Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Snowing in Paris

What an exciting few days we have had so far on our trip!

After a delay of 2 and a half hours, sitting in the plane at Hong Kong airport to fix faulty wiring, we arrived in London late in the afternoon on Tuesday.

Our hotel, in St James' Place, was charming! The entrance in a little laneway was covered in ivy and mistletoe and little Christmas lights. We had a two room suite, with huge couches and comfy beds. It was just around the corner from Pall Mall and Old Bond Street. Behind were Green Park and Buckingham Palace. After exploring Old Bond Street, admiring all of the Christmas decorations, we had a reasonable night’s sleep, although woke far too early.

On Wednesday morning, we got on one of the double-decker bus tours of London. Our first stop was Trafalgar Square where we visited the National Gallery. There were many beautiful artworks to see; one particularly caught our eyes, “Lake Keitele Gallen” by Kallela. After taking our fill of art, we headed to St Martins on the Fields, and the Crypt. Lunch was magnificent – an atmospheric crypt with brick arches, and delicious food. Afterwards, ZoĆ« completed a brass rubbing.
This was more challenging than it sounds as she had to work hard to get the right pressure and consistency. The result is lovely.

At St Martins, we read about a New Year’s Eve Operetta performance that was going to take place that afternoon. We couldn’t resist the opportunity, and attended in our own box to the side of the stage. The performances were terrific and the event a highlight.We returned to our hotel then got ready for New Year’s Eve on the town! There were to be fireworks on the Thames near Big Ben, so we headed in that direction. We knew that once Westminster Bridge was full, the area would be closed off. We didn’t get there before 9 pm when the area was closed, so we missed out. We didn’t mind though as it was freezing.

We went walking through Kensington Gardens on New Year's Day, admiring the hardy runners participating in a 10 km race. I was rather sad not to have brought my running shoes with me! We visited the V & A and then just saw more of the sights of London.

For "dinner" we had high tea at the Ritz. Our seating was for 7:30 pm and included sandwiches, scones and petit fours with a glass of champagne. Delicious!

On Friday we watched the changing of the guards parade and explored the area around St James' Palace and Buckingham Palace. We then checked out the London shops. Almost all were having sales and they were crowded! We didn't really want to buy anything so mostly just window-shopped.

One of the highlights of our trip was the visit to the Tower of London on Saturday morning. We got there as early as we could to avoid the crowds and managed to see the jewels before there were many people about. We then enjoyed a wonderful guided tour by a beefeater - very informative and amusing. We kept marvelling at the lives they must lead living in the Tower.

Sunday was spent travelling to Paris - first class on the train and tunnel. We were served a delicious meal with wines and spent time just looking out the window watching the countryside go by. That night, after settling in to our most charming of hotels, we walked the length of the Champs Elysee then had dinner in a wonderful French restaurant recommended by our concierge.

Today, it has been snowing. All day! As Zoe has a cough, we tried to spend most of the day indoors, so we went to the Louvre. Magnificent! We loved the sculpture gardens and the apartments of Napoleon. Visited another wonderful restaurant for dinner where Zoe ordered snails by mistake. Fortunately, she was able to change her order and got a cheese salad instead. This was like a savoury yoghurt with herbs and bread. I had the snails and the most delicious duck, while Greg had onion soup and a fabulous steak with pomme frites. Sorry to write about food so much but when it is this good I can't avoid it! The meals are part of the experience!

Our room in this hotel is in the attic and has windows angled into the ceiling - very charming!

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