Please sign in to post.

London and Paris: Solo, with a bit of YOLO (edited: all parts connected)

Backstory: I was fortunate to have a cash windfall last year and decided to earmark it for a trip. I planned this as “slow travel” to re-visit two cities I love, see places that have become touchstones and to visit for the first time places I had always meant to see but hadn’t. I also left time to stroll around and see what popped up and looked interesting.

Part 1: London

Getting to London:
Afternoon arrival in London on October 5 after flying on Delta from Portland, Oregon with a connection through Salt Lake City. Had a super-fast arrival process at LHR – the plane landed just before 2pm and I had my bag, passed through the arrival E-gates and was on my way to the taxi queue by 2:35.

New to me on this trip:

I noticed that Pam and others in the Forum recommended the Timeshifter app to help diminish jet lag, and I tried that for the first time. I thought it was helpful -- by my second day in London the usual woolly-headedness that plagues me after flying to Europe was mostly gone. In part the quick adjustment may have been aided by the sunshine and warm temperatures in London. I probably got more exposure to sunlight and more exercise than usual after arriving. Still, I will use the app again, and have recommended it to friends.

The Wallace Collection was hosting an exhibit called “Portraits of Dogs: From Gainsborough to Hockney.” Perhaps not everyone’s cup of kibble, so to speak, but I loved it, especially Landseer’s “Dignity and Impudence” and Queen Victoria’s drawing of her terrier named Podge. I was less interested in the arms and armor exhibits at the Wallace but lingered in the room with the Turner and Bonington watercolors and with the displays of Italian ceramics. The Wallace also has a very pleasant café which makes an excellent flat white.

Continuing in smaller museum mode, I visited the Courtauld Gallery. The Courtauld has several paintings in the permanent collection that I had long wanted to see, and as a bonus, a special exhibit called “Art and Artifice: Fakes from the Collection” was on as well.

On another day, I spent a good amount of time at the recently remodeled National Portrait Gallery. Unfortunately, the exhibit of Paul McCartney’s photographs I had wanted to see closed a few days before I arrived in London, but I wandered happily through the various galleries which were not at all crowded. Highly recommend!

Familiar delights:
I always visit Kew Gardens when I’m in London, no matter what time of year. I love the plant houses and the quiet and sense of tranquility that comes from strolling through the garden at a leisurely pace. The excellent weather continued on the day I was there, and the garden was busy but didn’t feel overcrowded. When I was over in the part of the garden that borders the Thames and has a lovely view over to Syon House, (another favorite spot, though I did not visit on this trip) I did not see another soul.

I saw Ian McKellen’s one-man show when I was in London in 2019, and was fortunate on this visit to see “Frank and Percy,” with McKellen and Roger Allam. (Another of my favorite British actors.) The play was at The Other Palace theater – a perfect venue for this two-man show. It’s small, with raked seating so no matter where you are, you have a decent view of the stage. McKellen and Allam were both great (no surprise!) – and I can only hope I have as much energy and stamina as McKellen when I’m 84, as he is now. Bonus on this day was having a delicious lunch at Nopi, the Ottolenghi restaurant on Warwick St.

(to be continued)

Posted by
57 posts

London, continued:

Miscellaneous items:
For Ottolenghi fans, he has opened a café on Pavilion Road, just behind the Peter Jones store on Sloane Square. Indoor and outdoor seating, plus takeaway service. Pleasant atmosphere and of course the food is wonderful. For those who like the Bread Ahead bakery, there is a branch just a bit further along Pavilion Road.

When I didn’t want to walk, take the bus or the Tube, I used Uber or the Gett app to request rides. The Gett app worked well but I found that the fares I paid when using Gett were generally more expensive than what Uber charged for a similar ride at a similar time of day. Uber and Gett drivers were uniformly pleasant, professional, and fun to talk to.

Part the second, Paris:

Getting to Paris: I left London on October 11, and (checking off a bucket list item) took the Eurostar to Paris. Courtesy of the windfall, I booked a seat in business class, which was super comfortable and included lunch service. The check-in process went very quickly so I had time to visit the business class lounge at St. Pancras (the upstairs area of the lounge is nicer than the downstairs, IMO.) I owe thanks to the “Man in Seat 61” for the thorough information his website provides about the Eurostar train itself and the trip from St. Pancras to the Gare du Nord.

