Bringing the Crazy to Europe (now it's a trip report) updated 09/5 (all done)

Canadian Girl 77

Hoping for some pixie dust
Joined
Oct 2, 2007
We’ve talked about visiting London and Paris for years. But we always decided to vacation somewhere closer – like Bermuda, Caribbean, Orlando or even, Southern California. Given the current political climate in the United States of America, we have decided to put a pause on travel to the U.S.A. So, what better time to make a dent in our family plan to visit every Disney castle? And so we have decided to go to London and Paris.

There are three of us – me (41), DH (41) and DD (14). The kid is in high school now. We want to minimize the amount of school she misses so we’ve decided to go to Europe for two weeks in March. This way she’ll only miss one week of school because of March Break. This isn’t a big deal since we are in Canada and she is getting A’s in all her subjects.

I have booked our airline travel and the Eurostar. I have also booked two nights at the Disneyland hotel. This is happening people!

Here is the plan:

  • Friday, March 1 – taking the red eye direct to London from Toronto. We arrive around 10 am on March 2.
  • March 2- 7 – London
  • March 7 – take the Eurostar to Paris
  • March 7 – 10 – Paris
  • March 11-13 Disneyland Paris
  • March 13 – take the Eurostar to London
  • March 14-15 – London
  • Saturday, March 16 – take an early morning fight from London to Toronto

That’s all I have confirmed at the moment.

I’m working on planning out the rest of the schedule. I want to find a balance so that we don’t come back shattered. Here’s our current list of things we want to do:

Paris
  • Sit in a café and people watch
  • Catacombs
  • Eiffel Tower
  • Versailles
  • Louve – kid has a few pieces she’d like to see in person
  • Disneyland Paris (of course!)

London
  • Stonehenge as a day trip – DH would like to see this
  • Harry Potter Studio Tour
  • London Dungeon
  • London Eye
  • British Museum
  • Highlights Bus tour
  • Shopping highlights – Harrods, Portobello Road, etc…
Now I just have to figure out where we should stay! I have to find two places in London and one in Paris. And of course, finalize the actual schedule with lots of free time to just chill.

AND THIS IS WHAT WE ACTUALLY DID...

Friday, March 1
Saturday, March 2
Sunday, March 3
Monday, March 4
Tuesday, March 5
Wednesday, March 6
Thursday, March 7
Friday, March 8
Saturday, March 9
Sunday, March 10
Monday, March 11
Tuesday, March 12
Wednesday, March 13
Thursday, March 14
Friday, March 15
Saturday, March 16
 
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wishiwasindisneyjen

Mouseketeer
Joined
Apr 25, 2006
I'm really looking forward to all the details of your trip. We are planning a similar trip next year to London, Paris and DLP. :-)
 
  • Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    I've made a small dent in planning. I booked the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Victoria for our first chunk of time in London (March 2-7). I also booked a tour for the Tuesday - for a Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour with Roman Baths. DH really wanted to go in the inner circle so I think his Christmas present has been bought. ;) I chose the hotel in part because of its proximity to the tour depot since we're also going to book Harry Potter through them.

    In terms of Paris. I have narrowed down my hotel provider to Astotel. Now I just have to figure out which one. Kid was impressed with the duplex room at 34B-Astotel based on this video. When we were in LA, everyone enjoyed The Magic Castle Hotel in part because of the free (non-alcoholic) mini-bar. Astotel hotels offer it too. The hotels also look quite interesting. Hotel Joke-Astotel made us all giggle.
     

