Friday, May 27, 2011

Travel With Me - Day 5

Brian is all over Paris right now (I'm assuming...) enjoying life.  The trip we took got us to Paris on Day 5 as well!  Hey, thanks for reading...those of you who are.  I know that looking at someone else's vacation pictures is not everyone's idea of a good time...but hope you are following along!


family n. 1, a household 2, kindred, especially one's own spouse, parents and children 3, descendants of a common ancestor; a tribe 4, lineage 5, a group of things with some common feature.  In a family way, (slang) pregnant.

If you haven't seen the Griswolds in the Chevy Chase "Vacation" movies, then this next scene will be a little harder to imagine.  The Griswolds (okay...US) were about to descend on Waterloo Station.  Aunt Pitta called the hotel to announce that she had gotten herself to Victoria Station.  Having completely familiarized ourselves with Victoria Station because it was close to the hotel, we checked out and went to meet her. 

Leaving the hotel, we realized that the sky was blue and the sun was shining.

Excuse me?

find her was easy after we looked at the OTHER coffee shop with the brown size, and getting tickets to Waterloo was also no big deal.  Getting TO Waterloo, however, was another story.

First of all, there is something about the word "Waterloo" that pretty much wrapped up our London experience - water everywhere and no bathrooms.  It also brought Napoleon some trouble...and he wasn't alone.  After gallantly offering to help Aunt Pitta with her innocent looking small bag, TBF was nearly a candidate for shoulder surgery. 

"The Black Bag of Death" as it later became known, weighed about fifty pounds.  It made the circuit...with the exception of Brian, with everyone "experiencing" it for at least a little while.  It contained shoes.

Apparently LEAD ones.

For future reference, do NOT try to go from Victoria Station to Waterloo Station with luggage on the tube.  It is not only is insane.  Not that anyone cursed us out or anything, but the Londoners probably wanted to...many times.  We got there, though, and found the train to Paris fairly easily.  We had to walk to the 18th car to board...but we had 2 1/2 hours to get over it,

Upon arriving in Paris - which was delayed for some reason by about 20 minutes - Linda ran up with Alex (my precious nephew) apologizing for being late.  We had just gotten off the train and turned down our first Bosnian refugee's appeal for cash.  We loaded up, and Linda proceeded to amaze us with driving skills that she acquired heaven knows where. 

Somehow, she deftly plowed through traffic in a minivan amid the smart cars, scooters and pedestrians.  We got our first peek at the streets of Paris near the Moulin Rouge.  While most signs were in French, we could make out a few English words.  I'll just leave those to your imagination.

We found the hotel...eventually.  Then we went up to the Arc d'Triomphe.  Dinner was really relaxed, and it wasn't raining!  Ordering food was interesting.  Had we ordered in turn, it would have been easier...but alas, no.  The creme brulee was great, and so was everything else.  We got back to the hotel and it was still light outside...even though it was about 9:30 at night. 

Aunt Pitta noticed that out the window of the hotel room our French friends across the way were just living life oblivious to our eyeballs.  Nothing racy, but when you are exhausted...everything is funny.  And that "family way" statement in the definition above...Linda told us that she was expecting in January (Tara Isabelle Jeanne Clemenceau arrived 12-22-2006). 

She waited until we got there so she could tell us in person. 

Alex with Poppy...look at those curls (on Alex, obviously) :)

Just borrowed someone's bike for a photo op.  It was outside the hotel.

Gigi and Poppy outside the hotel.  She was relieved that it wasn't raining.

Poppy, Me, Linda, and Gigi

The Arc!

Jill and Brian with their little cousin...

Brian with Aunt Pitta

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Travel With Me - Day 4

Haven't heard from Brian...but I'm assuming that he's having a ball.  All good, yes?

Here's what I was living through on Day 4 of our trip in 2006...short but sweet.  :)


rain n. 1, water falling in drops from the clouds 2, a shower or outpouring of anything v. shower down, give abundantly

Some people may love rain, but after the third day of it, I hate it.  I hate rain more than the people in Trafalgar Square hate whatever it was that they were protesting.  Somehow, though, in spite of the rain, we were managing to get everything on the itinerary done...except St. Paul's Cathedral.