New to me on this trip: I followed a recommendation in the Forum from brushtim, (Thanks!) and chose the Apartments du Louvre/Marais for the first days of my visit. This was a great choice – the apartment I rented (one of the “So Chic” type) was spacious, spotlessly clean, and conveniently located near the corner of the Rue Etienne Marcel and the Boulevard Sebastopol. Apartments du Louvre is the best of both worlds for me – they offer the space of an Airbnb plus the assistance of a very capable and personable front desk team if needed. This will be my go-to choice of apartment accommodation on future trips to Paris.

I made a provisioning run to Terroirs d’Avenir on the Rue du Nil when I arrived. This involved a pleasant stroll up the Rue Montorgueil which was bustling as usual. At the Cremerie Terroirs d’Avenir (#8) a friendly and knowledgeable staff person helped me choose three excellent cheeses – an aged Comte, a Bleu d’Auvergne and a St. Maure de Touraine. I acquired a baguette from the boulangerie at #3, fruit from a vendor on the Rue Montorgueil, and was one happy camper.

The Musee Carnavalet was a lovely surprise. I had seen mentions of it on the Forum and it was also recommended by Oliver Gee, who does the “Earful Tower” podcast, but I didn’t really know what to expect. It turned out to be a highlight of my time in Paris. The building itself is lovely and the exhibits are fascinating. Plus, there couldn’t have been more than 50 or so people in the museum when I was there – I had many of the galleries to myself, which was a treat.

Gardens: I discovered the Jardin des Rosiers-Joseph Migneret while strolling through the Marais one afternoon. Those who also love Louise Penny’s ‘Inspector Gamache’ mystery series know she wrote that Gamache proposed to his wife in this garden. I didn’t intend to seek it out, but when I walked by and saw the sign, I had to go in. There was a small tour group there at the time, so I eavesdropped and learned a bit about the garden and M. Migneret.

On the Left Bank, I happened upon the Jardin Catherine Laboure on a warm and sunny Sunday afternoon. I saw lots of young couples, old couples, families, kids playing and it seemed as though this was very much a neighborhood gathering place. Understandably – it is a lovely park.

(to be continued)

Posted by
57 posts

PARIS:

New to me on this trip:

Despite the fact that I have visited Paris many times, I had never used the Batobus. One sunny morning I walked over to the stop at the Hotel de Ville, hopped on, and decided to remain on board for the full loop. (Nine stops, trip lasted just under two hours.) Bonus: terrific opportunity for people-watching while on board.

Churches: I visited the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal and the Eglise St. Sulpice when services were being conducted, which added to the sense of peace that pervaded each.

Familiar delights:
I first visited the Musee de Cluny in the 1970’s and I try to return each time I am in Paris. I cannot get enough of the Unicorn Tapestries. On the weekday morning when I was there, some areas of the recently (and beautifully) renovated museum were occupied by school groups, but once those groups departed at lunchtime, it was very quiet. During the time I spent in the tapestries room, there were only three or four other people there with me.

Is there any place more pleasant to sit on a sunny autumn day than the Jardin du Luxembourg? Fall flowers were in bloom, leaves on the trees were changing color and the light was beautiful.

I revisited the Musee d’Orsay on this trip specifically to see the Van Gogh at Auvers exhibit, which was wonderful. I had never seen many of the drawings and canvases on display, either in books or in museums, and was so glad I went – despite the overwhelming crowds. I arrived at 10:40 am with my ticket (pre-purchased online) for an 11am entry, and joined a long line for ticket holders. The line for people purchasing tickets on site was much longer, however. I was admitted to the museum just after 11am, then went directly to the ticket holders line for the Van Gogh exhibit. I waited in that line for another 15-20 minutes before being admitted. There were priority/”Carte Blanche holder” lines for the museum entry and the exhibit entry which moved much more quickly. In retrospect, I wish I had paid the additional cost of a Carte Blanche membership. If nothing else, the benefit of being able to enter the museum half an hour before the regular opening time would have made a big difference to my overall experience. I will bear this in mind before my next visit!

(to be continued)

Posted by
57 posts

Paris:

The YOLO splurge:
I moved to the Left Bank for the final few days of the trip, and stayed at the Hotel Lutetia. I was intrigued by its history and by the mentions of the hotel in one of Louise Penny’s books. Wowzers! Expectations exceeded! It is a beautiful hotel with a highly professional and helpful staff, and the location is great.

Highlights:
The view of the Eiffel Tower and Invalides from my room, which was delightful at all times of day.

Discovering that a staff member doing the turndown service one night arranged a small artistic display of my toothbrush, toothpaste, sunscreen and nasal spray next to the bathroom sink.

