Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes

We caught up on our Paris blogs and headed out for the afternoon. We decided that we would check out Harry and Sherlock. Of course we realize that they are not real people but based on the crowds that were hanging out at both, I don’t think that anyone actually cares!!

We took the train to King’s Cross Station which is where Harry Potter and his friends would head off to Hogwarts. They would leave with their possessions from platform       9-3/4 which looked like a blank wall to the Muggles. Being Muggles ourselves, we thought that we needed to check it out. And sure enough, there it was – a blank wall, a shopping cart halfway through and the Platform 9-3/4 emblazoned above it. There were many people standing in line waiting for their picture with the cart. However, my ingenious husband managed to get a photo of the iconic wall while the next folks in line were sorting out their costumes. It was all we needed or wanted and we left the end of the queue and headed off to see the next fictional character at Baker Street.

Sherlock Holmes lived at 221B Baker Street. This address actually does exist and is now a museum. Again, there was a long line of people in Sherlock and Watson costumes waiting to enter the museum.  Not really needing to see inside, we took some pictures of the street and of Holmes at the Baker Street Station. Isn’t it amazing how literature affects our culture!!

From there we walked through Regent Park, one of eight royal parks within London. Originally a royal hunting ground, this scenic park is a popular recreation area and  is the largest grass area for sports in Central London. We walked through the park smelling the very fragrant blossoms, watching the dogs playing with their humans and enjoying the serenity of the park. Once through the park we continued through the streets until we arrived in Camden Town. We weren’t really sure what we would see there but the streets have character and some pretty cute looking pubs. We stopped to have a drink while we waited out the rain that had been threatening all day. We finished up our drinks and as it appeared that the rain was not letting up, we made a run for the Underground Station across the street and headed back to our apartment – about an hour journey. It was a pretty fun day and we are finding London quite fascinating. Looking forward to another day of touring tomorrow.

Platform 9 3/4.  All you Harry Potter fans will understand.

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The famous Baker Street Station.

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The classic double decker bus and black cab.

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The World’s End….

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Sherlock…

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Au Revoir Paris, Haloo London

We walked down to Kim and Jack’s hotel so that we could catch the subway together to leave the city. When we arrived at the subway station, it was closed. And so was the next one. Wondering what was happening, we turned back towards the hotel which is right near the overland metro train station. I checked with the ticket agent there and he told me that May 1st is Labour Day in France and some trains and subways were not running. He confirmed that there was an alternate route for us to take and we headed out again. Jack and Kim alighted at the Gare Nord Train Station where they would catch their train to Amsterdam. We said our final goodbyes on the train and we continued onto the airport. (We learned later that there were many demonstrations and riots in Paris. People were injured and many arrested. I guess we got out just in time!!)

Our flight from Paris to London was very quick – less than an hour. We went through customs (first time in three months), picked up our bags and headed out into the main terminal to buy a metrocard to London transit. After standing in a couple of wrong queues, we finally found the right one, bought our cards and caught our train to London.

We dropped our bags at our BNB, freshened up and boarded another train into the downtown to meet up with our new friends from our Indian tour, Lisa and Louie. We had a great time!! They are wonderful tour guides and their enthusiasm for their city is contagious. We had dinner in a local pub, walked down the street to Tower Bridge and along the quay to the South Bank. We stopped at another pub along the way that was noisy and crowded due to a football (soccer) game on TV. The English do love their football!! We relished in the atmosphere and after a couple of drinks, Lisa and Louie walked us to Charing Cross Station, gave us instructions on getting back home and we parted company. Though we are old enough to be their parents, we seem to “click”. It’s fun to talk to them about travelling, their experiences, how their life has been since India and all things in between. They are a pretty special couple and we wish them all the best. Can’t wait for you to come to Canada, Lisa and Louie!!

Today is blog catch up day but this afternoon we plan to head back downtown for more sightseeing and some fish and chips. Maybe we’ll even stop in and see the Queen!!

Beef & Doom Bar Ale Pie served with Mushed Peas.  Traditional English Pub food.

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Tower Bridge.

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Louie & Lisa.  Our young English friends who we met on our tour of India.

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The famous London phone booth.

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Just can’t get away from these Canadian Pubs….

