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London & Paris with Alyx

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London & Paris with Alyx
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London & Paris
in 3 Days


       Because daughter Alyx was celebrating her 16th Birthday Vic and I decided to surprise her with a mother-daughter trip to London and Paris.  On the travel web site www.priceline.com I chose the hotel and specified the dates for our three day trek and then they selected the airline and flight times. I booked two round-trip airline tickets, and three nights in a 4-star hotel all for $530 each.  We were booked on British Airways, a non-stop overnight flight. Alyx was at school, totally unaware of this surprise trip and I sent her a text message:  "Pack your bags, Alyx, we leave for London on Saturday evening!”
    The only reservation I made ahead of time was booking theatre tickets to Les Miserables. Searching online I booked through the Ticketmaster UK website www. ticketmaster.co.uk. The tickets, paid for, awaited us at the theatre box office.
 

Day 1
(Sunday)

    We flew from Orlando at 6:35 p.m. EST, and arrived in London at 7:35 a.m. on Sunday morning. Our return flight would leave London on Wednesday at 11:40 a.m. and arrive in Orlando at 4:20 p.m. EST. Flying overnight helps to make the package more economical, saving the cost of one night in a hotel.
    Landing at London Gatwick Airport, Alyx and I collected our luggage and proceeded through customs. While at the airport, we also purchased our round-trip Gatwick Airport Express train tickets into London, exchanged currency to British pounds and I made a phone call home to husband Vic.
    Twenty minutes and £10 later the cab pulled up to the Holiday Inn Kensington Forum, our home for the next three nights. We changed our clothes, grabbed tour books and cameras, and headed out, stopping by the concierge desk to buy The Big Bus is a fun way to get around London1tickets for the Big Bus Company www.bigbus tours.com, which tours all around London. For the fare you can get on and off as many times as you want for a 48-hour period of time.
    Alex also was hoping we could visit Paris, and the hotel concierge recommended a package, which included a roundtrip Chunnel train ride to Paris with a day of sightseeing and shopping for the cost of £129 each.
    We caught the Big Bus just around the corner from the Holiday Inn. Once aboard, we traded our Big Bus voucher for a receipt, which we would use every time we boarded the bus for the next 48 hours. Included were a set of headphones to use for the audio tour, presented in a choice of 8 different languages.
    We had decided to make Madame Tussauds Wax Museum www.madametussauds.com our first stop. We looked forward to having our pictures taken with lifelike statues of the Royal family. I had read that it was wise to p
It’s an awesome view from the London Eye.2urchase tickets ahead of time so when the Big Bus company offered discount tickets on board, we purchased them.  We ended up saving almost $10 apiece, plus we skipped standing in a long line of museum-goers!
    Madame Tussauds Wax Museum featured many American and British celebrities, artists past and pre
sent, and political leaders from around the world. Alyx posed with George Clooney, Shakespeare, Luciano Pavarotti, and a young Mozart.  
    And of course, we saw the British Royals – Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Prince William, (but oddly enough, no Prince Harry).  A professional photographer snapped photos of Alyx with Prince William, and with the mums:  Alyx’s mom (me) standing next to Queen Elizabeth!
    We climbed back onto the Big Bus and headed toward the London Eye www.londoneye.com, a large Ferris wheel built for the Millennium celebration in 2000.  The enormous wheel continues to move while you board stopping only for those who need assistance. We got seated and were surprised how quickly we gained height, even though it seemed as though the wheel was moving slowly. The view was awesome!  We towered over the Thames River and enjoyed great views of Parliament, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, and most of London.  
    Back on the ground we walked across the bridge by the Parliament buildings and Big Ben to catch up with the Big Bus.
 Next was snooping and shopping at the fabulous Harrod’s Department Store, located close  to our hotel.


Day 2
(Monday)

    The following morning at Holiday Inn at Kensington Forum, Alyx and I took advantage of the hotel’s breakfast buffet with its variety of delicious international foods. Then we hurried to the Big Bus to watch the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace www.royal.gov.uk. We arrived at 11 a.m. and, at around 11:15 a.m., three Palace guards initiated the ceremony dressed in their trousers and red tunics with rows of buttons, metal helmets, and bearskin caps with white and colored plumes. The Changing of the Guard is an honored tradition dating back to the time of Henry VII. The Palace guards maneuvered about the large courtyard displaying their precision and flair.
    The Royal Guards' band play
See the honored tradition, Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace3ed I wish I were in Dixie followed by When Johnny Comes Marching Home, both songs from the American Civil War. Alyx and I found these two songs unusual choices for the Royal Guards at Buckingham Palace, but we were even more surprised by the performance that followed, which included a medley of Broadway show tunes! The Guard change lasted about 45 minutes. Occasionally, if the Queen is in residence, she will step out and wave to the crowd. But today the flagpole atop the Palace was not flying her flag, which indicated that the Queen was not in residence.
    Westminster Abbey was next on our list, which was within walking distance. On arrival, however, we found part of the Abbey was closed for a special service.
    Westminster Abbey www.west minster-abbey.org is not only a beautiful church but we learned that it’s the site of all royal coronations. The royal coronation chair is on display, and although most of the past royalty are buried in tombs below the Abbey, the tomb of Queen Elizabeth I can be viewed here.Westminster Abbey is the site of all royal coronations.4
    It was after 1 p.m. when we again boarded the Big Bus and drove past Waterloo Train Station on the way to St. Paul's Cathedral www.stpauls.co.uk. Due to time constraints we decided to not tour St. Paul's Cathedral and instead we walked across Millennium Bridge to Shakespeare's Globe Theatre www.shakespeares-globe.org. The original Globe Theatre burned down in 1613 during a Shakespeare play. But in 1995, a reconstructed theatre built to the same specifications Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre was one of our favorite visits.5opened in approximately the same location. Performances are held throughout the year.  
   Alyx was particularly interested in the theatre because she was studying both Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre in her English class at high school. We found the theatre very interesting and one of our favorite visits.
  Our tour guide was a resident British actor who spoke about the theatre’s past and how it was originally located in Surrey County rather than in London. This apparently made it easier to avoid the law as the theatres were actually part of the "red light” districts. Our tour guide pointed out where the original Globe theatre was located and how there were four less walking bridges across the Thames River than there are today. He described the groundlings who paid just a penny to get in but stood on the ground in front of the stage.
     Wealthier patrons paid for comfortable seats located in the area out of the direct sunlight. Perf
The British Museum is a must see on any visit to London.6ormances were held only in the afternoons, as this would appeal most to merchants and to boatmen coming in from the river. Also, the theatre had no roof and it was warmer during the day.
        Next, to save on time, we caught a cab to the British Museum www.british museum.
org and visited the Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Ancient Egypt exhibits with their statues, intriguing mummies, and various sarcophaguses. Also displayed in the museum is the Rosetta Stone, discovered in the 1800s. We learned that the stone and its carvings were instrumental in the translation and understanding of Egyptian hieroglyphic writings. In a nearby gift store Alyx and I purchased 12 ancient roman coins and a 2006 mint coin set. Alyx has quite an interest in foreign coins.
    That evening we attended the performance of Les Miserables. The show was wonderful and the lead actor had an incredible voice. Provided for 50 pence were small plastic binoculars you can purchase, in coin slots between every other seat.  Also, during intermission, vendors circulated with Haagen Dazs ice cream cups for sale.



 

Where is Lizzy?


Lizzy relaxes in a hammock at one of the more popular tropical resorts. Where is she?
Click here to find out.

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