Tag Archives: traveling

Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)

Thursday, Sept 15, 2016 – Day 2 of London

<– Previously, we chunnel’d from Paris to jolly ol’ England

We had scheduled to go on a day-trip of visiting Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge. These aren’t near each other, so there’s a lot of driving between each location. The fun started immediately in just getting to the departure point. When I’d done this with Susan and Jeff before, we went over to a nearby hotel for a pickup and got dropped off at the Victoria Coach Station.  This time, we got our selves there, which involves going to Victoria Underground Station at Victoria Train Station, but then having to walk outside that Train Station in order to go to the Coach Station. And once you’re outside, the signs get a bit confusing. Anyway, we chose luckily and got to the Coach station in time….to see everyone and their mother was also going on tours. Whatever, we got there, got on a coach, and were on our way eventually.

Departure from Victoria Coach Station:

The first stop, after an hour or so of driving and listening to our charming English tour guide (who looked a little like David Attenborough) tell us about London and the upcoming Windsor Castle, was the city of Windsor. 

Captured where we were on Google Maps

There was a nice walk from the bus parking to the gates of the castle, after which we were on our own.  Alas, they ran out of audio guides a few people before us, so we were on our own for that, which was okay.  We did first wander around and then caught the Changing of the Guard, which is a lot like the big one by Buckingham.  Although that’s quite a bit bigger methinks.  After some time in the sun, and listening to the band play some of Adele’s greatest hits (no joke), we walked into the St. George Chapel, which has a couple of cool burials within, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour, along with Queen Elizabeth II’s mother and father.  

Taking in Windsor Castle

Before we left, we managed to find the State Apartments and went into the special Shakespeare exhibit, which included actual copies from the 1600s of Shakespeare’s Continue reading Touring the English Countryside (Stonehenge!)

A Day at Versailles and a Night on the Seine

Tuesday, Sept 13, 2016 – Day 3

<– Previously, we drank all the champagne

That next day, we did get to sleep in a bit.  Not all day though, as we did want to do some stuff before heading off to our excursion at Versailles at 1pm.  So we went to a cafe for breakfast across from the Notre Dame which ended up being our low point for food, as the service was awful and my omelette was the runniest thing I’d ever seen.  Ah well, can’t all be winners.  

After that, we walked back to the area by our hotel to find a bakery – happily there was one and we could get some croissants.  We took the croissants back to the hotel’s little patio area, and got some cafe creme from the hotel.  Nice way to spend the morning, and made things a bit better.  

Morning in Paris

After some more relaxing at the hotel, we took the Metro over to Ecole Militaire, which was near our meeting point for the Versailles tour.  We did take a walking detour from the Metro stop to walk through the Champ de Mars in order to get some good views of the Eiffel Tower during the day.   It was also really effing hot that day too, so while it was a beautiful day, it was still really hot. Continue reading A Day at Versailles and a Night on the Seine

Visiting the Champagne Country + Moulin Rouge!

Monday, Sept 12, 2016 – Paris, Day 2

<– Previously, an action-packed day in Paris seeing Notre Dame, the D’Orsay Museum, and the Eiffel Tower at night

An Early Start

So we weren’t able to sleep in too much as I had booked us on a champagne day trip in Reims, which is located smack dab in the middle of Champagne Country.  But first we had to get to Reims on our own as the tour wasn’t a Paris-based one.  Hence we were going to get our first experience with the SNCF trains, but even before that we had to get to Gare de L’est by taking the subway.  After we got to the train station, we had enough time to grab a quick croissant at a vendor as we knew there was going to be lots of champagne ahead of us that day and it’s wise to not drink on an empty stomach.   Larry even did the ordering and used the advice of adding ‘si vous plais’ when doing so, as it drastically helps in getting the French to be nice.  The train ride there was very comfortable, as I had booked us in first class, and very smooth and VERY fast. Reims is quite a ways from Paris but via that train, it’s only 45 minutes. I love European trains.

Getting to Reims

paris-to-reimsI wanted to use this map to help give you a sense of how far away we were from Paris.  By car, it takes nearly 1 3/4 hours, but our high speed train made quick work of that in 45 minutes.  Nice!

Visiting our first champagne facility: G.H. Mumms

mumms-in-reimsIn Reims, we found our meeting point  at the tourism office and after waiting in the line there briefly, I looked back to see that our minivan group was waiting and we didn’t need to wait in the line. Our seats were up in the front as we were the last to arrive and it was a crazy wide Mercedes minivan.  Our host was a cute French/Brazilian guy who was not only our driver but also the tour guide for the day.  We got a quick drive-through tour of the city of Reims first, before heading to the Mumms factory in the city.   While waiting outside the facility for our tour to begin, we all got to meet each other.  There were 3 couples in addition to us, making a total of 8 people.

Once inside Mumms, we first watched a movie of their history, but after that, we then started walking throughout the vast complex that exists underground.  We learned about the various grapes used, the various bottle sizes, and just quite a bit of how champagne is made.   Some of the things I remember, others not, but that link is helpful.  Deeper underground, we got quite a cool tour of the workings, including walking around the huge underground city that is filled with endless rows of bottles and bottles.  We got to really see in practice the part of the process in which bottles of champagne are kept stored at various inverted angles. Continue reading Visiting the Champagne Country + Moulin Rouge!

