The Good's Trip to Europe
March 4, 2001 - March 15, 2001
Chris had temporary duty in London on the 12th and 13th of March, so Tami decided to tag along and add a few excursions to the trip. We flew into London, and then on to Paris were we spent a few extra days. We were originally scheduled to leave on 6 March 2001, but a late winter snow storm was forecast to begin on the evening of 4 March and continue for at least two days. All the weathermen in the region guaranteed that Baltimore would receive at least one foot of snow, and probably more. We decided to leave two days early, on the 4th, before the snow started. Fortunately, because so much snow was forecast, the airlines were allowing changes at no charge. Tami managed to get hotel reservations at the last minute for the two extra days in London. We left for the airport with no idea where in London our hotel was. The snow never materialized in Baltimore. It stared farther north, around Philadelphia. The weathermen were very embarrased.
All the pictures below are thumbnails, click on them to view the full picture.
Day 1: Sunday, 4 March 2001
We flew out of Baltimore on Northwest Airlines to Detroit and then from there on to London Gatwick Airport. It was a 1 hour flight to Detroit, and 7.5 hours to London.
Day 2: Monday, 5 March 2001
We arrived at Gatwick, which is about 30 miles south of London and asked at the airport the best way to get into the city. We were told to buy tickets for the Gatwick Express train, and then take the Underground on to Chelsea (best bet for our hotel). We got on the Gatwick Express and the ticket lady came to get our tickets. No good - we had been sold tickets for the Conex. The Conex is a different train that goes on the same tracks. We had to buy new tickets for the Gatwick Express and turn in the wrong tickets for a refund. Once we arrived at Victoria Station, we walked over to the Underground terminal and took it to Fulham-Broadway Station in Chelsea. Fortunately, all the guesses we made were correct - our hotel was only a few minutes walk from the station. We checked in and rested a little while before heading back out.
|We walked back to the Underground station and took it to a stop near St Paul's Cathedral. After walking around the floor, Chris and Tami both walked up to the main gallery level 99 feet up. Chris then walked up the rest of the way to the highest level on the outside 280 feet up. Below is panorama taken from the top of cathedral and a shot down at the southern bell tower.|
After visiting St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked north and got dinner at a pub in the north part of London before catching the Underground back to our hotel.
Day 3: Tuesday, 6 March 2001
We got up and walked south (quite a ways) from our hotel to the Thames and then walked along the river for a short ways before catching the Underground to Harrods where we had lunch and shopped for a while. We then went back to our hotel and rested a little while before catching the Underground to Tower Hill.
|We arrived just in time to go on the Jack The Ripper walk with the author of "The Complete Jack The Ripper", Donald Rumbelow. It was a about a two hour walk and he took a large group of people all over the East End/Whitechapel section of London to where the murders took place in 1888. Just a few monthes before, Mr. Rumbelow had taken Johnny Depp on the same walk in preparation for his role in the movie "From Hell." It will be about the crimes and Johnny Depp will star as the police chief who investigates the murders. Here is a shot of Mr. Rumbelow at the beginning of the walk in front of the Tower of London.|
We got to see the "Prostitutes Church", the "Jack The Ripper Pub" (Ten Bells Pub), and we got Mr. Rumbelow to autograph two of his books. After the walking tour, we took the Underground back to our hotel.
Day 4: Wednesday, 7 March 2001
We got up, checked out of our hotel and took a taxi to Fulham-Broadway Station. We had planned to take the Underground and then the Gatwick Express to Gatwick Airport, but the taxi driver offered to take us all the way to Gatwick for �35. It is normally �60 - �70 for this trip, and the trains would have cost �25 for the trip. For �10 more, we got a ride all the way. Good deal. We sat back and both of us fell asleep on the ride.
|We caught our flight on British Airways to Paris, Charles de Gaulle Airport. If you ever have a choice to fly on an American carrier airline or British Airways, go with B.A. They seem to delight in being as polite and friendly as possible. Here is a picture of the French coastline as we flew over the English Channel. After arriving in Paris, we took a taxi to our hotel across the street from the Louvre.|
These are some pictures taken from our hotel, the Regina. As Tami has said, it has a $1 million view. The big long building is one wing of the Louvre. To the right, you can see the Eiffel Tower, Tulleries (gardens), and the Arc de Triumph. After resting for a short while, we walked over to the Louvre and went in to see some art. We saw the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and lots of other art-type things. Something you never see is the back of the Venus - here it is.