We tried to go to Westminster Abbey in the morning, but one glimpse of the line made that option laughable.  We decided to just find "Duck Tours" which we had seen the day before from the window of the bus, and knew the general direction.  But knowing the "general direction" in my family actually doesn't mean jack squat.

The female members of my family are seriously "directionally impaired" (Jill appears to be somewhat immune to this...for which I credit her Mixon genes).  As a result, we use crutches whenever possible.  (Not literal crutches...but maps, GPS, asking people, detailed directions, prayer, and males who have proven themselves worthy of getting us from Point A to Point B in the past.)

So, we can see the London Eye (because it looks like a giant bicycle tire in the sky and is hard to miss) and know that it loads somewhere near there.  We figure out that it will require another walk across the Thames to get there. 

Great.  Just great.

About halfway across the bridge, it starts raining. It isn't raining sideways, but the wind coming off of the water is COLD.  Nobody even complains, though, because just making it across is the goal. 

We find it a block or two down, and then sat down to one of the most enjoyable tours ever!  The guide, Matthew, was funny, and the sights were explained with a distinct energy that made the frozen walk totally worth it. 

It was also the turning point.  Everything after that walk across the Thames got a lot easier. 


After Duck Tours, we had fish and chips, found souvenirs, bought two UMBRELLAS, and then made our way back to Westminster Abbey.  Although tour guides were not available to us, we took our time and enjoyed the visit.  We found everything notable, another gift shop, and were ready to move on after that.

It was on to tea at Richoux.  Jill and TBF decided that they were going to find pizza later, but had a small snack.  The rest of us had tea.  It was great...okay, pricey...but great.  We ended up at a department store - H & M - so that Jill could at last go shopping.  It was down the street from Harrods and we were like...whoa...this actually looks familiar.  Yay us.

We then proceeded back to spend a relaxing evening packing.  And dealing with the jet lag.  Yeah, that.

The Luna and Simone was a really neat hotel.  Free Internet and a 5% discount for paying in cash.  It is run by twin brothers (Peter and Bernard...who are impossible to tell apart) whose father owned it before them.  A son of one of them is already working in the business.

The 87 steps to the top floor where we were staying (yes...eighty seven) were a little traumatic to scale with luggage.  Gigi and Poppy were on the first floor which involved about fifteen steps.  The breakfast was great...just enough...with enough variety (although I stuck with the fried egg, toast, juice, and ham the entire three days).  Would I stay there again?  YES.  Would I recommend it to others?  YES.  Would I ask for a room on the second floor or below?  DEFINITELY.

Jill and me in front of Westminster Abbey.  Hair by Mother Nature.

The London Eye...apparently modeled on a bicycle tire...

Duck Tours...all of the WWII amphibious vehicles are named after female Shakespearean characters...

Parliament from the road...

We found crossing the Thames River in the vehicle to be far better than on foot.

If you thought, "Gee, it looks like that shot was taken from the water..." then you would be correct.  We were actually IN the Thames (in the amphibious vehicle, obviously, since the Thames is icky looking).

After three days of rain...Mom just gave it up on the hair.  She looks like Gilligan's sister, but whatever. 

A statue of Abraham London.

Royal rider person thingy don't really know...

No, you don't need lasik...the photo is blurry.  It was the only one I took of the room.  Not exactly spacious...but wonderfully clean, comfortable, and after walking up 87 steps to reach pretty much looked like nirvana. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Travel With Me - Day 3

Brian was able to get online with wi-fi this morning (morning being the midnight side of morning) and we had a lovely but choppy e-mail exchange via Facebook.  I'm fairly sure that Mr. Jet Lag is going to catch up with him sometime I'm not really counting on hearing from him tonight. 

On Day 3 of my European vacation...we were still in London.  Cold, wet London.  Yes.


Reality n. 1, state of actual existence 2, fact; truth

Reality set in.  Rain.  Cold.  Buses.  We left for the Tower of London and got there fairly easily from Victoria Station.  This was our first attempt at the "tube" and it was no problem.  We even found the "Mind the Gap" recording fairly charming. 

