Six of us recently took a quick, weekend trip to Europe. Yes! You CAN do this! We left on the non-stop American flight from Raleigh to London/Heathrow and arrived in London early Friday morning.
The stay in London was quick but filled with lots of activity and sightseeing. We stayed near Heathrow at the Radisson and the transfers into the city center were very easy, inexpensive and took about 30 minutes.
For sightseeing around London, the tube is perfect! A one-day unlimited usage pass is about $12.00. We visited Buckingham Palace for the Changing of the Guard. Tip: Check schedules and times and arrive early to get a good spot. From there, we walked to Westminster Abbey. Again, check the schedule for tours and prices. Both Westminster and St. Paul’s Cathedral have entry fees.
We found a great little pub for lunch… fish and chips, a London “must”. After lunch we decided to take the local double-deck tour bus to get a broader view of the city. The buses stop at lots of locations and you can hop on and off at anytime. Upon boarding you can purchase your ticket and pick up earplugs so you can listen to the tour. The weather was beautiful so we managed to find seats on the open air top. We had a wonderful view of the city and tour.
We enjoyed many sites on the tour – Parliament and Big Ben, the London “Eye”, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London, St. Paul’s Cathedral, etc. We hopped off at Harrods and shopped around there for a while. Always allow enough time for Harrods as there is just so much to see!
One of the highlights of the trip was taking the Eurostar from London to Paris. It was a wonderful experience and we had the pleasure of riding first class which was a treat and very comfortable! We left so early in the morning that we could hardly tell we were in the Chunnel until we emerged! The trip is quick and very easy.
Getting our subway tickets to our hotel in Paris was a little tricky. Information is minimal and the employees were not helpful. It was also very crowded. However, once situated, we were able to check into our hotel within a few hours of arrival. In Paris, we stayed at the Hyatt near Charles de Gaulle airport. Even though we were about 30 minutes from the city (about $60 in cab rides) it was worth it. We had a very early flight home!
Our day and a half in Paris was lots of fun. Again, we took the double – decker bus throughout the city. We were able to hop on and off and catch all the wonderful sites of Paris. We got into quite a traffic jam around the Arch d’Triumph but it just gave us a longer, better view! The Eiffel Tour was magnificent during the day and at night. The lights of Paris are just beautiful. We toured Notre Dame (which is free but if you want to go up in the tower there is a cost). We walked along the Seine and shopped as local artists and vendors sell many wares along the river. We would suggest a river boat ride although we did not have time to do that.
The museums are incredible but allow enough time to take it all in. Be sure to check hours and days as some are not open at certain times – or some pieces are not always on display. Sit outside (weather permitting) at a French café and enjoy the delicious French cuisine. We found that Parisians are not generous with butter…apparently it insults the bread… and they do not like to put cheese in an omelet, only ham!
Our return from Paris was on Air France back to London so we could connect with the American flight back to Raleigh. The connection worked! Always allow plenty of time for multiple security checks at Heathrow and once you get to your boarding area, stay there. In other words, shop and eat before your final check in. Our flight was good and on time. The only delay occurred while landing in Raleigh as there was a fox on the runway!
Our trip was quick but worth it – even for just a long weekend! The six of us probably slept a total of 15 hours but all of us were willing to skimp on the sleep so we could enjoy the cities!! We still talk about it! Au Revoir! JB
Julia Buie is a Corporate Travel Advisor who started her career in the travel industry in 1984 and has been in the Aladdin family for 12 years. “As a child my parents took my family on great trips. We traveled by rail a lot of the time and I have made 3 transcontinental rail trips to the west coast. I have traveled to 49 states and only lack going to Alaska which I hope to do soon! I love to hear about trips people have taken and I love to talk about travel. I believe traveling is one of the best investments you can make!”