A Travellerspoint blog

Bon Appétit

Food tours, hanging out in Montmartre and one last look at Paris.

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Oh my goodness. Somehow we are already at Wednesday, the 15th and our final day of site seeing. I can’t believe it’s here already. It feels like we just arrived, well cause we did kinda just barely arrive in Paris. But then again it also feels like years ago that we were at the Tattoo in Edinburgh. Funny how vacation seems to work like that. I’m not ready to go home yet, but then again I never am. Guess that just means I better start planning the next trip ASAP!!

But enough with the philosophizing if I’m gonna get this entry written before this plane arrives in Chicago.

We were up and on the metro around the usual time as we needed to be up to Montmartre for our 10:30 Secret Paris Food Tour. I naturally wanted to be extra early just to make sure we didn’t miss it. So that meant time to pop in a few souvenir shops beforehand. I finally found a shirt I wanted, but not in the right size. Spoiler alert...I was able to find it after the tour ?

So Julianne had received a confirmation email from them about the tour. In there they specifically said, “be on time as this is a group tour and we need to respect everyone’s time.” So we’re standing outside the metro waiting, seeing various people show up that are obviously in the tour. I count like 11...but the funny thing is the only person not on time is the tour guide ??‍♀️

Our fun, fabulous tour guide Hugo did finally show up in a flurry of French style. He is a theatre artist and definitely has a flare for the dramatic. After a quick bit of history, as well as letting us know that he is definitely not a Parisian, but from Montmartre, we were off in the direction of our first stop.


No better way to start a food tour than at a chocolate shop. And not just any chocolate shop, but thee best chocolate shop in France (as evidenced by their distinction right below the shop name). Maison Georges Larnicol was quite the showcase. From the giant chocolate sculptures down to the tiny little chocolate almonds, and from the misshapen meringues the size of your head to perfect little macarons. Hugo explained what each of the chocolates by weight were, and then we each got to pick out two of them to try. Salted caramel chocolate balls and their house specialty truffle with bits of crunchy crepe inside were my winning choices.


We didn’t know it at the time, but we were basically completing a loop around the neighborhood, stopping to pick up items along the way from each “erie” - shop that specializes in something. Chocolaterie - chocolates; Patisserie - pastries; boulangerie - bread; fromagerie - cheese; charcuterie - cured meats. Since houses are so small, this is how residents there would shop on a daily basis. Just picking up what they need for that day so they can use it fresh. They are very focused on knowing where their food comes from and every opportunity is taken to showcase this fact...hello leaving the feet and heads on chickens so they know what kind of chicken it is cause different kinds, raised in different conditions need to be cooked differently. There were even little cow resumes and mug shots hanging up in the meat shop to tell you where that days beef was from, how the cow was raised and pretty much anything else you’d want to know about their life and health. In France it’s all about climate, soil and tradition when talking about food.


So from chocolates we moved on to macarons at Christophe Roussel, with a quick stop beforehand at the base of the hill leading up to Sacre-Coeur. Along the way, he also pointed out some street art done by particular artists. Anyhoo, this was yet another award winning shop. France pretty much refuses to use the Michelin star rating and has their own system; this place being a 2018 recipient. They do some different, more specialty flavors and then the classic ones. Yet again we each got to pick two. I went with the classic salted caramel and the specialty banana shell with chocolate ganache filling ? With a discount coupon for future purchases, I knew we’d be going back there later in the day to try more.


Treats taken care of (meaning eaten immediately on the spot), it was time to start the shopping. Oh yes, another thing we learned was the proper way to carry your baguettes. Julianne did a fine job of performing that task. Once all the supplies were purchased, we completed our loop at the tour company’s wine seller. That is where we had a full on tasting of all the meat and cheese and baguettes we had picked up, as well as champagne and wine and cornichons they had all ready for us.


So much wine and meat and cheese and pâté I really have no idea what we even tasted. I do know that some was good and made it into my belly, and others ended up staying mainly on the plate. I tried everything, but just barely so with the one super stinky gross sausage that Hugo warned us would be a tough one. Thankfully he had one final sweet treat up his sleeve to end the tasting on a high note.


Hugo dazzled with his wine pouring and champagne bottle opening techniques. We tried countless things we never ever would’ve done on our own. Meaning basically it was a great time with a lot of laughs and some fabulous other travelers. I do kinda wish that like other food tours I’ve done there would’ve been at least one main dish to try, but it worked out fine and we definitely did not leave hungry.


