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deladane

Detailed Photo Review of Paris and London Trip in June 2019

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Posted (edited)

That was a nice upgrade on the Eurostar - for the record you went from ‘Standard’ to ‘Standard Premier’. You have accurately described the two differences - the Premier seating and a free light meal. For which, the tickets can often be twice the price of Standard. 

 

The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord has always been a bit of an afterthought!  

Edited by Cotswold Eagle

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Your last night in Paris could not have been better; wonderful dinner and show.  What an experience.  

 

Your travel to London, whew, between Uber and the train I would have been having a meltdown.  Glad it all worked out.  

 

Cannot wait to see your adventures in London!  That is one tiny hotel room.

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This is great reading.  We are traveling with 3 couples next month and after disembarking the Epic in Barcelona, traveling by train to Paris and tgen London.  Absorbing all your details.

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So glad you made it to London. In England, what we call the first floor is called the ground floor. We have had tiny hotel rooms before. Yours might beat our record for smallest ever.

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23 hours ago, Cotswold Eagle said:

That was a nice upgrade on the Eurostar - for the record you went from ‘Standard’ to ‘Standard Premier’. You have accurately described the two differences - the Premier seating and a free light meal. For which, the tickets can often be twice the price of Standard. 

 

The Eurostar terminal at Gare du Nord has always been a bit of an afterthought!  

 

I actually just went back to the Eurostar website and did a mock booking to see the different seating options.  There is no way I would have paid out of pocket to sit in the Standard Premier seats, but it was a great upgrade given the circumstances!

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22 hours ago, JaniceB said:

Can't wait for your pictures of London!

 

Tons of London photos coming up soon!!

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20 hours ago, Walt fan said:

Your last night in Paris could not have been better; wonderful dinner and show.  What an experience.  

 

Your travel to London, whew, between Uber and the train I would have been having a meltdown.  Glad it all worked out.  

 

Cannot wait to see your adventures in London!  That is one tiny hotel room.

 

OMG, in the moment, I was totally freaking out with the Uber thing!  Had the gate agent not been able to change our seats, we would have delt with the backwards seats, even if it would be uncomfortable.  But the Uber thing was really a problem because if we didn't get to Gare du Nord on time, we'd miss our train!

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16 hours ago, ejnsb said:

This is great reading.  We are traveling with 3 couples next month and after disembarking the Epic in Barcelona, traveling by train to Paris and tgen London.  Absorbing all your details.

 

That sounds like a wonderful trip!  I LOVED Barcelona when I was there in 2013 off the Carnival Sunshine.  There's a link in my profile if you want to read my review of that trip- we stayed in Barcelona for 3 days after that cruise 🙂  Let me know if you have any questions about Paris and London.  

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16 hours ago, geoherb said:

So glad you made it to London. In England, what we call the first floor is called the ground floor. We have had tiny hotel rooms before. Yours might beat our record for smallest ever.

 

I used to live in Manhattan... I am used to small spaces and have seen lots of small hotel rooms, but this hotel definitely took top honors for smallest room ever! haha  I wish I had a photo of the bathroom!  Thinking back, I just have to laugh about it!

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Exiting the Westminster station, I had my first “OMG, I’m in London” moment… Big Ben was right in front of us!

 

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Unfortunately, the tower is in the middle of a 4-year-long restoration process so it was completely hidden under scaffolding.  It wasn’t quite the iconic building we had hoped to see, but I guess we can just add it to the list of major monuments hidden under scaffolding that we saw on this vacation.  At least they left the clock exposed!  Unfortunately, the sun was in the wrong place for a decent photo so this was the best I could get…

 

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Back when I was still researching our plans for this trip, I knew I wanted to take a sightseeing cruise along the Thames River.  There are several companies that offer similar tours between Westminster Bridge and Tower Bridge, and then a few other companies that continue further along the river to Greenwich and other towns.  The company I liked most was called City Cruises.  They offer scheduled tours throughout the day, going in both directions from Westminster Pier to Tower Pier.  They do have boats that go all the way to Greenwich but I didn’t plan to go out there considering our limited time in London.  You can buy tickets online but you need to pick a specific boat time.  I knew I wanted us to ride the boat today, but since we were just arriving from Paris and I didn’t know how the timing would work out, I didn’t want to pre-purchase tickets and lock us in to a time slot.  There wasn’t a price benefit to booking in advance, but it would have been nice to avoid waiting on a ticket line.

