Our agents recently organized a great trip for our client Jim D to London and Paris. Read on for his hilarious inside look into what these iconic cities have to offer.
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I am happy to say that my trip went quite well, thanks in great part to the subtle details which had already been taken care of by your agency. The flight that started things off (my first!) was very pleasant, and less grueling than I had expected; hats off to Delta Airlines for the great service. It may have helped that the flight was only about half full, so everyone had plenty of elbow room, and the amenity-to-passenger ratio was in our favor.
I loved the Radisson Blu Vanderbilt Hotel, not only for the cordial service (and special free breakfast!) but also for the great location. After checking in I immediately trotted off to the Natural History Museum, followed by The Victoria Albert and the Science Museum (Must… Stay… Awake…). I found a good chip shop in the neighborhood and then went off in search of Harrod’s department store, which I had heard was a near-mythological monument to commerce. I wasn’t disappointed. Every room was like a different land! Food, Perfume, Clothes, and a toy department (LAND!) where I would like to live, please. I think the stuffed toy giraffe they had cost as much as a real giraffe. While exploring Harrod’s I came across my favorite amusement ride in London, The Egyptian Escalator.
The following day I rode the London Eye, spending the extra money on a fast-track ticket, saving me at least an hour of line-standing; totally worth it. The Tate Modern and the Winston Churchill War Room Museum were also on the docket, with lots of walking- Buckingham Palace, St. Paul’s Cathedral- followed by an excellent take-away cheeseburger in the hotel room, a change of clothes, and the discovery that 6pm on a Friday night is kind of a busy time to take the Tube to the West End. Into the breach, indeed. “Women On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown”, at the Playhouse Theatre on Northumberland Ave. in the West End, was excellent and I recommend it. A solid and entertaining production in a space that seats less than 800. Theatre heaven.
Saturday’s first mission was to go to the sandwich shop featured in the BBC America TV show “Sherlock” (On North Gower St. in Camden, posing as Baker St.), but it turned out they were shooting the show on that day so I was out of luck. Next I walked to The British Museum, where I spent the afternoon gaping at their astonishing collection of artifacts, in a building I would have loved even if it was empty. By this time I was having so much fun just walking and people watching that I walked all the way back to the hotel, through Piccadilly Square and past Harrods, where of course I had to go in and ride the Egyptian Escalator a few more times. London struck me as a thriving, bustling, culturally bountiful city, and I enjoyed it very much. The next morning I checked out of The Radisson Blu Vanderbilt and got myself over to St. Pancras Station, and onto The Chunnel, which was as comfortable and modern as I had hoped.
My biggest misstep happened upon my arrival in Paris. A cabdriver (who intercepted me- and spoke excellent English- before I even got to wherever the line of cabs outside actually was) convinced me that a cab ride to my hotel was going to cost a small fortune, that it was a long way, and that the rate was set, that any other cab would cost the same amount. If I were to do it again I would say “thanks anyway” and try a few more cabdrivers, and also look into the Metro situation. But I took the ride, and, to his credit, he did point out all of the important landmarks to me on the way to the hotel. And, this gave me my first chance to use the emergency-sentence-finisher I had prepared for just such an occasion: “Well, that didn’t go very well, but it’s okay, because I’M IN PARIS!”
After checking in at the hotel (The Aramis Saint Germain- cozy, well appointed, pleasant and helpful staff), I set out to walk down to the river, taking care to remember what my good friend John Smith had passed on to me from a Frenchman he had met: Parisians think that Americans smile too much, and they find it annoying. So I was trying my best to appear sullen and world-weary, but that didn’t last very long. Everything in Paris was so beautiful, and so French, that I kept laughing. I mean, somebody actually rode by on a bicycle with baguettes in the front basket. Come on!
Down by the Seine, I visited the Musee d’Orsay, yet another museum housed in an extraordinary building. The view from the roof of the museum gave me good ideas about where to go next, and it wasn’t until I was on the right bank, and crossing back over again, that I saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time. I had been so preoccupied in the preceding hours that I had kind of forgotten to look for it, so it caught me by surprise and I may have actually yelled “Eiffel Tower!” out loud.
Monday was reserved for said Eiffel Tower (which closed for undisclosed security reasons right before I got to the front of the line), and also for a lovely walk along the river to Notre Dame Cathedral. Then I wandered across the bridge to explore a cluster of buildings and discovered that it was the Louvre, and that it was open on Mondays (closed on Tuesday). I went in to say hi to the Mona Lisa, and then down below ground to see the old Roman ramparts; beautiful and fascinating.
Tuesday morning I overslept due to new-smartphone-related complications, but eventually got myself all the way out to The Palace of Versailles, which I wanted to see with my own eyes just to get a sense of the kind of gross imbalance of wealth distribution that would cause an entire country to revolt. As I roamed around the palace (Hall Of Mirrors!) and its expansive grounds, I thought, “Yeah, this would do it”.
Then back to Notre Dame to go up in the towers this time, where the gargoyles were a highlight of the trip. Tuesday night I was able to convince personnel at three different stages of access to the Eiffel Tower that they needed to let me in with the previous day’s pass because I had been shut out the day before. I’m glad I went back- nighttime was better, I think.
Wednesday was mostly for Montmartre neighborhood, which I enjoyed very much. I took a bus out there but walked back to maximize my Parisian experience before an early bedtime and an ungodly early wake-up.
The transfer to the airport went smoothly. The flight to Amsterdam was a little bit late so things were a bit harried on arrival but they held up the flight to Portland for us and all was well once on board. I returned to Portland with 3 stamps (!) in my passport and a desire to get out and get some more stamps as soon as possible. Thank you for everything. I would love to be kept informed of the various tours the agency conducts, and I will be in touch when I figure out where I should go next.
~~~ JIM D.
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