London & Paris Anniversary Trip Report

We have returned from our wonderful 2 week trip to London & Paris so now its time for a trip report. Let me just say we had a fantastic time, lots of great food & memories made to last a lifetime.

Our Air France plane left Detroit Metro at 10:10pm for an overnight flight to Heathrow, London. I tried to sleep on the plane, even took an Ambien to help me sleep, but I probably dozed for about an hour all together. Just too much jet engine noise on a plane for me to sleep plus its hard to get comfortable in Economy class! The Ambien made me a little sick to my stomach too so I had to deal with that for about 2 hours of the flight. But we landed safely at 11:05 am London time & since I had already purchased Oyster cards, we were ready to get our luggage, go through customs & hit the Tube for central London. Next stop, Holborn...

We rented an apartment on Boswell Street which is about 3 or 4 blocks from Holborn Tube but the lady we rented from couldn't meet us until she got out of work so we had about 2.5 hours so we lugged our bags to Princess Louise pub where we spent an enjoyable time chatting with the barmaid Mimi. She recommended an ale for my husband & a flavored cider for me. We hung out at the bar for about an hour then went upstairs & split an order of Bangers & Mash for a late lunch. It was delish. Finally it was time to meet our apartment owner so we walked the short walk to Boswell St. Waited about 15 or 20 minutes more & finally were able to check into the apartment. It was exactly as pictured on the Home Away website & after a short explanation of how everything worked, we were one our own. We walked to the Sainsbury's Local and got a few groceries & some beverages then came back to the apartment to put everything away & relax on the balcony with a beverage. We ate dinner in our apartment that evening & went to bed since we were both pretty exhausted by then.

Our First Impressions of London -
Busy! People everywhere - in a big hurry and most don't seem too friendly.
Kind of old & dirty but some of the old buildings are very pretty.
Love how there are pubs all over. That should make finding food simpler.

Our First impressions of our apartment -
Very nice inside. The outside is older & kind of dirty looking. Appliances don't work the same as at home.

Day 2 in London we went to the Tower of London. I had purchased tickets in advance so no waiting. We saw the Crown Jewels first (beautiful doesn't quite describe them fully) then spent about 2 hours walking through the other buildings. We then walked across Tower Bridge and to Borough Market. By then it was lunch time so we looked around at all the wonderful goodies & settled on pasties, one chicken and one pork, plus an ale and a wine spritzer. Everything was delicous. We walked around a bit more, checking out the huge wheels of cheese, the pastries, etc then walked across London Bridge to St Pauls where we took the tour and finished by walking up to the Whispering Gallery. It was lovely. We then walked across Millennium Bridge and spent a little time in Tate Modern. I was disappointed in that. I thought there would be more art than there was. At that point, we were ready to head back to the apartment & find somewhere for supper. First we had a drink at The Queens Larder near our apartment & then went to a pub also near our apartment called The Lamb and split an order of fish & chips. It was delicious. We love London so far!

Day 3 is our day trip with London Walks to Bath. We met our guide Richard at Paddington Station at 9am. We enjoyed the 1.5 train ride to Bath (it was our first ever train ride) then we did a 2 hour guided walk through the city with Richard explaining architecture & history. It was very interesting. We took a break for lunch (Richard suggested several restaurants & we chose The Crystal Palace Pub where we had ales and a ham & cheese sandwich with a salad. It was good!

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

Day 3 continued - After lunch in Bath, we had another guided walking tour of about an hour and a half where we saw the Royal Circle and the Royal Crescent then we had time to see the Roman Baths if we chose to, which we did of course. We weren't going all this way not to see the baths! It was a self guided tour where you could get audio guides but since I'm not such a fan of audio guides we just wandered through the buildings, reading all the plaques and soaking it all in. We even tasted the water at the end of the tour. It was not good for drinking! After that we had just enough time to go into Bath Abbey then we met back up with our tour guide & boarded the train back to London.

Once back in London we tried to buy a few souvenirs at Oxford Circus but it was crazy busy & we didn't see anything open so we headed back to our quiet little neighborhood of Holborn. We ended up at the grocery again & bought some takeaway food which we heated up in our apartment.

