London and Paris!!

I’ve just returned from an awesome, fun, and exhausting trip to Europe. With multiple of my closest friends from Hong Kong, we visited the sites in London and traveled to Paris. Here’s a rundown of the cool stuff I did:

Day 1: London – I didn’t sleep for 36 hours this weekend because of the time change, so as soon as I landed in London (at 6am, mind you), Shelley and I were off and running! I told her to not let me sleep until bedtime, so we left the house for 12 hours – I must’ve been running on pure travel adrenaline! We went to Brick Lane to visit the markets, ate “famous” bagels (aka we saw a line and thought, “Why not join that line? It looks popular!” They were just okay, in case you were wondering…), and perused the flower market nearby. Shelley’s friend Ella met us in the afternoon, took us to a farm in the city, and then we walked along a canal to a delicious little hipster bar located in a coffee mill. Then we went to a rooftop bar, listened to a band, and met up with Shelley’s roommates – who are hilarious by the way…think fraternity house circa 2003. We were exhausted but starved, so we went to dinner and after hitting a very big wall, I was in bed by 11:00pm, 36 hours after waking up in Chicago.

Day 2 – After a glorious sleep, I woke up late and went on a hop-on-hop-off bus tour of the city. I toured the Tower of London (so cool!), went on a Jack the Ripper walking tour, and took a water taxi down the River Thames. It landed near Big Ben, the House of Parliament, and Westminster Abbey (hello photo op!). It was a long day, but I saw so many of London’s famous sites.

Day 3 – Another bus tour was on tap today, this time of Windsor Castle, the town of Bath, and Stonehenge. Windsor was beautiful. Stonehenge was awe-inspiring; it was my #1 travel locale to visit and glad I did it on a long day tour. Lastly, all I can say about Bath, is that I want to marry a British man (which I’ve wanted to do since Day 1 of living in Hong Kong anyway) and have his babies in Bath – it’s quaint, relaxed, and adorable. Twelve hours on a bus and touring these sites made this girl tired, but I saved my energy for one awesome meal: a pulled pork burger stuffed with cheese and BBQ sauce. Yummo!

Day 4 – The day began at Pax Lodge in London, a World Associate of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts hostel. It was fun seeing where Girl Scouts from around the world have traveled. Thankfully, my lovely friend Kim from the Kong was in London this day so we met up for lunch and a bit of shopping around Camden Market. We then walked to the top of Primrose Hill, an unassuming hill in the middle of a park with spectacular views of the city. Regent’s Garden followed with the Queen’s garden full of dainty roses strewn about the park. Afterwards, we met Shelley, Aidan, and Karina (all friends from HK) for drinks and dinner.

Day 5 – Shel had the day off this day, so we hopped on a train to Brighton, a seaside town south of London. We drank in views of the ocean, took pictures of a royal palace, and strolled along the lanes full of bits, bobs, and trinkets.

Day 6 – Paris, here we come!! Shelley and I boarded the Eurostar (Chunnel, anyone?) and after 2.5 hours, we landed in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Kim and Sophia (yet another HK friend) met us for a day full of sightseeing and wonder. Using the Paris Pass, we could hop on or hop off a tour bus, use the Metro, or take public buses; it also included tickets to various sites throughout the city. After eating crepes (of course!), we started the tour at Notre Dame, flitted around the art museum called Musée D’Orsay, and drove along Avenue des Champs Élysées en route to L’Arc de Triomphe. Huffing our way to the top, there were stunning views of the city, including Le Tour Eiffel, which in the daylight isn’t completely impressive, but by the time we arrived that night it was magnificent, unlike anything I’ve seen before. We hiked almost 500 steps to the 2nd floor of the tower, and then took an elevator to the tiptop – simply brilliant. During the day, we also took a water taxi ride down the River Seine. All in all, it was a great day making Paris one of my all-time favorite cities!

Day 7 – We had breakfast at a sweet little bakery, followed by a walk around the Louvre and a swarm of people surrounding La Jaconde aka the Mona Lisa. After tasting some wines at a nearby bar, Shelley, Sophia, and I partook in a walking tour of Montemarte, the (in)famous neighborhood of Moulin Rouge and Sacré Coeur. Dinner and drinks came next with the charming guy we met at the bakery in the morning (see my last post here!) and his cousin.

Day 8 – This day started at the Luxembourg Gardens and Palace where we roamed the park and other cute parts of the city. A prime Parisian picnic lunch with cheese, wine, baguettes, fruit, and pastries capped off a wonderful Paris experience.

Day 9: Back to London-town – No trip to London is complete without watching the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. Sophia and I then took in the crazy and mysterious artwork at the Tate Modern; Nikki (yes, another HK friend!) met us for a shopping extravaganza at the Portobello Road Markets (ever seen Notting Hill?). Camilla (you guessed it, an HK buddy!) met us girls for dinner at Jamie Oliver’s restaurant.

Day 10 – For the final day in London, Sophia and I went back for more shopping at the Portobello Road Markets, met Shelley for a yummy cupcake at Hummingbird Bakery, and then toured the Natural History Museum. The latter is housed in an awesome building filled with taxidermied animals and dinosaur remains. The quintessential Harrod’s picture was snapped before a chilled dinner at Shelley’s house – where I stayed in London (shout out to Shel for the accommodations!!).

Day 11 – I left midday to head back home, full of friend-time, completely tuckered out, and happy to have seen so many great sites.

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