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texasgirl29

Eclipse British Isles and French Open June 2017 review (long with photos)

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This will be a review of five nights pre-cruise in London and 14 nights British Isles and French Open. Probably pretty wordy and lots of photos, so if you're looking for the short version, it's yes, we had a great time. Long, drawn out version to follow.

 

I'm going to attempt this on my iPad so go easy on the typos. With past reviews I've uploaded all my photos to another site and linked them but hopefully I can just insert as I go along directly from my iPad.

 

So.

 

We signed up for this trip about a year in advance. By "we" I mean my father in law who takes care of most of the financials while I'm the planner. Seems fair. Initially the plan was for our extended family including my father in law David, Mother in law Norene, and brother in law Brian as well as my husband Paul, me (JoAnn), and our two daughters Rachel (17) and Stephanie (20). Unfortunately Stephanie had to stay behind to take a summer class in college. She was most unhappy at having to miss Paris but she needed Organic Chemistry more than she needed baguettes and macarons.

 

About three months before the trip, Norene fell and broke her leg. Her doctor decided not to operate but for her to remain practically immobile so the bone would reknit itself. We were unsure exactly how much she would be able to do on the trip.

 

More on that later.

 

My first order of business was to find a hotel for five nights in London. Two years previously we stayed at the London House Hotel in Bayswater and that worked out well. They have rooms that will accommodate three or four and try as I might I couldn't find a better situation at a better price. So I booked two rooms there. But I continued to search for a better deal and thought I would look closer to Victoria Coach Station since we would transport to Southampton on the National Express bus. One idea led to another and I began to research vacation rentals in the area. I found a two-bedroom (sleeps up to eight) flat a few blocks from VCS for about £250 per night. We could all stay in the one flat and spread out with 2.5 baths, a full kitchen, dining room and living room instead of tripping over suitcases and beds in a hotel room. I cancelled the other booking and paid the deposit for the flat.

 

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Next on my to do list was figure out how to get from Heathrow to the flat. On the previous trip we hired a car to pick us up and we were a long time in customs. The driver did not wait. I was not going to do that again. One thing I haven't mentioned is I am a budget traveler. I want to find the best way to enjoy our trip without spending a fortune.

 

Our portion of the family would be coming from Texas, and my in laws from case we worked out travel arrangements separately. I googled, I read reviews, I watched YouTube videos about getting the tube from LHR to Victoria and decided the commuter hour and us with luggage was not a good plan. Taking the National Express bus was a much better idea.

 

Customs took about an hour and a half.

 

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We gathered our luggage and followed the signs the National Express station twisting and turning down long corridors until we emerged at the ticket counter. The fare for the three of us was about £28. We hopped aboard and enjoyed the scenery for the hour or so ride.

 

 

 

 

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While waiting in line for our bus tickets I got a call from the apartment owner, which was great because although we signed up for AT&T's international calling plan I didn't have a clue how to dial his number. He let me know the flat was ready and someone would be there to meet us.

 

At Victoria, the driver unloaded our suitcases and we looked at our map and began to walk the 15-minutes or so to the flat. We were greeted by Alex who carried our suitcases down the steep stairs of the garden flat. Several people in TripAdvisor had written about the stairs were so I was a little worried especially for Norene who was just released to walk.

 

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But we found the flat had a back patio with a gate and it was easier to leave through the courtyard so that problem was temporarily solved at least until it was time to leave.

 

First order of business was breakfast. There was a wonderful little Bakery just a few doors down, Gail's Bakery.

 

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Next order of business was to find an outlet converter. What I really liked about staying in the flat instead of a hotel was the neighborhood feeling. We found a small shop around the corner where we bought a converter.

 

The shop was on the same street as an outdoor market which appeared every day and disappeared at night.

 

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I don't remember what the bright red and pink stuff was. The shopkeeper gave us some falafel samples.