 

About a month before the trip, I was looking around on Groupon and found a deal for a 3-day unlimited ride pass with City Cruises which cost £1 more than the cost of one single ride.  Even though we had a busy schedule planned in London and I wasn’t sure if we would have time to take a second river cruise, it just made sense to buy the Groupon in case we were looking for something to do one day and had a chance to take a second cruise.  For only £1, we thought it was worth the risk that we may only take one ride. 

 

The Groupon confirmation wasn’t an actual ticket, so we needed to go to the ticket window when we got to the pier to exchange the voucher for our 3-day pass.  The lady gave me a receipt that we were supposed to use as our “ticket” so I kept it somewhere safe to make sure we wouldn’t lose it.  It was now a little after 1pm and the next boat was leaving at 1:20pm.  There were A LOT of people on line ahead of us, but we really wanted to get on this boat because the next one wasn’t leaving until 2pm.

 

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When we finally reached the front of the line, a crew member helped us climb aboard, and we were glad we made it before the boat filled up.  The problem was that almost every seat upstairs was already taken.  We went back down to the lower level, but there wasn’t any air conditioning and it was extremely hot in there, plus it’s not very fun to sit inside because you don’t have a good view during the tour.  We went back upstairs again and had to look very closely at the rows to find rows where people were spread out and taking up more than one seat per person.  We did a similar cruise in Chicago and the staff walked around and forced people to squeeze in so everyone could have a seat.  It would have been nice if the staff on this boat did that instead of forcing us to ask people to move over.  We actually had a few people refuse to move in, which I thought was really rude because it’s not like they paid for 2 seats on the boat!  Eventually, we found one seat for each of us, but not in the same row, so we had to sit separately for the tour. It was kind of a bummer, but the tour only takes 40 minutes so we made it work.

 

After the boat left Westminster Pier, it went to the south side of the river to pick up more people at the London Eye Pier.  I honestly have no idea where those people found seats because the boat was already really full, but we stayed docked there for about 10 minutes so there must have been some people joining us.  While we had some time to kill, I got to take some fun photos of the London Eye!

 

Looking down the river towards Big Ben and Parliament as the boat turned around

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As the boat pulled away from the London Eye Pier, the guide came on the microphone to introduce himself.  It was cool to have a live guide as we cruised along the river, but you could tell that his speech was scripted.  It was funny, but you could just tell that he did not write the jokes and he says the same thing on every tour.  The guide pointed out each landmark and gave a little anecdote or bit of information about each place.

 

Hungerford Bridge and Golden Jubilee Bridges

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Cleopatra's Needle

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OXO Building, the “Pregnant” Building, and the Shard off in the distance

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It’s funny how many of the buildings in London are named for their shape.  This one is said to look like a pregnant woman...

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Shakespeare’s Globe Theater

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A good view of the Cheese Grater, the Scalpel, and the Walkie Talkie Buildings

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The Shard

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The Walkie Talkie Building, with a good view of the top level where the Sky Garden is located

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The Tower of London

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Tower Bridge… you can also see our guide at the front of the building, and how crowded it was on the upper level

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The boat docked right on time at 2pm, and by now we were getting hungry.  There was a Paul restaurant right near where we exited the pier, so we stopped in there to pick up a couple of sandwiches, and took them to go to eat on a nearby bench in the shade.

 

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Dana, this is an epic that many should bookmark if they are considering either of these must-see cities. You have -as you always have-really done your homework, made your spreadsheets and organized like there's no tomorrow and I admire you for the energy you put into your trips and your recounts that we all get to share.

 

I personally would avoid these tourist magnets like the plague in high season as off-peak is my middle name and the temperatures these cities are experiencing  these days in summer are very off-putting. I haven't lived in London since 1986 but back then a 77F degree day brought forth a picture of a bikini-clad girl in the Sun newspaper,  (good for wrapping fish and chips in)licking an iced lolly with a headline- "Whew, cor Blimey! What a scorcher!" Crowds and heat are 2 things that can mar my day-hence I am heading to Norway in a couple of weeks.

 

You guys are a well-suited pair who roll with the punches and always have big smiles and an upbeat attitude.

 

More power to you.