Here are two panoramas of the Louvre, one taken the first night in Paris, the other a few days later. After visiting the Louvre, we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.
Day 5: Thursday, 8 March 2001
Chris had been fighting the flu since Tuesday, and woke up this morning very sick. Tami went out and got some over-the-counter medicine and orange juice and let Chris sleep in. Tami went shopping at Galleries de Lafayette for a few hours and then came back to see how Chris was feeling. Chris had taken one dose of the medicine the pharmacist had suggested and was feeling better. After checking the ingredients, Chris decided that he should be feeling better and that he would not be taking any more doses: the main ingredients were caffeine and codeine.
|Chris was feeling better, so we decided to go for a walk along the Right Bank of the Seine. We walked to Pont Neuf (it means New Bridge, but is actually the oldest bridge in Paris).|
|After kissing on Pont Neuf, like all couples are supposed to do, we kept walking and passed Hotel de Ville. Here are some pictures of us on Pont Neuf, the Louvre at night from the bridge, Tami in front of Hotel de Ville, and a shot of the Hotel de Ville. By the way, Hotel de Ville is not the Paris home of Cruella deVil; it is more or less Paris town hall.|
|We kept walking along the Seine and had dinner at a small caf� on Ile St Louis directly across from Notre Dame. After dinner, we walked by Notre Dame and along the Left Bank of the Seine, eventually making it back to the hotel.|
Day 6: Friday, 9 March 2001
Chris was still very sick so we called the hotel front desk and asked if they could get a doctor. The hotel had one on call and he arrived within 30 minutes. He took Chris' blood pressure and checked him out, pronouncing that "Yes - you have the flu." He prescribed some medicine and left. Total cost for the house call was 400 francs (about $57). The three medicines (including an antibiotic for Chris' throat and ears) were another $35. Tami went out and got some more orange juice, and that, along with the medicines, made Chris feel better. We went for a walk through the Tulleries and rode the Ferris Wheel. Here are some pictures from top of the Ferris Wheel in the Tulleries.
It was raining after we got off the wheel, so we got on the Metro and went to visit Notre Dame. Here are some pictures from outside and inside Notre Dame.
After visiting Notre Dame, we got back on the Metro and headed for the Eiffel Tower. This is where we had our most interesting experience in Paris. We were only three stops from the Eiffel Tower. We got on at Notre Dame and headed west. At the next station, the few other people on the subway got off. As we were waiting for the train to continue on, all the lights went out and something was announced in French. Tami caught it and slowly translated ... "This train's voyage is finished." As we quickly headed for the doors, they shut and the train left the station headed west with all the lights off. The train continued on through the next station without stopping and kept going, still with all the lights off. It stopped at the next station, Eiffel Tower, but in the middle of several sets of tracks, and the doors did not open. We tried the intercom and the alarm. No one responded to either. Chris managed to get the doors open with an emergency release. No trains were coming, and power was on an overhead line, so we hopped out onto the tracks and crossed over to the platform. We were where we had been headed, we just didn't get there quite how we had expected to. We headed upstairs and had lunch at a caf�. We then went to the Eiffel Tower and went to the top. Here are some pictures from the base of the Eiffel Tower and the top, including a panorama of Paris from the top and a expanded picture of the area near our hotel.
We then went down and across the Seine, where we caught the Metro back to our hotel. No side trips this time. We went back out that night and walked along the Champs al-Eyses. We had dinner at caf� near the Arc de Triumph and took the Metro down to the Seine. The picture of the Eiffel Tower below was taken from above the tunnel where Princess Diana died in the car crash. We walked for a few minutes, but it was cold and wet so we went back to the Metro and took it back to our hotel.
Day 7: Saturday, 10 March 2001
We got up on Saturday morning and walked back over to the Louvre where we bought some art prints to decorate our house. We headed back to the hotel and checked out, leaving our bags with the hotel for a few hours. After walking along the Right Bank of the Seine, we got on the Batoux Mouche boat ride. Here are some pictures from the river. The first two pictures show some shots that may be familiar from movie and television. The bridge on the left below was in the beginning of "Ronin" with Robert Dinero. The gun buy/shootout at start of that movie took place in the tunnel at the left base of the bridge. The picture on the right shows the Seine in front of Notre Dame. The television series "Highlander" has Duncan Macleod's barge tied up here on the river.
