A Travellerspoint blog

October 2011

A Trek Thru the British Isles XI- Paris, France

The Wonders of the Louvre Museum and Lunch at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant

The final port of call on our 12 Day British Isles Cruise was Le Havre, France the port near Paris, France. Mom and I had been looking forward to this stop, even though it was our final port of the cruise before returning to Southampton, England for the return flight home. Mom had made a very specific request to me to choose a tour that included a visit to the Louvre Museum and the Eiffel Tower. Lucky for us, there was an excursion that included both!

We left the ship on a sunny, cool morning for the almost 2 hour journey into the city of Paris. Our tour group was in a great mood and our tour guide for the day was a nice woman with a friendly manner about her. The only thing I found disconcerting was that she had an extremely thick French accent that made it hard to understand her "English" as she lectured on French history on the drive to Paris. I had studied French in school, so I fared better listening to her than most of the passengers on our tour. I was just happy to be back in France (we visited the French Riviera on another cruise). After a short rest stop along the way, I could finally see the outskirts of Paris from the tour bus window.

View of Paris from our Tour Bus
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The first stop of the day was the Louvre Museum. It was about 10:00am local time and already there was quite a crowd inside the museum. The Musée du Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and the most visited art museum in the world. It is located on the Right Bank of the Seine river. About 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 19th century are exhibited over an area of 652,300 square feet. The museum is housed in the Palais (Palace) du Louvre which began as a fortress built in the late 12th century under Philip II. The building was extended many times to form the present Louvre Palace. In 1682, Louis XIV chose the Palace of Versailles for his household, leaving the Louvre primarily as a place to display the royal collection, including, from 1692, a collection of antique sculpture. During the French Revolution, the National Assembly decreed that the Louvre should be used as a museum, to display the nation's masterpieces.

The Louvre Museum
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Our tour group headed inside and our tour guide lead us to several galleries to view some specific pieces of art that she wanted us to see. Our time at the museum was short because we were having lunch at the Eiffel Tower, so the guide released us to tour on our own before returning to our tour bus. To say that the Louvre is a massive structure is an understatement. The galleries went on forever and there were lots of stairs too. It was hard to decide what to try to see next and the crowds were growing by the minute. Mom and I decided to make our way to the Mona Lisa gallery, only to find standing room only space at the back of the huge room. We never got to see this famous painting up close because very rude gawkers refused to move away from in front of the painting that was protected by bullet proof glass. It was a major disappointment for Mom because it was the piece of art she most wanted to see. So after taking some distant photos over people's heads, we headed back down to the museum lobby.

A Gallery of art at the Louvre Museum in Paris, France
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The huge crowd at the Louvre Museum trying to see the Mona Lisa
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The Famous Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo Di Vinci
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The museum lobby was also crowded, but we managed to find a restroom and a seat near the gift shop to wait for the rest of our group. Mom waited outside the gift shop while I purchased some postcards and a book with photos of famous works of art and the history of the Louvre. At the appointed time, we boarded our tour bus and headed off to the Eiffel Tower for lunch at the restaurant located near the top of the famous Paris landmark.

The Eiffel Tower in the distance
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The Eiffel Tower is a beautiful structure. Having only seen the fake one in Las Vegas, the real thing was very impressive. The Eiffel Tower is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. Built in 1889, it has become one of the most recognizable structures in the world. The tower is the tallest building in Paris and the most-visited paid monument in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, the tower was built as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair. The tower has three levels for visitors. Tickets can be purchased to ascend, by stairs or very small elevator, to the first and second levels. The third and highest level is accessible only by elevator. The first and second levels both feature restaurants.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris
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Exiting our tour bus on the plaza under the tower, we were greeted with more crowds. It was still a beautiful and now very warm day. Our tour guide lead us to the ticket booth for the tower and we were taken in small groups up to one of the restaurants for lunch. We were very hungry by the time we were seated. Thankfully we were waited on a served a delicious meal with wine after a short wait. Our group talked to each other and looked at the gorgeous scenery out of the wall of windows. It was a wonderful way to relax. Before leaving the tower, I took some photos of the awesome view.

View from a table at the Eiffel Tower restaurant in Paris, France
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Paris from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant
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The River Seine from the Eiffel Tower Restaurant
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It took a while for all of us to reach the ground floor of the Eiffel Tower after lunch with the crowds and the small elevators. I found a seat for Mom after we finally reached the ground and walked over to a small gift shop for some souvenirs. Our tour bus rolled up and we were once again off to complete our tour of Paris. We drove through the streets and neighborhoods while our tour guide described the views. Then it was back down the highway to Le Harve to board the Crown Princess for sail away. It had been much too short a visit. I made a promise to myself to do a land tour in the future that definitely included another visit to the Louvre (at a much less crowded time of year) and some French wine tastings.

The day after our visit to France we were back in Southampton. We disembarked the ship midmorning and got transportation to Heathrow airport for the flight home. It was another warm sunny day, and I felt so blessed to have enjoyed such a amazing trip with my Mom. It was an adventure that I will remember forever. Now, it's on to the next travel destination on my very long list. I hope you have a travel list of your own!

Au revoir! The End!