Tour over it was time to make our way up the hill and get an up close and inside look at Sacre-Coeur. It was beautiful, wonderful, fabulous...but just not nearly as impressive inside as either of the two churches we saw the previous day. But from outside it easily wins the race hands down. With its stunning white stone curved into all those gorgeous domes, it looks perfectly regal sitting up on that hillside. Not to mention the top of the hill has some pretty impressive views of its own. Another of the things I fondly remembered from my previous trips to Paris.


From there we did a bit more wandering and browsing. Oh yes, and there was an artist square, Place du Tertre, I had read about and was obsessed with finding. I like to get little prints or watercolors when I travel, so I was super excited. We did find it...and ended up striking a deal where we each got a little canvas of the Eiffel Tower from the same artist.

Our time in Montmartre coming to a close, we metro hopped on over by Centre Pompidou. That is a modern art museum where the building was basically built inside out so all the pipes and iron work are showing outside. I don’t really get it and find it to be quite the ugly monstrosity, but whatever. There was a fun fountain next to it as well as another square with another group of pretty great street dancers.


By that point it was already around 7:00 and yet again we found ourselves quickly approaching starving and in need of a bathroom. We eventually made it back to the Latin Quarter, so we swung by the hotel to drop off our things before heading out to find dinner. We should’ve just gone to a little crepe or sandwich or gyro place, but neither of us were thinking straight (blame it on hunger and exhaustion). We ended up at another outdoor cafe, but it was not nearly the great experience we had previously had. And for some reason it seems I have this awful habit of finding my worst meal at the very end of my trips ??‍♀️ The only way to salvage a not so great steak dinner is to go all out on dessert after!! Julianne got the fresh strawberries and Nutella crepe she was hoping for. And I had the mother of all gelato experiences: hazelnut, caramel, and stracciatella topped off with a chocolate gelato macaron ??


And then it was time to head for the hotel since we needed to get packed up and figure out a plan for getting to the airport the next morning. Such an incredible whirlwind trip I really cannot believe it is already coming to an end.

Posted by JackiesJourneys 17:07 Archived in France Tagged paris sacre_coeur montmartre crêpes gelato macarons Comments (0)

Paris, Je T'aime

I love Paris in the summertime.

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Tuesday, August 14 we originally had a food tour scheduled. But while doing some last minute research, I discovered that August 15, the day we planned to visit Notre Dame, is actually a Catholic and bank holiday around here. A giant mass and procession is not so conducive to a visit, so Julianne contacted the food tour people to see if we could switch days, and thankfully we could. A little more looking to find a skip the line tour for Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle and we were all set.


So Tuesday we were off walking in the direction of the metro stop we needed to meet our guide by. Once we had that located, it was time to grab some breakfast. A lovely chicken baguette sandwich works for me. I didn’t even realize when I bought it that there was pesto too, so doubly delicious. Julianne opted for a croissant and blueberry muffin. A park bench in a nice little square was the ideal place to eat.


A few other people showed up, and finally our guide Sonya did as well. She’s a Serbian who’s been living in Paris for over six years, doing tours, working on some architecture stuff, and recently illustrated a book. Very interesting, incredibly knowledgeable, and a great guide. We had about 17 people total, including two kids who were very well behaved, with the boy quite impressive with all the facts he knew about Paris. We just weren’t sure how a tour of just two churches could last 3-3.5 hours. But then again these aren’t any old churches.


After our intro in the square and getting everyone set with their earphones, we walked up toward the Palais de Justice or Supreme Court. Then we crossed over to Sainte-Chapelle and got the lowdown on the little church known for its big stained glass before heading inside. We started in the basement area that contains the chapel that workers and common people would’ve been able to use. There were some nice pieces down there, but absolutely nothing compared to what we were about to see.


