I am a little late in writing the third part of this story due to the fact that I was in California again taking care of my elderly parents. I am there for up to a month, every three months due to their deteriorating health. This throws me off with my writing, as I write from the heart, and it is all-consuming when I am with my parents where the many distractions pull me away from my writing. Now that I am back, it’s time to complete my story of when the kids came to visit.
Happy New Year 2013 and the five of us woke up bright and early to drive to Le Shuttle train terminal just a few miles from our hotel. Everyone was feeling sort of bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, considering we were up celebrating New Year’s Eve the night before.
We were now on the third and final leg of our Family European Vacation. We were on our way to Paris, France for a few days, then back to finish up in London before the kids leave for Los Angeles – home in Southern California.
Taking our car onto Le Shuttle train was a new experience for all of us. We were one of the first cars to arrive at the terminal so we had to rely on the posted signs to find our way to the area where we had to check in. We drove up to the person in a kiosk who had all of our details in the computer and printed our ticket to hang on our rear view mirror, and told us to continue to follow the signs to the loading area.
At that point there were a few staff members to point us in the right direction. We really did not know what to expect as to what the inside of the train was like and how the cars were situated. After a short time we were told to drive down a ramp that brought us next to the train. A quick left and right and we were on the train. Once on the train we drove up a ramp to the second level – the first level was for trucks and busses. Then we continued forward, one carriage after another, until we reached our carriage, where the train staff showed us where to stop our car. We were parked four cars to a train carriage.
We were then told to turn off our engine and open our windows, and after a few safety announcements we told to sit back and enjoy the ride, in both English and French.
It was just a 35 minute train ride from England to France through the Chunnel, a tunnel built under the English Channel that is approximately 31 miles long connecting England to France. We arrived in Calais, France, adjusted to driving on the right, and began our three-hour drive to Paris. We had good weather, sunshine and just a few small clouds in the blue sky, and no rain for now. Being this time of year we all knew that the weather could be cold and rainy so this was a wonderful surprise. It made the sightseeing along the way so much nicer.
After figuring out how much three hotel rooms in Paris would have cost, we decided to splurge and rent a beautiful and big – by Paris standards – apartment in the centre of Paris for the five of us. Situated in the 2nd arrondissement, in a beautiful neighbourhood filled with wonderful restaurants and shops, we were able to walk to all of the areas surrounding central Paris. It was a real family treat.
We walked from one end of Paris to the other, showing Liz as much as we could in three days. We hit most of the big tourist attractions, several restaurants and shops, including the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the bridges crossing the Seine and of course, window shopping on the Champs Elysees.
We walked through Le Jardin de Tuileries, to the Marais – the Jewish area where we had the best falafel in Paris, stopping along the way for lunch and coffee and the best sweets ever.
Being the holiday season, the Paris Christmas Market was still open and selling all sorts of gifts and food from around Europe. I bought a gorgeous ring from Poland and Liz found a few treasures to take back to California. It was so nice that everyone was still in the holiday spirit. Of course I took 600+ pictures, mostly of all of us in Paris.
In the evening we went for dinner and took some nice night pictures. You can see some of my favourites below.
Le Shuttle back to England ran late due to technical difficulties. We had an hour wait to get onto the train, however when they finally loaded us onto the train they had technical difficulties closing the doors. So we all had to drive off this train and be directed to a waiting area for another train. This took another hour until we finally we were securely fastened into the new train and on our way to London. Even though this gave us time to reminisce about our Paris visit, we were all a bit tired now after the three hour drive to the Le Shuttle train terminal in Calais. Our snacks had run out and we were hungry too. This delay ate into our time in London that evening. We assured Liz that we would see all of the things that she wanted to see tomorrow. She was so cool about the whole thing and reminded us that she will be alright with whatever we can see in a day, and that the important thing is that we are experiencing this as a family and the memories that we are creating together and the family travel traditions that we have started.
35 minutes later we were back in England – amazing. It was only an hour drive from Folkestone to London. Our hotel was in the Greenwich area of London, yes the place where the world’s time zones originate. We arrived at our hotel, freshened up a bit and then needed to find a place for dinner. Fortunately there was a traditional fish & chips shop just across the street from the hotel so we had dinner there. The owner was very friendly. He loves Americans. We shared stories and he told us about his family and his restaurant. It was late now so we went back to the hotel, bedded down for a good night’s sleep for all of us.
The next day was our one full day in London, so it was time to put on our walking shoes and hit the road. Our first stop was Big Ben and Houses of Parliament, both on the River Thames. We walked Westminster Bridge and the Millennium Bridge to Charing Cross Station, and continued on to Pret a Manger for a delicious, freshly made sandwich.
Then we drove to Camden Town and Covent Garden, for some unique shopping.
For dinner everyone wanted Indian food and we found an authentic Indian restaurant where we had a delicious dinner that we all enjoyed. It was evening now and we wanted to see London at night so we finished our one day tour of London by walking through Leicester Square, where all of the shows are, and then down Regents Street which was still decorated for the holidays, admiring all of the decorations up and down the street.
A little last minute shopping and a quick stop for a warm coffee and then we were all ready to head back to our hotel. A great day and a good night was had by all of us.
The next morning we slept in a bit as the kids had an afternoon flight from London to Los Angeles and we were only a 30 minute drive from the airport. We had some fruit and snacks for breakfast in our room and then loaded our car with the suitcases and drove off to the airport. When we arrived we parked the car and went in with the kids to make sure that check-in went smoothly and then we took them for lunch at their favourite sandwich shop, Pret a Manger, where we reminisced about our whole Family European Vacation before they left for home.
It was difficult saying “Good Bye” to them as we had spent ten days of uninterrupted time together and had such a great family vacation. There were some tears on my part but after all of the hugs, kisses and “I Love You”’s I was able to calmly wave them on as they went through security and onward toward their gate. I knew that it was only another three months until I would see them again on my next trip to Southern California.