After the boat ride, we had lunch at a cafe near Galleries de Lafayette and went shopping there. We bought a few gifts and headed back to the hotel to get ours bags and a taxi out Charles de Gaulle Airport. We picked up a rental car and drove south on the A10 and A11 towards Ablis.
|A: Paris (7-10 March)
B & E: Esclimont (10 / 11 March)
C: Chambord (11 March)
D: Chenonceau (11 March)
F: Chartres (12 March)
G: Versailles (12 March)
H: Charles de Gaulle Airport (12 March)
|Near Ablis, we turned off to Esclimont and checked into Ch�teau d'Esclimont. Tami had stayed there with her mom several years before and thought it would be nice to stay in the countryside for a few days. She was right. It is a beautiful castle converted to about 30 rooms. We stayed there two nights in luxury.|
Day 8: Sunday, 11 March 2001
We woke up and drove south to Chambord. Chambord is listed in the guide books as "The castle Hearst would have built if he had had more money." referring to San Simian, Hearst Castle in California. Below are some pictures of Chambord.
After touring Chambord, we drove farther south to Chenonceau, which was built over a river. While smaller than Chambord, it is much prettier and more elegant. The stained glass is from the chapel in Chenonceau and the panorama is a view through the gardens towards the castle. The castle on the far side of the river was in the free-zone of occupied France during World War II and near side of the castle was in the controlled occupied zone. It was used to pass people back and forth who were hiding from the Nazis.
We drove north, headed back for Ch�teau d'Esclimont and dinner reservations. We managed to get lost on the A10 by missing the turn-off. We thought "No problem - we will turn when the A10 joins the A11 and head back south." Nope - you can't turn south where they join. We had to continue north almost back to Paris, but eventually turned around and made it to the chateau. We got dressed and had a VERY NICE, fancy, several course, French dinner before going to bed.
Day 9: Monday, 12 March 2001
We check out and walked about the grounds of where we stayed. Here a daytime panorama of the chateau.
We then drove south to Chartres, a villlage known for its cathedral with lots of stained glass. Here are a few pictures from Chartres.
|After visiting inside the cathedral at Chartres, we drove to Versailles. Unfortunately, we found that Versailles was closed on Mondays, so we only got to walk around outside. Here is picture from the front and two panoramas from the front and back of Versailles.|
We drove back to Charles de Gaulle Airport and caught our flight to London Gatwick Airport on British Airways. We were experienced London travellers by this time, so we knew which train to take and what tickets to buy. We took the Gatwick Express to Victoria Station and the Underground to Bond Station, which is right around the corner from the Marriot in Grosvenor Square. We checked in and went back out for dinner at an Italian restaraunt down the street. We were done for the day.
Day 10: Tuesday, 13 Mar 2001
Chris got up early and met in the lobby with the other people visiting on temporary duty. They proceeded down the street and Chris briefed his project to NAVEUR, US Naval Forces Europe. The building they briefed in was Eisenhower's headquarters in 1942 and 1944. Chris came back and he and Tami went to lunch, before Chris had to head back for a meeting at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. During that meeting, Tami went shopping on Bond Street. After this meeting, Chris was done with work for the trip, and we both went for a long walk through and around Hyde Park. It was very late when we arrived back to the hotel and we went to bed.
Day 11: Wednesday, 14 March 2001
This was Tami's birthday, so we planned on a fancy dinner at Oxo Towers, overlooking the Thames in central London. We got up and bought tickets for the Big Bus tour, a double-decker bus tour of London. The tickets were good for 24 hours, so you just get off and on the bus whenever you want to see something. We got off and walked to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. We arrived just too late to see the guards changing, but caught most of the ceremony. Here are a few of the pictures from Buckingham Palace.
|We rejoined the Big Bus tour and stayed on to just past Downing Street, where we got off and had lunch. We walked to Big Ben and Parliament and took some pictures there.|
|We walked across the street to Westminster Abbey and took the inside tour. We walked by the crypts of Queen Elizabeth I and Queen Victoria.|
After leaving Westminster Abbey, we walked across Westminster Bridge and rode on the London Eye, a huge enclosed Ferris Wheel 450 feet tall. Here are some shots and a panorama from the top.