Finding the Tower involved walking, and then all we had to do was wait for the Beefeater to guide us at 11:00.  Which would have been really great had someone not done a serious rain dance during our London experience.

Two negatives about Beefeaters: They don't do tours if your umbrella is up for liability reasons and on Sunday, you can't tour the chapel until services are over.  The umbrella restriction wasn't really a problem for me because I didn't have one anymore (see Day 2...bus ride).  And, if you look at the photos from this is quite obvious that I didn't care.  We were left with the decision to stand in the rain and strain to hear the Beefeater over the rain pelting everything around us or come back later and hightail it to the Crown Jewels.  We went with Plan B.

After several hours - including lunch at a cafeteria there - the gift shop, and several rooms of weaponry, jewels, pictures, films, and suits of armor, we were ready to leave.  Unfortunately, the rain wasn't.  The problem was...the next step was the Tower Bridge Experience...and a walk was involved. 

A walk across the Thames in freezing rain. 

Some members of the party were planning a mutiny.  After much discussion (and some words that won't be recorded for posterity here), and a little lifting of the rain...we proceeded.  It was actually an interesting tour and wasn't too demanding.  Brian loved it, and Jill and The Boyfriend befriended a little boy from India or somewhere at the souvenir coin machine.  After this, we were supposed to go shopping...but the weather pretty much ruled that out.  In Covent Garden we couldn't find anything to do because the theaters were all "dark" on Sunday, and everything is closed.  So we found a bus after asking multiple natives, went to Piccadilly Circus and found solace at the Pizza Hut.

The waitress took pity on us and brought us ice with our drinks.  We each got two cubes.  What the deal is with the English and the ice aversion...I know not.

Refreshed, we went to the Pepsi Trocadero and found an amazing game room.  Mom won two bears in the crane machine and everyone played video games, bought souvenirs or just watched.  Fun.
Beefeater before the rain started. 

This is Jill enjoying the late May weather.

Nice picture...sign for the "Bloody Tower" in the background...not so nice.

Raindrop on lens.  Great shot otherwise...

Still having Changing of the Guard envy...

Brian was my photo subject most of the day since Jill was being a pain.

Mom and Jill at lunch. 

In the chapel AFTER service...

Henry VIII

One of the weaponry, yes?

Brian in the castle...

The first photo of me on the trip. 

In the gift shop...but he looks totally realistic, doesn't he?

Mom being Vanna.

Brian in the Tower Bridge.  (Told you he was my subject of the day.)

Poppy looking at the model of the bridge in the exhibit.

At Piccadilly Circus

Mom at the crane machine at the Pepsi Trocadero.  It's an addiction. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Travel With Me - Day 2

Brian is in Paris today.  I haven't heard from him, but I'm assuming that all is well and that he is asleep right now.  He probably ran on adrenaline all day...and croissants, of course.  The weather is decent...and he's been there on this trip he won't have to stress over not getting to see something fabulous.  (Not that he did on the last trip either...but whatever.)  He can just enjoy the experience with his friends.  Frankly, I think that totally rocks.

But come with me back five years to day 2 of our London/Paris/Chateau de L'Aubraie's what I journaled for our second day in London...


Transport v. 1, carry from one place to another, convey 2, imbue with strong emotion,3, carry into banishment

Boys and Girls, today's word is "transport" as in "transportation."  Sometimes, there can be too many choices.  In London, with our 3-Day Travel Cards, we had complete freedom of travel by bus or train!  After making our way through Gatwick Airport and to Victoria Station, we found our way to the Luna & Simone Hotel in adequate time for the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  Unfortunately, the rain chance of 100% that was shown on became a reality. 

At 10:50 it started...and it just isn't the same watching the guard change with regular hats and raincoats while perched with 29 other people on the stoop of a local business. 

Not to be completely bummed out, though, we attempted to find our next stop - which was Trafalgar Square.  For the first time since 1986, Admiral Nelson and his horse were under renovation.  As it rained, to pass the time, we were able to watch a demonstration (to free Palestine), eat lunch at Cafe in the Crypt at St. Martin's in the Fields and slip into the National Gallery of Art. 

