Paris again

PARIS, FRANCE

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I couldn’t wait to head back to Paris. I’d enjoyed it so much the first time and yet there was still so much to see. Round 2 didn’t get off to good start though.

I had booked my room through lastminute.com and specifically opted for the secret hotel deal where you pay a heavily reduced price for a ‘top hotel’. The catch is you don’t know the name of the hotel until you book it and you don’t know the exact location either. I bought my hotel stay (Novotel Paris Est) and after doing some research I thought that it would be great. It was advertised as a four star but once I arrived I was unimpressed with the room and hotel in general, not to mention the dodgey location. It was appalling with tattered carpets and old furniture and so it didn’t take me long to check out.

Luckily I got reimbursed from lastminute.com and was able to purchase a new hotel room (Eurostars Panorama Hotel) in a better area near Gar du Nord that allowed me to get around Paris with ease and safety. It’s small but clean and modern and the staff were brilliant. I’d like to stay here again. I really, really like France. I’m thinking of learning French! Oui.

Bottom line: Don’t purchase secret hotel deals on lastminute.com The risk is too great. Take the time to find a nice hotel. It’s worth it.

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Day trip to Cambridge

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND – I’ve now been to Oxford and Cambridge.

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And it’s Cambridge I prefer.

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It’s a 45 minute train trip from King’s Cross Station in London with no stops (approx. £16 return). A ten minute walk and you’re in the heart of this thriving university town. I found it smarter, neater and easier to explore for a day trip outside of the city.

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Everyone I spoke to said you have to go bunting when you’re in Cambridge. It’s basically a gondola ride (think Venice) on a narrow river that passes through the university. Best to go with a guide. I saw a lot of people trying it for themselves but it was nerve wracking to watch them. They bumped into everything a lot including our little boat but they managed to stay dry.

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I did the St. John’s College tour and it was a good pick. It wasn’t too busy on the day that I went and it was nicely geared towards tourists. Well marked and with the right amount of information to keep you busy. When you finish the tour you’re outside in the park areas surrounded by trees and plenty of spring flowers.

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I loved walking through the streets too. So many nice, cute shops to keep you busy and interested.

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There was a graduation ceremony on the day that I was there and so there were many students in their robes. It was odd but the tourists were taking random photographs of them. All in all it was a good day out and I highly recommend it.

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Off to Bath

BATH, ENGLAND

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA few weeks ago my friend put together a surprise getaway for us. We got in the car and headed to Bath for the weekend. I’d been before years before, but it was good to go back and take a walk around again.

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Weather was a bit chilly but that didn’t stop the crowds. This is a popular city. There’s good shopping and some good sites to see like the small cathedral (free).

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We didn’t go and see the actual Roman Baths which I suppose is the main reason why people used to come to the city years ago . We just didn’t want to fork out the cash (about £13). But as we love Jane Austen we took the tour which I highly recommend. It’s not actually located in a home she lived in, but on the same street where she used to live. It sort of felt special to walk around Bath and think of the spaces that were her inspiration. I think the one thing that I took away from the tour was that perhaps her motivation for writing was not just out of sheer love of writing or the need to tell her stories. She seemed to have a financial motivation. Her family was not well off and during her last months at Bath the family was so hard up that they were living in the same area as the city’s prostitutes, where before they were near genteel society. It’s hard to imagine Jane near prostitutes…

Bath Collage

After the tour we did pop by Sally Lunn’s a restaurant that sells buns which according to the website is ‘part bun, part bread, and part cake’ and has been a part of Bath for so long that even Jane used to enjoy them too. We got there early enough to miss the queue. I ordered mine with cinnamon sugar and it was tasty and sweet.

The rest of the time was spent walking around Bath, shopping and eating. You only really need one day to see Bath. It’s fairly close to London and easily accessible by car or train.

All this talk of Bath reminds me of some of my Jane Austen films/shows…Pride & Prejudice (the one with Colin), Sense and Sensibility (with Emma Thomson) and another film that I highly recommend is The Jane Austen Book Club. Really sweet and funny. Perfect for a night in.

Inside Notre Dame Cathedral

PARIS, FRANCE – The most visited sight in Paris is Disneyland. Notre Dame Cathedral is in the Top 5.

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It’s a free venue to visit and if you’ve read Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, you’ll want to pass by.

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As it’s so popular be prepared to line up outside. But once inside there’s a lot of space to roam at your leisure and find a quiet place to meditate and just look up at the stained glass windows.

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