24 December 2010

London and Paris

It seems like ages since we returned from London and Paris, but - alas - it's time to stop procrastinating and start writing.

Our trip to London was instigated by George's need to visit the Big G's London office. He works closely with several people based in London, so he tries to make a face-to-face visit about twice a year. Although I was supposed to tag along in March, I ended up changing my ticket to join George in December after a few things came up in March. As it worked out, we arrived during a major cold snap, which was accompanied by a dusting of snow in the city and heaps of snow not far from the city.

During work days, George worked, and I visited some of my favorite London attractions and explored a few new ones. The Churchill War Rooms (despite my liberal tendencies) and strolling along the Thames and through the city remain my favorites. Now is a fantastic time to visit St. Paul's Cathedral because the five-year restoration has recently completed, which means that the structure is free of scaffolding and the inside of the dome shines like a gem.

During evenings and the weekend, George and I were able to meet up with many of our friends who live in and around London. It was fantastic to catch up and see them in their element. We were especially grateful for their fantastic restaurant recommendations.

Of course, London was decked out for Christmas. I loved seeing a new approach to Christmas decorations, including lots of sparkling purple and pink ones. We ventured out and about in London's many shopping districts as we had done very little Christmas shopping before our trip. By the end, we were virtually done with our shopping but a bit weary from the crowds. George was a serious trooper, and I will not soon forget his willingness to both brave the crowds and carry all of the packages.

During the first week we were in London, I ducked away for a couple of days (my first!) in Paris. I found the Eurostar between London and Paris remarkably easy - comfortable, affordable, efficient, and generally pleasant. The ease of travel, both within and between cities, made me incredibly jealous. I was also reminded of the empowerment that results from traveling alone, even if only overnight.

Paris was every bit as cold as London, if not colder. The Parisians lived up to their cold reputation, too, but I survived with a combination of English, Spanish, and a little Lonely Planet French...with emphasis on the Spanish and French. In the end, I made my way to the Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Champ Elysees, and Louvre (outside only) before catching one of the last trains bound for London on a snowy December afternoon. I feel good about what I managed to see in the 30-odd hours I had in Paris, but I look forward to exploring a bit beyond the standard tourist itinerary on my next visit to the City of Lights.

I also plan to be in a bit better health for any subsequent visits. I woke up with a cold on the morning I left for Paris and spent all of my time there (and the first day or two after my return to London) with a tissue clenched in my hand. In fact, my only Paris souvenirs (for myself) were two packages of tissues. Nonetheless, I was and remain immensely thankful that I avoided a cold during both bar prep and our trip to the Maldives.

Overall, I'd say that George and I had an enjoyable trip, and I hope I'll be able to accompany him on some future trips across the Atlantic. As I mentioned before, some photos are posted here (London) and here (Paris).

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