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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, GA

    London and Paris

    My wife and I just scored a great SkyMiles deal for a trip to London and Paris for spring break (the first week of April). We land in London on Saturday morning and fly back out the following Saturday morning. We're planning to bookend ~3 days in London around ~3.5 days in Paris, with half a day of travel via Eurostar through the Chunnel.

    I have never been to London. I am extremely excited to see the Tower of London and the British Museum. Other than that, I'm really open to seeing the sights, whether that involves specific destinations, good areas to wander, or whatever. I would love any recommendations for fun unstructured activities like parks, flea markets, etc., as well as good budget eats. I'm also interested in thoughts about the West End...I have seen plenty of Broadway productions over the years and can kind of take it or leave it, but I'd go if y'all think it's an indispensable part of a London trip. Any other performances I should consider?

    I have been to Paris once, in the fall of 1997 as a 15 year-old. I am now a far savvier traveler and am very excited to go back. Like in London, I'm excited to spend some time wandering Paris...strolling cities like New York and Tokyo tend to be my favorite.
    I know that I want to go to a couple of museums, but my wife is not as much a fan of them, so I want to choose wisely. I remember being struck by the Louvre, but it's so big that I don't know if I want to try to do a 2-hour "best of" loop. I have not been to any of the other Paris museums, and am interested in hearing thoughts about the Orsay and Picasso museums in particular...how long? Should I definitely go? etc. Again, I'm also interested in markets and wandering. I have heard mixed thoughts about the various flea markets, and would love some advice there.

    I would also appreciate any recommendations for budget-friendly accommodations in either city. My wife and I are far more interested in affordability in good locations than in fancy surroundings. We're open to hotels or airbnb-type spots.

    I know a lot of y'all have spent time in these two places, so fire away.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Congrats! Two great cities.

    London — I stayed in SoHo for a week, really funky neighborhood. Feels much less “Big City” than much of London. SonPK and I really enjoyed the BrittishvWar Museum. Parliament and Westminster Abbey are highlights for history buffs. Nadler Soho hotel is great for the price IMO, and close to several Tube stations.

    Paris — ah, Paris. Going in April for my third time, which is odd considering I did not really want to go the first time. What a city, I am way hooked. Done all the tourist things, but if the weather is nice just get some bread, cheese and wine and head to the nearest park. Eat, drink, be merry, watch the world go by.

    Happy to send you more info if you post or PM info on who is traveling with you. Buddies, significant other, and kids are all fun but three different groups of recommendations.

    If you will be in Paris early April, love to grab a glass of wine on the Left Bank!!!! Will be watching the NCAA final from Paris I think.

    Enjoy.
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Atlanta, GA
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    Congrats! Two great cities.

    London — I stayed in SoHo for a week, really funky neighborhood. Feels much less “Big City” than much of London. SonPK and I really enjoyed the BrittishvWar Museum. Parliament and Westminster Abbey are highlights for history buffs. Nadler Soho hotel is great for the price IMO, and close to several Tube stations.

    Paris — ah, Paris. Going in April for my third time, which is odd considering I did not really want to go the first time. What a city, I am way hooked. Done all the tourist things, but if the weather is nice just get some bread, cheese and wine and head to the nearest park. Eat, drink, be merry, watch the world go by.

    Happy to send you more info if you post or PM info on who is traveling with you. Buddies, significant other, and kids are all fun but three different groups of recommendations.

    If you will be in Paris early April, love to grab a glass of wine on the Left Bank!!!! Will be watching the NCAA final from Paris I think.

    Enjoy.
    It'll just be my wife and me, and yes, we'll be in Paris in early April...probably arriving on April 1 and leaving on April 5. That's regional finals/the week leading up to the Final Four, so seems like it might be a little before your visit.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Quote Originally Posted by wilson View Post
    It'll just be my wife and me, and yes, we'll be in Paris in early April...probably arriving on April 1 and leaving on April 5. That's regional finals/the week leading up to the Final Four, so seems like it might be a little before your visit.
    Damn, arriving in Paris 6 April.

