For the last six or eight months, John and I have been planning a big trip in September. Having walked the 105 miles of the Tour du Mont Blanc almost two years ago, I have been looking forward to doing it again with him this fall to celebrate a big birthday I have coming up. To make it even more special, we’ve been planning on taking my sister Margaret with us on the long walk through the Swiss, French, and Italian Alps.
Things got a bit complicated when Margaret and I began to plan her travel arrangements so that the timing might work with the schedule for the TMB. Because she was coming from Alaska, most of the flight options had her traveling for a minimum of 19 hours (it was difficult to find these) or up to 38 hours with the exception of one airline which could get her here within about 10 hours with connecting flights, but only flew from Alaska one day a week.
After all three of us had put in too many hours at the computer with no real progress and loads of frustration, I offered up an alternative plan … one that seemed less like an endurance event (which the TMB really is) and something more restful and less time restrictive.
Instead of walking a path that looks like this … or sleeping in places like this, I suggested a totally different sort of trip to Margaret and she decided it sounded good to her as well.
Even with the change, she will still be here for most of the month of September and for the first time since we were twelve and fourteen, we will be able to celebrate each others birthdays in person. She’s a September birthday too and since John’s birthday falls between ours, we’re going to be eating a lot of cake that month. The big question is, where are we going to be when we are blowing out our birthday candles.
A few days after she gets here, we’ll head for London for a week of exploring. My 50th birthday will happen while we are there, so John will come up the day before and stay overnight in order to celebrate the milestone with me too. Now here’s where you come in, I’m looking for suggestions for things you think we should see and do during our week in London and I’d like to have a plan that includes something special for my birthday.
Having been there a few times, I do have some ideas, but I would love to see if you can surprise me with something I haven’t thought of yet. I’m not sure what is on Margaret’s list, (we just decided on the change recently) but I do know that I would like to photograph London from the top of the London Eye on my birthday.
I would also like for us to see a show or two in the West End, but I am not sure what might be enjoyable. I’ve seen several there in the past. I loved Billy Elliot when I saw it in 2005, and Miranda and I saw my all time favorite musical, Les Miserables when we were there in 2003. I’m not opposed to a more serious production either as I was thrilled to see Ralph Fiennes in Brand on the same trip with her when she was fifteen. If you’ve seen or heard about a production that you think is too fabulous to miss, please let me know so we can consider it for our list.
After our week in London, we’ll be a bit closer to home as we do up the southwest part of England for a week or two. Then we’re off by plane to the next place on our list. It’s one of my favorites and if you’ve reading me for long, you may have already seen some of my photographs from there. Can you guess where we will be by the images below?
This is one I snapped on our honeymoon.
I can’t wait to show Margaret where I was standing when I captured this familiar Paris scene. The seventh picture holds a clue.
Margaret and I will be spending seven days in Paris on our own for a sister’s week. We have a lot already in mind to fill our days, but tell me what you’d want to see and do if you were joining us. I’m looking for things I may not have thought of yet.
Lastly, I could use suggestions from my Paris blog friends on short term holiday lets. I’d like to book a place soon and I have scoured the internet looking for a place that is not too pricey, works well for two, and is in a decent location. We don’t mind walking, (I’ll need it to offset my bread intake) and I have used the Metro before so we are fairly flexible. While I would prefer a studio apartment, if you have a hotel recommendation that is reasonable, I’d be open to having a look at that as well.
I’m so looking forward to spending this time with Margaret. We’ve not had a chance to travel together since we were children and I don’t think our memories of fighting over who had more room in the backseat of the car on road trips in the late sixties and early seventies is going to compare at all with the memories we’ll be making in September 2010.
I have some suggestions;
Take the river bus from Little Venice to Camden via the Regents canal.
St Pauls Cathedral (resting place of John Donne), experience the whispering gallery (and the choir practising if you can time it) then go to the top to take some great panoramic photos of London
Covent Garden and China town – with a trip to a very unpretentious but delicious place to lunch called Japan.
The National Gallery – if you go to St Martin in the Field (opp) afterwards you can go down to the cript (fab photos to be had) and have lunch in the cafe there
I can recommend a lovely book called Secret London.
I love Rue Jacob, place St Sulpice (pop in to savour The Café de la Mairie – a great place for you writerly types..) the Marais and a good rummage round the flea market Porte de Clignancourt, St Germain and of course Sacre Couer – so much more atmospheric than Nortre Dame in my opinion, and the bus ride back down is a must….
What a great trip you sisters will have.
There is a London bus route that goes from Sloan Square right through the city to Trafalgar Square, pass Big Ben and other interesting sites. I like the fact that it is a normal city bus and so you get a feel for the people, as well as the scenery.