Day 4 - I had a rough night sleeping due to all the walking in Bath so we slept in that day. We had planned to see the changing of the guard that day but we got too late of a start so we went to see Big Ben & Parliament, took a few pics then headed to Westminster Abbey. Since last year when I went to Paris with my daughter's French class, I've been comparing all churches to Notre Dame & they have all fallen short but not Westminster Abbey. It was truly amazing & so beautiful. Lots of sculptures, crypts and beautiful windows! The best part was we were there when a service was scheduled in the Nave so we attended and took communion!

After that we went to the Churchill War Rooms which was a fascinating exhibit of how the WW2 war effort was ran during the bombings of London. Then we went to the Globe Theatre for a tour. We couldn't take any pictures though because they were rehearsing for an upcoming performance of Anthony & Cleopatra. It was fun watching the actors work out the scene together. After that we walked back across the river on Southwark Bridge, found a pub & since we were thirsty at that point, we stopped for a pint! Dinner that evening was at another local pub, The Swan, where we had Steak & Ale pie. It was very good.

Day 5 - Went to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We were able to get up close to the fence but there were so many people there, it was crazy trying to see something. We ended up getting some good pics, I don't know how but we did. Decided against going in the Palace at that time since it was so busy there. We walked along the path to Wellington Arch then took the Tube to Harrod's. OMG Harrods is AMAZING! The food hall is to die for. We bought some delicious chocolates, a Scottish egg, and a sausage roll wrapped in flaky pastry then went to the Victoria & Albert museum which we also loved. We browsed around a little bit then went into the courtyard to eat our lunch (along with an ale of course). Very relaxing and the weather was perfect. Finished our visit to V&A then took the Tube to Marble Arch. Bought a few souvenirs (finally) then went to Selfridges since I'm a huge fan of Mr Selfridge on PBS. Tried to find something to purchase, looked at a few tops and necklaces even some makeup but didn't buy anything. However my husband said he wanted to go back & take a few pictures so I waited for him in front of Primark (tried to shop there but it was a ZOO) and he bought me a necklace we had looked at as well as a lipstick too. I was so happy! Took the Tube back to our flat, enjoyed a glass of wine on the balcony then went for dinner at The Ship near Holborn Tube. We chatted it up in the bar area with a fellow that was there with his Mum & family, celebrating her birthday then went upstairs for dinner. They have a lovely dining room upstairs. We split an order of duck confit which was very good.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

Day 6 - our last full day in London. We decided to go on another walk with London Walks. This one was called the Magical Mystery Tour. Our tour guide Richard was billed as the Pied Piper of Beatlemania. We walked through Soho, saw Paul's London offices, Trident recording studio, a club where the Fab 4 used to go, the art gallery where John met Yoko, Carnaby Street, the building where the famous rooftop concert was held then took the Tube to St Johns Wood and Abbey Road...the crosswalk and Abbey Road Studios. If you love the Beatles like we do, you would love this walk. Richard was very informative, showed us lots of pictures and he really knew his Beatles 'stuff'. After the walk, we bought some things in his coffee shop then asked if there was a pub nearby where we could have a late lunch. They recommended The Ordinance, where we had a lovely Sunday Roast with pork, mashed potatoes, vegetables & Yorkshire pudding. It was very good! One of my favorite meals in London actually. And again there was plenty for us to share.

After that we went back to our neighborhood and walked to the British Museum where we spent about an hour & a half. Saw the Rosetta Stone, various Egyptian wall carvings, some huge sculptures and an Easter Island figure. We stopped on our way back home & had an ice cream cone with a chocolate stick in it. Yummy. We found a couple of souvenir shops and bought a few things for our family back at home. That evening we went back to see Big Ben & Parliament and the London Eye at night. Dinner was at St Stephens Pub right across from Westminster Abbey. We split a fish & chips.

