EuroWhirlwind

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We’re adding 79,506 steps to those of you keeping track…. that’s 39.75 more miles for a total of 93.31 miles in 10 days. 

Yes, I’m partially insane, and yes, my feet are blistered.

But when the romantic interest you’ve been seeing the past month+ invites you to visit him in LONDON, where his company is sending him for a month to work, you say yes!

We had talked about it a bit before he was leaving so it wasn’t really a spontaneous trip, but didn’t fully become confirmed until I actually logged onto expedia for my flights and received that confirmation e-mail. Booked October 20, for travel November 9 for $889.13, talk about a quick turnaround. To be honest, the breakdown was actually – $570 for the flights, $312.13 for taxes, which makes it all seem so much more affordable.

So a 10 hour drive back to NOLA from Disney, a night of excited sleep in my own bed and then off for the airport to fly through Boston- Logan, Dublin and finally into Heathrow. This was my first attempt across the pond and I can’t imagine it going any smoother really (except if I’d only had one stop). I kept thinking “I really should have booked a day in Dublin on my way back just for kicks”, ahh next trip.

I thankfully talked Kyle into downloading whatsapp before he left so we’d been communicating the entire time. We were able to coordinate how I was to get to the apartment from the airport, very simple really. Jump on the Heathrow Express to the Paddington station to catch the underground. That may seem like a lot, but I’m lucky that traveling comes easy to me. That and he took a half day to meet me in Paddington so we could ride the tube together.

I attempted to sleep on the flight from Boston to Dublin, a 5 hour flight which didn’t seem too terrible, I’d taken that flight from DC to California about 15 years earlier and didn’t really notice it. I noticed this one.

I made sure to call the airlines (JetBlue and Aer Lingus) to choose my seats for each flight to ensure I wouldn’t be stuck in a middle seat. So I left New Orleans in a Window at 12:20pm, arrived around 4:30pm-ish to Boston, and had to re-check in for my Aer Lingus flight to Dublin (and get my third boarding pass since it was too early to check in online before). Getting on to the international flight was better than a domestic flight honestly. They board the correct way, anyone who purchased first class, business, needs extra help, is military etc gets on first. Then, board from the BACK of the plane up to the front so you’re not stuck. Boarding goes much faster, maybe 15 minutes for an entire jet to be comfortably seated & ready to go. I was in the middle section of this flight, but on an aisle so I had some space to stretch my short legs.

I can say I was excited for the meal service. I’ve had quite a bit of experience with flying, not just because of my job, but because my father has been a career Air-Traffic Controller. Pre 9/11 I recall getting wings from flight attendants, kids meals with toys, peeking into the cockpit to say hello to the pilots and sometimes getting to sit in the jump seat there but “do not touch any of the buttons”. Fast forward to now when most airlines are just within the past few years bringing back pretzles or peanuts with complimentary soda or water. To receive a complimentary HOT meal was a real treat. I chose the Beef Stroganoff (not like home but close) which came with pasta salad, bread, water, and dessert! Also…. COMPLIMENTARY MOVIES at each seat. I watched Trouble with the Curve (a favorite) and Me Before You (tear jerker) before actually trying to catch a nap. I was worried my seat mate (it was 4 seats to a row) would need to use the loo and didn’t want to be too inconsiderate by falling asleep immediately after beverage & meal service.

We departed Boston at 6:20pm and arrived in Dublin around 5:20am. I didn’t have enough time to leave the airport, and I didn’t want to miss the plane, so I went straight through customs (which was a tad backed up) and through to my gate. I had a book to keep me occupied but geez-louise was that gate cold.

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The jumper to Heathrow was only about an hour long flight but the fog made it difficult to see anything coming in. I made it to the baggage claim no problem, I’d been able to check my bag straight through to my final destination which made everything that much easier. Typically with Caribbean Travel, when you arrive to Miami, Charlotte or Atlanta from an international flight you have to go to baggage, wait for your bag to come through on the belt and take it with you through customs before re-checking and going back through security to get on your next flight.

My carry-on luggage was a simple backpack with a few snacks, quick toilitries, pillow & entertainment needs. Easy peasy.

I grabbed my bag and made my way towards the exit of Heathrow where I purchased my Heathrow Express round trip ticket and was on the train by 11:15am headed to Paddingon. Kyle picked me up at Paddington and we headed to the underground to purchase an oyster card & drop my stuff at his Queen Street apartment (by the Cannon St. Underground Station) before finding lunch.

