04/02/07- Just purchased the plane tickets for our trip to Europe. Trip will be starting June 4th and ending June 18th. I was going to wait on the tickets but suddenly the price of the plane ticket to London just dropped $500. I asked Sharece and she said "let's do it". This will be our first trip to Europe.
05/28/07- Everything is finalized. We will be traveling to London for a total of 4 nights, Paris for 4 nights and Rome for 5 nights. We also will have a day trip to Naples and Pompeii.
06/04/07- Sharece and I left LAX airport at 2pm to London by Aer Lingus airlines. This was an overnight flight. Took a stretch Limo to the airport (costs $150 but it was well worth it). On the way to the airport there was a traffic jam on the 5 and a ton of emergency vehicles. Apparently there was a jumper on a nearby bridge.
06/05/07- Arrived in Dublin, Ireland as a layover to London. The flight went faster than I thought (about 10 1/2 hours). Didn't get any sleep, I stayed awake watching the in-flight movies and playing video games. Caught our connecting flight and arrived in London at 12:35pm. Since we had to rush through customs in Dublin and only had an hour layover our bags never made the flight. We stayed at LHR airport until 3:30pm when we finally got our bags.
Took the train to Paddington station and made it to our hotel "Mina House". The hotel is dainty and the rooms were small. I mean extremely small. There was no room between the bed and dresser, the tv was a 9 inch B/W that barely worked and you can barely even step into the bathroom. But overall it was a good value with a fridge and wireless internet. Worst part was there was no lift (elevator) and the stairs were spiral and extremely small (barely enough room to get your luggage up). We were on the top floor. It was a chore to say the least, especially after a total of 12 hours in flight, 1/2 hour on the train, 6 hours at the airports and an 8 hour time change. Did a little walking but mainly rested up from the flight.
06/06/07- First full day in London. We started our morning with a complimentary served breakfast at the hotel (nice touch). Got the 1 day pass and took the tube (underground) everywhere. All day long we heard "MIND THE GAP". First stop was the Tower of London. It's amazing seeing buildings and such hundreds and sometimes thousands of years old. Ate at subway and continued on. We saw the Tower Bridge but never went on it. Took the tube again to the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben. A great site to behold but they won't let you go into it.
Later we went to Kensington palace (where Princess Di stayed). It was a nice place but the price was expensive. With the exchange rate it cost us almost $50 just to go inside and look around. Much worse is we couldn't even take pictures. We walked through Kensington Park and back to our hotel. But first we found a little cafe down the street to eat at. I still can't get over people driving on the opposite side of the road from the US.
06/07/07- Took a taxi (which looks like a 1950's cop car) to Waterloo station and departed by train to Paris. Got to see the country side during the 3 hour trip and we actually went into an underwater tunnel.
Arrived in Paris around 4pm (1 hour time difference) and took another taxi to our hotel (Appart Valley Hotels and Residences). The driver could not find the exact spot so he dropped us off on the street and we walked to find it ourselves. Luckily it was just about 2 blocks down the road because we had all of our luggage. It was more like an apartment with a separate kitchen, huge bathroom, living room, etc. A big change from London. We took a short breather and then traveled down the street. We picked up some groceries to mainly fix breakfast in the mornings at a local supermarche. That night we stopped at a restaurant near our hotel (can't remember the name) and it was awesome. I exchanged the whole conversation to the waiter in French and vastly impressed my wife. It was a nice romantic candlelight dinner on the streets of Paris. Could life get any better than this.
06/08/07- Day 2 in Paris. Walked along the Seine River to Ile De La Cite. First stop was Notre-Dame. A beautiful cathedral with tombs, artwork and statues. Definitely a must do for anyone visiting Paris. We continued on to the Conceirgerie where Marie-Antoinette was held prisoner before being beheaded. The prison cells were small but the scenery was beautiful.
