PARIS and LONDON: 5 days in each city.
April 16-28, 2016 -- approx. $4,399
During this visit we will see the major highlights plus many hidden corners that most tourists never get to. The special value of this trip is getting to see the cities during in-depth walking tours. You need to walk to appreciate the character of a place, the incredible architecture, the smells and sounds, impressive churches, quaint cobbled alleys, attractive shopping and cozy neighborhoods. Usually each walk takes about three hours, but don’t worry, we walk slowly and take enough time to look around, snap photos, and sit down for a brief rest every hour. This is the best way to see a place. Plus you will have free time to pursue your own interests. And we do a couple of bus tours to get the big picture.
Day 1,2 Flying to Paris
Day 3 Morning arrival, walking tour of the colorful neighborhoods of the Left Bank, enter Notre Dame Cathedral.
Among the world's greatest cities, Paris is a must for any serious traveler. Here we present a carefully-planned itinerary to help you see this city in an organized way with specific suggestions to get the most out of 5 days, which is plenty of time for a good look around at the important sites.
Our hotel is in the largest pedestrian zone in Paris, Les Halles, featuring about 30 blocks of shops and restaurants with people everywhere and no cars in sight. This makes a convenient neighborhood in which to stay because this is the geographic center of the city, in the middle of the 1st arrondissement, and it has very convenient metro connections radiating out from the world's largest subway station down underground.
After arrival at our hotel for a brief rest and lunch, we get started with a walking tour into the heart of Paris. Walking past the Pompidou center and Hotel de’Ville city hall, we soon reach Notre Dame Cathedral, first constructed from 1163 and probably the most famous Gothic cathedral to be found anyplace in the world.
After visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame we walk across a little bridge to another island in the middle of the river Seine. This is the ille St Louis. It's like a little village in the middle of the city, a beautiful place with one main narrow pedestrian street down the middle lined with lovely shops - wine stores, cheese shops, flower shops, a couple of little hotels, and we must try some famous Bertillon ice cream while here.
We continue walking, once again crossing a bridge across the Seine, leaving the ille Saint-Louis over to the left bank, the Latin Quarter of Paris. Down the steps along the riverbank to the river-side quay, a wonderful scenic area, one of many UNESCO world heritage sites in the city, offering lovely views of the back of Notre Dame Cathedral. These charming cobbled lanes of Left Bank Paris with their quiet neighborhood markets, art galleries, many restaurants and pleasant tree-lined plazas are terrific for strolling, shopping and people-watching.
Remaining afternoon of this first day is at leisure, free to wander the extensive pedestrian zone around our hotel or continue strolling in the Latin Quarter.
Day 4 Louvre Museum, then bus tour.
Begin the day with our visit to the Louvre Museum, featuring the world’s best art collection. Our 3-hour guided visit will included most of the major pieces including: sculptures by Michelangelo, Bernini, and Canova a room filled with huge paintings by Gericault, the Raft of the Medusa and paintings by David, showing the coronation of Napoleon. Of course we’ll admire the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory and Venus de Milo, but see much, much more.
After a brief rest we’ll take a 90-minute open-top bus tour in the late afternoon/early evening when the lighting is spectacular. The bus tour itinerary brings us by the main sites, including Place de la Concorde, Grand Palais, River Seine, Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the Place de l'Opera, and a lot more.
Day 5 Walking tour: Rue du Rivoli, St. Honore, Opera, Montorgueil. Free afternoon, evening visit to Montmartre.
Starting out from our hotel we enjoy an in-depth walking tour through the center of town along famous streets lined with shops, cafes and restaurants: Rue St Honore, Rue de Rivoli, Place Vendome and Place de l'Opera, where we shall take a break to look into the large department stores, Printemps and Galeries Lafayette.
This general neighborhood truly is shoppers heaven with all kinds of things to choose from in the boutiques all around. Non-shoppers can come along on a short bonus walk. You don't have to spend any money here to enjoy yourself. You can just enjoy the people-watching with an endless stream of characters passing by on these sidewalks of Paris. We then continue strolling along the Grand Boulevards, then head back towards the hotel along Rue Montorgueil, one of the liveliest pedestrian streets in town.
Day 6 Marais, Carnavalet, Tuileries, Orsay Museum, boat ride on the Seine.
In the Marais we find narrow winding old streets, buildings which have been there for centuries, with elaborate façades and courtyards. We walk by cozy little restaurants, art galleries, antique stores, starting at the Place the Vosges, generally considered to be the oldest square in northern Europe. It was built in the Italian style with a central garden and fountains surrounded by covered walkways with restaurants, antique shops and private residences all around this small park. We’ll also visit the Hotel d'Sully and the free Carnavalet Museum, with high-quality exhibits telling the history of Paris.
Continuing our Marais stroll, we could stop a delicious falafel sandwich at the famous Chez Marianne, eating local-style. Some options for this afternoon included the Orsay Museum, filled with French Impressionism, a walk in the Tuileries Gardens, and later, a boat ride on the Seine.
