Sunday, December 2, 2012

Thanksgiving in London... With A Dash of Paris Sprinkled In For Good Measure

When most people think of the start of the holiday season, they think of spending time with family at home - resting, relaxing and enjoying all the comforts of home.

I guess my parents got a little bored with the notion of a "normal" holiday at home... they decided to mix things up this year by proposing we spend Thanksgiving in London.


As much as I love traveling, I've actually never visited London- I've only flown through Heathrow a couple of times which, to be fair, is an experience in and of itself. (I actually LOVE spending time in airports, so long as I'm not traveling for work.) London's just one of those places that is so close to the US, and so easily accessible, that I've always figured "I'd get to it eventually".

Well... welcome to "eventually". My parents had spent weeks upon weeks mapping out our whirlwind trip to London... which apparently included a quick day trip to Paris (I love saying that- sounds so GLAM, right?!). What can I say? My parents really wanted to experience that whole Chunnel thing, I guess.

So... welcome to my Thanksgiving.

In short, "whirlwind" is about as much of an understatement as one can expect considering our trip consisted of a redeye to London, two full days in London and one full day in Paris. And here is what we saw:

Westminster Abbey - included a live tour with tour guide
Parliament - included listening in on a Parliament session (for about 10 minutes... which is when I fell asleep because, quite frankly, it was boring AND I was experiencing a combination of jet lag and redeye fatigue)
Churchill Museum - included an audio guided tour and was, quite frankly, SUCH an awesome museum
Trafalgar Square - we literally just walked through it on the way to lunch
River Cruise - just to see the sights from a body of water, I guess
London Eye - included a trip on the Eye which provided some spectacular views
London Bridge - storybook-lookin', if you will
Tower of London - included an audio tour AND a viewing of the royal jewels (!!)
St. Paul's Cathedral - included an audio tour and some serious stair-climbing to get to the top and see some legit views of London
Buckingham Palace - just saw the outside because we were primarily there to see the changing of the guard
Windsor Castle - unfortunately, we got here too late to actually do a tour but it's like a whole different world...

Eiffel Tower - we actually went up the tower, which was something I'd never done despite having been to Paris a couple of times before
Notre Dame Cathedral - if there are any Notre Damers reading this blog post, I sure hope you are happy... I thought of each and every one of you (some liberties taken) as I perused this cathedral's hallowed halls
Arc de Triomphe / Champs Elysee - oh, you know, just another day in Paris ;)
Lafayette Gallery - HUGE shopping center in the midst of Paris

God, just typing the above list exhausted me... you can only imagine how perpetually exhausted I was throughout the ENTIRE trip (what can I say? I need my rest!).

It's interesting though... London's got some SERIOUS history (it makes the US seem brand-new in comparison), right? And yet... yet, the only thoughts I was really having as I was touring through Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral, Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle (all of which date back hundreds and hundreds of years) were along the lines of:

"OMG, this is the spot where Kate stepped out of the car and is the last spot where she was officially a "commoner"" (at Westminster Abbey)
"OMG, this is the aisle Kate walked down and likely when she saw Will's back for the first time during the wedding ceremony" (at Westminster Abbey)
"OMG, this is the spot where Harry and Will stood and Harry whispered something funny to Will which made both boys chuckle as as Kate walked down the aisle" (at Westminster Abbey)
"OMG, I can't believe Kate, Will, Harry, the Queen herself have all walked these steps more than like" (at Windsor Castle)
"OMG, I wonder if our tour guide was HERE for the wedding?!?!?!" (at Westminster Abbey - I actually asked our tour guide, who was a Westminster Abbey monk, this and he indicated that he was not because he had another abbey or something to be at that day. But he also added "But the way I look at it, every day that I spend at Westminster Abbey is a special day... whether it's with a large royal wedding or even by myself within the abbey's hallowed halls." Not gonna lie, it took a fair amount of self-control for me to refrain from openly judging him and responding with "Listen... even YOU have to admit some days are more special than OTHERS within Westminster Abbey's hallowed halls, bud".)

And... well, you get the idea. I guess my idea of "London history" really only began last April ;)

And Paris... oh, Paris. Sigh, I just don't know what it is about this city. I know some people LOVE it, but I simply do not. I mean, it's fine for a trip or two, but even as I was wandering about (okay, hurtling about.. it was a CRAZY whirlwind of activity), I literally could not stop myself from wondering why in heaven's name it was my third time in this city. I just don't think I appreciate it as much as some other people do.

And to be fair, our day trip to Paris was pure, unadulterated CHAOS this go-around. I don't know WHAT was going on, but the vehicle traffic was simply unreal and the pedestrian traffic... to be honest, it kind of took my breath away. You literally got SWEPT up in the pandemonium of the streets and I just don't remember it being like that in past visits... I was SO ANNOYED by the end of that day trip because, quite frankly, there were just way too many people every which way you turned. Needless to say, if I never go back to Paris, I wouldn't be too concerned.

All in all, it was... an interesting experience with the fam, to say the least. Definitely... unique. I've included a few pictures I took on my phone during our 72 hour sojourn, but I can safely say these are a VERY select few pictures taken (majority were taken on my parents' cameras).

Although I'm not the biggest fan of Paris, I have to say, I was smitten with London and would LOVE to go back again to get to know it just a bit better.. and if I happen to become BFF with Will and Kate upon running into them by stalking pure coincidence... well, stranger things HAVE happened, right? Right.

Buckingham Palace - just after the changing of the guard which, to be honest, was a bit anti-climactic

View from the London Eye - spectacular

More views from the London Eye - more spectacularity (not a word, but I like it)

View from St. Paul's Cathedral

More Views from St. Paul's Cathedral... I feel like this screams "London" for some reason

Even more views from St. Paul's Cathedral - clearly, I couldn't get enough

Night view of London, with Big Ben front and center

London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down...

View from Westminster Abbey, right in the heart of London... I just love Big Ben

View from the Eiffel Tower in Paris

More views from the Eiffel Tower in Paris

Even more views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

There she is

Up close and personal... the Eiffel Tower, in all its glory