Monday, December 31, 2007

Paris in a Day

31 December 2007

Our typical, American, view-the-city-by-bus trip was this morning. We saw the bridges, where Napoleon is buried, the other side of Notre Dame, a 3300 year old obelisk, etc. We were approached by souvenir sellers galore at each stop and there was a bit of competition over who in our group got the best deal. The prevailing deal of the day was 6 Eiffel Tower keychains for 2 Euros. One of the teachers was then trying to "resell" them to the kids as a joke but as he was walking up the aisle another teacher leaned over to me and said, "There's your six for the day."

When we got to the Louvre it was about an hour before I was supposed to meet up with John and Joke. As we were walking by the ticket line, I heard a voice. It was John. I quickly finished up with my group and we met up. Sander had his girlfriend with him, so we walked with the 5 of us through the Louvre to see the "important" pieces. We saw Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. There were 100s of pieces between and 1000s of people. Afterward we went to a cafe to have lunch. I had a great linguini pasta with cream sauce and salmon on it.

Next we walked toward the shopping district and stopped at a bookstore so I could get Harry Potter book 1 in French. The night before on the boat tour and in the morning we had heard about the "protectors" of the French language. These are the people who write the French dictionary and they are known as "The immortals." When I went to get my Harry Potter book, I noticed that they had a separate Harry Potter French-English dictionary! The Immortals have even gotten to Harry-watch out Voldemort.

After having a cup of coffee, we headed back to John and Joke's hotel room for a quick photo transfer to DVD. It's always good to have a backup of your photos. We also made a New Year's call to my mom. I uploaded my blog from a few days and then we went to dinner.

Sunday, December 30, 2007


30 December2007

So we have a tour guide named Ali. She has not been winning major points with the adults on the trip. She's nice enough, but hasn't really impressed us and at times been just bad. Today one of the other adults used the word "ali-ism" which is a really bad move by our tour director. Today's day of Christmas, I bring you 5 Ali Isms

We got up this morning early. We were to be dressed, fed and ready to go by 7:30. Several of us went out to the local pub last night to meet up with the band directors from Muir and Marshall. It was CJ's 30th birthday today and we wanted to celebrate with him, so we toasted him at midnight, then went to bed. It made for a short night. Our whole group was on the bus and ready to go and (Aliism #1) she wasn't. We left almost 20 minutes late (Apparently, she couldn't find her hat) which will become a problem later.

We took the coach from our hotel to the St. Pancras Station. When we got to the station, she gave us extensive directions on how we were going to have time to buy food, etc. and then we walked into the newly constructed station to catch the Eurostar train from London to Paris. As we were walking down the galvanized steel tunnel, Michelle said, "It feels like I'm walking through a garbage shoot."

After we walked into the station a man approached us and asked who our tour leader was and then went to collect the tickets from us. Turns out the train was leaving 1/2 earlier than Ali had thought (Ali-ism #2) so she gave us 10 minutes to run to the little store and grab something to eat. We all took off and were in the store just 2-3 minutes when we were called back. Apparently the man from the railroad said we needed to go through the metal detectors and passport control right then or we might not make it (Ali-ism #3).

It was like going through airport security and then being herded into one big room. This meant that none of our group had the opportunity to buy lunch and the kids would be really hungry later. There was a dining car on the train, but they don't stock lots of food and it was really expensive. There was actually another train loading at the same time that went to Disneyland France. There was a small Disney jazz band playing all your favorite tunes from "Zippity Doo Dah" to "It's a Small World." Ali did not explain to the kids how to actually read the ticket or which track we were leaving from. As we went up the escalator towards the tracks, it became apparent that we were all going to the same platform and would get on the trains at adjoining tracks.

Now Ali has been having major problems leading our group because she doesn't wait at intersections or crosswalks to make sure the group has caught up. We have an anchor person who is very tall, so it would not be a problem for her to wait up to see him. As we get to the top of the track, I have to do a double take to figure out which train we're on--and I've traveled a lot AND I knew what track we were on. (Ali-ism #4) I stopped at the top and just started motioning kids to the right train and showing them where to look for their car and seat number. It probably took 5 minutes for our whole group to get to my point. We all got on the train and were ready to roll.

The train ride was wonderful. The seats were far more comfy than an airplane and, even though I was backwards, I had no motion sickness. In fact, I was so tired that I fell asleep almost instantly and woke up to the announcement that we would be in Paris in 10 minutes. Wow, it was helpful being tired!!

When we got in Paris, we took a coach to our hotel. It's a long way out of city central, but is near a metro stop. We dropped our bags and had about 1/2 hour to get ready for the rest of the day. We walked over to the train station and went in and down a few flights of stairs. I was near the end and by the time I got down, everyone had turned around and was going UP the escalator!!!! This was the priceless moment when Ginny look at me and she and Pauline told me about "Ali-isms." Because this was Ali-ism #5. We then walked back the way we came and then a little further to go to the "real" train station.

We rode the train in and got off near St. Michel's fountain. We then walked over to Notre Dame!! It was beautiful. There was an organ concert/ service going on. We were given some information about the history (it took 200 years to build) and the facades, which have one on the judgment and then one on Mary and St. Anne (Mary's mother). We walked through with the masses (both kinds). One thing that struck me was the plexiglass confessional. Not only was there person sitting across from the priest, but the door was clear and everyone walking by could see in.