Day 7 Palace of Versailles and afternoon walk along Champs Elysees
After breakfast we visit Versailles, the grand palace built by King Louis XIV. A 40-minute train ride brings us there for early entry when we can beat the crowds and enjoy these splendid rooms, among the most elaborate interiors ever created -- the most sumptuous and regal existence you could ever imagine, highlighted especially in the Hall of Mirrors. We also have time for a walk in the lush gardens.
We continue this day with an afternoon visit to the Champs Elysées, where we take a grand stroll along this most famous boulevard of the city. It has the widest sidewalks in town, nicely planted with trees and lined with fine shops, cafes, theaters and showrooms. Arc de Triomphe first grabs our attention, then we stroll slightly downhill for half-mile enjoying the sights. We then have some free time in late afternoon.
These five days will show you all the main Paris highlights and much more.
Day 8 noon arrival. Orientation walk to Leicester Square, Covent Garden and Soho; bus tour; visit the Tower of London; boat ride on the Thames.
In the morning we travel to London, going under the English Channel in the high-speed Eurostar train. Upon arrival about noon we check in to our hotel one block from Trafalgar Square in the heart of town, near Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. We start out with a brief orientation walk to show you the fascinating features of this neighborhood around the hotel including Leicester Square, Covent Garden, Soho, and Chinatown.
Then we have a panoramic ride on an open-top tour bus passing the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St. Pauls, Tower Bridge and highlights of the West End. After the bus tour we visit the Tower of London, the huge castle on the Thames, the most-popular attraction and oldest building in London, dating back to 1078 when William the Conqueror began construction. Then we take a 45-minute boat ride on the Thames back towards our hotel.
Day 9 Walking tour: Trafalgar Square, Piccadilly Circus, Oxford Street, Mayfair, Bond Street, St. James, Changing the Guards. Free afternoon.
This morning we have a comprehensive walking tour through some of the most interesting parts of town, visiting Piccadilly Circus, St. James, Chinatown, Soho, and ending with the Changing of the Guards at Buckingham Palace. This will bring us through grand examples of the finest urban architecture, and past many fine shops along the way.
We then arrive at the famous Changing the Guards ceremony. The pomp and circumstance of this ritual is great fun, with the redcoat soldiers in their tall black hats parading to the bouncy rhythm of a marching brass band. We get to St. James Palace for the first phase, then stroll through beautiful St. James Park to arrive at Buckingham Palace just in time for the climax of the event, watching the big marching band going by.
The afternoon is completely free. You will easily find many wonderful things to do in this great city. For those interested we shall lead a visit to the National Gallery, a great art museums just one block from our hotel.
Day 10 Walk along Strand to the downtown financial center. Afternoon visit to the British Museum.
This morning we enjoy a people-watching meander along The Strand, a major street at rush hour to see crowds of natives walking to work. It will be a fascinating parade of Londoners heading to the office. This busy road has various theaters, shops, restaurants, and tempting side lanes. Detouring into the campus-like Inns of Court provides a peaceful break, with gardens, fountains and 17th-century brick buildings housing lawyers and judges.
Next, we walk several more roads taking us into Bloomsbury, whose centerpiece is the British Museum, one of the world’s great history museums. It opened in 1759, and has just completed a major expansion with creation of the huge indoor Great Court and special exhibition galleries.
BRITISH MUSEUM The British Museum is one of the oldest museums in the world. The ancient Greek and Egyptian collections are the main treasures, especially the Elgin Marble statues from the Parthenon in Athens and the vast number of mummies, colossal statues and jewelry from the ancient civilization of the Nile. You will also find interesting displays about the Romans in Britain, ancient Assyrians, Celtic prehistoric life, and the Middle Ages. A good visit could be completed in 90 minutes, and admission is free, so this is a very attractive activity.
Day 11 Westminster Abbey, West End, Harrods.
We begin the day at Westminster Abbey, one of the finest Gothic churches in the world, impressive as Notre Dame in Paris. Edward the Confessor began the building around 1050 and large-scale expansion commenced in 1245, with major additions made during the next 500 years, resulting in this astonishing harmonious complex.
Resume your walking tour by heading north back into the busy tangle of streets of London's West End, reaching up to Tottenham Court where it changes name and character to become Charing Cross Road, a famous literary street with many bookshops. This wonderful street for strolling leads back into London’s most interesting neighborhoods -- Soho, Covent Garden and Leicester Square -- which are in full swing by afternoon.
This afternoon is free. Shoppers might want to visit Harrods — perhaps the world’s greatest department store.
Day 12 Free day.
Explore more museums go shopping, or optional day-trip to Bath and Stonehenge; or perhaps to York by train. Arrangements can be made at our hotel desk.
Day 13 We fly home filled with memories of an incredible trip.
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