Norris, with thanks.

 

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15 hours ago, Bimmer09 said:

Dana, this is an epic that many should bookmark if they are considering either of these must-see cities. You have -as you always have-really done your homework, made your spreadsheets and organized like there's no tomorrow and I admire you for the energy you put into your trips and your recounts that we all get to share.

 

I personally would avoid these tourist magnets like the plague in high season as off-peak is my middle name and the temperatures these cities are experiencing  these days in summer are very off-putting. I haven't lived in London since 1986 but back then a 77F degree day brought forth a picture of a bikini-clad girl in the Sun newspaper,  (good for wrapping fish and chips in)licking an iced lolly with a headline- "Whew, cor Blimey! What a scorcher!" Crowds and heat are 2 things that can mar my day-hence I am heading to Norway in a couple of weeks.

 

You guys are a well-suited pair who roll with the punches and always have big smiles and an upbeat attitude.

 

More power to you.

Norris, with thanks.

 

 

Thank you so much Norris!!!  Unfortunately, the dates of our trip centered around my parents 40th anniversary on July 4th so we couldn't avoid the summer heat and crowds.  Ideally, we would have taken this trip in the fall when the temperatures cooled off and the crowds thinned out, but that wouldn't work with when we needed to be in New York.  Oh well!  

 

Hope you have an amazing time in Norway!  Is it on a cruise?  And if so, are you going to treat us to another one of your wonderful reviews??

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Our next destination was the Sky Garden, a free observation deck at the top of the Walkie Talkie building.  Each Monday at 8:30am London time, they release tickets on their website for 3 weeks in advance for time slots in 15-minute increments.  There are a different number of tickets available for each of those time slots, but it was usually around 150 tickets each.  When I was planning this trip, I knew we’d want to go to the Sky Garden today because it is so close to where we ended the river cruise, but since I did not know exactly which river cruise boat we would take, I didn’t know exactly what time we could go to the Sky Garden.  To hedge our bets, I booked the Sky Garden tickets for 2 time slots- 2:30pm for if we made the 1:20pm cruise, and 3:15pm for if we took the 2pm cruise.  Either way, we had about 30 minutes to get from Tower Pier to the Walkie Talkie building, a 0.4 mile walk away.  Since we took the 1:20pm cruise, we arrived at the Walkie Talkie building at 2:25pm to use our first set of tickets. 

 

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There was a long line of people waiting outside the entrance, but they were all walk-ups who didn’t have timed entry tickets so we could walk past them.  When we went in the front door, we showed our tickets to the lady at the front desk and she told us to proceed through security.  Crazy enough, this was by far the strictest security we encountered so far on the trip.  In Paris, we had to go through a metal detector and our bags went through an X-ray machine at every museum.  At the Sky Garden, they do that as well, but they made us empty everything out of our pockets (even pieces of paper like the paper ticket we were holding to access the Sky Garden!) and we even had to take off our watches.  I thought they were going to make us take off our wedding bands, but luckily they didn’t go that far. 

 

Once that was done, we got in an elevator which went directly up to the 35th floor for the Sky Garden.

 

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We exited the elevator into a big open space with lots of tables and seating areas and a big bar in the middle.  We walked past that to go straight outside onto the balcony with a beautiful view over the Thames and Southwark.

 

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The safety glass was good for blocking the wind, but not ideal for taking photos!

 

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Looking straight up to the overhang above the balcony

 

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I couldn’t get a good photo without the glare from the windows, so this was the best I could do…

 

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It was such a clear day that it felt like we could see across all of England!  We were really lucky with the weather because this is London and I know they have a lot of rainy days!

 

Back inside the building, we walked up the stairs to see the views from a different angle.

 

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You can see the big open seating area and the outdoor balcony behind us in this photo

 

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There were live plants and trees growing in the Sky Garden, so it really was a garden in the sky!

 

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A great view of the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater, and the Scalpel Buildings

 

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Looking down into the Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge

 

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We spent about 30 minutes walking around and checking out the views.  We had tickets to come back at night in a few days, so we planned to visit the bar at that time.  DH’s company has a small office near the Sky Garden, so he pre-arranged to visit the office later this afternoon.  We had some time to spare so we went for a walk around the City of London.