The good-natured flourish with which a waiter introduced my room service order “Madame, je vous presente le cheeseburger!”

Miscellaneous items:
I had great meals at the Breizh Café on the Rue Montorgueil, at Sacre Frenchy on the Blvd. Sebastopol, Poulette on the Rue Etienne Marcel (the last two were just steps from the apartment) and at the Brasserie Lutetia. I also enjoyed a stop for coffee at the Treize Café, across from the Jardin du Luxembourg.
I can report that the petits pains de seigle aux raisins at Poilane are as tasty as ever. As are the chocolates and the “pates de fruit” from Jacques Genin.

The Marin Montagut shop on the Rue Madame has all sorts of cute items (textiles, ceramics, notebooks and notecards, etc.) that celebrate Paris. I bought a few holiday gifts for friends who also love the city. The friendly and helpful salesperson took great care to wrap everything well so that breakables would survive the trip home. (https://www.marinmontagut.com)

Wardrobe winners for this trip:
Walking shoes: Oboz women’s low leather (discovered via the Forum, thank you Mardee!) and Dansko Helens, which now appear to have been renamed “Henriette.”
Eileen Fisher washable stretch crepe black pants. The old reliables. On their fifth year of use and still looking as good as new.
Habitat Clothing’s “The One” shirt and a button-front tunic similar to the “Autumn Tunic” currently on their website. These can be casual or dressy, depending on what you pair with them. They look good on their own or as overshirts with a tank top underneath. Cold water wash – the tunic hangs dry and “The One” shirt needs a bit of ironing. (https://www.habitatclothes.com)

Final thoughts:
Following the events of October 7 in Israel and Gaza, I noticed an increased police presence in London. There was also a significant police presence in Paris throughout my stay, especially in the Marais and around the Hotel de Ville. I kept my eyes open and paid attention to the notices received through the STEP program, but did not change any plans.

I have what I describe as a decreasing command of “vestigial French,” but I spoke the language as best I could at every opportunity and was pleased that those with whom I spoke seemed to appreciate my efforts – despite my bad grammar and limited vocabulary.

Connecting through Salt Lake City on the outbound flight to London and the return flight from Paris worked very well. Baggage claim in SLC on the return flight was a bit slow, and by the time I retrieved my bag, the lines for the Global Entry kiosks were long. However, there was hardly anyone in the dedicated line for Mobile Passport users, so I I used the Mobile Passport app instead. On future trips, I’ll choose to connect in SLC instead of Seattle for international flights to/from London or Paris.

Last but not least, despite all the media mania (in the US and UK) about a massive infestation of bedbugs in Paris, I saw nary a one.

FIN

Posted by
57 posts

Valerie, Pat, Mardee and Claire --

Thank you for wading through the original four unconnected parts of the trip report. Pat -- I edited to connect everything. Thanks for pointing that out! My bad! Rookie mistake. First time posting something this long.

I am going to take down the "stand-alone" Part 4, but wanted to let you know I appreciate you taking the time to read and comment on my report.

Posted by
4003 posts

What a lovely trip report. And the best way to spend a windfall. Sometimes we just have to feed our soul, and a trip to Paris would also be my choice. We also visited the Musee Carnvalet and were pleasantly surprised. After the overwhelming crowds at the Lourve it was a very pleasant afternoon.

Posted by
7026 posts

Well, I am glad to see it connected so I can get all of it at once. And it's definitely worth reading! Lovely writing and descriptions and I envy you so much being to see Ian McKellen and Roger Allam on stage. I was looking for shows for March of next year and was so disappointed that it would long gone by then.

I'm glad you liked the Oboz shoes! They are still my favorites - I'm up to 3 pairs now and I bless the day I found them. :-)

Very nice layout, too. I love the trip reports that are organized into sections with bold headings. They are so easy to read and enjoy. At any rate, it sounds like you had a wonderful trip! And you've certainly given me more ideas for my trip to London next spring! And Paris sounds wonderful! I especially enjoyed the humorous flourishes at your second hotel. We all need a little artistry in our toiletries and every cheeseburger should be presented with a French accent. 😂

Posted by
889 posts

I also discovered the Marin Montagut shop down the street from our hotel in the spring when we were in Paris….what a treat! I brought home a couple of their charming glasses….so well wrapped for traveling that they made it all the way home with me to Nashville without any problem…..that is the charm of Paris that I love…..an incredible shop like this one with great items and help that is hidden away on one of its streets! On our last 2 trips to Paris we always find ourselves wandering back to Luxembourg Gardens…..just delightful!

