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Disneyland Paris Day

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

We ended our 10 day European tour with a day to cut loose and play at Disneyland Paris. It was a great way to book end the trip with something totally different and oh so happy. I am going to do another post that talks a lot more about what we did to plan and execute this day of the trip, but for now I am going to just talk about some of our favorite parts of the day and show some pictures.

Disneyland Paris feels quite a bit different than its counter part parks back home. For starters everyone around you is speaking another language, even some of the rides are in French. Sleeping Beauty's European castle is stunning and has an animatronic dragon that lives underneath you can visit.

We rode a lot of rides thanks to a good touring plan, FastPass and single rider lines. Our favorite ride was Ratatouille which is a new ride only found at Disneyland Paris. There is a whole section of the Walt Disney Studios park which is themed after the Ratatouille movie and it is so well done. There was a single rider line for this ride which was pretty much a walk on, so we did that a few times over.

Some things like character meets and the parade felt very much like "home."

Food was underwhelming, which we knew ahead of time from doing reading online. Quick service options were standard park food, not nearly as adventurous as what you can find at Walt Disney World. We had dinner at the Blue Lagoon which is a restaurant right on the banks of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride where you can sit and watch the boats go by. This was a sit down meal and it was pretty good. Nothing to write home about necessarily though. I was glad we did not put a major emphasis on food during the day. We just grabbed things to keep us from being hungry mostly. We did finally find a French bakery cart towards the end of the day which had good (nutella) pastries. Yum.

I convinced Andrew to go on the teacups (which he hates). True love right there. ha.

We stayed from park open to park close, and just rode the train from our hotel in downtown Paris out to Disneyland which was about a 30 minute direct ride.

This was our last day in Europe. The next morning it was off to the airport (in a taxi, because the labor strike had ended hooray) to start the long journey home. We had an absolutely amazing trip abroad but were also quite happy to get home to our little boy. I think we both agreed that we would absolutely go back to London and elsewhere in England in a heartbeat. And hope that one day once Perry is bigger we can take him back there. Our sentiment on Paris is we are really glad to have seen it and the highlights we saw were amazing, but we are not going to rush back to see them again or see more. Big shoutout to the grandparents who kept and loved on Perry last year so that Andrew and I could have this big, amazing trip abroad for a (very) belated 5 year anniversary. And now almost a year later...that is a wrap on #eastsineurope.

Louvre by day, Eiffel tower by night

Monday, May 30, 2016

We had one full day in the city of Paris to explore, so we pretty much were able to hit the highlight reel. We spent the morning at the Louvre. Were there when it opened and headed straight to the Mona Lisa (after getting lost a bit) before the crowds built too much. Then meandered around the rest of the place. We are acknowledgedly not huge museum people.  We can handle it for a little while but after a little bit we find ourselves restless. So after a quick lunch at the Louvre overlooking the courtyard we headed out and walked around outside a bit.

Went and found Laduree, bought some pretty and colorful macaroons and took them to a nearby park to sit and eat and people watch.

Then we walked down to the arch de triumph.

And did a little shopping along Champs-Elysees, until it was time to meet our tour guide for the Eiffel tower tour. We bought tickets for a guided tour ahead of time so we would be sure to not have to stand in line...and have an English speaking experience. It was really nice to be in a group of all English speaking Americans for a little while. The Eiffel tower was great and the views were beautiful. Andrew went to the next to the top floor and sent me all the way up to the tip top alone. Apparently his fear of heights is just a tad stronger than mine.

By this point in the day we were tired and hungry so we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for dinner. Dinner this night was at Atelier Maitre Albert, this really cool, contemporary Rotisserie. We did the tasting (or Degustation in French) menu of six courses. It was really good and a fun night to try new foods without having to make complicated choices from a menu.

After dinner we headed back to the hotel for the night. We had to be up early the next day to take the train out to the happiest place on earth in Europe - Disneyland Paris. :)

Wordless Wednesday: conversations with the hatter

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Blue Bicycle

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

We were up early the day we made the switch from London to Paris. Our Eurostar was set to depart at 7:01 am. Eek. Add to that the complication that...wait for it..there was a labor strike there too and the train had been shut down for a couple days prior. Just glad we had not been trying to travel one of those days or it would have thrown a major wrench in our plans. But our ticket was confirmed and off we went to Paris.

Once we arrived we had intended to get a taxi from the train station to our hotel. I assumed I could just point to the address on my paper or phone and (s)he would take us there. Wrong. There were labor strikes in Paris too apparently and here it affected the taxi drivers. So no taxis were running and to top it off they had all abandoned their cars in the middle of streets as an act of rebellion.

Some sweet person saw us looking really confused and in broken English explained the taxi predicament and suggested that the Metro (subway) would probably be our best bet. So there we were two Americans wandering down the Parisian street with luggage, trying to figure out how to get to the hotel via subway on our iPhone. I am sure it was a sight.

But to make the story shorter we made it to the hotel with little complication and got all checked into this room at the Hotel Royal Saint Germain. Which no joke was 1/2 the size of our hotel room in London and had wall paper to match the drapes. Because why would you want more than one pattern in a room? It was a little cramped, but all part of the Europe cultural experience. The bathroom however was really nice and modern and actually spacious comparably.

Once we freshened up we went for a long walk to find lunch (crepes!) and to see some of the city. We walked past the Luxemburg Palace (top picture) and visited Notre Dame. We walked past bridges covered in "Love Locks" (see below), thousands of padlocks attached to every square inch of bridges by couples in love. They have started removing some of them and replacing the bridge infrastructures with solid materials that don't lend themselves to being "locked" since the weight of all the locks is wrecking havoc on the bridges' stability. And while we were over in the Notre Dame vicinity we grabbed some gelato at Berthillon.