 

I thought this building looked really cool, especially with the sun reflecting off the balconies…

 

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As we were walking, we cut through a pedestrian walkway between two buildings.  It was still June which is Pride month, so we saw a lot of celebration throughout London, including this rainbow-painted walkway!  How cool!

 

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When we passed this red phone box on a side street, I couldn’t resist taking a photo!  It was the first one we saw, but as the days passed, we saw tons of them all over the city.

 

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We cut through the shopping center called One New Change.  I loved how St. Paul’s Cathedral was framed between the buildings and reflected in the mirrored windows!

 

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Another red phone box with St. Paul’s Cathedral peeking out through the trees

 

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We’re in London!

 

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We found our way to DH’s company’s office and spent some time chatting with his coworkers.  The original plan was to go to the Museum of London after leaving his office, but we decided to skip the museum and find somewhere to sit down and have a drink instead.  I was looking forward to that museum and learning some history about London, but we were tired and just wanted to sit down and relax for a bit.  I had wanted to visit the Anchor Bankside, so even though it was over a mile away, we decided to head that way.  We walked over the London Bridge (thank goodness it wasn’t falling down!) and down to the Anchor pub.  This place opened in the early 1600’s and is considered one of the oldest taverns in London.  It is located right on the south bank of the Thames and has a huge outdoor seating area, making it the perfect place for a drink on this cool summer afternoon.

 

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DH had a mission to visit as many pubs as possible during his time in London, so this was our first of many drinks at pubs.  I was very excited to learn that every pub we visited had at least one cider on tap!  Given the choice between beer and cider, I will pick cider every time, so I was thrilled that it was so readily served in London!  This cider was definitely my favorite of all the ciders I had… it was a berries and cherries cider!

 

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Another thing that I loved about many of the pubs in London was the buildings were so pretty!  They often had fun, bright paint colors and beautiful colorful flowers featured somewhere on the building, and they were all begging me to take a photo of their exteriors (so you will see many pub photos in the coming days! Haha)

 

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By the time we finished our drinks, it was a little after 5pm and we were starting to get hungry.  We could have stayed at Anchor for dinner, but decided we wanted to explore someplace different so I checked my Google Map to see what was nearby.  Another pub I had wanted to visit was about a one mile walk away, but it would be a scenic walk along the river and across a bridge so we decided to head over there.  I’m not surprised that we had such high step counts every day of this trip considering how often I looked at my map, said “Oh, that’s only a mile away” and we walked there!  All those one mile walks add up fast!!

 

On the way, we walked past Shakespeare’s Globe Theater.  I considered trying to get tickets to a show one night but we just didn’t have enough days for all the things I wanted to do, so that will have to wait for a future trip to London.

 

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We crossed the Thames via the Blackfriars Railway Bridge.  Right next to it is a bridge used for the train tracks.  That bridge looks really funky and has a great view looking further to the right towards the other bridges crossing the river.  I didn’t realize this at the time, but we could have used our unlimited ride metro passes to enter this station and walk along the platform and see the view/take photos essentially for free.  Oh well, we’ll add that as one more thing to do next time we visit London!

 

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Just a block north of the river after crossing the bridge, we reached our dinner destination: The Black Friar.  This pub was built in 1875 on the site of a former medieval Dominican friary, and much of the architecture reflects that.  As we approached the pub, we could tell it was extremely popular with the locals as there were hundreds of people standing outside, enjoying a pint after work. 

 

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Notice the black statue of a friar overlooking the courtyard.  This was another example of the interesting exterior decorations on the pubs in London.

 

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Funny enough, when we went inside, there were only a handful of people standing at the bar ordering drinks, and nearly all of the tables in the restaurant were empty!  I guess everyone was just standing outside with their drinks and not interested in having dinner?  To be fair, it was not even 6pm yet so we were definitely early for the dinner rush.

 

The hostess took us to a table at the back of the pub in this amazing room with marbled stone walls and tiled mosaics on the arched ceiling with funny little black stone sculptures on the walls. 

 

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We didn’t take much time to look over the menu because we both knew what we wanted for dinner… fish and chips!

 

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Since there were so few people eating at the pub, our food came out very quickly.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting because I have had fish and chips many times in the States, and this was pretty much the same thing.  The fish was a nice, big piece, and it was fried to a crispy perfection (as were the chips, but most of them are hiding under the fish in the photo), and the waitress brought us a bottle of malt vinegar so I could eat it the proper British way!

