France & England: 7/23 – 7/29

Paris >>> Amiens >>> Paris >>> (England) Egham

7/23 – Explore Amiens with Caroline
7/24 – Explore Versailles and Picnic under the Eiffel Tower
7/25 – Arrived in London after our journey through the Channel Tunnel
7/26 – Rest and Planning Day in Egham
7/27 – London Sights! Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben
7/28 – Natural History Museum and Science Museum
7/29 – Kew Gardens, Tower Bridge & Tate Modern

Explore Amiens with Caroline
+ Everyone slept in because of the very late night. We eventually woke up around 1 pm. Caroline went to the market store and got us some crepes and orange juice. We ate them back at the apartment and Corey loaded his with Nutella! It was delicious but borderline sugar overload.
+ Cleaned up the apartment a little bit and then we packed an overnight bag and rode with Caroline for 2 hours north to her old house in Amiens, France to move stuff out of her old apartment.
+ After getting the grand tour of her apartment, we set off to go get some lunch. We walked the scenic route through the city and saw lots of shops and restaurants and even the old house of Jules Verne! We also passed a very large Gothic cathedral that we’d be returning to later tonight.
+ The secret food spot she knew was a burrito place that did indeed have super delicious food at nice “student” (aka cheap) prices. So we got it to go and went to a nearby park to have a little picnic and listen to Disney music on Caroline’s Bluetooth speaker.
+ Afterwards, Corey and Caroline threw the football around in the park which was fun. Caroline might have the best arm we’ve ever seen on a girl, she could throw and catch perfectly!
+ On the walk back, we came upon a Bachelorette party where the bride and maid of honor were completely drunk. They asked Liz where she was from and after she said the U.S., they were really excited and begged for her to kiss the bride on the cheek while they took a picture. We talked with them for a little while as they drunkenly tried to tell us in Frenglish about places in France we should visit. At the end they said we were really nice and that Liz was “so smile!”, lol.
+ Packed up stuff at the house for about an hour or so, and then we headed back to the Cathedral for the summer light show.
+ Watched a light show that lit up all the statues/carvings of people and scenes in amazing intricacy. The catherdral is normally just gray stone, but using 4 differently placed projector lights, the city made it all full of color. Really unique and well done! They also had a story they told along with it, but the story was in French and we couldn’t understand it.
+ When the show was over, we walked to a bar called My Goodness with Caroline’s friends and had some french beers. One of them was the house beer and it was just called Good Beer, and it did indeed live up to it’s name! Then we all played darts (the game cricket) with 4 separate teams and although we got off to a slow start, we did much better towards the end but narrowly lost.
+ Headed back and had some more french beers in her apartment and hung out until bed.

Explored Versailles and Picnic under the Eiffel Tower
+ Corey slept in later than Liz and Caroline. They finished packing up Caroline’s stuff and cleaned out her room for the next tenant.
+ Left Amiens and drove 2 hours down to Versailles. When we arrived Corey was starving so we had a burger at a restaurant about a kilometer away from the Palace of Versailles.
+ Caroline had already been to Versailles and was feeling tired so she went home and we went inside the Palace of Versailles gardens. We chose to skip the tour of the actual Palace as it saved money and we avoided waiting in a crazy long line (and we were a little palaced out anyway so probably wouldn’t have appreciated it).
+ In the gardens, we saw a fountain “show” which was actually just turning the fountains on while they played music. No actual choreography with the music and water!
+ Saw lots of pretty places in the gardens and the huge man made waterfall that looked as if water was just falling from the sky from about 40 meters high! We also saw some cool little groves with interesting topiaries that Liz loved. The only bad part was they inexplicably cut off the water from the fountains about an hour and a half before they closed. So while we saw neat fountain sculptures, they would’ve been much cooler had they been actually working. But we still liked it and this was definitely the largest garden we’d ever seen!
+ After walking what seemed like 8 miles, we exited and caught a train back into Paris. We were on a mission to buy picnic food so we walked around until we found an open grocery store. Finally located one and with only 10 minutes until they closed, we bought supplies for our picnic next to the Eiffel Tower. Not knowing what types of cheese were good or bad (same with the wine and chocolate), it was a guessing game but we ended up with some pretty good choices!
+ Headed over to the tower and got a great spot around 9:45. Along the way we watched some street performers playing a game of find the ball under the cups. After a few minutes of watching, we realized they had people staged in the crowd who would purposely bet right or wrong to encourage other people to play. We did see some poor suckers actually play the game and lose their money (of course), but we were too travel wise to fall for these scams.
+ While sitting beneath the towering symbol of France, we had ourselves a completely authentic French picnic of wine, cheese, meat, a baguette, and chocolate! We had to use red solo cups and plastic silverware we’d bought at the store. We also had to use some American ingenuity and sit on a torn up paper bag since we didn’t have our blanket to sit on! As we ate our little baguette sandwiches and sipped our wine, we saw the tower light up as it got dark. Then the moment we’d come for finally happened and we watched the Eiffel Tower have a 5 minute twinkling light show that made everyone oooo and ahhh. We actually stayed long enough to see it twice!
+ Our normal route home was closed due to construction and the Tour de France which was coming through. So we ended up riding the metro 22 stops back (from one side of the city to the other) to the RER station we needed and then took that the rest of the way. Then we had the 10 – 15 minute walk making the whole return trip about an hour long! For some reason, the walk seemed so much longer tonight to get back to Caroline’s than it had been previous evenings.
+ Took showers and packed up our bags to prepare for our trip tomorrow to London!
+ While sitting on the porch outside to soak up the cool breeze, we saw a hedgehog walk by in the grass down below! Crazy!