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Versailles

During one of the legs of our journey, Richard and I got addicted to Netflix’s Versailles. We decided that when we got to France we would have to see the real thing. Thankfully Jack and Kim agreed so on Tuesday morning we hopped on the train to Versailles. Even though we had gotten on the wrong train in Paris and had to walk a few extra minutes, we still arrived at the gates about 20 minutes before our 10 AM pre-booked time slot. The line for the non timed tickets was HUGE. We estimated that there were at least three thousand people standing in this line. There were a few folks that were quite agitated that they were in this line and though we felt a little sorry for them, we were quite happy that we had the foresight to get timed tickets. We were into the palace before 10 AM and started our self guided audio tour.

The palace is the brainchild of King Louis XIV and construction started on the site of his father’s former hunting lodge in 1661. The palace continued to expand and in 1682 Louis moved the parliament from Paris to Versailles. In the years following this move the Sun King continued to grow the palace and ordered all the nobles of France to come and reside there. This gave him an opportunity to monitor everyone’s actions and ensure that they remained loyal to him. During the French revolution in 1789, protestors stormed the gates, looting and destroying much of the original palace and furnishings. What we see today is a refurbishment of many of the king and queens rooms as well as a museum that displays the history of the palace and of France.

After touring the palace, we headed out to the gardens to eat our lunch. The gardens, pools and fountains have all been recreated in the exact replica of Louis the XIV’s Versailles. The day was warm and sunny so we took some time to explore. They are absolutely beautiful! The fountains were not operating while we were there but I imagine that they are spectacular. After wandering for an hour or so, we said our goodbyes to the palace and headed back to Paris. Though I was expecting something a
little more opulent, Versailles is very beautiful and well worth the trip if you are in Paris. Just don’t forget to get tickets online. It is well worth the extra couple of euros!

We had a mid afternoon drink at Jack and Kim’s hotel and then headed back to our BNB to pack. We cannot believe that we are leaving tomorrow for London! Time is moving much too fast now. A final meal with our good friends tonight and a quick trip with them tomorrow morning to our respective departure points (train station for them, airport for us) and we will be saying our farewells. It was so much fun having them with us for a few days. We wish them all the best on the rest of their journey!

Versailles

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Our last meal in France was traditional French Crepes. 

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The Eiffel Tower and the Riverboat Cruise

Today’s adventures started with a quick walk to Jack and Kim’s hotel and then off to the Eiffel Tower. As I mentioned in an earlier post, we had walked by the monument before but today we were actually going to the top. We had decided that we would be able to walk up to the second level before taking a lift to the summit. Unfortunately, this meant that we could not buy our tickets online but had to stand in line at the entrance to the stairs. Before the ticket line, we stood in the security line and once through there, we could wander around under the tower and through the grounds. We finally got in line for tickets and once these were acquired, we started up the steps – 338 to the first floor where we stopped for a bathroom break – and 669 in total by the time we got to the second floor. Then another line to get into the lift to the top. But, before we knew it, we were there, looking over Paris – 17 floors above the city. It was breathtakingly beautiful and we walked around the observation deck viewing the sites below. We could see the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, the palaces, the cathedrals, the Parliament buildings, the downtown, the Seine and all the bridges connecting the Left Bank to the Right Bank. It was magnificent and all too soon it was time to take the lift back down. Once on the ground, we took another look up the centre to the top. Absolutely amazing!!

The evening found us down at the Seine across from the Louvre and ready to start our dinner cruise. We were a few minutes early so we walked across the bridge and into the courtyard of the Louvre Palace.  When Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, he left the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including a collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. The building has been extended many times to form the present museum. We were completely amazed how large this museum is. We estimated it to cover at least four square blocks!! After walking the perimeter, we crossed back across the river and boarded our boat. The meal was delicious, the company was fantastic and the cruise was perfect!! We passed by the lit up Eiffel Tower at 10 PM and witnessed the five minute sparkling light display that plays every hour, on the hour. The two hour cruise ended back in front of the Louvre. We disembarked, took the train back to our mutual meeting spot, said our goodbyes for the evening and headed back to our sleeping quarters. Another wonderful end to a wonderful day!!

Atop the Eiffel Tower…

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Our Dinner Cruise And A View Of The Louvre.

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Below is an exact representation of the light show we witnessed from the boat.