Following up on last week’s article, our family adventure continued for several more days before riding the fast train through the Chunnel from London to Paris. We shipped our suitcases to Paris the night before so we could simply enjoy the experience of traveling by train, taking in the countryside, and even playing a game of Spades.
Before leaving London, we spent the day in the British Museum. Artifacts from around the world are housed in this enormous facility. We focused on Egypt, the Roman Empire, and the Medieval times of Europe. We also saw the Rosetta Stone, a decree written in 196 B.C., which unlocked the mystery of Egyptian hieroglyphics.
The Roman Empire spread throughout Europe bringing both infrastructure and culture to much of the known world. Their classical architecture and elaborate carvings are made that much more amazing given that it was done before the time of Christ.
We had a private tour of Westminster Abbey, recently spruced up for the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. It has been the site for the coronation of British monarchs for over one thousand years. The Abbey is a historical and living church that tells much of the story of the United Kingdom.
We toured Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus, visiting shops and eating Fish and Chips regularly. The Tower of London never disappoints, and we saw all the crown jewels that were featured on television just a few short weeks ago.
One of the few things Mary Lou and I had never experienced on previous trips was a trip down the Thames River all the way to Greenwich in a speedboat. We got soaked but it was fun and added some excitement to the day after experiencing so much history.
The London Eye or Millennial Wheel, which was visible from our hotel window, gave us a 35-minute view of the city of London that is unrivaled. What was built to last only a year has become an unlikely favorite of tourists and locals alike.
Thursday evening found us at the West End theater district watching the new musical Back to the Future. It was fairly true to the 1985 movie starring Michael J. Fox. The musical debuts on Broadway on June 30 and is well worth a visit if you are headed to New York any time soon.
Our last day in London we travelled to Windsor Castle, the late Queen Elizabeth’s favorite home. She is buried in St. George’s Chapel there and a steady stream of visitors were paying their respects.
On to Paris the next day and what can I say. Ooh la la. Paris is our second favorite city in Europe, behind only London. It is a vibrant city, a bit edgier and more flamboyant. The food is wonderful, and you get to hear the lovely French language spoken almost universally.
We hit all the high points starting with the Louvre Museum, the largest in the world. We saw the ancient but beautiful Greek statues of Venus de Milo and Winged Victory. Of course, the Mona Lisa always attracts the largest crowds.
The Louvre was once the palace of King Louis XIV, who also had a hunting lodge at Versailles. The hunting lodge was later expanded into the massive Palace of Versailles. The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles remains the most impressive palatial room I have ever visited. The formal gardens are spectacular, even more so when you consider they were designed and planned over 400 years ago.
We once again found ourselves at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. Mary Lou and I visited the ancient cathedral right before the devastating fire in 2019, and then again shortly after. It is amazing how much progress they have made in restoring the church to its former glory. The French plan to have it open for the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024.
We took our obligatory pictures of the historic Arc de Triomphe. The impressive monument honors the soldiers of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The Tomb of the French Unknown Soldier is found under the arches of the monument. It is always a must see stop in Paris.
The Eiffle Tower remains the most famous icon of Paris. Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, it was supposed to be a temporary structure. Today, it remains the most visited paid attraction in the world. The only place we visited with really long lines; it is still worth the effort to view Paris from the top of the spire.
Our last day in Paris found us at Montmartre, a part of Paris built on the top of a large hill. For many generations it has been the center of the arts scene in Paris, with an eclectic group of painters and writers calling it home. Its streets are now filled with people visiting the many small shops along the way.
Our final night found the group at a Magical Dinner Theater. It was delightful and the younger members of our tour group especially enjoyed being a part of the show and learning some magic of their own.
London and Paris are indeed magical cities. Traveling with your family and watching your grandson experience some of these wonders of the world for the first time make it even more special. When in France, only one phrase properly describes this family trip.
Ooh la la.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com