Our First Day in Paris

Sunday, Sept 11, 2016 – Paris, Day 1

<– Previously, we depart LA in style to get to Paris

Arrival in Paris:

Our flight got in without incident and we ended up getting a priority pass for Customs, which was good but probably not necessary for us as we got to customs first, but holy cow, after we had gotten into line, it seemed like EVERY flight arrived at the same time as that hall filled up fast. Soon enough we were through customs though, seeing our first French hotness, which there was plenty of during our time in Paris, and then it was time to get our pre-booked shuttle into town. That took a little bit of time, which was okay, as obviously we likely weren’t going to get our hotel room as we were arriving around 8am.

The shuttle was a nice drive into town, with a bit of rain, which was the only day when we experienced any bit of precipitation.  The first drop-off was a hotel right near the Moulin Rouge which was of course going to be a destination for us shortly!  It was also nice to be driving around early Sunday morning as there was minimal traffic to deal with.

Hotel du Jeu de Paume – Our Parisian HQ

paris-hotel-map

We arrived at the hotel  on the and it was just fantastic. A very very nice hotel but hidden away in a beautiful kind of gate and courtyard experience; it was also very modern, but in a comfortable and welcoming way. The concierge at the time checked us in and took our bags, but did say our room wasn’t going to be available until closer to 12pm. He got us both our first coffee cream (cafe latte) of our trips, after which we then headed out for some initial Parisian exploration.

Tiredness Level:  Fluctuating, but energy levels were rising now that we had found our hotel and had some coffee.

Funkiness Level:  Rising steadily, but still tolerable.  Shower definitely needed soon though.

Exploring, Day 1 – Notre Dame, Rick Steves Historic Walk, St Chappele & Palais de Justice area and more breakfast

hotel-to-notre-dameOur hotel was on Ile Saint-Louis, which is the island next to the island of Ile de Cite that Notre Dame sits on. So yeah, that was awesome, as when we walked down the street and crossed the bridge, excuse me, the Pont Saint-Louis, we were walking right up to the back of Notre Dame!

It was also very early on a Sunday morning, so we had quite a bit of the area to ourselves. We of course then went in and visited Notre Dame, which was awesome as it was also during a service, so it was quite an experience. Plenty of pictures and a bit of guidance from Rick Steves.  Larry hadn’t actually visited Notre Dame in his previous visit, so this was a great way to check that box and enjoy some peace at a massive tourist attraction before the hordes of tourists arrived.  And arrive they did, by the busloads.  Ah, the bourgeoisie! Continue reading Our First Day in Paris

We Went on a Honeymoon!

Hey, look at this – I’m posting on my site!  YAY, for all of us.  I’ve got over 2000 pictures to sift through and post on this here site, and dammit, it’s gonna happen.  It’ll happen in bits and pieces, like all my mass photo collections do when I try to put them on the site, as there’s a lot of writing and captioning to do.  And if you’re going to do something, might as well do it right.

So!  As I’d mentioned before, Larry & I waited some time to go on our honeymoon as the time was right to wait due to vacation status as well as we got a pretty sweet deal through using my American miles and a very swank deal that American was running earlier this year using miles for business class flights to Europe.  It was kind of nuts how it all came about, as it was back in January when I was like, we better figure out the whole honeymoon situation.  And almost as if Facebook and Twitter read minds or something, a Points Guy post came through that indicated a deal to Europe using miles.  It was kismet!   Basically, 50k miles per person to get to Europe and another 50k miles per person to get back, for a total of 200k miles.  I had about 140k miles stocked up already from some traveling but also by using my AAdvantage card.  There were some direct flights from LAX to London available right when I checked that first day, but we didn’t jump on the deal then…and sure enough, when checking back just a few days later, all direct flights to Europe were gone and you had to now stop in JFK.  Whatever, we’ll make it work, and so we booked an LAX to JFK flight with what ended up being a brief layover there, followed by a JFK to CDG (Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris) flight, all in Business Class; happily the direct flights back to LAX from London were still quite available, so we got that in Business Class too.

Business Class is Where It’s At

Complimentary Bose headsets too
Complimentary Bose headsets too

I’m spoiled.  After our experience flying out and back in Business, I’m not sure I can travel amongst the commoners in Economy again….

Sounds like a pen for dirty animals.

That’s a Spy reference and if you haven’t seen this movie, you absolutely must, but that’s a tangent and let’s not get distracted by shiny objects just yet!

But seriously?  Business Class is awesome.  Much better food, drinks are included, and all the in-flight entertainment is part of the deal.  And oh yeah, the seats recline all the way to a flat position.  You may not actually want that, but the fact that you can recline like you’re in a la-z-boy chair is pretty damn sweet.

So if you can afford Business Class, or are thinking of saving it for a special occasion, DO IT.  Completely worth it, especially if flying such a long way. Continue reading We Went on a Honeymoon!