Arrived in London after our journey through the Chunnel!
+ Woke up early while Caroline was getting ready for work and said our goodbyes. It had been so much fun to spend these past few days with an old friend, especially someone we’d each known for many years! We were certainly going to miss her and her funny jokes, stories and facial expressions that always had us (especially Liz) rolling with laughter!
+ After she left we forced our tired selves to not go back to sleep and finish packing everything up. Then after doing our best to tidy up her apartment and return it to looking normal, we left and caught an Uber into town to the bus stop we needed.
+ Despite heavy traffic, we did make it to the mega bus stop in time and loaded our bags. Unfortunately, since we were one of the last people to get on the bus, we weren’t able to grab any seats next to each other (everyone loved to get the window seat and just put their bags on the seat next to them – they definitely haven’t traveled in Latin America where that would’ve been impossible!). So we sat near each other and settled in for our upcoming 10 hour journey to London.
+ The bus route actually took us through Amiens which was funny because we’d just come from there less than 24 hours ago. During that 2 hour stretch of time, Liz slept while Corey worked on updating this timeline on evernote (a never ending job that we were somehow always 4-5 days behind on). Seriously though, nothing reminded us of the passage of time as much as doing these blog updates. You really realize just how many days, weeks, and months are flying by when you reflect back on your agenda as you type.
+ Some buses stop every hour or two for a food/bathroom/driver break, but this bus didn’t do that once. So luckily we had some leftover snacks (cheese and mini bruschetta crackers, and cheese+pesto balls) from our picnic last night and ate those and used the bathroom on the bus instead. It was the fanciest meal we’ve ever had on a bus!
+ We did stop at the border crossing on both the French and English sides and get our passport stamp exiting the Schengen zone. The British lady who checked us in was especially friendly and chatty! Probably more so than any other border crossing guard in all of our travels.
+ To go from France to England, the bus actually had to drive onto a train that went through the underwater tunnel! It was a really interesting experience seeing all the cars and buses drive into this big, tall, empty train. The whole tunnel crossing only took about 35 minutes! Then we continued for 2 more hours on land until we reached London.
+ Our first sights entering London were the iconic red double decker buses and advertisements that were all in English. Hooray!
+ Arrived at bus station, walked to Victoria train station and ate some quick fast food snacks so we wouldn’t arrive to Nick’s absolutely starving.
+ After a confusing time trying to get a grasp on the London transport system, we discovered Nick’s apartment in Egham was actually out of the London zones. We bought the appropriate train ticket and made our way to Nick’s house.
+ Nick met us at the train station and we all walked the 25 minutes through Egham to his house. Egham was a nice little town with a cute downtown. Nick introduced us to a grocery store named Waitrose VERY similar to Publix! Even the marketing was similar!
+ The three of us hung out and had some drinks before dinner. Nick made us a delicious meal of meatloaf and mashed potatoes and asparagus. Yum!

Rest and Planning Day in Egham
+ Since London offers so much to see and explore, we decided to take today as a much needed planning day to get out itinerary lined up.
+ Liz enjoyed a whole day at the apartment and made sure to contact her family that is here in the UK to set up some time to meet. She was excited to see her second cousins over here since we usually only get to see them when they make trips to the theme parks in the US!
+ Corey took a break from research and walked 20 minutes to the grocery store to buy supplies for us and Nick because we were so grateful he was letting us stay at his place.
+ Nick got home from work and we all decided to get some fresh air. So we walked to the nearby park and talked about old Enterprise stuff over a few beers.
+ Back at the apartment, Nick made another delicious meal of fajitas. We swapped travel stories and high school gossip before bed.