Next it was off to the Musee D'Orsay. Again we walked which I would not recommend doing for too long. The sites are actually further than they appear. But we caught Pont Neuf bridge on the way down and looked at souvenirs. D'Orsay is quite large (used to be an old train station) and our feet were still hurting from all the walking- but we made it through. We decided to take the underground back to the hotel which was a life saver. McDonalds was right next door on the street corner so we grabbed a quick evening bite and called it a day. By the way, my laptop cord got fried and I only had battery power. Even though I had a converter for their outlets apparently I needed to adjust the voltage.
06/09/07- Day 3 in Paris. Slept in to rest our legs and took the underground to the Louvre. This place was amazing. It is HUGE. We spent several hours and barely saw about a fourth of it. First of all you enter through this giant glass pyramid and make your way downstairs. Then there are several floors and wings filled with artifacts from Mesopotamia, Ancient Egypt and more. Most amazing was the statue of Venus (Venus de Milo) and the Mona Lisa. They banned photographs of the Mona Lisa (I took a picture and a guy's hand was over my camera before I could even click it), but I was able to sneak one from a distance.
After taking a break back at the hotel we ventured on to the Eiffel tower. We must have waited around 2 hours in line just to get to the elevator, but once we got up it was amazing. We saw the entire city of Paris as the sun was setting. We then walked along the Seine River and took in the night view. Nothing is more romantic than Paris in the night time.
06/10/07- Final full day in Paris. After walking for days on end viewing museums and such we are tired. We decided to take the day to stay around our hotel. We walked down the street in search of a laptop cord but to no avail. We did pass by a Paris wedding though. Well actually it was already over but the photographer was taking pictures of the couple in front of the church doors. We also saw some bum showing his bum as he took a dump in the bushes. YUCK! Later, we stopped at a museum across the street from us that displayed countless animal bones. They advertise dinosaurs but there were very few. Not worth the money but we went to take pictures for our daughter Layna who loves dinosaurs. Before the night was through we stopped at a little restaurant down the street (Le Relais d'Auvergne). They advertised in English and the food was great.
It's amazing the little differences. It seems like everywhere is a parking space in Paris and the weather is nice but the humidity is constantly around 90%.
06/11/07- Where has the time gone. A week now in Europe and we are off to Rome for 4 nights. Our plane (Alitalia) arrived around 4pm and we had a shuttle take us to our hotel (Residence Aurilia Antica). Nice and spacious, but does not have much of a kitchen and the bed was hard to sleep on. We were also on the 5th floor in which the elevator only went to the first 4 and we had to take the stairs the rest of the way. We took a stroll down the street and found an awesome Italian restaurant reasonably priced (Birbante). I ordered the seafood alfredo and was surprised to see the whole plate loaded with crab, oysters, clams, shrimp and whatnot. In America you'd get pasta and barely any shrimp.
06/12/07- Day 2 in Rome. Took the bus to the underground station and then went straight to the Roman Forum. First stop was the Colosseum. HOLY COW! This place was extraordinary. From the inside it is mostly just ruins but from the outside it looks like a modern day sports complex. I can only imagine how this looked two thousand years ago. What also is crazy is the stone writings. These were actually old time billboards advertising their businesses. Most likely placed by those who help fund the building of the Colosseum.
We took a break by the Arch of Constantine and ate some pizza from a street vendor. Greasy but very good. We then continued onto the rest of the Roman Forum. I can't believe how big this place is. It is literally miles of preserved ancient buildings and structures that make you feel like you are back in time. This literally was the most exciting portion of our trip. There are pillars outlining what were once temples and old houses that looked modern in a way. The entire day was spent just in this area alone. Good thing we still have 3 more days to check out the rest.
06/13/07- Day 3 in Rome. Used today to relax a bit. We went to the Vatican but didn't stay long. The line to get in was ridiculous although I do wish I would have seen the Sistine Chapel. Maybe next time when I'm in Rome. We ate at this pizzeria which was also greasy but very good. Rome is loaded with pizzeria's- there are literally 3 for every block and some right next door to each other. We also later went to a McDonald's and I was shocked to see a walk away window. You heard me, you don't drive up to it you actually just walk up to the outside window and order.
