It’s been awhile since I’ve updated. Too long. But I’ve good reason: Three trips in the last six weeks. Three planned for the next five weeks. (I swear next year we’ll slow down. Focusing on UK travel…)
Michael and I took our first Eurostar Rail trip from London to Paris to meet our houseguest, Christina, and her friend Jamie. Arrived late on a Thursday, meeting them in the lobby of our hotel in the Saint Georges area. Unbeknownst to me, much of Paris (France? Europe? Everyone but the U.S.?) takes off the month of August, so many of the restaurants I had looked up to try were sadly closed. We found a lovely place open nearby, however, and I had my first duck confit of the trip.
Friday we somehow managed to figure out how to get to Versailles ourselves, taking the underground to a regional train station. Following the crowds with our already online purchased tickets, we stood in awe of the massive line to get through security. I’ll say it was interesting to people watch while we waited outside for one and a half hours plus. We FINALLY made it in and started shuffling along with the crowds from room to room, ogling the opulence that is Versailles. This was my second trip to Versailles, but the only room I really remembered was the hall of mirrors. The gardens are definitely the best part, and I think we all agreed with that. Too bad we were all pretty pooped by the time we got outside to enjoy them. We took the train/underground back to our hotel area and hiked up to the nearby basilica, Sacre Coeur, for incredible views of the city and another duck confit for me! This was when I tried escargo, as well. Buttery, pesto flavored, and delicious.
Saturday was dedicated to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. We each chose something we especially wanted to see so we could have some sort of plan, because, surprise! The Louvre is humongous. Mona Lisa, Winged Victory (my favorite), The Turkish Bath, Napoleon’s Apartments, and the Egyptian exhibit all made the list. Afterwards, we had to wander a bit, finally settling on a place for lunch (duck confit #3!) Walked to the Luxembourg gardens and enjoyed some sunshine while watching locals and tourists sail little boats in the fountain. We had a quick dinner before meeting our guide for a small group, no line waiting, all the way up to the top Eiffel Tower grand tour. I’m very glad I was able to go all the way up to the top because the last time I was there in high school, for some odd reason I only went to the second level. We were able to watch the sunset from the tower and then get back down to the ground to watch it light up at 10pm. A magical moment.
Sunday we woke and basically had to catch the train first thing. Said goodbye to Christina and Jamie in London and headed back home.
Inside the Louvre
Just two weeks later was a short trip to Vienna where we got to meet up with friends from back home, Mike and Jenn. We flew out of Heathrow on British Air and I must say, what a treat after RyanAir and Easy Jet! Got into Vienna and took a bus to the center of town where we still had a 25 minute walk to our hotel. No worries though! We found an organic market of all places! Sat down and enjoyed some blood sausage, kraut, potatoes, and onions. Probably best meal of the trip. Checked into our hotel nearby the Museum quarter and sprinted to a nearby art gallery for a quick viewing before it closed. Afterwards, we went to find the start of our evening walking tour of the city. I think Michael and I really enjoy trying to do a walking tour our first day in a city to get some history and a feel of the place.
Saturday we woke early and headed to Belvedere Palace for some more art viewing (you’ll find a theme this trip) and to admire the gardens. Visited the Kunsthistorisches Museum for MORE art while some crazy end of August party was going on outside which shook the walls of the museum. Met up with Mike and Jenn for dinner which was a nice catch up and good conversation.
Sunday we basically spent all day at the Schonbrunn Palace, which is a huge place, with massive gardens. Took a nap in the gardens, had lunch in the gardens, read a book in the gardens. Then we took the subway back towards city center for dinner at a well-reviewed gluten free restaurant before returning to the palace for an evening of music, song, and dance. Too bad I was super tired and we left at intermission. Lovely orchestra and singing, though. The main opera theater in Vienna is closed in August since there’s no air conditioning.
Monday we had a lovely breakfast (as we did every morning in Vienna…I did my research on the best breakfasts in town!) and did a little shopping before making out way to the airport.
Before performance at Schonbrunn Palace
UK/IRELAND COACH TOUR
Two days after we got back from Vienna, Michael’s parents and brother came to stay with us for two nights before our ten day tour of the UK/Ireland began in London. Day 1 was London and we did a hop-on-hop-off bus tour to get it all in. I feel like at the end of three years, I STILL won’t have seen all of London I want to. Included in the tour was a nice cruise up the River Thames. Day 2 was Stratford-upon-Avon and York. We were able to see where Shakespeare is buried at the local church and the house where he was born and school he attended. York is a cool looking city Michael and I will have to return to and wander the narrow streets.
Day 3 was the Lake District where we took a steam engine ride to a cruise on lake Windemere. Very peaceful and lots of good photo opportunities. Later, our poor coach got a flat tired, so we were out a couple of hours to spend in Glasgow sadly. We had a delicious Thai dinner, though, and chatted with the owner.
Day 4 was Edinburgh, Michael and my third time to the city. He and I had an amazing lunch in the Grassmarket area at a French restaurant and then went to the pharmacy to get motion sickness medication in preparation for our ferry crossing the next day.
Day 5 was said ferry crossing and Belfast. Michael and I were able to meet up with a college friend of mine, Jenn, for lunch. She was able to correct some of the things our English tour guide said about the city and give us a super quick tour.
Day 6 was Glendalough and Dublin. Glendalough is a lovely place up in the mountains, beautiful and peaceful and I’d love to go back. Dublin is a fun place and we went to see the “bog bodies” in a local museum and did a little shopping in the Temple Bar quarter.
Day 7 was Kilkenny Castle and Waterford. Got to ogle at the expensive Waterford crystal and enjoy an evening of good ol’ Irish craic at a pub on the beach. Great singing and storytelling! I felt like I was in a movie almost. Michael even volunteered for some dance lessons. (Yes, the whole thing exists on my phone’s memory card!)
Day 8 was another ferry and Cardiff. Didn’t spend much time in Cardiff, sadly. We basically just saw the castle…which was actually a pretty cool castle with a horrible introductory movie that I will never understand why they make people watch.
Day 9 was Bath, Windsor, and London. Love Bath every time I go. Went into the abbey then wandered to a market and back to the bus. Didn’t have much time in Windsor, either. Michael and I had lunch at a local burger place and then our time was up. Got back to London later that day and I dragged Michael and his bro out to Portobello Market.
Day 10 was the end. Had breakfast with the family one last time before we ordered an uber to take us to Paddington.
Stonehenge! Day before tour officially began
All in all, great trips. I got sick on this last bit and am still in the healing stages. Hopefully I’ll be right as rain for Munich/Oktoberfest this weekend!