We went for dinner to a restaurant called "Flam's." This is also the name of the food we ate. It's a very thin pizza crust/lavash bread. It had cheese and ham and onions on it. (For those with a Trader Joe's nearby, it was the ham and guyere cheese pizza that they have. Now you can call it a "flam.") We then had the same crust with a cheesecake like cheese and chocolate chips or apple. It was delicious. After dinner we took a coach to the river Seine and took a night tout boat ride up the river. It was filled with wonderful views.

Our plan was to go up the Eiffel Tower tonight, but the upper deck was closed because of all the people. We will now do that on New Year's Day. Tomorrow we will have a city tour and I will meet up with John and Joke at the Louvre. I will spend New Year's Eve with them.

The 12 days so far...

1 Warm Coat

2 Delayed Flights

3 Different Tube Lines

4 tour stops

5 Ali Isms

Saturday, December 29, 2007

The London Tour

29 December 2007

We started the day out with a wonderful continental breakfast that actually had protein. It was much better than just the bread and butter expected. I really liked the eggs and cheese. At 9am (after waiting for 2 ADULTS) we all loaded a coach and when on a "three hour tour" around the city.

On the 4th day of Christmas my vacation gave to me...4 tour stops. The first stop was at Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. It was a beautiful day and the sun was glistening off of the face of Big Ben. The second stop was Buckingham Palace and we took a group photo in front. The third stop was at Prince Albert's Memorial and the Royal Music Hall. The memorial was surrounded on the base by many famous people. Each of the corners had a sculpture for each of the continents. The last stop was at St. Paul's Cathedral. This has the second largest dome in the world.

We went to an Indian Restaurant with a couple adults and had Tikki Masala (this is now the "National Dish" of England). After lunch we walked over to the British National Museum and saw the Rosetta Stone and many mummies. We did some shopping on the way back to the meeting place and then walked to dinner. We ate at Ye Olde Cock Tavern and had fish and chips.

At night we went to the Tate Museum of Modern Art. My impression of "modern art" is a red square painted on a solid black background.. We walked into one of the rooms and there was a huge square canvas painted grey. I looked at Ms. Pauline (the art teacher) and said, "THIS is modern art. Now if it had a red square in the corner, it would be GREAT modern art."

In the minimalist room there was a 9' square floor space, some mirrored cubes, red square paintings, etc. As we walked through, Ian W. (one of the kids) went back in and placed a blank and white patterned bag in the middle of the floor. Then he walked away and hung out in the doorway to see if anyone would walk into the room and look at it as art. A few folks walked into the room and looked at it, but then Ian went in and stood next to it and looked at it closely. Several others came up to look at it with him and then he picked it up and walked away. Great moment. I laughed out loud!!!

The 12 days so far...

1 Warm Coat

2 Delayed Flights

3 Different Tube Lines

4 tour stops

Friday, December 28, 2007

England-Land of the Left...

28 December 2007

We arrived in London around 10:30 local time and cleared customs quickly. We met up with our tour guide-Ali. She will travel with us the whole time and send us off in Rome. We took a "coach" (not a bus) to the hotel and she gave us some local color along the way. The most interesting thing for me was the rationale for driving on the left. Apparently, it goes back to knights-on-horseback-days. The always right-handed swordsmen would pass on the left so that, if they were attacked, they could strike back. Gas is £1.04 a liter so they are paying around $9.05 a gallon--and we complain and still drive SUVs!

My day of Christmas today involved 3 different Tube lines. We've been on the Bakerloo, Circle, and the District llines. After lunch at a snack bar near our hotel we took the lines in an went to the Tower of London. Most of the group went in , but I went with Mr. Plummer on a walk of the city. We crossed the Tower Bridge and then walked down the river toward the "new" London Bridge (just so you know, the "old" London Bridge is in Lake Havesu, Arizona).

The 12 days so far...

1 Warm Coat

2 Delayed Flights

3 Different Tube Lines

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Europe Vacation Day 2

27 December 2007

Planes, trains, and busses on the second day of Chirstmas. I'm enjoying the 1 warm coat, but now I get to add 2 delayed flights. We left from the Mission Gold Line Station in South Pasadena at 8:30am. When we got to the Flyaway Shuttle and told them we had 40 people. Our director called ahead but they wouldn't take reservations. There are only 45 seats on the bus. We all got to the airport on one bus, but we had to bump some folks who didn't seem too happy.

We knew we only had a 45 minute layover in Cincinatti, so when our plan was delayed from leaving for 1 1/2 hours in LA, there was the possibility of a night in Ohio. About 3 hours into our flight they announced over the PA system that the flight to London was going to be held for us. This was very welcome news to all!!! We had all our carryons ready for a sprint down the terminal to the new plane, but when we deplaned, they told us it was right next door. It was pretty cool to have a plane wait for us.

The 12 days so far...
1 Warm Coat
2 Delayed Flights

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The 12 Days of Christmas-in Europe.

26 December 2007

This is it. The Europe part of my travel adventures for the year. We are taking off with 45 people from Marshall and we'll be traveling in 3 countries-England, France and Italy. We'll be arriving in London the morning of the 28th and arrive home in time for Epiphany--this will be a wonderful way to spend the 12 days of

For this 1st day of Christmas, I will focus on the 1 winter coat. I've needed one for a while, but I finally broke down because I hear it's COLD. I went shopping on the weekend before Christmas to find something to meet my needs and have a wonderful warm coat that will work for many cold days.

Hopefully my warm coat will keep me toasty for my travels