I walked in the apartment to an entire welcome setup with treats and flowers. What a guy 🙂

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As it was late afternoon, and Kyle was still supposed to be working remotely, we ducked into the Burger & Lobster restaurant on Bread Street and took a short tour around the neighborhood to St. Paul’s Cathedral before returning for a quick nap and dinner reservations that evening.

It’s a good thing I like walking, just not in my $22 on-sale Michael Kors booties. Those things KILLED my feet. We wandered along Millennium Bridge (not lit, sadly), down the river front walk and up to the Tower Bridge for a delicious steak dinner at Gaucho Tower Bridge with an amazing view.

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Kyle kept me walking over the Tower Bridge, around the Tower of London and then back to the apartment for some much needed sleep. We had more walking to do tomorrow.

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I’m not a morning person…. especially when the internal clock is 6 hours behind the London alarm thats chirping in my ear. I really enjoy sleep. Kyle on the other hand? He’s a morning person, full of annoying energy and ready to get outside…

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He’d planned to take me to see Big Ben, the Victoria Tower Gardens where you got a great view of the river & the London Eye, through the Household Cavalry Museum square to the Guards Division Memorial and through St. James Park to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guardchanging of the guard.

The one thing we didn’t plan on? It being Armistice Day. There were quite a few people out and about. We were on the hunt for our own nice poppy pins after that. Which I finally found in Dublin at the end of the trip… oh well.

We attempted to politely position ourselves towards the gate to get a better look, but there was a lot of shoving and hair being flicked in our faces so we, screaming internally, waited paitently for the ceremony to end and wandered back through the park to the Tower of London daytime-experience and then the apartment so we could pack an overnight back as we were headed to PARIS that evening!

I’m not sure how many of you are Harry Potter fans. I claim to be one as I sit here through Freeform’s Harry Potter Weekend writing at the same time. I made it about halfway through the 3rd book before I got bored, then I resigned to just watching the movies over, and over, and over. Well, I finally got to let my inner nerd out when our Eurostar train was set to leave from Kings Cross Station!

I almost bought Sirius Black’s Wand there at the store, but Kyle talked me out of having to carry it around in Paris all weekend. Fair enough.

Our train ride was about 2 hours, and upon arrival in Paris we queued in with the rest of the taxi line. Until a rather sketchy gentleman throught we were easy targets and pulled us out of line telling us that one went to the airport only and that he had a private car available for 75 euro to take us to our hotel. I didn’t trust him or the price so I asked the security/police guard at the door who confirmed the taxi line would take us to our hotel no problem.

No luck for you sir, we are seasoned travelers and we will enjoy this 16 euro cab ride to our hotel which is a block away from the Eiffel Tower! 😛

We were hangry upon arrival to the Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower Hotel we decided to explore the local eateries to save our hangry stomachs, and yes, our first meal in Paris was Chicken Nuggets and a Cheeseburger… we did share an eclair for dessert though!!

I booked this hotel via Hotels.com for a great price for 2 nights. It was convenient to get to, the staff was friendly and spoke all languages, there was a bar available (which we visited 2-3 times for wine and coffee) and the creme de la creme; they offered to hold our luggage the morning we checked out so we didn’t have to tote it around with us like tourists :). I’d highly recommend this hotel to anyone traveling to Paris who wants to stay near the Eiffel Tower. You can see it from the sidewalk at the hotel’s entrance, so you can see the tower sparkle at night, every hour on the hour for about 1 minute.

We put on our adventure hats the following morning and ended up walking a little over 6 miles.. Down around the Eiffel Tower, up to the Arc de Triomphe, lunch at a sidewalk cafe,  a quick stop into Tiffany’s & Co on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, through the Villages de Noel that was set up for local vendors & Christmasey feel, then through the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries) to the Louvre Pyramids!

Did our adventure stop there?! of COURE not! Have you met me?! I had a whole list of places I wanted to see and was pretty dead-set on dragging the poor guy around with me. My parents understand how I operate when excited. It’s a lot like Ariel touring Prince Eric’s kingdom in The Little Mermaid.

As my parents advice to him was “suggest wine, beer or cheese. She’ll stop for a minute”. But turned out I was the one having to slow him down a few times, those previous Disney steps were starting to wear on me.