Day 7 - Time to pack up & head to Paris! Had a quick breakfast & to St Pancras to catch the Eurostar to Paris. We checked in easily & boarded the train. Very nice, comfortable seats. Two and a half hours later & we were in Paris at Gare du Nord. That's when the confusion started! I needed to buy our Navigo passes for the week, started out upstairs where you buy normal Metro tickets, she directed me downstairs. I asked a couple of guards who didn't speak English but I finally found where we needed to be & got the passes purchased. I have to say at this point that I had learned a little basic French but obviously not enough to communicate with non English speakers. We boarded Line 4 to Saint Placide and our Paris apartment on Rue de Vaugirard. I had used Google Earth to check it out beforehand so I kind of knew where we were going once we got off the Metro, however our contact person was no where to be found. I tried to call him but just got the office answering machine. Finally after waiting at least 40 minutes, he came down from the apartment, where he'd been all along! Sheesh! Talk about confusion. Anyway all was well & we got into the apartment, he showed us what we needed & we were finally ready to begin our Paris adventure together!

Went to the Monoprix which was about a half block away & got some food but decided against my plan of doing the Seine river boat cruise. Instead we went to Tour Montparnasse which was a short Metro ride away. We took lots of pictures & I ended up having a little accident, catching my leg on one of the telescope stands & cutting it open so that it bled rather badly. Of course I didn't have any napkins or bandaids to stop the bleeding with me (they were back in the apartment) but finally a nice young French girl helped me out and I was able to finish out the evening. All in all, not a good start to our Paris part of our trip.

Day 8 - Walked to a restaurant next door to our apartment & got pain au chocolat for breakfast. It was heavenly! 10x better than what I'd had last year in the hotel my daughter & I had stayed at. Our plan for the day is Ile de la Cite. Bought Museum Passes that morning & tried to go to Saint Chapelle but there was a sign saying it was Closed for the day. No reason why, it wasn't supposed to be closed but it was.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

Day 8 continued - We walked to the Square de vert Galant, to the tip of the island, also the flower market, Concergerie and finally to Notre Dame. Very beautiful inside but dark since it was a cloudy day. Walked around outside to the back of ND to see the architecture & flying buttresses then walked across a bridge covered with locks. Tried to find Shakespeare & Co but never did. Walked through a tiny bit of the Latin Quarter looking for somewhere to have lunch but decided to head to our next stop instead which was Musee de Orsay. Right off the Metro we found a Boulangerie Gosselin and bought a ham & cheese baguette and Paris Brest. We ate them outside of Musee Orsay then went in using our Museum Pass (skipping a very long line). The sculptures were nice but the best part was the 5th floor and the Impressionist paintings. I absolutely loved the 5th floor! Monet & Renoir are my favorites so I was in heaven. We came back home & met a lovely girl who lived in our apartment building. She was friendly & offered to write down some restaurants we might like to visit. She ended up coming down that evening when I did Face Time with our daughter who is a French teacher and they had a nice conversation. Louise volunteered also to show us around the neighborhood so we set a date for it. Dinner that night was from a Vietnamese restaurant right below us.

Day 9 - Went to Saint Chapelle again, closed now due to a strike. So we went to the Army Museum and Domed Church. My husband enjoyed both. Then we went next door to the Rodin Museum and toured both the gardens & the house. We had an appt at 3:30 for the Eiffel Tower so that was next. A short wait & we were headed up. Took lots of amazing pictures! Once down, we walked around outside by the river & in Trocadero before heading home. Decided we should probably try a restaurant for dinner since we were in Paris so we changed clothes & went to one nearby. We had a nice meal there (lamb for me, steak for my husband) and met a nice couple from Seattle there.

Day 10 - Up early & took the train to Versailles. It was cold & rainy once we got off the train. Bought a couple of rain jackets and we were on our way. Versailles is pretty amazing. Toured the chateau first. It was very crowded due to the rain then the gardens. We had lunch at La Flotille near the Grand Canal then walked to the Grand & Petite Trianons and also to the Temple of Love. Wanted to see the Hamlet but by then we were really tired from all the walking & we still had to walk back to the chateau & the train station. Caught the train back to Paris about 4:30 and we met our new friend at 7pm for a walking tour through Luxembourg Gardens, St Germain des Pres and ended up at the Polidor for dinner. She ordered for us. Food was very good, atmosphere very French, we loved it.

