Because England is just across the pond from France, I added a side trip to London before heading on the Eurostar to Paris and am so glad I did. I stayed for 4 nights in London and did some unique things there.
Unique Experiences In London
Free walking tour with “Free Foot Tours in London”. It’s not really free as you really should give a tip at the end. And I can say for sure that it is worth a BIG tip. Highly enjoyable and informative 2 ½ hour tour to the major sites of London. This tour went way beyond what I expected. Margaret was such a good guide: knowledgeable, friendly, patient, and she had great interpersonal skills. (Not easy dealing with a tour group!). What made the tour especially great was Margaret’s knowledge of history and the sites we were seeing.
Wimbledon Tennis Museum: in addition to having a tour of the stadium and seeing centre court and many of the other courts, the museum has artifacts and videos showing the history of tennis and the memorable events from the past. There is also a 6 minute 3D film and interactive displays. Its a great way to see “behind the scenes” of Wimbledon including the press gallery. My friend and fellow blogger, Bola joined me on this tour. She lives in London and it was wonderful being able to connect after meeting at TBEX in Spain. We both found the tour guide extremely knowledgeable about the matches and players and how the courts are maintained. I do wish there had been more about particular matches between players and individual players; however, John McEnroe was portrayed as a “ghost” and gave an interesting overview of what it was like to be a player. The museum is easy to get to on the tube and is just a 1/2 kilometer walk (or bus ride) from Southfields Station.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: fascinating to hear what it was really like back in Shakespeare’s day (1500s). Located on the south bank, the Globe is a reconstruction of the Globe theatre originally built in 1599 (and destroyed twice). American actor and director, Sam Wanamaker founded the newest Globe in 1997. In addition to an independent visit to the museum, you get a tour of the Globe (in the stands and on the “floor” of the courtyard where the stage is) and you hear stories about what the 1500s were really like (stinky!). Highly interesting.
Churchill War Rooms: the War Rooms, located in the Westminster area, have been recreated to take you a step back in time and you get an idea of what it might have been like running WWII from down in a secret bunker. Your entrance provides you with a very informative audio guide and the museum has many interactive exhibits and history timelines. You could spend hours here learning about the war and Winston Churchill.
Notting Hill: Ever since I saw the movie, “Notting Hill” with Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, I HAD to visit Notting Hill. While Saturday is the main day for the antiques market, I went on a Friday and many street vendors were out. There are many stores with antiques and some with modern clothing and home accessories. At the north end is Portobello Green which is more of a flea market. Sadly, the famous blue door from the movie no longer exists. It was sold. I wish I had had more time to wander around, but my train was waiting.
Musical, “Beautiful” based on the career of singer/songwriter, Carole King. It was one of the best musicals I’ve seen. I highly recommend it.
Eurostar To Paris–Three Classes:
For this trip I wanted to experience what it was like to take the Eurostar to Paris. The Eurostar is the high-speed railway which connects London (Pancras station) to Paris (Gare du Nord).
Standard—basically an economy seat
Standard Premier-more comfortable, spacious seats; light 2-course meal served at your seat
Business Premier– business lounge; more comfortable, spacious seats; fully flexible ticket, 3-course meal served at your seat
I booked my ticket 53 days in advance in order to get the cheapest price (55 Euros –about $82 Cdn). Because the train ride is only about 2 hours 15 minutes, I didn’t really need to get Premier class.
Real Advantages Taking The Eurostar To Paris:
- all classes have power outlets but in Standard class it is only available in coaches 5 and 14
- no worry about getting to an airport hours ahead of time
- no worry about checking my luggage; you can carry 2 bags with no weight restrictions plus one piece of hand luggage
- cost: much cheaper than flying
- the train takes me from the centre of London to the centre of Paris. No need to get from the aiport into the city. The station in London is St. Pancras, and it’s an impressive station—modern with a lot of stores before you clear customs. (But, there weren’t any that I could find after you went through customs). You arrive at Gare du Nord in Paris and can easily hop on the Metro.
The journey was pretty uneventful and although I had an electrical outlet, there wasn’t any Wifi. Eurostar is updating their fleet and supposedly some trains already have free Wifi.