Next up was the Cathedrale de Notre Dame. I was expecting it to be grander than it looked from far away, but as we got closer to entering I caught my breath on the beauty of the intricate details carved centuries ago.

My feet & legs had endured enough at this point. I begged for a cab back to the hotel to rest and to find some much needed nourishment. Kyle is a fan of Trip Advisor, so he checked around and found a decent looking spot near the Luxembourg Gardens with good reviews, so off to the Latin Quarter we went! *I will add here that Paris regulars and friends of my mother suggested we stay in this area for our trip, me being the type A personality and needing to have concrete plans ahead of time, booked the alternate location before her suggestions came through; Grand Hotel Saint Michel, Hotel Saint Paul Rive Gauche, Hotel Pas de Calais*

We were greeted by a friendly staff at Bullier Cafe and seated in a window table to which we ordered a bordeaux red wine accompanied by a delectable cheese and meat plate. Shoutout here to the bread basket refills and endless water!

It was a smidge rainy/cloudy on and off during our trip but we decided after seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkle, that we were going to tour it Sunday, fog or no fog.

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Heres’s a general map of our wandering.

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We ended up with fog. But it didn’t deter us one bit.

We went back towards our hotel to grab a proper French breakfast in a cafe and also found uber around this same time. We made our way to the Montmartre neighborhood through a great local art market to visit Sacre-Coeur and the Moulin Rouge, which I’ll be honest, I was a little let down by the Moulin Rouge. I always loved the movie but I was more excited about finding the Irish Pub down the street with my name on it….

It was almost time to eat again, and where else but our new favorite cafe 🙂

We hadn’t been able to see the Luxembourg Gardens the day before since it was dark, so we made a point to walk through the whole thing before the wine and cheese started calling to us.

Kyle booked us the late train back to London so we could get the most out of Paris, we were pooped and decided to see if the station would let us change our tickets for an earlier evening train but it would be a 200 euro per ticket fee. Nope, we decided to sit on the floor and wait it out instead.

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The customs line getting on the train was pretty intense. I felt like we were being interrogated as to why we wanted to be there and why the difference in our stays (him 30 days, me 4). We finally got into our seats but the train was delayed so we didn’t get back to London till about 11pm and most of the restaurants were already closed. We were too tired to look elsewhere so we showered and were headed to bed when Kyle found a 24-hour pub still serving food. We threw on semi-respectable to be in public clothes and hailed a cab to take us to yummyness. The Polo 24 Hour Bar.

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Sadly my trip had to come to an end and Monday I was off backtracking my initial route on the tube to the Heathrow Express and through customs for my connecting flight to Dublin & Boston.

I had a little more time in Dublin as the U.S. Customs & Border Control has an outpost there! You clear everything before you leave the Emerald Isle so there’s nothing to do when you get into the U.S! I made a point to get a Guinness this time, even though my boarding pass said gate closing at 14:35 for a 16:20 flight. I was super confused so I sucked down my Guinness while sitting at my gate.

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It really does drink easier in Ireland than in the U.S. It’s the best Guinness I’ve ever tasted!! And from the Airport no less! I can’t wait to taste more on my next trip.

I also finally understood the error of my boarding pass after I heard some other passengers chatting about the same thing being printed on theirs. I decicded to treat myself to another Guinness and probably some food since I hadn’t eaten yet that morning.

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I upgraded my seat on this flight back as it was supposed to be 7+ hours and there were no normal aisles or windows so I got an extra space window. There were some beautiful views on the flight west, it almost seemed like we were chasing the sunset as I had the same view for what seemed like hours.

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I didn’t get any sleep on this flight. I was too roped into the movies. 3 to be exact for this trip, and I thought about getting up to stretch my legs but my aisle seat mate would get up and leave her tray table down, piled with stuff so there was no easy way to maneuver around that… They did feed us TWICE though! One hot meal like on the arrival flight, and a small box a little while later with a chicken salad sandwich & bar of chocolate.

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My butt went numb the last 2 hours or so, so my rutching around was probably an annoyance but oh well. A quick jump onto my final flight back to New Orleans and sadly my bag didn’t quite make the turnover. I had to go back to the airport the next morning on my way out to Shreveport, LA for work but we finally sorted it all out.

It was a phenomenal experience. I can’t wait to plan my next trip back but phew I’m exhausted. Planning to not leave my apartment all weekend for sure, my feet need to recover!

#TrueWorldTravelerNow

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