Day 11 - Today was our Museum Day. I know it sounds crazy but we went to 4 museums that day! First up we took the Metro to the Bastille so we could see the column then to Place des Vosges then Musee Carnavalet (history of Paris museum), Georges Pompidou (so I could show my husband what a REAL modern art museum is like), the Orangerie (Monets waterlilies) then finally the Louvre. They were open til 9:45 that day (Friday) and we got there about 6pm so they weren't really that busy. We enjoyed our day but went home with sore feet & exhausted from all the culture! A highlight of the day was enjoying a gelato in Tulleries Gardens and also seeing Owen Wilson going to the Orangerie. I swear it was him!

Day 12 - Decided to give St Chapelle one more try, this time was the charm & we were able to get in & see the beautiful stained glass windows. Next was the Lock Bridge near Notre Dame where we put our lock then to Montmartre & Sacre Cour. Took lots of pictures, bought lots of goodies and generally just enjoyed ourselves very much. Headed back to the apartment to drop off the goodies.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

Day 12 continued - I remembered I wanted to go to Fragonards perfumery & Galleries Lafayette (how could I have forgotten that?) so headed back out but I forgot my map! So we had to ask directions & finally found Fragonards with 15 minutes to spare before they closed. I went in & bought my perfume then we headed to Galleries Lafayette (I found my map after all). Amazing place especially the dome. Bought some Maxim's chocolates there then went to C & A where I could actually afford to buy something!

Next stop - Arc de Triomphe & Champs Elysses! Took lots more pictures, went into McDonald's so I could show my husband the pastries they sell there and walked down the street to take it all in. By the time we got back home it was past time for supper but we found a cafe that was open and had our supper.

Day 13 - our last full day in Paris. We decided to try to go to the Catacombs but the line was at least an hour & a half long so we decided against it & headed back to Montmartre where we got our portrait done by one of the artists. We also got a silhouette too. Went back to the apartment then bought a baguette & some champagne and went to Luxembourg Gardens for a little picnic. I have to say this was the highlight of our trip for me. I loved Lux Gardens. Very relaxing, the weather that day was perfect (no rain finally) and we really enjoyed ourselves. That evening we went to the Eiffel Tower to see it up close at night. It was amazing! What a wonderful time we had in Paris!

Day 14 - to CDG & our flight back home to Detroit. All I have to say about this day is get to CDG early! We literally almost missed our flight home! We had two hours but three would have been better. We did make the flight though with help from some nice AF employees who got us to the front of a couple of very long lines. Without that, we would have missed our flight.

We both loved London & Paris and would go again in a heartbeat. It was an amazing time. We made some wonderful memories. Thanks for reading and au revoir!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
11079 posts

A great report, Diana. I felt like I was in your shoes!!

Do you like pubs? Just asking.... And which ale did the two of you prefer?

You strike me as such a resourceful couple, able to swing with the punches.

Going back for 3 days in a row to get the stained glass shows so much persistence.

It must have been very anxious making not finding your host in Paris for all that time. I would have been sick...

So, when's the next trip?

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

Hello Nigel. Yes I we loved the pubs! It was so easy to get food in London, all we had to do was find a pub & we were all set. And the portions were large enough for us to share one meal which saved us money too. I liked the flavored ciders and my husband tried to sample a different ale at each of the pubs we went to.

I had been to Paris the year before so I wanted to show my husband the highlights of what I saw plus a few things I didn't. St Chapelle was one of the things I hadn't seen so I really wanted to see it. Also Musee de Orsay. Neither disappointed me. I also wanted to just savor things & relax and even if it doesn't sound like it, we were able to do that.

