Our tale of two cities will always be the beginning of our love for travel as a family. We visited both London and Paris and they are quite different in their own special way. Both cities are full of historical and beautiful things to see and do. Truthfully, I think everyone loved London the most because after almost two months in a foreign country we needed a language break.(other than the air force base)
We flew out at the crack of dawn from Frankfurt Hahn, a regional airport on Ryan Air and one hour later we landed at London’s Stansted Airport. The kids enjoyed their first train ride as we made our way to our flat at Earl’s Court Crossing.
After navigating our way through the London Tube we emerged onto Earl’s Court Crossing ( an area of London once owned by the Earls of Oxford) and the first thing we saw was a Police Box, we were thrilled since we are Dr. Who fans. The Metropolitan Police installed this modern police box in 1996, its design heavily based on the “classic” 1929 version from the Met’s own architect, Gilbert MacKenzie Trench, a design that became best known for disguising the TARDIS time machine in the Doctor Who TV series. By the way, it was the only one in the entire city, coincidence I think not.
We spent the next six days riding the Tube, double decker bus (very cool) and walking around this warm, friendly city. We strolled through Hyde Park, saw the changing of the Queen’s guard, traveled back in time at The British Museum and blasted off at the London Science Museum.
One day we parted paths, the boys ducked inside the Churchill War Room to see where the Prime Minister ran WWII, meanwhile the girls saw famous artwork at the National Gallery and then hopped a double decker bus to Harrod’s Department store, where commoners like us can only afford one of their famous shopping bags.
My personal favorite was our afternoon at the Tower of London and its look back to England’s interesting past. The crown jewels were fascinating to see up close and personal. We also enjoyed listening to the satirical Beefeaters. But the favorite spot of the day for everyone was The White Tower and the armory collection. We saw the ax and block that was used to behead people at the tower. The Torture Tower gave everyone a glimpse into how criminals or sympathizers were tortured in the middle ages. Look up the scavenger’s daughter and you will understand why it was not a good idea to be a criminal in those days.
On a rainy Tuesday (which I think was the only day it rained) the kids and I treated Ernie to an early Christmas gift and went to see Star Wars Episode VII on 17 mm film on the IMAX screen at the London Science Museum. Wow that was a mouthful and worth it. You know the part where it’s snowing and Kylo Wren is battling his cousin Rey we could hear the snow all around us, it was like it was really falling around our seats!
The weather was perfect while we were in London and we were able to stroll along the River Thames one evening and see Big Ben, The Parliament and The Eye at night. On our last day in London we took a trip around the Eye on a completely cloudless day we could see for miles almost to Paris.
London is a melting pot of cultures especially in Earl’s Court Crossing we tried a lot of new cuisines. We found a bubble tea spot with a laboratory theme https://www.bubbleology.co.uk/ this was Josie’s favorite. We ate middle eastern food one evening and also got snacks and food to prepare in our flat at a gourmet grocer called Marks and Spencer (M&S). One afternoon we had lunch at Five Guys and it was the tastiest meal we had in England, even the pub food was bland, but it did costs £42 which is like $68 back home.
Paris the City of Lights was not a disappointment. Just the girls went for an overnight trip. We took an ICE train for the two and a half hour trip. Once in Paris we stopped at the Arc de Triomphe and strolled along the Champs-Élysées. We arrived at the Eiffel Tower around mid-afternoon and climbed the many stairs (not sure how many but I was carrying all our stuff on my back so it felt like thousands) and looked out upon the city of lights. My favorite view is from the east side looking out to the Sacre-Coerc. We got postcards for a few friends and warmed our bellies with hot chocolate.
It was dusk when we descended the Eiffel Tower steps (much easier by the way) and we saw the tower twinkle at 6:00 o’clock on the dot. It was an unforgettable experience spent with my Josie.
On Rick Steve’s advice we had dinner in a section of the city called Rue Cler. Rue Cler reminded me of Little Italy in Manhattan. The streets were lined with markets for everything and street vendors as well. We had a nice dinner under a heat lamp Parisian-style on a small two top table at Cafe Du Marche. Next, we made our way out of the city via a RER train to Versailles to the Waldorf-Astoria Trionan Palace. We didn’t get to see Versailles because of our short timetable, but we slept on the same grounds where the Sun King once laid his head.
On Sunday we visited the Louvre Museum and the Left Bank. After reading the Paris Wife, I was inspired to walk along the Left Bank where so many creative American artist and writers spent most of their time in the 1920’s. We stopped by Shakespeare and Company bookstore once owned by Sylvia Plath and perused the Bouquinistes along the Seine . After a quick gaze upon Notre Dame and a look through the Paris Flower market, we took Bus#89 to Gard de Est, filled a bag up with pastries and sandwiches from the Paul Bakery and hopped our train back to Germany. It was a whirlwind, but our memories will last forever.