Once off at Trafalgar Square my first stop is to the Portrait Gallery then over to The Crib restaurant/cafeteria for good home made delights. The Crib is found in the basement of building next to the Saint Martin of the Fields. If you are around Saint Martin of the Fields around noon time, there is often a mid-day concert.
Have fun, what a great city to visit.
Looks like you’ll be in France?? Sounds like a wonderful trip and birthday celebration.
Musee d’Orsay. So light and airy. Sit and have a cuppa coffee, soak up art appreciation.
and my 100% absolute facve (sjut for inof, its not every one’s taste) is the Musee du Moyen Age de Cluny, full of medieval wonders. For some reason, I just loves it.
Your poor sister is going to have to go home after her visit and rest!! Never mind, pack it in while you can.
..sorry about finger trouble..
I’ll give this some thought and post more another time. What a WONDERFUL ‘solution’ you’ve come up with for the sisters’ grand adventure, not to mention the September birthdays … aaaahhh it all sounds MAGNIFIQUE.
Cheers for now from another September … (13th – what are you, John, and Margaret?).
Isn’t planning just soooo much part of the fun!?!?! Good on ya 🙂
And then you will be Down Under!
Don’t forget the V&A, especially the William Morris;Richmond Park;The Museum of Childhood and of course The National Portrait Gallery.
Paris..flower markets, St Michel and the bookshops;Luxembourg Gardens and of couse the Impressionists;Pigale,Sacre Coeur………have a great time!
When my family was here for our wedding, I used a place called Roots Travel, who were reputable. I see a lot of ads for Paris Attitude as well. One thing to avoid — do NOT rent an apartment from Craigslist; as far as Paris short-term rental apartments, it is full of scammers.
You can also check the on-line anglophone newsletter called FUSAC (I think fusac.fr or fusac.com).
What a great triple celebration with your sister!!!
More later but wanted to send you this information toute de suite . . .
This is the apartment my parents and brother and sister-in-law had
unfortunately with the windows open it was VERY noisy — a lot of street noise on a very narrow street, funneled straight up. so probably one to avoid.
here’s where I stayed:
It had a nice living/dining room, which was good for us as we offered a dinner for our parents to meet each other. The two beds are on different levels, but the rooms don’t close off from one another.
Aww a sister trip!! (with some hubby thrown in) and celebratin’ birthdays!!!AND London and Paris!!!! not too shabby I must say. Sorry about Mont Blanc…the photo looks AMAZING. All the recommendations sound great and I would have loved to gone on the Little Venice canals inLondon, and Yes, Yes, to the V&A and their new exhibits. What fun. Now because I revel in sharing a little insider scoop whenever I imagine I have any scoop I am about to blather on and YES. Hopefully be helpful to you. :
1. I would love to help and have found trip advisor a wonderful tool especially the London Travel Forum….choc full of ideas.
2.I know I LOVED our tea in the Orangery at Kensington Palace. Delicious, casual (us-attirewise) elegant (the wonderful white hall) and since we shared a tray of sandwiches and cake not too bad price wise..and I would have loved to tour the Palace.
2. The Tower of London is my favorite site. who’da thunk a hispanic Texan would be so entranced by the centuries old castle…but I love the Yeoman Warders and their tours. a nice extra (and it is free) is to write ahead for tickets to the historic nightly (last 700 years or so) lock down of the Tower called The Ceremony of the Keys (http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/ceremonyofthekeys.aspx). It is a late night (9:30pm) 30 minute ceremony and only about 30 people are admitted a night.
3. I have always wanted to scour the banks of the Thames as recommended by Rick Steves (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/travel/2003682151_websteves29.html )to find bits of ancient London’s clay roofs and other Thames tossed artifacts, but just have
not had the chance.
4. The Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin’s in the Fields across from the National Gallery (so wonderful too) is atmospheric and when last we ate there (Aug ’09) reasonably priced and tasty.
5. I like Belgo Centraal (Belgian cuisine) near Covent Garden. And you can’t beat their (http://www.belgo-restaurants.co.uk/) beat the clock special where certain menu items cost the price of the time you arrived (ex. arrive 5:05pm pay 5.05 GBP) goes from 5:00pm-6:30pm.
PARIS: I know I loved our apartment near Montmartre that was only 5 minutes from Sacre Coeur and so sweetly residentially placed and across the stree from a the Lamark-Caulaincourt Metro stop (http://www.perfectlyparis.com/Prestigious%20Junot.html) this was the actual apartment we stayed in and would stay in again should we be so blessed.
I know I would love to have a tea at Laduree on the Champs Elysees, and a hot chocolate at Angelina’s and of course tryout Corey’s elegant suggestion of Le Train Bleu at the Gare de Lyon (sp?)(http://willows95988.typepad.com/tongue_cheek/2007/02/post_5.html)
WHEW! I think that is it. Enjoy the journey to the journey.