    I’ll send you more info, although I have found DBR to be a great travel resource. Probably better ideas here than I can offer!
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  5. #5
    Go see a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre in London. It is amazing.

    The Musee d’orsay is great. Small, so wouldn’t take long to visit.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    Have been to Paris a bunch -- some personal, some business.

    My recommendation for the Louvre -- find a guide who can get you in and is knowledgeable enough to lead a tour. I can probably dig up some names. It's a mob scene but well worth going to if you can get some help. Also, don't ignore the building, which is fantastic. Also, bring binoculars if you have them. in order to see the architectural detail there and elsewhere.

    Don't miss Musee d'Orsay. It's where the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists are displayed. Picasso is also well worth seeing, and it's in the Marais, isn't it, where you can walk around. The museum is his personal collection -- many of his most famous works are in museums elsewhere.

    The last time I was in Paris was just after the Brexit vote in Britain, and as I was walking around the neighborhoods with those handsome apartment buildings, I was thinking about all those rich bankers fleeing London and moving to Paris as the international banking center shifted location in order to remain in the EU.

    Also, it's worth getting a list of small restaurants that are au courant -- the list changes pretty often. Many of them are in side streets or in residential neighborhoods.
    Sage Grouse

    ---------------------------------------
    'When I got on the bus for my first road game at Duke, I saw that every player was carrying textbooks or laptops. I coached in the SEC for 25 years, and I had never seen that before, not even once.' - David Cutcliffe to Duke alumni in Washington, DC, June 2013

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    ^^ agree the Orsay is fantastic. Go up to the third floor and work your way down. The impressionist pairings are mainly up there.

    Notre Dame is memorable, as is Sacre C’ouer.

    Seriously, though, my best memories are sitting at cafes in Montemarte or St. Germain-des-Pres/Odeon and sipping wine or coffee while watching the world go by.

    London, if you are near a pub when a local or noteable futbol match is happening, go grab a pint and blend in. Fish, chips, and a pint is as British as anything you will do or see.

    I had to go cross Abbey Road just because.

    F4B9F00B-DC95-495A-8A4A-945A620151DF.jpg

    (Obviously, I was drunk and had to crawl uphill)
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh
    From a very early DBR post waaaay before the current edition, from James Armstrong, you must visit Brick Lane for a curry.
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Raleigh
    National Gallery in London. I remember this visit even though it was 14 years ago. Amazing.
    [redacted] them and the horses they rode in on.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.
    I'm jealous! Two of my favorite cities to visit.

    Some London reccos:

    Definitely do the Tower of London. Take the walking tour with the Beefeaters. They are professional storytellers, and they're really good at it. See the crown jewels. You're right near Tower Bridge, too, which has its own museum and tour that is pretty cool, especially if you enjoy learning about feats of engineering.

    Definitely do the British Museum. See the Rosetta Stone, the marbles from the Acropolis in Athens, and the Egyptian mummies, and then whatever else strikes your fancy.

    If you like or are interested in some of the trappings of royalty, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most famous and easily accessible bit of royal pomp and circumstance. The walk down The Mall from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham is akin to a stroll down Washington DC's Mall.

    For me, the quintessential London dining experience is afternoon tea. It's a bit of a splurge, but I love going to Fortnum and Mason or to Harrod's. Plus, the food halls in both are amazing.

    You asked about West End theater (or theatre, since it's on the other side of The Pond). I'm a big theater fan, but I also don't think seeing "Wicked" or "The Book of Mormon" in London is a significantly different experience than seeing it on Broadway. If I was going to do a show in London, especially if it was a first visit and I didn't know if I would be back, then I would prioritize something that has more local flavor than a big splashy musical. I saw Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" at the St. Martin's Theater. It's a small place - small enough that the cast doesn't need to be miked. Very different from the big productions in other West End theaters. Another good option for a London-unique theater experience would be seeing a production at the Globe Theatre, which attempts to recreate the atmosphere from Shakespearean times, to an extent.

