Monday, October 26, 2015

Seeing the world - 2015

So it was time for the annual vacation of 2015 - this time we zeroed in on Europe because Mom had to attend her graduation at London anyway. After a long thought process about what cities to cover, we decided to keep it simple and just do two cities - Paris and London - since with two young kids and three senior citizens, anything beyond that would be far fetched and very strenuous.

It was a 9 day trip and it was a fabulous one although very tiring - especially for my Dad I presume, since my younger one refused any other mode of getting around except for my Dad carrying him. Phew! I have no idea how he managed.

Day 1 - Disneyland. It was freezing! We got a place very close to the metro so it wasn't so much of a commute but was the day freezing or what, probably one of the coldest in October. It ruined the whole experience, but the kids were excited to meet Mickey (although the older one did get a tad bit too old for it - he said it is not Mickey, it is some guy dressed as Mickey :( ) and of course buy some nice souvenirs - the older one was especially pleased with his McQueen pull-suitcase.

Day 2 - Arrive in Paris from Marne-la-Vallee. We reached around noon. Only half a day left. Decided to do Eiffel by day and night - mom did get very tired - going by Metro was a bad idea. Should have stuck to the cab. But Eiffel in all its glory by day and night was worth it. Again younger one refused to get off Dad, and we had a chill towards the evening - plus all the climbing up and down was very tiring for the seniors - but well, how many times do you do it in a lifetime, so it's ok. They were quite sportive about it.

Day 3 - Louvre. Decided to ditch the Metro after yesterday's experience and took the cab. Louvre was a good experience, everyone saw Mona Lisa - one check mark off the list. Everyone liked it, plus it kept us from the cold weather ;) We got back early around 5 PM, seniors played cards etc, after the kids went to sleep, Subhash and I took off for Paris by night - very late in the night but hey, who is complaining - went to Place de la Concorde, walked along Avenue des Champs Elysees, went to Arc the Triomphe and back - by Metro. Good experience by the night.

Day 4 - Did the Paris city tour by open bus. Everyone got to see Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, Place de la Concorde, houses of Parliament, Arc de Triomphe, Avenue des Champs Elysees, Moulin Rouge etc. And back by evening. Very tired but happy :)

Day 5 - Off to London - by Eurostar! It was a great day - weather wise, plus the sights from Eurostar were amazing! More determined to go back for a proper Eurail vacation when the kids are a little older! Arrived in the London apartment around 5 PM, it was much better weather. One of my cousins came over, we had dinner and called it a day!

Day 6 - London Eye and bus tour - much more disappointing than the Singapore Flyer because of the rain - couldn't see anything clearly. Plus cars were cramped. In Singapore, they let us all fly alone in one car, here we were with at least three other groups - although cars were empty - it was quite stupid actually. Plus the cars were less clean - probably because of the damp weather. But had a good darshan of London from a 100 ft perspective :) Took the open bus tour to cover the western part of London - went to cheapside, London Bridge and Tower bridge. Walked back on Westminster bridge before taking a cab home. We did at least two to three relaxed walks on Westminster - with Big Ben in sight - the son becomes a huge Big Ben and London Eye fan!

Day 7 - London tour - East End - started with a cab to Buckingham - saw the change of guards, then started on the East loop tour. Stopped off at Trafalgar, Piccadilly circus, Madame Tussauds, Baker Street, saw Paddington (so many remembrances from Wodehouse and Sherlock Holmes), finally ended in Regent Street. What a place! It didn't disappoint. Still feel it was over-rated, I mean, Indiranagar 100ft is equally lively ;) But the Hamley's store was a big hit with the kids! They had fun picking out their Octonauts toys and we finished with a dinner at a Thai place there and cabbed home. Fun day!

Day 8 - Mom left for her hotel and conference and we were supposed to leave back for Paris and take a flight back home from Charles de Gaulle. Or so we thought. My facebook post from after we successfully put ourselves on a plane back home - albeit at a nauseatingly high cost!

Horrifying day yesterday. London to Paris connection on easyJet refused to let us board since they were overbooked. We travelled from Luton to Kings cross, changing a bus and a train, to try the train to Paris but nothing was available. Then went to Heathrow(oh, and to reach terminal 4, took us an hour thanks to no one knowing the right directions!!) but nothing there too and we had to book ourselves fresh on Jet airways after traveling across London horribly by bus, train, cab and what not. Oh and the souvenir shopping and chocolates went for a toss in this loss of a day. And did I mention that last minute tickets from airports don't come cheap even one way?😞 One can only resort to philosophy in these situations, sigh!! Thanks a lot easyJet! Folks travelling by them next time, please remember to check in well ahead of time even if they don't mention it anywhere!!!

Note to self - never get cocky with planning - I planned a perfect trip but neglected one small step of checking-in online and paid a very nasty price for it, financially and emotionally. Well, at least I got wiser - for the next trip.

Two things that I think worked very well - renting apartments vs hotels - we got to stay together unlike in Singapore where we booked two rooms. Carrying along packaged food - MTR, Ashirvad etc were life savers, since we rented apartments, it was easy to cook rice and dal and rotis and sabzis and kids were well fed at least twice in a day. Plus laundry was a breeze. 

Want to show the seniors some more check-mark places across the world in the next few years so they can enjoy them while they have the energy and patience! Hope it all goes to plan :)



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