A tiny little dark, windy staircase was all that separated the commoners from the nobility and other people special enough to use the upper chapel. I think just about everyone gasped that first moment they stepped out of the stairwell and were surrounded by nothing but vibrant stained glass windows. Sonya said we hit it at the perfect time with brightness but not overpowering sunlight as too much sun makes the scenes on the windows harder to see. The entire creation story is laid out on those windows moving down one side of the Church, wrapping around behind the alter and back up the other side. At a quick glance, it gives off the appearance of a kaleidoscope as the artists used different shapes to create each section of windows. Of course narcissistic King Louie, who commissioned the church (which by the way was built in some ridiculously fast period of time like 6 or 8 years), had to make sure he was represented in one of the panels. The back of the church is capped off by a rose looking flower design that is absolutely incredible. The various sections of stained glass are separated by 12 columns, each anchored by a statue of one of the apostles. Just to walk in and be awed by it all is amazing enough, but the added benefit of Sonya explaining and pointing things out just put this at over the top levels of wowness! I couldn’t be happier that we went with the tour option.


One church down, one Cathedral to go. On the way we stopped outside the Supreme Court building for her to point out some things around there, starting with the “Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite” motto that is prominent on the facade. The wing adjacent is also where Marie Antoinette spent time while imprisoned. Notre Dame is located on an island in the middle of the Seine, and while crossing the bridge she pointed out “N”s on the bridge for Napoleon. Those guys were all about marking their territory and showing their importance in any way they could (some things never change I guess).


Where as Sainte-Chapelle took a tiny little bit of time to build, Notre Dame took like 250 years. This was a totally different kind of impressive from what we had just seen. This is much more architectural and just so massive. And since it did take so long, styles and methods changed along the way. One section of stained glass contains limited colors as they had to grind stones in order to make the powder to turn into paint. As practices advanced, they found ways to create a wider variety of colors, and that’s reflected in the glass. The main nave is surrounded by side chapels of varying degrees of decoration depending on what Saint the chapel represented. And behind the alter is a climate controlled, security sealed container that claims to hold the crown of thorns. While we were there, the pipe organ was being played, which added a nice bit of ambiance to the whole affair.


On the way out, Sonya pointed out some of the key statues and then our tour allowed us to skip the line to climb the 422 steps to the top of the north tower. There are four sections: the first gets you to the gift shop (this is where Sonya said her goodbyes and left us to carry on), second is the area dead center between the towers, third is the belfry (sadly Quasimodo was not on duty today) and finally you arrive at the tip top of the Tower. They have it well organized so only a limited number of people are in any one section at a time and it’s just one way traffic on each portion the of stairs (thus the reason for the long lines). The views from up there?! Incredible!!! I loved seeing the detail on the gargoyles and more glorious views of the Eiffel Tower ? Not at all a bad way to spend a Wednesday morning.


Once back down on terra firma, we walked around the one side of the cathedral we had yet to see. Then we crossed over to go in the Jewish memorial I had read about. It wasn’t what I was expecting, and without the audio guides to explain things, it was kinda confusing so we didn’t stay long. I’ll have to do more research before I come back the next time ?


Even though I always imagine Paris as this huge city, it is in fact pretty compact and walkable. And anywhere you walk, there is bound to be a grand building or gorgeous wide boulevard or some surprise scenery to wow you out of nowhere. We had more than a few of those moments as we headed toward the Louvre. We didn’t have time to actually go in the Louvre (and I have close to no desire to do so anyway), but we did want to see it from the outside with its glass pyramid entrance and big fountain square. I was more interested in what is behind the museum: the Jardin du Tuileries. By this point we were both ready to keel over from hunger. Thankfully we spotted a sandwich stand in the park...and suddenly our pace quickened over the thought of food in our bellies. Another yummy chicken baguette for me and a ham and cheese (with lots of butter) baguette for Julianne meant we had the strength to carry on.


We may have had the strength, but the problem with traveling is being able to locate bathrooms on a regular basis ??‍♀️ We spotted a sign in the gardens, but were more than a little leery as to what we’d find. Upon arrival, we found out we had to pay to use them....grrrreat. But turns out that was one very well spent euro as they were cleaner than a lot of the restaurant and airport ones we encountered.

Pit stop over, it was time for dessert. And here is where I confess to our most epic of fails all trip long ??‍♀️ I am embarrassed to admit that we have singlehandedly located thee worst “crepes” in all of Paris. Right outside the garden was a little stand. As I was ordering, I realized they weren’t actually making them fresh, but had a giant stack piled up that they would just “warm up.” And somehow my gut instinct did not make me run screaming from that line like I should have. They were so thick and cold and nasty, that they both promptly went into the trash. Even worse?! Had we waited a few hundred feet to cross the street we could’ve had the delicious fresh kind ??