    You also asked about parks. My favorite is Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens, which is convenient to a lot of other attractions. Start at the entrance near Marble Arch, which is the home of Speaker's Corner - the original "stand on a soapbox and speak your peace" location. My favorite spot is the Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens. It's in a small circular hedge area that feels like a private sanctuary in the middle of the large park.

    If you really like parks and have time, then a trip out to Kew might be merited. I haven't timed it yet to see the bluebells, and I think you'll be a little early, but the gardens are pretty spectacular.

    Another excursion that would really be a day trip - and perhaps requiring time you don't have, is Windsor Castle. It's huge, well-preserved, and the public spaces are full of fascinating rooms, art, and historical artifacts.

    Back in town, some other things to consider:
    - The British Library, which has the Magna Carta, a Gutenberg Bible, and many other significant documents
    - Covent Garden for people watching, street performances, shopping, and food
    - Greenwich - the Royal Observatory, the National Maritime Museum, and the Cutty Sark. Very cool stuff, especially if you're into British maritime history
    - Westminster Abbey/Big Ben - the Abbey is 1000 years old and is the resting place for many of the most famous Brits. Big Ben (which is actually just the largest bell inside the clocktower) is one of the great icons of London.
    JBDuke

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    North of Durham
    Great suggestions above. I spent a lot of time in London 20+ years ago so my memories are a bit dated and hazy. My additions to other suggestions are the Churchill War Rooms, which is a must see, and Camden Market, which was a really cool area to wander (someone else please confirm). Watching a soccer game in a local pub full of supporters of one of the teams is also great.

    London theatre is fun but if you see a lot in the US, I completely agree that you should see something with local flavor rather than the London production of an NY show.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Quote Originally Posted by CrazyNotCrazie View Post
    Great suggestions above. I spent a lot of time in London 20+ years ago so my memories are a bit dated and hazy. My additions to other suggestions are the Churchill War Rooms, which is a must see, and Camden Market, which was a really cool area to wander (someone else please confirm). Watching a soccer game in a local pub full of supporters of one of the teams is also great.

    London theatre is fun but if you see a lot in the US, I completely agree that you should see something with local flavor rather than the London production of an NY show.
    Churchill War Rooms is a definite must-do, agreed.
    1991 -- 1992 -- 2001 -- 2010 -- 2015

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.
    I, too, agree that the Churchill War Rooms are worth it. Plus, they have the advantage of being small and centrally located, so it's easy to fit them into a day spent in and around The Mall. You could blow through them in less than an hour if you really wanted to, or take 3-4 hours if you read everything on display.

    BTW, I have not been up in the London Eye, but I hear the views are pretty spectacular. I think it's a commitment of an hour, though.
    JBDuke

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    About 150 feet in front of the Duke Chapel doors.
    I'll add some Paris thoughts, although I have much less experience (yet) in the City of Lights:

    For me, Paris has three great aspects: art, food, and history. Maybe in that order.

    This an oversimplification, but the three big art museums are essentially divided up by time frame. The Louvre covers everything from ancient art up through the early 1800's. It's massive, and there's some real truth to the stories that say you could spend a week in the place and still not see it all. Still, a "Louvre top 10 highlights" can be done in just two hours or so, if you walk briskly from one main attraction to the next. Rick Steves's guidebook is actually a really good guide for the big hitters - the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory of Samothrace, Venus de Milo, Michaelangelo's Dying Slave, etc. The Musee d'Orsay covers the 19th century or so. It's primary focus is Impressionism, but there's considerably more than that in its collection. It's much smaller and more digestable in one go than the Louvre. The galleries are laid out in a time-sequenced way, so you can easily see the evolution of different styles over the decades. Before I visited, I was not a big fan of Impressionism. Afterwards, it is perhaps my favorite style of painting. I found it transformative. The Pompidou Center is the museum for Modern and Contemporary Art. I have yet to visit it. I'm not a big fan of most Modern or Contemporary Art, so I have not prioritized visiting the Pompidou, but I need to go the next time in town, as I may find it opens my eyes in a way that d'Orsay did. It is certainly well-regarded by folks whose opinion I respect.