 

We walked around the block to check out the two small grocery stores. Always interesting to see what brands and packaging other countries have. We bought a few things like milk and bread. Our full size refrigerator had a few things in it presumably left from previous renters already including beer which was a nice surprise. Later we would discover a large Sainsbury grocery store within walking distance.

 

 

 

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Rachel, Paul and I next decided to check out the nearest Tube station. We were situated halfway between Victoria and Pimlico. Pimlico has no connecting lines so it's smaller and less busy. We walked about five blocks to the station. Passed this statue that reminded me of the Fearless Girl In NYC.

 

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We found the entrance to the station and decided to keep walking to the Thames.

 

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Low tide!

 

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I don't know who was putting up these hand written signs but they sure made me smile.

 

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We were on this cruise. Loved it, 12 ports in 14 days. Met great people and had a superb time onboard the Eclipse. Looking forward to the rest of your review.

 

 

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I remember reading your Baltic cruise review in 2015, just before we sailed in late July. I will be re- reading that to pick up some alternative ideas for our return cruise on Silhouette next June.

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In the late afternoon, Paul's parents and brother arrived by taxi. They had flown from California. As I mentioned before, Norene had just been released from her doctor's care for a broken leg. In an abundance of caution, they brought a walker and a wheelchair with them. In addition, their son Brian, 49, has Down Syndrome and has been experiencing signs of Alzheimer's. I only bring this up because it does affect the events of this cruise.

 

I raced up the stairs from the flat to head them off and let them know it would be easier to go around the corner and through the back gate. Norene was using the walker, Brian was in the wheelchair and they had four pieces of luggage plus backpacks to deal with.

 

This was so very different from past cruises. My inlaws, now 77, have been very fit and active. They have cruised too many times to count. Brian has always enjoyed certain elements of cruising, including meals, swimming and being fussed over by the staff.

 

We settled everyone in and decided to go back to Tesco to get food to make sandwiches for dinner. Norene navigated well with her walker and Dave stayed behind with Brian who seemed to have a very hard time with jet lag.

 

After dinner, Dave went with us to get Oyster cards at the Pimlico station. A very helpful employee was there, we told him his long we would be staying and where we wanted to go. He advised us how much money to put on our cards, his to get our deposit back and used our credit card in the machines to purchase the cards. Two years ago we bought 7-day travel cards so we could use the 2-4-1 deals but we would not be needing that much time.

 

This was the conclusion of our first day, we successfully stayed awake for 34 hours and went to bed, ready for a new day tomorrow.

 

 

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Wednesday, May 31

This was a bucket list day for me, we were going to Hampton Court Palace.

 

Whenever I had researched getting to Hampton Court, for some reason, it always seemed so complicated. It's not. At all.

 

Dave, Paul, Rachel and I set out for Vauxhall train station on foot. It was maybe a 25 minute walk, past the Pimlico station, over the Vauxhall Bridge and across the road. We told the attendant we needed four tickets to Hampton Court that would qualify for the 2-4-1 discount. We paid for the tickets and she gave us the booklet with vouchers for the attractions that offer the discount. We stepped out to the platform to wait for the train that came every 30 minutes.

 

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We were on the train about 30 minutes until it ended at Hampton Court. Foolproof.

 

The passengers all got off, and we walked over the bridge spanning the Thames. If you have a lot of time and fancy a leisurely trip, you can actually take the boat ride from London and arrive as the court would have.

 

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We got our tickets (four adult admissions for the price of two) and began to explore.

 

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I too was on this cruise and am still telling people about the simply wonderful experience of sailing in and then having it surpassed by the leaving of Liverpool. I have put my review of the cruise onto CC web site .....

I have now booked the Western Med (yet again) but as I want to leave from Southampton.... I have had to switch allegiance from the Eclipse to the Silhouette. Am taking my younger daughter this time...... in the interests of fairness (and to get myself another cruise)

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(Yikes! One finger typing on my iPad = too many typos. I'll try to proof read more. Apparently after a certain amount of time you cannot go back and edit.)