Trying to block that part of the trip from our memories, we headed toward one of Julianne’s trip picks: the Opera House. You can pay to go inside and scope it out in all its over the top grandeur. It was interesting to see, but way too gaudy for my tastes. Some of the ceiling frescoes were pretty impressive though. She had read that it is what inspired Phantom of the Opera, and I can see how that would be the case. The thing I did enjoy were the views from the balcony overlooking the square below with its crazy merging of 7 streets! We also spotted the Swatch store from up there so bonus for each of us.


After a successful stop at the tiny little Swatch store, we continued on our way. Next Parisian landmark to cross off the list?! The Arc de Triomphe. I think this one was a little far away, so we may have opted to metro it out there to help conserve our legs and feet. Having already scaled numerous other buildings, neither of us felt the need to climb the Arc. We didn’t even walk up close or fully around it, cause let me just point out it’s rather on the large side with a veritable crap ton of traffic wizzing around it. A couple photos and the chance to take a seat for a few minutes was perfectly fine and dandy. From there we meandered up the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées before deciding to head back to the Latin Quarter and find a nice place to sit and eat dinner.


This adorable little old guy talked us into outdoor seating at another of those cute cafes. I think this time we may have been on one of the busiest streets in the area though. Oh well, that always makes for good people watching. The three course menu he was touting didn’t hurt either. Course one: the tastiest of tasty onion soups for me and steamed mussels for Julianne. Course two we both went with what turned out to be an incredibly tender and delicious beef bourguignon with some of our fave veggies. I capped off the night with a chocolate and whipped cream covered profiterole while Julianne went with the chocolate mousse. We practically licked our dishes clean and left there oh so happy.


Deciding that walking a little longer may help with digesting our food, we ended up over by Notre Dame yet again and got to see her all lit up, looking oh so fancy. The place was still pretty packed with even more barricades and police. Turns out there was a night procession and some kind of outdoor service that was just getting started. And what else did we happen to spot right there?! Oh just one of those fresh crepe carts with a very talkative and nice man running it. Even with being full, it would be rude to not stop. Plus we still needed to get the taste of those nasty crepes from earlier out of our mouths. Yep, that did the trick ???


And yet again we find ourselves shlepping back to the hotel later than planned, exhausted at the end of another amazing day. Yep, sign me up for a vacation to recover from my vacation.

Posted by JackiesJourneys 05:38 Archived in France Tagged paris sainte_chapelle notre_dame Comments (0)

An American (or 2) in Paris

Breakfast in London, dinner in Paris...Life is good 😀

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Monday we started the day bright and early with a 6:15 wake up call. It’s always best to err on the side of caution and arrive too early to catch a train than to end up risking missing it. Our Eurostar train was scheduled to pull out of St. Pancras station at 9:22, and with it being international, they recommend arriving 45-60 minutes early for security and passport checks.

Walking down the street I could hardly believe it was time to leave London already. I really enjoyed our hotel room and had come to love our wacky little neighborhood, hookah bars and all ? We saw and did so many amazing things that our 4 days absolutely flew by. Even with the somewhat dodgy weather, I am oh so happy to have spent this time in London. I look forward to when we next meet again ?

Enough gushing, let’s get back to the recap...
There was an accident or something that had the end of our street blocked off. But no worries as that meant we got to walk by the famous Lindo Wing hospital door one more time ???? ?? Plus the detour put us right at the correct entrance to Paddington that we needed. Win-win!!

Thankfully we had a direct route on the Circle Line and we arrived in no time. Julianne spotted where we could get our Oyster card refunds; meaning more money to try to spend quick ??‍♀️ We did need to buy some pastries for breakfast and beverages for the train, but then what?! As luck would have it, we found cute keychains in the shop after security, along with a few snacks, which just left us with coins to toss into the donation bin. Yay...pounds taken care of, bring on the euros.

They finally opened the gates to begin boarding. We hopped on coach four, seats 75 & 76, and that is where we currently are. I’ll be back after we have arrived in Paris ?


The ride to Paris was over in a flash and we landed in a new season: welcome back summer ? It almost feels like we started our trip in fall (Edinburgh), then moved onto a rainy spring (London) and Paris has put us squarely back at summer (insert my happy dance here!!). But for all the rain in London, would you believe I ended up buying a new umbrella in Paris?! It was just too cute to pass up.