Posted by
173 posts

Wonderful trip report. CorrieTen, you've given me so many ideas and reasons to return to Paris. Thank you.

Posted by
14288 posts

Thank you so much! What a wonderful TR and what a terrific time you had.

I'm glad you were happy with the Timeshifter app. After a recent thread about someone getting criticized for recommending a certain hotel which someone didn't like, I had been feeling weird about being so enthusiastic about my Timeshifter recommendations. However it made a huge difference for me no matter how silly I felt wearing sunglasses in an airport, haha!!

You hit a lot of things I really enjoy! I love the Wallace and Cortauld and the exhibition on fakes must have been interesting. I'm not an art historian and I really enjoy some education along with, lol.

The Carnavalet and the Cluny are almost always on my "to-do list". Excellent tip regarding school groups leaving at lunch time. That is so good to know as that seems to be a favorite place to take the kiddos.

Next time you are in the Luxembourg Gardens, if it's a sunny day, consider lunch at La Terrase du Madame, the cafe in the gardens near the Senat building and right by the Medici Fountain. I love sitting out under the trees and people watching. Food is pretty good although a trifle expensive for lunch. Still, it's a nice treat with attentive service for a solo woman.

Wow on staying at Lutetia! What a fun splurge! Jean's got a thread asking what people do for splurges and although staying here would not have occurred to me, it sounds like a memorable way to end a trip! And I laughed out loud at the artistic display created by the turndown staff with your toothbrush and nasal spray, hahaha! And they must have gotten a laugh as well! Gosh, I am going to laugh about that all day!

Thanks so much for spending the time to do a TR!!

Posted by
2507 posts

Lovely report. I felt like I was there with you

Posted by
169 posts

I did a very similar trip last year. I love slow travel! but I sure did get a lot of raised eyebrows when I told people I was "only" going to London and Paris! I took a full month and you know what? Your trip report makes me want to do it again.

London itinerary

Paris Itinerary

Posted by
6379 posts

CorrieTen, I love the “New to Me on This Trip” idea. I hope when the rest of us copy it, you will glow with pride.

Posted by
57 posts

Claudia, pj, Mary and Ginger -- Thank you for reading my report, and for your comments!

Barbara -- this trip really was a way to feed my soul. Particularly at the places I have visited at intervals over the years -- those touchstones encourage me to reflect on what each has meant to me over time, and how those places (and I!) have changed in the interim.

Mardee -- It was so special it was to see McKellen and Allam together. They were completely at ease with each other on stage and during the (multiple) curtain calls it was clear that they are good friends as well. Re: Oboz -- those shoes are made for walking! In all types of weather. I totally hear you when you say you bless the day you found them. And, agree 100% that small flourishes add much to daily life. That sink-side "Still Life with Neutrogena" display continues to bring a smile to my face.

Jane from TN -- I feel fortunate, as well, to have discovered the Marin Montagut shop... and that one can easily arrange a stop there while en route to the Jardin du Luxembourg!

Pam -- Upon my arrival home, I immediately recommended the Timeshifter app to neighbors who are currently on a trip to Australia and New Zealand. I'll be interested to hear from them when they return. Re: the "Art and Artifice" exhibit at the Courtauld -- it was small but informative. I especially enjoyed the "Spot the Fakes" section where they displayed the genuine article (drawings, primarily) next to the forgery. Re: Terasse du Madame -- thx for the recommendation! I will make a note for my next visit. Re: the Hotel Lutetia, I'd return in a heartbeat if I could! One caveat: the rooms with a courtyard view are on the small side, and had I stayed in one of those, I would have been disappointed. The hotel very graciously offered me the use of a courtyard view "grand superior" room when i arrived, before the type of room I booked was ready. I was delighted to have a spot to land for a few hours, but was miles happier with my "room with a view." It was definitely worth the additional cost.

Cerastez -- Thank you so much for including your itineraries! I can see that we have similar tastes in the spots we choose to visit!

Jane from OK -- I have benefited from so many trip reports that you and others have posted -- glad that I can return the favor in a small way with the "new to me" header.

Posted by
1396 posts

CorrieTen, I am glad the apartment worked out for you and if I remember correctly it is a family business. At the end of August this year I decided at the last minute to head to Paris for a week. I made a point to see sites/museums that I had not yet visited and enjoyed my time there as well.

I enjoyed the report.

Posted by
2491 posts

Thanks for the trip report. What a lovely way to spend a windfall!