Thursday, August 30, 2007

Day 7-Paris

Today we leave for Paris! We were excited to take the Chunnel to Paris. We had to get to the train station early. While we were waiting there was also a train leaving for Disneyland Paris and they had a musical group play to get the Disney customers excited to go to the park. It was fun listening to them, and it made us wish we were going to Disneyland. But we are going to Paris, so we weren't too disappointed. The train ride was a couple of hours long and we were under the English Channel for only 20 minutes. Most of the trip is going through the north of France. During the trip we enjoyed talking to another couple from our tour group. When we arrived in Paris we got on a bus for a tour of the city. We went by the Opera house, the Louvre, stopped by the Eiffel tower to get pictures, and saw lots of great views of the beautiful city. The bus then took us to our hotel. We had an hour to get settled and then had a walking tour of our neighborhood. After our walk we had a couple of hours of free time. We spent our time looking for crepes, yum yum. We also explored our neighborhood some more. Then it was time to meet our group for a group dinner. We ate some wonderfully yummy food. After dinner we walked through the city to see the Eiffel Tower at night. It was neat to see Paris light up for the night. We also used one of the self cleaning toilets. We got to the tower a little before 10pm. At 10pm it sparkles for 10 minutes, it does the same thing at 11 and midnight. It was beautiful. I found a video on YouTube of the tower sparkling click on the link to check it out. Eiffel Tower lighting up at night. We thought of going up it, but the line was long and we wouldn't be able to get up until 11pm. So we just headed back to the hotel to rest for our first full day in Paris.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Day 6

Our last day in London. We went to the British Library where we saw a Gutenberg Bible, the Magna Carta, Beatles lyrics, Sheakesphere's signature on a bill of sale for his house, and they had a special exhibit on sacred texts (the Bible, Torah and Koran). It was so neat to be able to see these old manuscripts. Of course we especially enjoyed the Bible texts, one of which was a piece of the Dead Sea Scrolls. Kim also enjoyed seeing the Magna Carta and Gutenberg Bible since she taught her students about them last year.
Next, we went to the British Museum. We only spent two hours there, we want to go back just to spend some more time at the museum. They have so much to see there. There are lots of things from Egypt, Assyria and other old civilizations. We saw mummies, statues from the Parthenon in Athens, stone carvings from Assyria, shields from the Celts, and many other fun old things. We had a great guide who helped us see the highlights of the museum.
We had a full day's schedule so we had to leave the museum right after our tour. We ate lunch at a yummy pizza place and headed to Buckingham Palace. At first Micah and I were not going to go to the palace because it was so expensive, but we heard from others that they enjoyed it and they thought it was worth going. We decided to go and we are glad we did. It is only open in the summer because the queen is on vacation. We got an audioguide with our tour and it was fun listening to the commentary as we went through the beautiful rooms. It is amazing how elaborate the rooms are, they are gorgeous. I wish we could have taken pictures inside! It is also the 60th wedding anniversary of the queen and prince. We saw her wedding dress, jewelry, video of the wedding and some wedding presents. I enjoyed our tour there.
After the palace we had just enough time to go back to the hotel to get changed, catch a quick dinner at a Pret a Manger and then head to the theatre for Phantom of the Opera. Before we left for our trip we bought tickets online to go to Phantom. We have never seen it live and thought London would be the place to see it. It was a lot of fun seeing it, although we were way up in the nose bleed section. But it was still amazing!

Day 5

Today was our first full day of our tour. We went to Westminster Abbey where we had a guided tour with Tom. He gave us the history of the Abbey and showed us where some of famous graves are in the building. He was fun to listen to because he is very British and has a great sense of humor. Our favorite parts of the tour were seeing Queen Elizabeth I's grave and just looking at the amazing, beautiful architecture.
After Westminster, we took a walk down Whitehall. This is where the London government buildings are located. We walked by 10 Downing Street where the Prime minister lives, but didn't get to see much because they had police officers in the way. We had lunch at a nice pub. Kim ate a ploughman's lunch (bread, meat, fruit, and yummy goat cheese) and Micah had a large steak meat pie.
Then we hopped on a bus to head to the Tower of London. We took a tour with a Beefeater and heard about some of the famous people who were imprisoned and then executed at the Tower. After our tour we saw the British crown jewels. One crown had an amazing diamond on the top, it is the size of a tennis ball. Then we just walked around and looked in the buildings and enjoyed looking at the exhibits.
Then it was time to go back to the hotel for a quick rest. For dinner we went to a grocery store to get food for a picnic. They have great prepared foods at their grocery stores. We had pasta salads, great sandwiches and fruit. We took our picnic to the Buckingham Palace and ate on the Victoria monument right in front of the palace. What a great view!
We left the palace and walked to the London Eye. We thought it would be fun to go on the Eye at night to see London all lit up. We happened to buy tickets five minutes before closing (no lines, yeah!) and hopped on one of the last pods. There were only four other people in our same pod. London was beautiful at night. It is amazing how high up we got, Big Ben looked little. We almost didn't go on the London Eye because it is expensive. But we thought it would be fun to do at night, and also our friends Melissa and Bryan got engaged on it so we wanted to experience the Eye. We were glad we did do it. There were beautiful views!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Day 4