Anyhoo, we arrived and headed inside to buy a carnet (10 pack) of metro tickets to split. Thankfully we hopped into two different lines right next to each other as the ticket machine in my line broke down before I could get to it. Julianne’s worked like a charm and we were on our way to the metro, headed for the Latin Quarter, our neighborhood for the next three nights.

Our hotel, Les Bulles de Paris, is seriously one of the coolest as it is dedicated to champagne. Every room is based on a different variation of the theme, ours being the blue and grey room centered around Paris. The lights behind the beds are part of a mural of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, and all the sinks and stools are either champagne corks or the wire bottle cages. Bubbles on the bathroom walls and shower seal the deal. Bonus that not only is it so cool, but also in a perfect location with easy access to everything.


We couldn’t check in right away so we left our bags and headed out to find lunch. On our walk from the metro stop we had gone down this adorable little cafe lined street, so that’s where we decided to go. A lot of places had a menu of the day deal where for one fixed price you could get a first course, entree and dessert. We nabbed a table outside at one that advertised crepes and took a minute to soak up the sunshine, scenery and atmosphere. It almost felt like we were on a movie set with how picture perfect it was, right down to the roving accordion player squeezing out a French soundtrack. First course, mixed salad for me and shrimp cocktail for Julianne (which ended up being more like a shrimp salad, but she liked it). For our main dishes we both went with crepes: chicken, egg and spinach over here and ham and cheese for Julianne. Seriously sooooo delicious. Dessert I went with creme brulee and she did the Nutella crepe. Beyond full and happy ?


Lunch over we sauntered back to get checked in. But along the way we got totally distracted by a detour along the river to see how close to Notre Dame we were. Ummm...pretty close ? It was later than we had anticipated (4:30ish if I remember correctly) but since darkness wouldn’t fully descend until after 10:00, we had plenty of time to explore. Map reader extraordinaire Julianne was on top of it and we were able to cover so many miles and sights in that reduced period of time, we impressed even ourselves ??‍♀️


Having prebooked tickets to Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck, we set off in that direction. Lucky for me one of the places I remember going to and loving previously was on the way there...Jardin du Luxembourg. Bathed in sunshine under a vibrant blue sky it was even better than I remembered (which is pretty much the case with everything we did as the last two times I was in Paris it was overcast or winter). We didn’t really have time to just sit and admire things, but we strolled and snapped numerous photos. With the Palace bordering one side, a pond in the middle for kids to sail boats in, and numerous statues, trees, and flowers there was plenty to admire. We also happened to catch our first glimpse of la Tour Eiffel peeking through the trees off in the distance. Pinch me...I must be dreaming.


But onward we must go as there is more to be seen and done. Like for starters the ultimate mashup of French macarons and Italian gelato at a little shop called Amorino. Pistachio and Nutella are just what I need to continue on to what they refer to as “The very best view of Paris.” And well I may be inclined to agree with that assessment. It takes just 38 seconds to zip 200 meters (656 feet) up to the 56th floor of Montparnasse Tower to marvel at the 360 degree view. On a clear day it says you can see for 25 miles, so yeah, pretty incredible stuff right there. We opted to go up in this as opposed to the Eiffel Tower because this way you can see the Eiffel rising above the city. The Tower we were in is just a giant grey eyesore that would not make for great pictures. We got the timing just right as it wasn’t too crowded when we arrived. But after a few loops around, the Deck was starting to fill up with people getting ready to camp out to watch the sun go down. I’m sure that would've been gorgeous, but we were on a mission to get to the Eiffel Tower for that glorious show.


We walked along the Seine River, admiring the Eiffel Tower at every turn. So much for trying to limit the number of photos I snapped ??‍♀️ I may have taken more of just that one thing than I took of my entire trip to Paris in college (oops...but then again that was back in the days of 35mm film when you just didn’t take that many photos). We finally arrived at Jardin du Trocadero for the ultimate Eiffel Tower views. Fountains, water cannons, gilded bronze statues, warm temps, blue skies and the perfectest whispy white clouds behind the Tower made for an unbelievably incredible experience. I don’t know how many times we looked at each other and said “I can’t even believe we are in Paris right now.” Besides the views there was some entertainment as street performing is no joke around here. You have to audition and get officially certified to be able to do it, and it definitely shows. We came across 3 guys busting some serious moves at the top of the plaza and watched them for a bit also.