The National Gallery had Van Goghs and Seurat paintings in the first room we came upon!  After realizing that the rain was pretty much going to plague us off and on all day, and that indoors was indeed the best bet, The Boyfriend (TBF) suggested that we go over to Harrod's.  Great idea, but that meant that we had to get on a bus again.  Other than the guy with the odd bundle and the vacant stare - it was uneventful - and we found our way there fairly easily.

There is nothing that will help you learn the transportation system faster than just jumping in.  Fatigue and rain made the bus a welcome place to be.  We road it a great deal of the afternoon.  Someone in London is enjoying my umbrella, and that's fine, as I apparently left it on the bus.  I'm just glad that we got to see as much of London as we did on those buses.  If anyone doubts that we got our money's worth for the Travel Passes, I'd totally have to disagree.

At Harrod's we looked all over the store.  Unfortunately, I realized that I was wearing my pink Crocs because it had been raining.  In spite of the total disregard for fashion that was so evident to me (at least where I was in London), I still felt a little out of place.  FYI...nothing screams "AMERICAN TOURIST!" like pink Crocs just so you know.

My discomfort was compounded by the fact that they had someone in the restrooms expecting a tip, and my "London for Dummies" book didn't address that.  Had we had time to hang around, Pele, the soccer wonder, was due to make an appearance at Harrod's that night. However, our objective was to find the London Eye for a 6:30 flight.

The London Eye was great!  We actually arrived on time (30 minutes early) and got right on.  We were on a pod and back off at the time that we were supposed to be getting on.  No lines!  We took some great pictures, and in the little pod we couldn't feel the rain or the unusually cold temperatures (a cold front from Antarctica had moved in...and we were dealing with 40-50 degree weather...and did I mention the wind?  No? Okay...put it together...Antarctica Winds...and that pretty much described our three days in London.  Mind you, it was 94 degrees when we left Atlanta...but whatever.)

Dinner that night was in an Italian restaurant by the hotel.  I don't know if it was the pink shoes, the fact that I asked for another Coke from someone else or what, but the waitress was not my friend.  The Italian food was great, though, and we didn't have to do anything but walk down two doors to get home.  No bus.  No train.  No problem. 
The Changing of the Guard just doesn't have the same "oomph" with raincoats and regular hats.
This looks like the "Changing of the Shift" at Police Headquarters in the U.S. not the "Changing of the Guard" at Buckingham Palace. 

Oh, I see how it is.  Five minutes later, the rain stops and we go all red and black uniform.  Fine.

It is gold, shiny, and pretty.  And across from Buckingham Palace.

The man in the red jacket and orange shirt (fashion king that he is) annoys me in this picture.  Always has. 

A lovely day for a demonstration, yes?

Okay, see the colored box in front of the guy on the horse suspended into the air?  Yeah, that's Admiral Nelson.  Under renovation.  First time in 20 years...and I show up during that week...

Lots of people protesting.  Lots of people apparently not working because they have time to protest. 

Harrod's...where you pay to pee...(and where pink Crocs are frowned upon.)

A pod.  Not an iPod.  Just a pod.  Big enough for party of 15.

View from the London Eye.  Of what...I'm not exactly sure.  But it is pretty. :)
More London cityscape.  (That sounded classier, didn't it?)

Parliament: home of Big Ben (the clock)

Mo' Big Ben

Can't get enough apparently...

A lovely shot of the Thames (pronounced "Timms" for some unknown reason) River.  It was the color of well, dung, but we weren't planning a swimming outing, so that was fine.

More of London from the London Eye

Brian.  Age 13...and a little scary in this photo.

St. Martin-in-the-Fields (or something like that).  We ate at Cafe in the Crypt under the church.  Which sounds quite unappetizing if you think about it.  So, um, don't think about it.

Brian looking out of the pod.  Probably at Parliament. 


One of my favorite shots of Parliament.  Brian probably took this.  His shots were pretty awesome.

Another shot of the pod below us.

Gigi and Poppy.  Her hair was holding up pretty well in the humidity.  Miraculous, actually.

Beyond the clock...trying to get some architecture shots.  Not entirely sure why.  But pretty.

Can't get enough of the same shot?  Apparently me either! 

Thanks for reliving Day 2 with me...come back tomorrow for Day 3!  :)