That night we had scheduled a nighttime bike tour and boat ride through a company called Blue Bike Tours. This was such a fun way to see the city. We had a tour guide who explained what we were seeing all along the way. Through this experience we got to see the Eiffel tower during the daylight and nighttime and were even in the vicinity when they turned the lights on. The tour went from 7-11. Two bike rides (daylight and night) that had a boat ride down the Seine River sandwiched in between. And they also let us stop for some yummy gelato at one point as well. Here are a whole bunch of pictures from that tour. Added benefit of tour groups like this, there are lots of other Americans around who you can ask to take your picture.

Last day in London

Monday, May 23, 2016

Our last day in London was awesome. We started the day visiting the Tower of London right when it opened. We loved walking around hearing about the history of the place and the guided tour by a beefeater. We took some pictures with the stoic Queen's Guard, but didn't try to get them to smile or laugh. That seems like cruel and unusual punishment for those poor guys.

It was an absolutely glorious day outside. The sun was shining bright over the Tower Bridge.

From the Tower we spent a bunch of time just walking around the city, visited Shakespeare's Globe theatre, from the outside, walked past St. Paul's Cathedral, and eventually made it to a place called the Anchor Bankside for lunch. It had me at the word anchor. :) And I couldn't pass up the opportunity to let my inner Delta Gamma come out and pose in front of it. It was an awesome lunch, one of our favorites. It serves very classically British food. We got the "Favourites Platter" complete with 2 burger sliders, two minced beef pies, fish and chips, and mushy peas. And some pear cider. We decided pretty quick that we were not huge fans of the brews in London, but the various ciders were where it was at. We also got some kind of amazing fried bbq pork bites from the appetizer menu that also really stole our hearts.

So it is going to look like pretty much all we did this day was eat. And I guess that is a fair assessment. We did a lot of walking too to make up for it. Our final adventure for the day was a twilight walking food tour through Soho. Food tours are one of our favorite things to do in new cities because it lets you sample small bites of food from lots of cool local places but the interactions with the tour guide and fellow tourers is also really fun. Our London food tour was booked through a company called Eating London.

We met our group of maybe 12 people next to the Palace Theatre, and from there walked all around Soho, where we had not spent any time thus far. The local restaurants of Soho are quite the eclectic and diverse bunch, much like the past and present people and activities of the neighborhood. Over the course of the night we sampled real English gin and tonic, Jamon, tacos, Spanish tapas, tiramisu, Chinese dumplings, and a margarita. Needlesstosay we did not leave hungry. It was such a fun, fun night.

And that's a wrap on London. We absolutely loved our time there and said we could have easily and happily spent a lot more time exploring and nestling into the culture there. Until next time London. Now it is time to jump on the Eurostar and head to Paris.

London, continued

Sunday, May 22, 2016

After a pretty epic hiatus, it is long time to get back to blogging about our great European vacation last summer. Before I have forgotten all of the details and stories that surround the pretty pictures (exhibit A above where you can hardly see the building for all the flowers).  I am picking up where I left off before, with day four of our trip. To go back and see any of the previous days' posts click here, here, and here.

Day four started out with a spectacular breakfast with an equally spectacular view at a place called Duck and Waffle. The restaurant sits 40 floors high, at the very top of the Heron Tower, in the financial district. It was a pretty good hike from our hotel over by Buckingham but totally worth it. I got the duck and waffle (how do you not when it is the name of the restaurant) and Andrew got the "full elvis," a waffle topped with peanut butter, jelly, banana brûlée, and chantilly cream. It was all so so good. Definitely one of the culinary highlights of the whole trip. After a little bargaining we got moved to a table by a window and sat literally right next to this view.

After breakfast we clearly needed to walk some more and burn calories so we walked back towards the hotel and past Buckingham palace where we were able to catch the changing of the guard. So cool to watch all the pomp and circumstance. Probably the most bizarre thing was that it just so happened to be the same day that James Horner, the composer of Titanic among other things, died in a plane crash. As a tribute the military band played "My Heart Will Go On" in front of the palace gates. Strange, but sweet.

We visited the National Gallery for just a couple minutes. Intended to spend longer, but another one of the stranger parts of this trip was that it happened to coincide with some serious political labor issues. In addition to being caught in the middle of an active protest many of the labor union workers were refusing to work...which meant many of the museums were operating with a skeleton crew and had major portions of the museums closed to visitors. There were signs on closed doors saying this part of the museum is closed due to the labor strike.

In the afternoon we took the tube out to Notting Hill to stroll around outside the hustle and bustle of the city and the typical touristy things. We went first to visit Churchill Arms, a pub whose exterior is covered in colorful flowers. That is where the picture at the top of the post was taken. The pub was a regular watering hole for Winston Churchill's grandparents back in the 1800s, hence the name. The inside is decked out in all kinds of Churchill memorabilia. The Pub serves an interesting fare of Thai food. We shared some pad thai, spring rolls, and a couple drinks.  Not all what you would expect from a Pub but it was really quite good. It was a fun place to sit, people watch, and listen to the locals around us chat.

We meandered the streets of Notting Hill for a while, finding all the little sites from the Notting Hill movie and grabbed some cookies to eat and take home from Biscuiteer. Then we headed back to the hotel to rest and get ready for our evening.

This night we had dinner reservations at Cafe Des Amis, a french brasserie down in the theatre district. It was good food and even more importantly it was convenient to St. Martin's Theatre where we were headed next to see Mousetrap.

And that wraps up day four of our great European adventure. We have one more day in our newly beloved London before we hit the train and head towards Paris.

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