We were getting a bit nervous about making our connection with our host in Paris. At that point I was wishing I had rented a hotel room. But it all turned out fine & we loved our apartment. The balcony was huge & it wrapped all around the apartment. It was narrow but over 40 feet long! Plus we met the sweet French girl that lived in a tiny little room on the top floor!

Next trip is next year...I'm thinking Ireland or Italy. Yes dreaming already & starting to think about planning too. This forum was very helpful & I'm sure it will be for the next trip too!

Posted by Jeremy
Dallas, TX
59 posts

Great, great report, thank you!

We took that same London Walks tour with Richard!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5586 posts

Great report. Thanks for sharing. I think the lesson to be learned regarding your apartment situation is to consider checking at the actual apartment instead of assuming they will meet you outside. I will have to remember this as I have 5 apartment rentals in Edinburgh, London and France coming up. If 2 people (or more) are traveling together one could wait with the luggage while the other checks the apartment.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

We had no way to get INTO the apartment so we had to just wait outside until he showed up. :(

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5586 posts

That is unfortunate. I wonder why they were inside if there was no way for you to get I to the building. How annoying!

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

It was a mixup with the times I think. Our host thought we would be there earlier than we were so he went upstairs for whatever reason & waited. I'm just glad it all turned out well. I would rent an apartment again in a heartbeat. We had so much room! And the balcony was divine.

Posted by jturie
Valley Forge, PA
42 posts

Nice report, and I appreciate the pub reviews. My last time in London was spent with a large group renting a nice flat, but they were bushed at the end of the day and we almost always cooked our meals or did quick takeaway. Next time I want to hit the pubs.

One item kind of boggled my mind: you only spent 90 minutes at the British Museum? We spent 4 hours, and didn't do the place justice. My group had to drag me out of there, or I would have spent the week.

Also, I may have missed it, but did you stop in at the British Library? It's a small display, but powerful. Looking at the Magna Carta gave me the same sense of awe that I got viewing the Rosetta Stone. A ton of amazing history in there....including Beatles lyrics!

I see that you didn't hit Harrods or Mme. Tussaud's. Good moves. My group had to drag me INTO those places, but at least I was able to slip from their grasp at the latter "attraction", and hit the nearby Sherlock Holmes museum at 221B Baker St.

Glad you enjoyed your trip. You appear to be really good travelers.

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

The pubs were wonderful & a highlight of our time in London. Food was so easy in the pubs...and we split whatever we ordered for dinner & had plenty for the both of us. Plus an ale for my husband and generally a flavored cider for me (yum).

The British Museum was fit into our last day in London, after we'd been on the Beatles walk. It was walking distance from our apartment so we decided to go. No British Library this time. We did go to Harrod's. I loved it esp the Food Hall. It was amazing! We bought some chocolates, a Scottish egg & pork sausage pasty & chips which we took the the V&A and ate in their beautiful courtyard area. No Madame Toussands though, no interest whatsoever for either of us. We'd been to one in Niagara Falls, Canada a long time ago.

Can't wait to go back to both London & Paris again. We really had a great time!

Posted by Diana
Michigan, United States
252 posts

I forgot to mention we tried to ride the big red buses while in London. We asked a couple of people how would we get somewhere & nobody, including one of the bus drivers, could really explain how they worked so we gave up and took the Tube instead which we had figured out rather easily. We should have just got on one & rode for awhile then took the tube back. Next time...

Posted by Holly
Durham, NC, USA
290 posts

That sounds like a wonderful trip! The next time you're in Paris, check out the Paris Walks there (they have MANY options). I've done multiple ones and they were all very interesting, informative and fun.

Posted by jerica21
3 posts

Thank you for sharing Diana. After reading your post, I am even more excited and looking forward to our trip to Paris and London in a few weeks.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3635 posts

Enjoyed your report! Next time you go to Versailles consider renting bikes by the Grand Canal... makes it fun and easy to get around to everything. Sorry you missed the Hamlet, it's really wonderful but now you have a good reason to go back!

I was happy to read you spent time in the Luxembourg Gardens and that it was a highlight for you... I absolutely love it there. When I'm in Paris, I often spend all day there and hate to leave.