Afterwards we went to Termini (central bus station) and shopped at the mall. We picked up this great travel guide of Rome called Eyewitness Travel. Awesome book and a must for anyone going to Rome. We will definitely look for this kind of book the next trip we take. Oh and I finally found a power cord for my laptop. Cost me $70 but I'm happy.
We went back to the hotel and went for a swim. Strangely they charge 2 Euros each to swim. After paying we put our feet in the water and it was literally ice cold. I felt like I was in Alaska. Needless to say they wouldn't return our money so we jumped in to say we did it and left. Spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel. We have a big trip to Pompeii coming up tomorrow.
06/14/07- We get up extremely early in the morning (around 5:30am) and wait for our bus transfer for our tour of Pompei. We booked this day trip through Viator.com. The bus takes about 4 hours to get there and we made a short stop in Naples (about 10 minutes or so). Once in Pompeii we got to see the ruins of a city that was literally wiped out by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Crazy stuff. You can actually see the cast of people who were covered in ash and preserved all this time. We didn't get back to the hotel until about 8:30pm that night.
06/15/07- Last full day in Rome. We decided to go back to the Roman Forum and check out Palatine Hill. More of the same thing- ruins, ruins and more ruins. But it was still interesting none of the less. We also brought our video camera this time to document the experience better. We then made our way to an outdoor restaurant (Angelino Ai Fori) which was expensive as hell. The food was mediocre but it was the first time I ever had lamb. Also the smokers in the area were ruining the atmosphere. We picked up some souvenirs for the kids (t-shirts) and made our way back to the hotel. We ordered out for food and spent our last night in Rome resting up for our flight back to London. Two full days left in Europe- man how time flew by.
06/16/07- We made it back to London at 5:20pm, but not without drama. Our flight from Rome was delayed for 2 hours, at least this time we had all of our bags. We also booked a hotel near the airport this time (Holiday Inn- Ariel). We asked for the best room in the place during check-in and they fixed us up with a handicapped room. The space was huge, the bed was soft, and the bathroom was nice. We even had a pillow menu to pick our pillows from. The movie channels didn't work though. Oh well.
There wasn't much to do since it was already so late in the afternoon so we watched some tv and prepared for our last day in Europe coming up. By the way, when in McDonalds do not order a combo meal. They have no idea what a COMBO is.
06/17/07- We bought another 1 day pass for the tube and went to the British museum. It was free but not as impressive as the other museums we've seen. After eating at Subway we took the tube to Buckingham palace. Did I mention today is Father's day. What better gift to have than to spend it overseas. They had a British/Argentinean parade celebrating 25 years after the end of their war. It was a very cool site. Soldiers and Royal guards dressed in full uniforms marching with jets and helicopters flying in packs overhead. The funniest part is a limo tried to make it's way out of Buckingham Palace but the gate was stuck. The royal guard was trying to kick it open from the inside but couldn't do it. Finally the car turned around and tried to find another way out.
After the parade we went straight back to our hotel. One of the tube services was down so we had to take several trains around it to get back (took us about 2 hours). We ate dinner at the hotel and it was awesome. If you ever go order the full course dinner for two. The dessert was the best chocolate pudding whatsamacallit anywhere. MMMMMM!
Our trip was finally at a close and we could not be happier. We experienced all we wanted and was so glad to be going home.
06/18/07- Travel back home day. Our flight from London left at 7:45am with a connecting flight in Dublin again. This time we had about 2 hours layover so we had no problem with customs this time. Although we did cut in line to save about 30-45 minutes of waiting.
The flight home was quite pleasant but tiresome. Again I stayed up the whole time watching the in-flight movies but Sharece fell fast asleep. This time around we gained the 8 hours time difference back so we actually arrived in LA at 2:20pm the same day. After a delay of getting picked up by our ride for about 2 hours we finally made it home around 7pm that evening.
END OF BLOG