I typed and I typed and I typed my suggestions (humble yet longwinded as they were) and then I clicked submit the screen went off and my lengthy ramble did not make it I think. So my lingering suggestions that I think the most of :
London: The ceremony of the keys at the Tower of London (http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/ceremonyofthekeys.aspx)
Belgo Centraal near Covent Garden (well priced Belgian cuisine)
PARIS: our apartment was perfect for us and like a Parisian dream come true and how appropriate that it was provided by Perfectly Paris. Here was the exact apt. we stayed in (http://www.perfectlyparis.com/Prestigious%20Junot.html) clean, beautifully situated, five min. from Place de Tertre (sp?) and across the RUE from a friendly metro stop. I would stay there in a second.
Enjoy your research and your wonderful trip with your sister and hubby…..oh, yes…and take lots of photos.
We were only in London for 3 or 4 days, so mostly did the tourist thing. One of our favorites was going to see a play in the Globe (Shakespeare’s theater). We went in as groundlings and it was wonderful. Otherwise we did the museums. We checked out “Chinatown” and had to laugh since it’s only one small street (I’m married to a New Yorker and we now live near San Francisco). We ate some great Ethiopian food in Nobb Hill.
Sounds like a great trip!
What wonderful responses and thank you all so much! You all know so much more than I do and just as I expected, much of this information is new to me and I’m thrilled to add it to the long list of possibilities I am putting together for my sister’s visit in September.
I feel a bit like a travel agent these last few days trying to get the essentials taken care of such as where to stay and how to get there. I’ve been at my computer swamped with questions and details that all seem to link or hinge together in a way that affects the outcome of multiple activities or plans.
Mind you I am not complaining, it’s thrilling to think about the places we will go and the things we will do and see together, but it gives me new respect for the travel agents who still manage to do this for a living.
I heartily recommend The Lion King for your west end show. Gob smacking is an understatement. It’s like watching a unique circus show (without real animals of course) with incredible performers. The costumes are amazing and the whole experience is artistic and enthralling.
I’ve got a suggestion for something a little different to do in Paris… but you’ve got to like to dance or at least enjoy watching people dance to enjoy it. Go down to the banks of the Seine just beneath the Arab Institute. I believe it’s every night in the summer, there’s dancing! And it’s free! Really a special, uniquely Parisian way to spend an evening in the summer. It’s not really a teenager thing, so that’s good!
Something else that’s cool and not far from Paris is Givenchy, Monet’s home. Have you been there? You can take a ride on a boat to get there and that’s kind of cool. Short little day trip from Paris.
Still, my favorite thing to do in Paris is to sit at a café (Café de Flore in Latin Quarter, especially) and people watch.
P.S. Have you ever been to see the marionnettes? Guignol? Very typical Parisian stuff. Let me know if you want some more suggestions. Wish I could tell you more about London, but when I go there it’s always with my students and you’ve probably already done all of the stuff we do. I’ll be reading further comments to see what good ideas your readers post.
Hi, Elizabeth. Your friend, Diane Wiman, asked me to comment on your inquiry about visiting London, since we live there.
There are already good suggestions made, such as St Paul’s Cathedral. Do the tour, not just the admission price, as this will get the extras that were mentioned. It’s 3 GBP more than the admission price, and well worth it.
I also agree with the Tower of London. Again, get the Beefeaters tour, at no extra cost; some of them are quite funny, and they add a lot of insight.
Westminster Abbey is ok if you like historical tombstones. This is the graveyard of the UK. If you go, get the audio guide, as it will help you understand what is there.
For sure, do St Martin-In-The Fields Cathedral. The Crypt cafeteria is very good, and there is so much to see at Trafalgar Square. Check to see who or what is occupying the fourth plinth in the northeast part of the square when you are there. It is very interesting. The National Art Museum is there, and the Portrait Gallery, if you are into art. If so, don’t overlook the Tate Modern Museum.
I will add a few more things: Windsor Castle is a wonderful castle, where the queen spends her summer weekends. A train can get you there, on the west side of Heathrow. Eton College is also in town, with magnificent buildings.
Shows: Many good ones from which to choose. Do not overlook War Horse. I have heard excellent comments and reviews of it from others. It is on my “bucket list”.
Places to eat: Blueprint Cafe, above the Design Museum. Excellent food with a lovely view down the Thames. Also, for its outstanding views, the Babylon Restaurant, in the Rooftop Garden in South Kensington. An openair 7th floor restaurant with outstanding views and food.
Sorry. The 4th plinth is in the northwest corner of the square. And in September, the program may be over.
Do a sung evensong if you can and enjoy church services – St Paul’s, St Martin’s, and Westminster Abbey all have them (beware – sometimes they are spoken. Check the website to discover the schedule.)