    wishiwasindisneyjen

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    Too funny, I've been also narrowing down my selections. I'm between DoutbleTree Westminster or Victoria in London and looking at Astotel Hotel Malte in Paris. Looking forward to more of your plans. Thanks for sharing!
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    We just booked four days at 34B-Asotel in Paris. They just posted a special so I decided to snatch up the last duplex room.
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    All hotels and train/plane transportation has been booked! Well, except for transportation from Paris to Disneyland - but that seems simple.
    • Friday, March 1 – taking the red eye direct to London from Toronto. We arrive around 10 am on March 2.
    • March 2- 7 – London (staying at the DoubleTree Victoria.
    • March 4 - Harry Potter Studio tour
    • March 5 - Stonehenge (inner circle) tour with stops at Lacock and Bath
    • March 7 – take the Eurostar to Paris arriving around 4 p.m.
    • March 7 – 10 – Paris (staying at the Astotel Hotel 34B)
    • March 11-13 Disneyland Paris
    • March 13 – take the Eurostar to London (arriving in London at around 8 p.m.)
    • March 14-15 – London (staying at the Amba Hotel Marble Arch
    • Saturday, March 16 – take an early morning fight from London to Toronto
    I still need to decide what tour to book for the Catacombs and Versailles. I'm not sure we'll need to book a tour for the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. That's only if there is something special I see. For example, I am toying with the idea of booking the Murder and Mysteries Versailles Tour. I am considering the Sunset visit to the Eiffel Tower and Closing time with Mona Lisa. It seems as though I can probably just do that myself with good timing.

    My family still needs to help narrow down the London activities. The British Museum is a must. I will need to book a Sunday Roast Lunch for March 3. I also think we need to do an English Tea (they like tea, I think it is dirty water. So preferably one with the option of a cocktail or champagne). I'm pretty sure we'll end up taking the Ghost Bus Tour.
     
  • wishiwasindisneyjen

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 25, 2006
    You're plans have come together nicely! I can't wait to hear all about your trip. We are booking the afternoon tea bus through B Bakery. I believe they have a gin afternoon tea, not sure what else but you may want to check them out.
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    It's only 37 days until we leave! I finished my rough itinerary for the family to look at. It ended up being 40 pages (I pull information from the web about the various things). I attached the file. It lists restaurants near the hotels and shops I want to visit.

    This is the plan.
    • Friday, March 1 – taking the red eye direct to London from Toronto. We arrive around 10 am on March 2.
    • March 2 - Check in at Doubletree Victoria station, Hop On/Off Bus Tour, London Eye Hotel Chocolat Tasting Experience (2 30-minute rotations, prosecco and a goodie bag)
    • March 3 - British Museum (for 3-4 hours), sunday roast (Hawksmoor Seven Dials or Cora Pearl or Blacklock Soho), Covent Garden, Benjamin Pollock's Toyshop
    • March 4 - Harry Potter Studio Tour via Golden Tours (8:45 a.m. - 4 p.m.)
    • March 5 -Stonehenge (access to the stone circle) and the Roman Baths via Golden Tours ( 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
    • March 6 - Tower of London (for 3-4 hours), Tower Bridge
    We will also slot in London Ghost Tour, platform 9 3/4 and the Dr Who Store and Museum.

    If we have time we'll visit British Library, Sherlock Holmes Museum and/or National Gallery.

    In terms of shopping these are the highlights I've identified: Camden Market, Oxford Street, Harrods, Fortum and Mason, Forbidden Planet Megastore and Hamley's.

    We will do afternoon tea at The Wolseley or Fortnum and Mason one day.
    • March 7 - Eurostar from London to Paris, check in at Hôtel 34B - Astotel, Hop on Hop off tour of Paris and visit the Eiffel Tower
    • March 8 - Catacombs Tour (12:15 - 2:30 p.m.), Hop on Hop off tour of Parisand Les Bateaux Parisiens river cruise (part of Hop on Hop off tour)
    • March 9 -Louvre Museum (9 a.m. for 2-4 hours) and Orangerie Museum (for up to 2 hours)
    • March 10 - Versailles. Haven't figured out what kind of tour we want to do
    If we have time we'll visit Musée d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe and/or Notre Dame.

    I've identified the following shopping destinations: Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, Les Halles, Passage des Panoramas, Rue De Passy, Bercy Village, Passage du Grand-Cerf and Le Marais.
    • March 11 -Check out of hotel by 12 p.m. We can either take a train or private transport via www.interserviceprestige.com, Check in at Disneyland hotel, Visit Parc Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios (parks close at 7:30 p.m.)
    • March 12 -Visit Parc Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios (8:30 a.m. - 7:30 p.m.) Ride all the rides!
      See all the things! 2 p.m. reservation at Bistrot Chez Rémy
    • March 13 – Spend the morning and afternoon at the Disney parks and resort (8:30 a.m.)
      Arrive at Marne La Vallée/Chessy station no later than 5:15 p.m.
      Take the Eurostar and arrive at London St Pancras Int’l station by 8 p.m.
      Check in at the hotel (Amba Hotel Marble Arch)
    • March 14 - Visit London Dungeon (tour is 90 minutes) Tour Shakespeare Globe Theatre
      (about one hour)
    • March 15 - unplanned day so we can do whatever we choose
     