Waiting for the lights to come on was when we discovered just how late it stays light around here. But neither of us having seen the twinkly lights show on the Tower, we would not be deterred. How perfect then that to help pass the time there was this amazing little sandwich and crepe stand as we walked down closer. Banana and Nutella crepe for Julianne and an amazing chicken baguette panini for me. We walked, we ate, we oohed & ahhed and at 10pm it finally started to sparkle and twinkle. Que magnifique!! Soooo worth the wait ??

Bucket list moment(s) fulfilled, we finally were ready to drag our tired selves back to the hotel. Thankfully there was a metro stop not far away where we could catch the train back. It also provided us a crazy moment when this couple and their daughter got on too...cause would you believe they had been sitting directly across from us on the Eurostar just that morning. The lady noticed us too and gave a little chuckle. Finally time to put our feet up and relax (and for me to pose with our complimentary robe and slippers). So much for our easy day ???


Posted by JackiesJourneys 07:33 Archived in France Tagged paris eiffel_tower luxembourg_garden montparnasse_tower Comments (1)

Cheerio from London

One final fabulous day out and about in London.

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How can this be?! We have somehow already arrived at Sunday, our final day in London ?? it feels like we just started this vacation, but alas it’s just about time to move on to our final destination. But not before one last action packed day and 8 or 9 or maybe even 10 more miles logged ?

We started out the day headed for Kensington Palace. Outside the tube we almost stopped in Cafe Nero, since that’s a chain we had seen quite a bit. But when it comes to food, I’ve got my pulse on it and thankfully I saw this other amazing little place two doors down. Fresh croissant omelet sandwiches with bacon, where have you been all my life?!? And what better way to eat those croissantwiches than sitting on a park bench in Kensington Gardens ? Top it off with a chocolate filled mini beignet and life is good! There was a few minutes to snap photos outside before getting in the 10am entry line.


I had already been to Kensington, but it was Julianne’s first visit. We were hoping maybe it would be a glorious day and we’d see Kate and the kids in the gardens or Hyde Park playing. No such luck on either of those, but at least it didn’t rain on us all day.

There were four areas to behold in the Palace: the king’s chambers, the Queen’s chambers, the Diana Her Fashion Story exhibit and a special exhibit on Queen Victoria Revealed. With the PBS series about Victoria & Albert must see tv for me, I was pretty excited for that (along with everything else too of course).

The last time I was here there was also a Diana section, but I really couldn’t tell you if it’s the same or if items have been switched out. I wasn’t sure if we’d be allowed photos or not, so in the bathroom I quick snapped a pic of one of the Diana posters so I’d at least have something ?? That was not necessary as photos were allowed (but I had to keep my bathroom shot anyway) ?


Looking at Diana’s dresses, man oh man that woman was tiny. It’s interesting to see the evolution of her fashion sense and hard to remember back to those not so glamorous or flattering looks she originally sported. I still need to google how tall she was as everything looked longer than I would’ve imagined (but the WiFi doesn’t appear to be working on this Eurostar train we’re currently on). And I couldn’t fathom how she even moved in some of the things or how much they must weigh with all that sparkle on them. It was a very interesting and thought provoking collection to say the least.


From there we took the Grand Staircase to the King’s and Queen’s chambers. Lots of good art and artifacts and architecture right there. This area also afforded some good views out over the Sunken Gardens, one of the things I remembered most from my previous visit. I wanted to slip by security and knock on a side door to see if George and Charlotte could come out and play. But then I figured that might be frowned upon so instead I kept to myself as we made our way to the Victoria exhibit.


We hit this section at just the right time as one of the Palace workers does a 15 minute informational speech so many times throughout the day. He was awesome and I loved hearing all the stories...some I could tie back to scenes from the show and others were fun new tidbits. My favorite was when he talked about Queen Elizabeth walking through to see the exhibit for herself. In British history, there have only ever been 2 Diamond Jubilees, Victoria and Elizabeth. As he said, when she’s watching footage of Victoria, she is seeing things from a different perspective than anyone else ever could. As the scene of Victoria in a coach headed for her celebration rolled, Elizabeth noted out loud that there were 8 horses. When it came time for her celebration, our guide made sure to count and see how many horses she had and it was only 6. Perhaps she felt 8 horses was just too showy so she paired her coach back ?