Sunday. Today we went to the Victoria Station to find out how to use the tube to get to Hillsong Church in London. We ended up getting a one day Travelpass. The tube is wonderful! I wish we had something like that in the Seattle area. We got to the church early, so we had some time to find an internet cafe and check emails. Hillsong was a lot of fun to go to. The worship was awesome. That day they had a guest speaker, Marilyn Hickey, from Colorado. She is an evangelist who travels the world. She was very inspiring.
After church we found a quick lunch and then headed back to the internet cafe to send out some emails. Then it was time to head back to the hotel to meet our tour group. First, we went to Al and Caroline's room to see them and see how their trip to the English countryside went. Then we went to the breakfast room to meet our group. We spent an hour introducing ourselves, going over what the tour involves and schedules. After our meeting we went on a walking tour of the St. James Park area. While we were on our walking tour we were not allowed to go down one of the streets because there was a film crew filming a scene for National Treasure 2.
It was a car chase scene with Nicolas Cage, and we saw three cars going around with their wheels squealing. On our walk we also walked through Leicester Square and the theatre district.
After our walk, we went to a restaurant by our hotel for our first group dinner. It was a nice three course dinner. We had smoked salmon, sausage, pasta, fish and wonderful desserts.

Day 3-London

On Saturday we woke up at 3:30am so we could make our 6am flight to London. We really needed some coffee this morning. Around 9am we arrived in London. We found the street our hotel is on, but had a hard time finding it. A British lady stopped and asked if we needed help and we told her we were lost. She ended up using her cell phone and called the hotel to ask for directions. She was very nice! We found the hotel, dropped off our bags, and went to explore London. Our hotel was close to Buckingham Palace so we walked there and looked around, walked to Westminster, Big Ben and the London Eye.
We found some fish and chips for lunch (we still like Ivar's best). By this time we were exhausted because we were up so early, so we went to St. James Park and sat down and relaxed for a bit. We looked through our Rick Steves book and looked for something to do later in the day. We decided to go back to the hotel to rest and freshen up and then we would walk to Harrod's and Hyde Park.

For dinner we went to Harrod's for tea, sandwiches and scones, mmmmmmmmmmm. We also had fun looking around the massive store. It is amazing how much stuff is in Harrod's, they even have Armani baby clothes. After window shopping we walked over to Hyde Park. Kim was excited to see swans swimming in the lake. We walked around for a little while, but our feet were hurting from all of our walking so we decided to walk back to the hotel. On our walk back we saw four Ferraris. We are looking forward to starting our tour tomorrow!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Day 2

Today was our only full day in Edinburgh, and Micah's birthday. In the morning we had a wonderful breakfast at our B&B; we had a hard time eating it all. After breakfast we decided to get to Edinburgh Castle right when it opened to beat the crowds. We were glad we did because when we left around lunchtime it was getting crazy. At the castle we went on the 20 minute tour and enjoyed listening to our guide's accent and information. One of the buildings in the castle is over 900 years old. All of the other old buildings from the same time period were destroyed by Robert the Bruce. We also saw the Scottish crown jewels, the prison, a military memorial, the Royal Scots Army exhibit, the great hall and lots of great views of the city.

When we left the castle we walked down the Royal Mile and enjoyed looking in shops and window browsing. We went in one shop and talked to the girl working there about tartan and asked her questions about it. Kim ended up buying a scarf as a souvenir. When we got to the end of the Royal Mile we saw the Holyrood Palace, the Queen's residence in Edinburgh. Across the street is the new parliment building. We just walked around and looked at the beautiful buildings. After our walk we went to the New Town and found a T-Mobile store for Micah to get a UK sim card for his phone. We then went to the National Gallery and looked at many beautiful paintings. They have some VanGogh, Monet and Sargents. My favorite was one that showed a visual representation of the Old Testament on the left and New Testament on the right, and Jesus in the middle. It had a lot of detail and symbolism. When we came out of the gallery there was a band of bagpipers playing. We really enjoyed listening to them. We left downtown and started looking for a place to have dinner for Micah's birthday. After looking for awhile we ended up going to the Blonde Restaurant. We shared an appetizer of fishcakes and entree of salmon with a glass of wine. It was an enjoyable dinner. After dinner we left to go back to our B&B to pack and try to get to bed early since we had to wake up at 3:30 am the next day for our early flight to London.

Day 1-Edinburgh

Our first day in Europe we flew into London, took a bus to Luton airport and then flew to Edinburgh--all on one hour of sleep in the last 24 hours. We arrived in Edinburgh around 2pm. When we got to our B&B (Belford Guest House) we went against the advice we heard to not take a nap, we were just so tired we couldn't stay awake. After we woke up and got ready we went to a pub for our first pub dinner. Micah had a Guiness, and it was better than one at home. And the dinner was pretty good.

After dinner we decided to walk the mile and a half into downtown. Edinburgh is an old city from the middle ages. The buildings are made of stone and all look old and quaint. When we arrived downtown we walked to the Royal Mile where there was a lot going on since their big Fringe Festival would be starting in just a few days. We watched a few magicians, dodged crowds and enjoyed the energy of the city. Then we turned a corner close to the castle and found some military men getting on horses. We stopped and watched for a while. The Tattoo Military show was set to happen the next day, and tonight was the dress rehearsal. So we got to see the horses and the men on top (who also had musical instruments). We would have enjoyed seeing the Tattoo; we tried to get tickets in February. We later heard they sold out in December. Later we walked back to our B&B. It is a nice walk since the closer we got to our place the quieter the streets became.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We're home from Europe

We made it back home after three weeks of adventures in Europe! We will be adding to the blog to give more details about our trip, so stay posted.