We had a honeymoon! We went to the UK and France! It was pretty amazing! (Though the best part was probably being totally disconnected from the internet and email for 11 days.) A ton of photos from it are posted at photos and my photo journal has been updated as well.
We made stops in Manchester, London, Grenoble, and Paris. We walked a lot (didn’t really take public transit, other than long distance trains, in Manchester and London), and hiked a couple of days, and saw all sorts of awesome things and places. It’s going to be so weird having to return to work now.
We flew out Monday, April 20 from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia to Manchester, landing on Tuesday after not having slept much due to a crying baby on the plane. The Manchester airport was really nice… not too busy, and reasonably easy to get through. From there it was a train in to the city and our hotel to drop off our bags, and then a tram over to Media City UK to watch some filming of the TV game show Countdown. It was pretty awesome to see a rather behind-the-scenes look at how game shows are made. (Due to the reportedly strict “no cameras” policy, we didn’t bring along any, and therefore missed photo opportunities with the hosts at the end. Oh well. At least we got Rachel Riley’s autograph. :D)
Wednesday was spent hiking in the peak district up by Hathersage, reached by train. It was really beautiful up there.
Thursday was spent wandering the city, seeing the Museum of Science and Industry, and the John Rylands Library.
Friday we hopped on the train down to London, then did some exploring of the British Museum, which was conveniently open late for Friday.
Saturday we spent wandering through Hyde Park and visiting a couple of museums in Kensington: the Victoria and Albert museum and the Natural History museum.
Sunday we took a train to Oxford and wandered to see the universities and explore the area.
Monday we spent wandering London itself to do the “touristy” things, walking from our hotel at King’s Cross to the Twinings tea shop (of course), around to see the National Gallery, Buckingham Palace, and Big Ben/The London Eye, then over to see Tower Bridge and the Tower of London.
Here’s our entire route for the day. It felt like the most walking we’d done, although the peak district hiking the previous Wednesday apparently was a bit longer (see below).
Tuesday we took the Eurostar to Paris, then a train to Grenoble.
Wednesday we spent hiking the mountains around Grenoble.
Thursday we spent travelling back to Paris on the TGV, then seeing the Musee d’Orsay.
Friday we flew home via Charlotte.
Overall I found that European public transit is awesome, albeit a little expensive to take regularly. But all of the UK seems to have frequent train service (a train from Manchester to London every 20 minutes!), and there’s tons of public transportation (subway, buses, railcars) besides. Even Grenoble, a city of ~156,000 people, has multiple tram lines running frequently, tons of buses, and a busy train station. I wish we had stuff nearly that good in the US, outside of places like New York.
We stayed in four hotels over our trip, and I think all four of them were rather different. The Manchester hotel, Hotel Le Villé, looked like it was trying to be really hip and modern with glass and wood everywhere. The room itself was rather small, but functional. It was in the basement, which proved awesome for sleeping since the sun didn’t wake us up.
The hotel in London, La Meridiana, was more like an apartment building or house that had been converted into (still small) rooms, complete with tall and narrow staircases. They served a full British Breakfast (fried egg, sausage, bacon, beans, toast) every morning, and we got incredibly sick of them, especially because we’d had some in Manchester as well (back when it was a new thing).
The hotel in Grenoble, Hôtel d’Angleterre (amusingly “the Hotel of England”) was much larger than the previous two, and also fancier (it had a minifridge and bidet). Breakfast was not included, but we tried their buffet once (€14/person?) and it wasn’t bad… it was nice to have a break from the meat-and-carb breakfasts in the UK, anyway.
The Paris hotel, Grand Hôtel Lévêque, seemed fancier still, with its recently-remodelled (and therefore rather unusable) room. We were only there a night, but I’m glad I didn’t have to deal with its shower for longer than that… I was getting the entire bathroom wet when I showered, and the sink and toilet seemed more decorative than functional. It also had a hilariously small elevator that barely fit one person and a bag.
As I said, we also walked a lot. Here’s the pedometer-recorded steps and time walked and distances (which are estimates, and likely overestimates) by day:
|Flights||Monday 4/20||7117 steps||5.25 km/3.26 mi||0h 48m|
|Media City UK / Countdown||Tuesday 4/21||11,403 steps||8.14 km/5.06 mi||1h 13m|
|Hiking in Peaks||Wednesday 4/22||32,420 steps||23.98 km/14.90 mi||3h 57m|
|Manchester||Thursday 4/23||17,420 steps||12.88 km/8.00 mi||1h 41m|
|Train to London / British Museum||Friday 4/24||15,179 steps||11.17 km/6.94 mi||1h 28m|
|Museums||Saturday 4/25||30,312 steps||22.42 km/13.93 mi||3h 06m|
|Oxford||Sunday 4/26||29,935 steps||22.13 km/13.75 mi||3h 11m|
|London||Monday 4/27||30,063 steps||22.20 km/13.79 mi||3h 38m|
|Trains to Grenoble||Tuesday 4/28||9648 steps||7.10 km/4.41 mi||1h 09m|
|Hiking in Grenoble||Wednesday 4/29||32,396 steps||23.9 km/14.85 mi||3h 53m|
|Train to Paris / Paris||Thursday 4/30||20,239 steps||14.95 km/9.29 mi||2h 22m|
|Flights||Friday 5/1||9976 steps||7.33 km/4.55 mi||1h 00m|
Food was rather interesting during the trip. We did our obligatory afternoon tea (twice), although we couldn’t really stomach the £15-20/person charge for full tea, so we just did tea and scones or tea and cake. We did our obligatory crepes (savory and sweet). But otherwise we ate a variety of things, from Italian (very nicely done in Manchester) to Indian (buffet, in London) to Vietnamese (at a very cheap and friendly shop in London) to Thai (at Bien Bien in Paris, a place I’d been before with a Thai tour group). Also had a ton of sandwiches… they were convenient for hiking days and train days, and also every grocery or drug store in the UK seems to have a sandwich meal deal for around £4. Also tons of full English Breakfasts, which I never again feel the desire to eat.
Hotels seem to serve food early though… we had to set an alarm every day of the trip so we would wake up in time to not miss breakfast. The breakfast that went the latest (at our Paris hotel) we actually missed because we had to leave for the CDG airport before it started (at 7 AM). But we made up for that instead with an amazingly nice breakfast (at the cost of €40 :X) in the airport instead.
London apparently is doing a thing right now with Shaun the Sheep, and there are 50 statues up all over the city by various artists. We only found 8 during our wander-the-city-by-foot day.
My favorite of those is the second one we found: the royal one. It’s located, appropriately, close to Buckingham Palace.
As far as souvenirs, we brought back 2 art prints from the National Gallery and Musee d’Orsay, a ton of tea (both from Twinings and Casino, a French grocery store), and madeleines. Kind of amusing.
I’ll probably edit this later with more things as I remember to add them, but it was a very nice trip. Tons more photos of everything can be found at photos.