|We took the Big Bus tour back to our hotel. After changing, we took a taxi to the Oxo Towers, and had VERY NICE birthday dinner for Tami. Here are some shots and a panoramic view from the Oxo Towers. This is the view we had at dinner. The left picture is St. Paul's Cathedral.|
|We took a walk after dinner along the Thames towards Tower Bridge. We passed the recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theater and continued on, across the Tower Bridge. We got on the Underground at Tower Hill Station, and went back to our hotel and bed.|
Day 12: Thursday, 15 March 2001
This was the last day of our trip. We checked out and took a taxi to Victoria Station, where we rode the Gatwick Express (again) to Gatwick Airport. We caught our flight on Northwest to Detroit. The flights over to London on Northwest had been OK, but Northwest seemed to go out of their way to make the flights home as difficult as possible.
We were carrying glass perfume bottle (very breakable) that we had bought in Paris. Chris placed the carry-on bag carefully in the overhead and waited for the overhead to be full with other passengers' carry-on bags. Once it was full, Chris and another passenger carefully closed the overhead together ... slowly ... so that it latched firmly shut and nothing broke. A little while later another passenger was looking for a place to stowe her bags and Chris asked that she not open that overhead becuase it was full and had glass in it. No problem - the passenger understood and found another bin. As the last passengers were coming aboard, a flight attendant was looking for storage space for more bags. As she approached that bin, Chris asked her not to open the bin because it was full and had glass in it. She ignored him and opened it anyway. Surprise, surprise - there was no rooml. How did she close it? Slowly and carefully, the way it had been closed before? Nope - she slammed it shut. Once. Didn't catch. Twice. Still not catching by slamming it hard. Three times. This banging hard doesn't seem to be working. Oh well - better slam it a few more times. Four. Five. Finally it caught. After the flight, the passenger who had shared the overhead space for his bags remarked to Chris "She really seemed to want to break your stuff, didn't she?" Fortunately, she didn't. We had packed it well enough to guard against flight attendants. So our carry-on survived, but how about us? The food was airplane food - no one on our row ate it. We had asked for an emergency exit row or a bulkhead row for the extra legroom that it would have provided for Chris. No joy - they were all taken. We were in the row directly behind a buldhead row. We overheard the family in that bulkhead row saying that they had missed their flight, on another airline!, and were happy to get whatever flight they could. Good to see that Northwest treats their customers so well. But wait - there's more.
We arrived in Detroit a few minutes early and got through customs very quickly. Because of this, we had a chance to catch an earlier flight to Baltimore. We got to the gate with about 10 minutes left before the flight left. We told them we were scheduled for a later flight, but had made it early. No problem, they had seats and we could get on board. Our luggage would not be transferred though - it wouldn't make it to the earlier plane. We understood - there wasn't time to get it to the correct plane. We wouldn't have to wait for four and a half hours in Detroit, and could come back later to pick up our bags in Baltimore. The lady at the ticket counter looked at our tickets and saw that we had arrived from London. "Oh, I'm sorry - you can't change connecting flights on overseas trips. For security reasons you must travel with your baggage." Well, that kinda makes sense - the airlines don't want unaccompanied bags - that is how the terrorists got the bombs aboard the flight that blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland. So we went and got some food and waited for our flight for over four hours ... in a non-smoking terminal, right? Detroit is supposed to be a non-smoking terminal, but the Northwest employees have picked a spot and the bottom of some access stairs, inside the terminal, as their smoke-break area. After settling all our carry-on bags in place and gettting relatively comfortable, we were attacked by smoke from a couple Northwest employees who took their breaks at the bottom of those stairs.
After arriving in Baltimore at almost 11 PM, and being on the go for about 13 hours, our bags did not come out on the conveyer. That just topped off the great Northwest service we had been given. We went to the baggage claim office to find ... that our bags had been sent on the earlier flight we had been turned away from. They had been waiting for us in Baltimore for almost five hours. Northwest had completely ignored there own security rules they had used to keep us waiting in Detroit. The moral of this story - DO NOT FLY NORTHWEST. By the way, a Northwest flight bound for Florida slid off the runway in Detroit two days later, sending two passengers to the hospital. But we can't claim any crashes, just bad service. Oh well.
Our trip was done and we were exhausted. Now we need a vacation to rest up from our vacation...
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