Talk over, we got to enter the exhibit and see all the things. And I can definitively say that this trip has made me more curious about all things royal. I will need to get my mitts on more info and movies and shows in the very near future ??‍♀️


Just like Disney, you can’t leave without first passing through a gift shop. This time neither of us could resist some fun, fabulous purchases. From there it was out into the Sunken Gardens to have a look around. You can’t visit Kensington without going by the gates where all the people piled flowers for Diana, so we did that before making our way through the Gardens down to another of my favorites: the Victoria & Albert Memorial.


The previous two times I was in London, I stayed closer to this area and spent quite a bit of time in Kensington and Hyde Parks (as they kinda run together into one ginormous green space). So being back felt very familiar. The one thing I had not been able to locate in the past was the Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. With Julianne’s map skills, I finally got to see it. Although it wasn’t the big, beautiful fountain I had envisioned, but moreso a nice peaceful area for reflection.


Then we wandered along The Serpentine (river) and did a bit of bird watching before encountering Peter Pan. There is a cute little English cottage near the Lancaster Gate front part of the park that I simply had to see again, as well as the fabulous Italian Sunken Gardens. Which come to find out were put there by Albert for his love Victoria, so no wonder I have always liked them so much.


By this point lunch was becoming a necessity, and we had thought to head to the Hard Rock. I don’t normally eat there, just grab a pin and go, but the sound of a burger and fries was rather appealing to both of us. Turns out we weren’t the only ones with that idea as there was a big line out front. Standing there would make me hangry, so we pressed on in search of something else. We were having no luck and just about to turn around when this quiet little neighborhood Italian joint on a back street beckoned us. The menu looked great so lunch at Prezzo it would be. We split an order of the garlic flatbread ?? before I had chicken, asparagus and spinach risotto and Julianne went with pasta carbonara.


Tanks full again, it was time to move on. With it being Sunday night and things closing earlier, we voted to head toward Covent Garden and reasonable souvenir shopping instead of being wowed by Harrods over the top prices and flashy setup. It would’ve been nice to do both, but we were quickly running out of time and energy.

Covent Garden was a shopping success, plus we watched a fun street performer for a little while. Then we were off toward Carnaby, another shopping area I had never heard of. On the way, I couldn’t pass up a biscotto gelato from Kingdom of Creams (yes, I do still fit in my pants, but fingers crossed that continues with all the things I am dying to eat in Paris ??‍♀️). Sadly the Swatch store Julianne wanted to hit up was closed already, but it was a really cute area to see with some great architecture, a fun atmosphere and a huge street mural.


With really nothing left that we were dying to do, we opted to head back to the room at the unbelievably early hour of 8pm. Had we been nearer a sight or our hotel not so far out, we may have figured out something else to do. But we also had suitcases to pack and an early train to catch. And bonus that with it still light out, we could wander to the other side of St. Mary’s Hospital and find that famous Lindo Wing door to get a picture of the spot Wills and Kate presented each of the kids to the world. I think this practically makes of besties ?? or maybe the sleep deprivation is finally getting to me ? In any case, it’s time to close the London chapter and head for Paris!!


Posted by JackiesJourneys 16:39 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

Happy Feet

A splendid day mainly rainfree 😍

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Saturday Julianne had booked her much anticipated Harry Potter Studios Tour. I had zero desire to join in on that, so we were off in opposite directions. Left to my own devices on a day which finally promised sunshine, I couldn’t pass up a return to Kew Gardens. After all, not having been there since 2006, I needed to make sure it was still as amazing as I remembered.

I was able to get a bit later of a start, but was still on the road by 9:20. Pain au chocolat grabbed, I was on my way. After a brief snaffoo reading signs at Paddington, I arrived in Kew. Walking up the picturesque little street toward the Victoria Gate, I started to fall in love all over again ?

Thankfully my feet were in much better shape than the last time I was here, so I was able to cover a lot more ground. First up, the Princess of Wales Conservatory. With so many zones and rooms showcasing various climates, I thought I was going to need an sos just to figure out where the exit was ??‍♀️


Happily I found my own way out and turned my attention to all the wonderful outdoor gardens. Fruits, veggies, flowers, trees, rocks, fountains...there was a little something for everyone. They even had some cute dragon statues to scope out.