London Sights! Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben
+ After a frustrating and late start to our day of barely missed trains and expensive travelcards to get into central London, we tried to lift our spirits after stumbling upon an all you can eat pizza place! This was the first one we’d seen our entire trip so obviously we had to try it!
+ Most attractions in London closed around 5pm so we toured around taking in the typical tourist sites: Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Eye, and of course gift shops full of Queen memorabilia! (like her corgis!) It was exciting to see these famous sites – especially things Liz recognized from the royal wedding!
+ After Nick got off work, he met us in London and we explored the SoHo area looking for a good pub to grab a drink. After walking through some very touristy and then very hip districts in the Regents Street area we found a decent pub and swapped more travel stories over some pints.
+ When it was time to head home, Nick and Liz stopped for a snack at Wok to Wok- delicious fast food stir fry place.
+ After the walk back to the train station, we managed to just barely miss the last “fast” train (only saves about 15 minutes) back to Egham and had to wait a bit to then take the slower train home. All in all it we started and ended our day being very frustrated with our luck with the transport system.
+ Looking back, we saved a ton by not paying for accommodation because Nick so generously hosted us. But the ride in to London cost us a good amount of sightseeing time each day and the transportation costs definitely started to eat into what we had saved on accommodation. We were happy to have the chance to spend time with Nick after so many years so we’re happy with our decision and I’m sure this will definitely not be the last time we are in London!

Natural History Museum and Science Museum
+ After our long walk to the train station, we unfortunately missed the train by seconds. Of course. So we had to wait another half hour for a train. So frustrating! Combined with our aptitude for rushing out the door in the morning, we would definitely need to think hard before we chose to live in a city where we relied on public transport for work.
+ Took a train and the tube into London, and went to our first stop of the day, the The Natural History Museum. This place was huge, although not quite as big as the one in D.C. (US is #1, woohoo!) Here we spent about 4 hours browsing the displays in the museum and managed to see everything just before closing time! Dinosaur skeletons and fossils, huge animal taxidermy displays, a giant cocoon featuring their vast collection of insect and foliage specimens (some of hundreds of years old!), and lots of interactive features about the planet. Really interesting and informative. We always seem to enjoy these natural types of museums.
+ Afterwards, we walked next door to the Science museum. With limited time, we spent an hour exploring and quickly walking through all of the museum wings looking at everything until it closed. Also a neat place where we could’ve spent a few more hours.
+ From there, we rode the metro up north to near Abbey Road. Then we walked the rest of the way and took picture doing the famous Beatles walk across Abbey Road crosswalk.
+ After our long ride back to Egham, we picked up some drinks from Waitrose (the Publix clone!) and pizza from Papa John’s and took our feast back to share with Nick.

Kew Gardens, Tower Bridge & Tate Modern
+ In the morning we finished off the cheese we’d brought from Paris (along with a new baguette) and then had some cold pizza for breakfast too!
+ Walked (and jogged a little) into town to make sure we’d catch the next train towards London.
+ Switched over to an underground tube and took that to Kew Gardens. These Royal Botanical Gardens were opened in 1840 and is said to be the largest and most diverse collection of living plants on earth! We even saw a very old tree that had been in that very spot longer than the US has been a country! The gardens have had many different Queens or Royalty commemorate various sections of the historic gardens or greenhouses. We walked around for about 2 hours before needing to move on, even though there was a lot we didn’t get to see. This place was huge!
+ Hopped on the tube again and had to ride it for about 30 minutes through London towards the Tower of London. This was our next tourist destination which we had prebooked tickets. Because there were closing soon today, the staff in the welcome center very graciously agreed to change our booking date to a date later in the month. (By this point, we knew would be coming back to London at some point after our housesit in Brighton.)
+ Now that we have the afternoon and evening free, we admired the Tower Bridge (which is the iconic bridge in London- actually NOT London Bridge) We took some pictures and then walked across it!
+ On the other side of the Thames, we joined up with the historic “Queen’s Walk” and walked along the river, past bars and shops, until we got the the Tate Modern Museum. We ate a quick picnic on the lawn outside the museum to make sure we wouldn’t be starving later.
+ The Tate Modern was definitely very modern and was a good change from the usual art museums we’ve seen.
+ After closing down the museum, we caught the train back towards Egham and met Nick and his partner Arnold at a bar called the Slug and Lettuce. It was a great way to celebrate the end of our visit in London!

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