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    pamcarey

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2010
    Awesome plans! I’m taking a very similar trip in May (except for returning to London after Paris), so I’m really enjoying reading about your plans!
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    We’ve been back for just over a week! The jetlag has finally gone, I’ve finally been able to get all our photos off our iphones, and we’re finally, basically, back to normal. Which means I can write this trip report.

    I will start it off with this adapted quote: “The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry. No matter how carefully a project is planned, something may still go wrong with it.”

    March 1

    Our trip began on Friday, March 1. The bags were packed and we were ready to go. And everything went smoothish. J We took an 8:35 p.m. flight from Toronto to Gatwick. We had to go to the airport three hours ahead of time. We had a car pick us up from Oakville and drop us off at the airport. Self checking out bags was a bit of a production. Just have it be an actual job. After 15 minutes of assistance from someone because the machine was cranky, we got to proceed to security. That was uneventful.

    Normally the long wait at the gate is so painful. But our international travel credit card gives us free access to the Plaza Premium Lounge in terminal 3. So, we took advantage of it. It was quiet. There were drinks, clean bathrooms, lots of comfy chairs and some food. Not worth paying more than $10 each for. But it was a good start to the trip.

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    The kid enjoying the lounge.

    Our flight was slightly delayed. When we boarded the plane, there was someone in my husband’s seat. I paid extra (I think $50 for DH’s seat and $25 for the other two) when we booked to select our seats. I was very strategic about our choices. I booked DH in a exit row seat that was directly in front of me – but not the bulkhead. DD and I were in the row of two seats behind him. He needed to have an under the seat to place his medications, etc… Since they need to be accessible to enter trip. A couple (in their mid-40s) wanted him to switch seats so that they could sit together. Then he would have been separated from us and be in the bulkhead. I’m sure they thought I was a jerk for denying their request. DH would have agreed and then regretted it an hour later.

    The flight was fine. We didn’t sleep great. But it was fine. We were excited to reach Gatwick at long last! Well, after about 8 hours. In England it was 9 a.m. but to us it was 3 a.m.

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    DH decided to take a picture of me and his forehead while waiting for the plane to take off. I guess I was not impressed.


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    DD is smiling at me Which suggests I said something snarky about my shutter happy husband. In my defense I had taken a bunch of sleeping pills.
     
  • pamcarey

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2010
    Great start! I don’t blame you for denying the couple’s request to switch seats!
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    March 2

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    Getting through Immigration was pretty quick. We got our luggage and then called our driver. We had booked a Black Cab to drive us to our hotel AND give us a three-hour tour of London. We struggled a bit to find him but after about 10 minutes we were on our way.

    The drive from Gatwick to London took about an hour. The kid fell asleep for much of the trip. DH and I enjoyed the scenery. I’m pretty sure we each dosed a bit. We were both amused with the way Black Cabs are set up. There are seats facing forward and seats that face backwards (the jump seat). DH was in the jump seat and didn’t have as great a view during the tour. But it was still awesome.

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    Our driver, David, is a part-time high school teacher. He was able to share some entertaining stories about London while driving us about. He let us get out and walk around various areas if we wanted to. For example, we went and looked at O2. Had a fleeting drive through Greenwich. We also got to walk on both Millennium Bridge and Tower Bridge. We also visited King's Cross. We drove by the monument to the London Fire. We also drove by Buckingham palace, Piccadilly circus, etc… It was a great way to get our bearings. It was a little pricey but well worth it in my opinion. I didn’t want to have to struggle with luggage while on little sleep. DH is not the greatest person to travel with. So anything I can do to make things go smoothly is well worth it. You can book through http://www.freetoursbyfoot.com/london-tours/

    David dropped us and our luggage at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Victoria. I booked this hotel for the first leg of our trip because I thought it would be convenient for the underground and Golden Tours. Spoiler: I was right!

