up and celebrating. Afterwards, we took the funicular back down (much better than walking!) and took the Metro over to the Marais District to wander around and have some lunch (Croque Monsieurs for everyone!) We walked off some calories with a stroll over to Isle St Louis so I could show them “my” cute little hotel that I had stayed in last time around (Hotel St Louis en L’Isle) and we rewarded ourselves with a stop at the original Berthillon ice cream shop. We made it back to the hotel for a quick nap, and then headed out to dinner at Les Fines Gueules , a charming little restaurant in the 1st arrondissement.

Classic lunch

Sunday was cloudy and cooler (in the 60’s) but we decided to eat breakfast outside anyway…and were rewarded with front row seats to the Paris Marathon! The runners passed right in front of our table, and we cheered them on over our pain chocolat 🙂   Afterwards, we walked to Isle de la Cite to tour St. Chapelle and attend Mass at Notre Dame (not to be missed!)  That afternoon we continued over to the Left Bank and explored a little bit of the 5th and 6th arrondissements on our way to the Musee d’Orsay. This beautiful former train station, now a museum of Impressionist art, was offering free admission that day, so the line was long, but it was more than worth the wait. Our dinner that evening (the best one of our trip) was at the Boucherie Rouliere in St Germain des Pres. A charming French waiter serving escargots, great wine, perfectly-cooked salmon, and steak. Tres magnifique! On our walk back to the hotel, we watched the nightly light show on the Eiffel Tower. Truly a perfect day 🙂

Notre dame

Monday, our last day in Paris, was again warm and sunny (about 70 degrees) and we made the most of it. We strolled through the courtyard of the Louvre, and the nearby Tuileries Gardens, then shopped our way up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. From there, we hopped in a cab over to the Latin Quarter for a spin through the Pantheon, lunch at a cafe (quiche, salade nicoise, and French onion soup) and a two-hour walking tour led by “Paris Walks“. We learned all about the medieval history of that section of Paris, and explored nooks and crannies we never would have found on our own. After one last stop for some wine at a sidewalk cafe, we called it a day. That night we had an early dinner at a nearby restaurant (Taverne de l’Arbre Sec) and then packed our bags for home 🙁

Louvre courtyard

If it sounds like all we did was eat, that’s somewhat true. But that’s Paris! We also packed a lot of sightseeing into four days, and there are whole sections of the city that we missed, but I think Paris, like a fine bottle of wine, is best enjoyed in small “sips”. I am sure that I’ll be back again!

drinking wine on a barrel in Bellagio

Bellagio wine bar

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)

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Carli (Italy and Spain)