Hearing London and Indulging in Paris

Jan 07, 2011 Avatar Hilton Smith Hilton Smith

Summer 2012 is upon us and what better way to celebrate than to revisit a couple of European favorites.

I love to explore new destinations, but London and Paris are ever changing and I never get bored going back to them.

July, 2012 has been no exception. The excitement of being in London with celebrations of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the same month as the beginning of the 2012 Summer Olympic Games made this an even more exciting experience, and we took advantage of every moment. Banners were already hanging at London’s Heathrow Airport and Olympic Games signage was everywhere. Leicester Square sported a brand new and revitalized look and the city was definitely in celebration mode.

What better way to be included than to experience the State Rooms of Buckingham Palace along with many of the priceless Crown Jewels. Among them was that small but amazing crown that Queen Victoria wore in those grainy black and white photos. The Palace is again closed to the public, but it will reopen later this summer. Tickets must be booked in advance.

Of course there is so much to see and do in London and we walked the streets and explored the galleries. We shared beer in the pubs with the locals and other tourists. Fish and chips and meat pies are not my normal fare in LA, but somehow that all tastes so much better off of Trafalgar Square or in Covent Garden. I just had to go for it.

Watching the Olympics at home will mean so much more to me now that I have seen all that London has done to prepare for them.

Then it was on to Paris on the still impressive Eurostar traveling 100 miles an hour below the English Channel and up to 186 miles an hour above ground. At 2 hours, 15 minutes city center to city center, this is by far the best way to get from A to B. Standard Premier Class is the best value for money with “First Class” seats, a cold but tasty meal included at your seat with complimentary beverages, including beer and wine. Eurostar uses dynamic pricing so the earlier you book, the lower the pricing.

For London and Paris and about anywhere else in Europe, it is best to plan well in advance to avoid disappointment, hassles and to maximize your time. Semi-private tours are a new way to skip the lines, have a dedicated guide, avoid the big coaches but still have value for money. In most cases you are with no more than 7 – 10 travelers.

I experienced two of them in Paris and they were very successful. The first one was a pre-paid program with pick-up at the hotel and a transfer to a one hour cruise on the Seine, then drop-off at the Eiffel Tower for a two hour very French dinner at the nice and informal 58 Tour Eiffel Tower, first level, and then taking us back to our hotels at 11:00 p.m. We skipped the long elevator line and were sent through like VIP’s and we had a nice table for two in the restaurant. Those who did not book ahead had no chance of getting in and due to construction with only one main lift working, the line just to go up was very, very long.

The second tour was to Versailles the next morning with just 7 travelers and we parked way in front of the coaches and had a very good, licensed guide for 3 hours to ourselves with, of course, no line to get in. This is only part of the story. How to get there and where to stay are just as important to the travel formula to result in the perfect trip to London or Paris or where ever else you want to experience.

With five trips to Europe already in 2012 and two more scheduled, I am your eyes on the ground and the key for putting this all together for you. I can develop the best strategies to maximize your time and investment and minimize your hassles. Contact me with your trip planning requests.

Let this professional be your guide.

Hilton Smith