    DH is a member of the Hilton Honours Club because of all his work trips. So, we were on the Hilton Honours floor. The room was very, very small. I knew it would be small but I was super surprised that the closet had a depth of about 12-inches. We were comfortable and the bathroom was decent (although I struggled to figure out how to use the shower) so I can recommend them. They also gave us free chocolate-chip cookies WHENEVER we asked. ;)

    We got organized and had a quick chill out before we headed back out. I had a pre-purchased Oyster Visitor cards in Canada so we headed right for the Tube. We took a train from Victoria to Westminster (full disclosure: we went the wrong way and had to change directions once). The walk from the tube to the London Eye was very busy. There were so many people! The bridge we crossed (I think it was Westminster Bridge) was crowded with both fellow tourists and lots of people playing the shell game. I cannot stress how crowded it was. DH is tall so I figured that even if we got separated, DD and I would be able to find him.

    The London Eye was very, very crowded. The lines were nuts. Luckily I had booked us for the London Eye Hotel Chocolat Tasting experience. Instead of waiting with crowds for our 4:30 p.m. trip, we got to relax and enjoy a Coke in the Eye Lounge. This was fantastic considering how exhausted we already were.

    We still had a to wait a bit to get in our observation wheel. There were about 10 other people taking our trip. It was lovely. We got two 30-minute rotations. We also got to try lots of different chocolates and got some Prosecco (kid got a sparking non-alcoholic apple cider). The view was amazing. However, we did discover that the kid has a phobia about Ferris Wheels.

    SIDEBAR: That is my fault (and Disneyland’s. When she was seven, she and I went on Mickey’s Fun Wheel in California. We rode the intense experience. I experienced severe motion illness on the ride. At the time I thought good parenting was not barfing on my kid. In retrospect I should have barfed on her and provided emotional support. Ah well, lessons learned.

    She got better during the trip. She focused on taking pictures of the view and learning more about chocolate. She’s glad she did it but she doesn’t plan on going on another Ferris wheel in the future. By the end of the trip, we were exhausted! We walked part of the way back to the hotel. I think we took a bus for the rest of the way back. We dropped off our Hotel Chocolat goodie bags and went in search of food.

    We ended up eating at a pub near(ish) the hotel. We ate upstairs where you get to order from your table and get showed to a seat. At this point we didn’t understand how pubs worked – find yourself a table, place an order and pay at the bar, wait for someone to bring you your food – if you order drinks, you need to get them back to your table on your own. Regardless, the food was good. And we only got lost for about 30-minute trying to find our way to the pub.

    We had no problem getting back to the hotel with our full tummies. We promptly went to sleep. It was a nice, deep sleep.


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    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
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    Photos of our hotel. I stole these pics from the internet because I couldn't be bothered to take photos of our room - and oddly neither did DH.





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    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
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    The kid wasn't loving the wheel

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    Us and a cocoa bean. Because, they handed it to me when I just wanted a family picture.


    Hey kid, drinking makes you forget your fears. NO, we didn't let her/make her drink alcohol. That part happens in Paris.

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    Can't see Big Ben or his tower.
     

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    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
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    Pictured above: Our ticket to the tour. No crowds at the British Museum before it opens. A recreation of the Rosetta stone that you can touch. A creepy baby mask with the eyes cut out.

    We woke up around 7:30 a.m. We got up early, not because we were super rested. We got up early because we had a plan and were sticking to it!

    We had breakfast at the hotel (buffet came with our room). It was okay. Nothing super fantastic but it was warm and filled the belly!

    We took a black cab to the British Museum around 8:40. We had to be there for 8:45 because I had booked a tour. I booked the Introductory tour to the British Museum. It runs on the weekends an hour before the museum opens for everyone - https://www.britishmuseum.org/visiting/planning_your_visit/special_morning_tours.aspx. It was pretty interesting. We visited Room 1 (Enlightenment) and Room 2 (Collecting the world) and learned how the world was understood by Europeans in the 18th century, tracing the beginning of the British Museum and the development of the extraordinary collection.

    I wish we had booked An Introduction to Ancient Egypt instead. By the time our tour was over, the museum was open to everyone and the Egypt section was soooooo busy! It was three people deep to see the Rosetta Stone.