 

------------

 

The kitchens are outfit as if they were in the time of King Henry VIII, complete with faux food and real docents. I've seen several documentaries about the Palace and they mention the shear quantities of food being prepared for the royals, the guests and the servants.

 

One thing I recall from the documentary is the myth we were all told about using spices to cover up spoiled meat taste. According to the info, there was so much food in such huge quantities the inventory turned over very quickly.

 

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Just look at the soot above the fireplace! Imagine what it would have been like with the roaring fire and meat on the spit!

 

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Mass quantities of wine and ale, too!

 

 

 

 

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The Queen's Privy Garden had these whimsical animals on decorated poles above the flowers. Every time I see them they make me smile.

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It seemed at Hampton Court Palace everywhere you turned there was more sumptuousness to explore and oooh and aaaah over.

 

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It had been quite a day and we had tramped all over the palace, yet there were acres of gardens yet to see. I wanted to see the maze but I think it was closed for a private event, it was blocked off. So we walked around the other way and soon I was beckoned by the perfume of thousands of roses.

 

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I've seen guides that say you can do Hampton Court Palace in half a day; I can't imagine that. We spent most of the day there, and I would have spent more time in the gardens if I hadn't run out of energy!

 

 

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Thursday, June 1

 

Paul, David, Rachel and I took the underground to Liverpool Street Station to meet up with the Free Tours by Foot guide Jessica. This tour was the London East End Food Tour. Jessica went over the history of the area for immigrants and the poorest of the poor. From the French hugonaughts, the Jews and then Bengali Muslims, and now the hipsters.

 

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If you ever find yourself in a city with Free Tours By Foot, I highly recommend them. Lots of Tours to choose from and at the end you pay the guide what you feel it was worth.

 

 

 

 

 

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We sampled

arzu: samosas with lamb, or spinach, fried triangles.

 

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Poppies: fish and chips. Hot and fresh. Jessica said only tourists eat fish and chips in pubs.

 

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Beigel bake: bagels with salted beef, pickles and hot mustard

 

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Jessica told us the beigel (bagel) place was where Londoners go after a night of drinking. Know what you want, no substitutions and no plastic.

 

 

 

 

 

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Edited by texasgirl29

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Dark Sugar: handmade chocolates from Africa

 

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It was really easy to blow your budget here.

 

Last but not least.

 

Dumdums donutterie: cronuts

 

Rachel still talks about this place.

 

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The tour does not include the price of the food, the guide suggests a place that represents a certain aspect of the neighborhood and recommends an item. If you wish to try it, you order it. If not, that's fine too.

 

 

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Jessica said only tourists eat fish and chips in pubs.

Traditionally, Friday is the day to eat fish and chips.

They used to be eaten in newspaper ( which kept them warm) until we went into the EU, when it was considered un healthy!

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Paul wanted to stop at Kings Crossing St Pancras station to see the famous 9 3/4 platform that is the gateway to Harry Potter's Hogwarts train. The station has a display set up where you can pretend to be a wizard or a muggle and push your cart full of luggage through the wall. There's a little but of a line (about 20 minutes). Get your photo made and go right through the gift shop.

 

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There is a professional photographer to take your photo but there is no problem taking your own.

 

 

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That evening.... Paul and I also signed up for the night walking tour "Twilight on the Thames". We met our guide by the London Eye in Jubilee Park at 9:15. It was just starting to get dark-ish.

 

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As we made our way across the south bank, he told us about the settlement of London, the sewer systems, the bridges, St Paul's cathedral, Clink Street.

 

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Blue and white lights twinkled in the trees over our heads.

 

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The family park area gave way to restaurants which in turn gave way to bars. We ended at the Globe Theater and the replica of Sir Francis Drakes Golden Hind.

 

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The tour was almost 3 hours long. He left us at London Bridge and we walked across it to the underground station.

 

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