    Aside from the big three, there are many other wonderful art museums in town. The two I'd recommend are the Rodin Museum, as I love his sculpture, and The Orangerie (Musee de l'Orangerie), which is a small building that houses Monet's huge Water Lilies paintings. You do do the former in a couple of hours, but lingering in the sculpture garden and the adjoining cafe sounds like a great way to spend an April afternoon in Paris. You could do the Water Lilies in 30 minutes or less, easily, but it's also a nice place to linger.

    As for food, others may have better suggestions, but Paris has great food all the way from simple baguettes up to the most sumptuous seven course meals. Definitely stop in at Angelina (226 rue de Rivoli - a short walk from the Louvre) for a hot chocolate and a pastry. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. And here's an article from the Washington Post I read this summer about a Parisian pastry tour that sounds divine: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifes...=.4bf08549249b

    And as for history - it's touristy, but I really enjoyed a boat tour on the Seine. It takes you past many of the great sights, and helps orient you. Visiting Notre Dame is absolutely worth it, but don't miss out on the amazing stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle, also on Ile de la Cite. I still haven't been up to the top of the Eiffel Tower, as the lines have always been too long and time too short, but even just getting up to the first or second floors is pretty cool. The views from the second floor are excellent. Don't underestimate the climb, though. The thing is HUGE. I have not made it into the Arc de Triomphe. I've ridden in a car driving around it, but that's as close as I've gotten. I've spent little time in Montmarte, but the view from the steps of Sacre Coeur are also excellent. And, sadly, I have yet to make it out to Versailles, which I hear is stunning and will easily take up a whole day.

    Paris is a lovely city for just walking around and enjoying the distinct neighborhoods. I spent 3-4 hours just wandering around the Latin Quarter, window shopping, people watching, and enjoying a couple of rests at local cafes. And it gets a bad rap for being rude to tourists. Yes, there were occasional jerks, but mostly, if you don't expect them to speak English and you make an effort to communicate in French, I found it went a long way.
    JBDuke

    Andre Dawkins: “People ask me if I can still shoot, and I ask them if they can still breathe. That’s kind of the same thing.”

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Seattle, WA
    To echo a few of JB’s recs in Paris, both the Orangerie and the Rodin Museum were surprise favorites. Very high enjoyment to time investment ratios. And Sainte Chapelle was breathtaking. Spectacular stained glass.

  17. #17
    The The Musée de Cluny sits in the center of old Roman Paris and contains a huge Roman bath underground, with a series of buildings and rooms built on top of the remains as times . I found it fascinating.

    There are remains of a Roman temple in front of Notre Dame as well.

    Just don’t overplan. It’s a great city to walk in.

  18. #18
    In Paris, anywhere that there are crowds (Eiffel, Notre Dame, outside the Louvre), be wary of people asking you to sign petitions - they will try to pick your pocket.
    ~rthomas

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Durham, NC
    PARIS Definitely the Musee d'Orsay if you love the Impressionists.

    And when you see a patisserie, stop and eat something, if only for me.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!
    The London Eye is a great place to start. You get a real feel of the layout beyond what a map can provide. For me Westminster Abbey is memorable. If you have time for a side trip, combined bus tours to Bath and Stonehenge are worthwhile. The Underground will get you to Wimbledon. BTW, get the all day Underground passes. They will get you everywhere you want to be quickly.

    All suggestions here are good. See the epic sights in Paris, but remember that you are building experiences. Soak it in. Eat. Drink. Enjoy each moment. I recently heard a comedian say that we plan for the future so we can later enjoy the past. So true.

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