Our night at Lampton Guest House was a short one. The fellows working there were quite helpful. One of the guys caught me carrying my bags down the several flights of stairs and seemed genuinely concerned. He not only carried the bags on downstairs but, after breakfast, carried the bags down the outside stairs, setting them down at the entry gate to the property. Again, this isn’t high end accommodations, but had the bed not moaned and groaned with every move it would have been a somewhat acceptable, low dollar place to stay.
After a quick breakfast we headed for Heathrow on the tube. People had warned me about Heathrow security, but it was much the same as anywhere else we’ve been. Within 30 minutes of arriving at the airport we were through check in, bag check, security, and headed for our gate. Our gate was out of Terminal 5/C – so we had to take a subway out to our gate and the plane was loaded right on time. Then we sat and sat some more, apparently waiting for a take off slot. Fifty-five minutes later we were finally underway.
So, now that we’re on our way home, I have some random thoughts, mostly just observations.
In both London and Paris, using the restroom/loo/WC/toilet is a privilege more than a right. Businesses with restrooms hide them way down at the far end of the basement to be sure non-customers don’t sneak in and use the facilities. If it’s a public restroom you’ll either pay to use it or at the very least you should have brought your own tissue. Just remember, when you find one, use it!
The reverse is also true. Water fountains are quite rare and then, only within the confines of paid venues, like the Tower of London. We bought some “distilled” water and then refilled the plastic bottles and carried them every day. At least for the first part of the day we had water. It’s about as expensive to buy bottled water as to buy a soda. Of course, if you allow yourself to become dehydrated you’ll save money on both bought water and restrooms! Apparently, it’s the London/Paris way!
Two weeks in London and Paris has nearly broken me of my coffee drinking habit. Believe it or not, the best coffee I had on the trip (and that’s not saying much) was while we were up on the Eiffel Tower! Most of the coffee was fixed on some kind of automatic machine (glorified instant if you ask me) – too black and bitter. I somehow managed to get tiny cups of syrupy coffee a couple of times. Why I kept ordering is a mystery to me. I guess I’m a glutton for punishment. One thing about it, the no-refills policy on everything saved me from myself so far as trying “one more cup.”
As we planned this trip we kept in mind how easy it would be to over schedule and just wear ourselves out. It’s a real challenge to get the most “bang for your buck” and not come home exhausted. Well, we tried, but we ended a lot of days worn out. For us, aside from getting over jet lag and “travel lag” the biggest problem has been tired legs and backs. At home we walk a lot. I do about three miles a day but that 45 minutes of steady, fast walking does almost nothing to prepare you for 6 hours of walking up and down stairs on public transportation, walking around museums, standing around museums, hunting places to sit in museums, and walking to and from the public transportation. The Tower of London, British Museum, Cotswolds tour (operated by London Walks – what else could we expect?), and Louvre were hard on us. In each of these places there came a time when the aching legs and backs diminished the experience. No solution here – just an observation.
Let’s see…what else? Londoners are in a bigger hurry than Parisians who, I think, enjoy life more. It feels safe in many areas of either city to be out, on foot, after dark. The tube feels more modern (Londoners will laugh) than the Metro. Commuter trains are terrific ways to get around in either city. Book tickets to famous places as early as possible to save standing (remember, “tired legs”) in long lines. You’ll enjoy eating in Paris more than in London. Bakeries in Paris are a delight. In London, eat ethnic foods for the best meals. Our best London meal was at a local Turkish restaurant, not fancy at all, but really good food.
We spent a lot of money (for us) on this trip of a lifetime. It’s money we could use for other things but with retirement, howbeit a ways off, out there on the horizon we knew that if we were ever going to make such a trip, it was now or never. At this point, I say it was money well spent. There’s something enriching about seeing a different place, visiting some famous spots, and seeing how other people live. Jackie and I enjoyed having this special time together. Will we do it again? Probably not, at least unless someone loves my travel writing so much that they want to give me a generous advance on a travel book or something like that.
So, there you have it. If you’ve traveled with us, thanks. I hope you’ve enjoyed our dream London/Paris trip.