 

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6 hours ago, deladane said:

 

Thank you so much Norris!!!  Unfortunately, the dates of our trip centered around my parents 40th anniversary on July 4th so we couldn't avoid the summer heat and crowds.  Ideally, we would have taken this trip in the fall when the temperatures cooled off and the crowds thinned out, but that wouldn't work with when we needed to be in New York.  Oh well!  

 

Hope you have an amazing time in Norway!  Is it on a cruise?  And if so, are you going to treat us to another one of your wonderful reviews??

 Dana, I am anticipating an amazing cruise-the ship is a stunner- Celebrity Silhouette, my favorite until I sail one I like better and Norwegian Fjords will be  a new experience for us

as we'll be very close to land for much of the sailing. We have excursions in 4 ports and I will get to do my favorite thing which is eat ashore in a harbor setting. You are already making me drool over your London pictures. It has changed so much since I lived there-tall buildings were rare indeed then.

 

I like that your husband wants to enjoy as many London pubs as he can. Yes, they have history and character in spades and can certainly draw a crowd, especially after work. You may be home now- I didn't pay attention to your travel dates so you are probably already home-but I hope you stopped into a British bakery shop for a cornish pasty or a hot sausage roll. I do miss some British foods that can be found nowhere else. I no doubt will be having a "Full English" breakfast when in London, but that even pales to an "Ulster Fry" (Ulster being N. Ireland, home of Game of Thrones).

 

Looking forward to more of your London experience. I love that you both had the idea for this itinerary. You only live once and you guys know how to live!

 

Yes I will write a review- I have reviewed every cruise I have taken since 2011 and this will be #14 I think. Celebrity Board, September 9th for the launch. Links will be placed on the Princess and Azamara boards.

 

Cheers and toodle-pip!

Norris, Brit who thinks Brexit is more than slightly silly.

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6 hours ago, deladane said:

Funny enough, when we went inside, there were only a handful of people standing at the bar ordering drinks, and nearly all of the tables in the restaurant were empty!  I guess everyone was just standing outside with their drinks and not interested in having dinner?  To be fair, it was not even 6pm yet so we were definitely early for the dinner rush.

 

The hostess took us to a table at the back of the pub in this amazing room with marbled stone walls and tiled mosaics on the arched ceiling with funny little black stone sculptures on the walls. 

 

mp9KZ8vl.jpg

 

Tt9BI5Yl.jpg

 

We didn’t take much time to look over the menu because we both knew what we wanted for dinner… fish and chips!

 

y5qCfNfl.jpg

 

h7a51VAl.jpg

 

Since there were so few people eating at the pub, our food came out very quickly.  I’m not quite sure what I was expecting because I have had fish and chips many times in the States, and this was pretty much the same thing.  The fish was a nice, big piece, and it was fried to a crispy perfection (as were the chips, but most of them are hiding under the fish in the photo), and the waitress brought us a bottle of malt vinegar so I could eat it the proper British way!

 

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OBOy2Ivl.jpg

 

 

Dana, most of the fish and chips I have ordered in the USA have been little 4 inch strips of "cod"

which is unlike the British full fish-shaped filet as shown above. The fish should never be placed atop the chips though  as that adds grease below to the pillowy potato with crispy edges. There should be more mushy peas (the green stuff) for maximum pleasure.

I have lived in the USA for 33 years and only once have had British style fish and chips and that was in Ontario, which is in Canada, just over the border from Detroit in Sarnia-  a place called the Wharf which serves up the kind of fish and chips I crave from my days of living in N Ireland (Ulster).

More and more American restaurants are offering Malt Vinegar (Heinz or London Pub) and that is a small step for a man, a giant leap for mankind.

 

Norris, fish and chips gourmand.

 

By the way-there are not enough chips on that plate....

 

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We loved our visit to the Sky Garden last year. The views are amazing. I was chastised, though, by a guard for trying to take a photo holding my camera up over the edge of the glass. (I'm 6'3" and had the strap securely around my wrist, but he still didn't like it.) We took the tour of Shakespeare's Globe. It was wonderful. Our neighbors went to a play there when they visited last summer and loved it. We walked across the Millennium Bridge to get from the theater to the Sky Garden.

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