    DH and DD were overwhelmed by all the people. So we sat and had a drink. After this break, they still weren’t feeling up to battle the crowds. So, we left.

    We walked over to the Forbidden Planet Megastore. We had fun checking out everything – especially the signed books. The kid got a Dr Who book and I picked up the Dr. Men books for nine through 13. After that, we headed over to Hawksmoor Seven Dials for Sunday roast.
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    DH and I waiting for the nerd store to open. :)

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    Shopping for witchcraft books. Not really but there is a rumour at school that she's secretly a witch so we decided to be goofy.

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    Here we are at Sunday Lunch.


    We were a bit early for our reservation but they had room for us. OMG! The food was fantastic!

    After eating we wandered around Covent Garden. We went to Benjamin Pollock’s toyshop but weren’t overly impressed. It was cramped. DH was also having issues with his knees so he didn’t like having to go up stairs. We also went over to Harrod’s. That store was crazy busy and pricey! But they have Trudi stuffed animals. Did I mention my first name is Trudi?
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    After this, I think we went back to the hotel to rest. We also went to St. Georges Tavern for dinner. Nothing too big since we were still full from dinner. But I did try a cider. It was yummy! We also learned how pubs work – find a seat, go to the bar to order and pay, then wait. We gave in to our jet lag and went to bed early.
     

    pamcarey

    Mouseketeer
    Joined
    Apr 21, 2010
    Sounds like a great first two days! I'm so bummed that Big Ben (Elizabeth Tower) is all covered in scaffolding :worried:. I'm going to London in May, and it will probably be a long time before I get back.
     

    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    March 4

    Another day where we followed “the plan.” We got up around 7:30 and had breakfast at the hotel. Then we walked over to the Golden Tour office. We joined this massive line to go to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. It was a bit of a zoo. But we got our tickets, and boarded the bus. They showed us the first hour or so of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets while we drove to the Studio Tour.

    The tour was as advertised. We saw the sets, saw filmmakers’ secrets, and saw lots and lots of props and costumes. It was interesting. The store was a disappointment – we’d seen all the same merchandise at Universal Orlando and in the WB store in Los Angeles. We had snacks in the cafeteria (Butterbeer ice-cream) and were appropriately impressed by the Hogwarts castle model. We were ready to leave earlier than we were supposed to be. We went to the bus boarding area and were lucky enough to catch an earlier bus. What did they show us on the drive? The first hour of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The trip there and back took almost exactly the same amount of time.

    After our Harry Potter fun fest, we went shopping. We headed over to Camden Market so that I could look at (and buy) some crazy shoes at Irregular Choice. We also checked out Hamleys Toy Store.

    In the evening we were scheduled to take the London Ghost Tour. Before we took the tour we had some pricey drinks at Boyd’s grill and wine bar. It’s so fancy that when I needed to go to the washroom, they had to take me to an elevator and send me to the club floor.

    I bought tickets off of Groupon for the Ghost Tour. It was worth that price. Not sure I would want to pay full price. It was an entertaining trip but they focused way too much on their made up story about the haunted bus we were riding on. There is a lot of dark history in London, I don’t feel it was dark enough – but DH did not want to take a walking tour!

    After the tour we grabbed some food at Silver Cross Whitehall. They weren’t serving toasties so I just snacked a bit. When we got back to Victoria Station I grabbed a burger at Shake Shack t eat at our hotel. We don’t have Shake Shack in Canada so I figure that was okay.

    We chilled in the room, reading and eating before we finally fell asleep. We were starting to adapt to the time difference at long last.
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    Canadian Girl 77

    Hoping for some pixie dust
    Joined
    Oct 2, 2007
    Photo dump!

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    Fun store in Victoria Station called Neon Sheep.

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    Fallen Lego soldier in Hamley's. Not sure if it was an accident or not.

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    Hey, Coke counts as a vegetable in the UK.

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    Crazy Disney shoes at

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    DD bored at the shoe store.

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    The two crazy pairs of shoes I bought.



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    DH and the kid on the bus tour. Scary! Insert eyeroll here.


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    You can make anything a competition. While waiting for the Shake Shack order, DH and DD "played" the level game (Measure app on your iphone) to see who could get it to level out first.
     



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