Having checked quite a few sites off the map, it was time for a break. Ya see, just as I had walked out of Kew station, I spotted a cute little stand selling bakery on the street. And then right next to Kew Palace, there was a little picnic area with foldy chairs. One foldy chair + one sausage roll + sunshine = the perfect moment ?


From there I caught a few more areas before the pull of fresh made ice cream reeled me in. Funky banana was delicious as I made my way to the Treetop Walkway. You could climb 18 metres, or 59 feet, up to have views over the garden. Once I realized the steps and walkway were that open design mesh steel, I wasn’t too sure how this was going to go. But having walked all the way out there, I had to at least make an attempt. I may have had a death grip on the rail at times, like when the little boy was running around up there squealing and making it sway. But I did make it all the way around and back down without incident (whew!!).


A few more stops, to view the pagoda from a distance and scope out the pond, and I needed to get heading back to central London. Julianne and I had planned to meet at Borough Market at 3:00. And since I am typing this on the tube, I can tell you I am about to be late for that meeting ??‍♀️

Picking back up with the events of the day, I was about 10 minutes late, so not too bad. Turns out Julianne was also late, but unfortunately I didn’t know that and we hadn’t been smart enough to form a plan for that (aside from meeting at our 5:30 site if things went terribly awry). I gave it a few minutes, but knowing this was one of the places she really wanted to go, I figured she had just started wandering around Borough Market without me. But how was I ever going to locate her in this mass of humanity?! Just picture a several block market packed with thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder clambering from stand to stand and trying to snap pictures and eat and drink. Basically your local farmers market and festival combined, times 100, and on crack ???‍♀️?


I at least was fortunate enough to be looking for someone tall. Julianne on the other hand did not have that luxury. After spending 10 minutes or so just walking and looking at people, I finally decided to have one more look at our spot before saying screw it and just enjoying myself. Of course that meant buying my first snack: onion and herb focaccia bread with tomatoes ? I was eyeing up the main course options (Indian curry, pad Thai, German sausages...however will I choose?!) and I crossed over into a different area, when I looked up and couldn’t believe I was seeing Julianne!!


She explained she had in fact just gotten there and was having the same thought about why didn’t we say check back every 30 minutes if we missed each other. Oh well, it shockingly all worked out and we set off to find food. I did end up with some spicy and oh so amazing chicken curry, while Julianne went with some Mac & cheese and fish & chips. We perused some more, as the sights and sounds are pretty incredible, especially all the vibrant fruit & veggie stands. Then on the outskirts we saw a happening little gelateria with a line out the door. I was going to save calories and get my pistachio and stracciatella in a dish. That is until I noticed the chocolate fountain and that they were filling the bottom of the cones with it. Make mine a cone please ?


From Borough Market it was a lovely walk over the London Bridge to our next appointment. The one nice thing about this?! We finally got to glimpse Tower Bridge and the Tower of London!! At this rate we are going to have seen the entire city without even completely trying ?

We arrived at 20 Fenchurch Street to head up to the Sky Garden on the 35th floor of the Walkie Talkie Building. So a lot of London’s newer buildings have odd or distinct shapes to them, and fittingly odd names that they are referred to (the Gherkin and the Shard being two others). The top of the building has floor to ceiling glass that offers amazing views of London’s sky line...and just so happens to be free! There is also an outdoor viewing platform on the side that overlooks the Thames River...more views of the gorgeous blue and white Tower Bridge for me...yippy!! Since it is free, you get a limited time up there, so by 6:30 we were off and running again.


This time we headed toward the posh store Selfridge & Company, as I was a huge fan of the PBS show Selfridges. There were no Jeremy Piven sightings, and I probably couldn’t have afforded the cheapest nonfood item in there, but I can now say I’ve been there. Oh yes, and they have kept up the tradition of fun, festive, vibrant window displays, so I did love seeing those.


With nothing else pressing, we decided to make our way back to Paddington early and partake in shopping we could actually afford. Today’s tip?! When entering souvenir shops, make sure to smile and engage with the man behind the counter, it just may save you a few bucks? Worked for me in one shop and for Julianne in another!! Before arriving back in room 322 of Point A hotel, we took a little detour across the street to Tesco for more cider and snacks. And drum roll please...first time we got home before 10pm all trip!! Not that that means we went to bed any earlier, but it was still nice to be back here to get geared up for our final day in London ?

Posted by JackiesJourneys 17:40 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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