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services
Follow me on Facebook under The Travel Concierge

Posted by Gerriv 08:53 Comments (2)

A Trek Thru the British Isles X-Edinburgh, Scotland

I visit a Medieval Castle and take a Tour of Scotlands more Famous Landmarks

South Queensferry, Scotland is a tender port. One of the last ports we would visit on our 12 day British Isles cruise, it was also the gateway to Edinburgh, Scotland. From the ship anchored some distance from shore, passengers of the Crown Princess had to board small boats that would ferry us to the dock where we would board tour buses or make our way to Edinburgh on our own. After enjoying an early breakfast the morning of our visit, I left the ship for a tour called "Edinburgh Castle and City Drive". I chose to do a tour by myself that day because Mom decided not to take a bouncing and bobbing tender boat to the dock. It was a misty and somewhat rainy morning as I climbed aboard the tender boat and I was glad I had a hat and small umbrella with me to shield me from the elements while exploring the sights in Edinburgh on the tour.

Edinburgh is the capital city of Scotland, the second largest city in Scotland, and the eighth most populous in the United Kingdom. Lying between the Highlands and the Border Hills, Edinburgh, Scotland is a large, fascinating city noted for its beautiful skyline, its impressive architecture and its beautiful parks. Edinburgh is the site of the International Festival, one of the premier European cultural events for over half a century. Among those who have called the city home are the writers, Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hide) Robert Burns, James Boswell, and Sir Walter Scott, as well as philosophers, Adam Smith and David Hume. Edinburgh is also the seat of the Scottish Parliament. The Old Town and New Town districts of Edinburgh were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.

Views of the Edinburgh, Scotland skyline
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Arriving in Edinburgh the weather had improved a great deal which was fortuitous as our first stop of the day was the historic Edinburgh Castle. The first thing I noticed about Edinburgh is that the Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline in an unbelievable way. Sitting high above the city streets, it is an imposing and impressive structure. Over 1000 years of history sit on top of the famous Edinburgh Castle rock. The Castle is also the home of the Royal Crown Jewels of Scotland. Looking up at the castle from the city streets below, you see why this historic site has over a million visitors a year.

Edinburgh Castle
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Leaving the bus just outside of the Edinburgh Castle wall, we were instructed by our tour guide that we would have some time on our own to explore the castle and to return to the bus at a certain time to continue our city tour. I was happy to have the time to explore on my own as there was so much to see and so much history to take in.

Edinburgh Castle visitors prepare to enter the Castle grounds
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Edinburgh Castle chapel
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Edinburgh Castle building
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Castle Rock as it is called, has been a military base and royal residence for centuries. Edinburgh Castle was built during the 12th century by David I, son of Saint Margaret of Scotland. Conflicts between the English and Scottish monarchies almost always centered on Edinburgh Castle. It was said that "He who held the castle held rule over the city of Edinburgh and, therefore, over all of Scotland". As a consequence, the castle was constantly under siege over the centuries.

The site continued to be a royal residence until the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Mary, Queen of Scots was one of the more famous residents. From the 15th century, the castle's residential role declined, and by the 17th century its principal role was as a military base with a large garrison. As one of the most important fortresses in the Kingdom of Scotland, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts, from the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century, up to the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Most of the castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and it is Scotland's most-visited paid tourist attraction.

Mary, Queen of Scots exhibit at Edinburgh Castle
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I took my time walking around the enormous castle grounds before making my way inside the castles Royal Palace to see the Honors of Scotland or the Crown Jewels of Scotland which are displayed in the Crown Room of the Palace. The room was built specially for the Honors in 1617, as part of King James VI ‘homecoming’ to Scotland, to celebrate his Golden Jubilee as king of Scots. The crown, scepter and sword date from the late 15th and early 16th centuries. The scepter was presented to James IV in 1494, probably by Pope Alexander VI, and the Sword in 1508 by Pope Julius.

The Honors of Scotland
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By the time I made my way out of the Royal Palace after standing in a long line to see the Crown Jewels, it was almost time to meet back at the tour bus. I had just enough time to buy some souvenirs and make the long trek down a steep hill to where the tour bus was parked. I had quite a work out walking around the castle grounds due to several steep hills and a lot of steps. I was more than ready to sit down and ride for a while. From the castle the tour took us down the Royal Mile to the Holyrood Palace (residence of the Scottish Monarch, Queen Elizabeth II when she is in town) and around the city to take in more sites.

The City of Edinburgh grows outwards from the Castle and the first houses were built on the area in front of it and is now called the Lawnmarket. From there, the houses, shops and restaurants continue down High Street and The Cannongate towards the Royal Palace of Holyrood House. These streets form a single street known as The Royal Mile. The Royal Mile got its name over the centuries as Scottish and English kings and queens have travelled back and forth between the Palace of Holyrood House and Edinburgh Castle, thus the name The Royal Mile.

Gates to Holyrood Palace
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View of the city from Edinburgh Castle on Castle Rock
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Building along the Royal Mile
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Home of author Robert Louis Stevenson in Edinburgh, Scotland
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By the time we arrived back at the ship after a long day of touring Edinburgh, I was more than tired. I was also exhilarated from being immersed is so much history too. One day was simply not enough to see Edinburgh, so I added it to my growing list of places I had to visit again one day.

Next up, Mom and I visit the amazing city of Paris, France and our fabulous 12 day British Isles cruise comes to an end.

To Be Continued.....

Gerrilyn Grant Gipson Esq.
Owner/Travel Consultant
Meetings & Events Unlimited Travel Services

Posted by Gerriv 09:37 Comments (0)

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