We started out in London for 3 days. We had perfect weather the whole time we were there. I don't know why people say London is gloomy and rainy. Above is Kristin in front of the famous Tower Bridge.
Kristin also got a couple of the guards to the entrance of Parliament (you can see it in the background) to take a picture with her. British folks are very polite.
Walking along the Thames, we came along the rebuilt Globe Theater, made famous by Shakespeare. It burned to the ground in the Great Fire of London in 1666, which burned most of the city to the ground. The Globe Theater is the only building which is allowed to have a thatched or wooden roof in the city today.
The final picture from London that I'll share with you is one of Westminster Abbey. Many famous Brits are buried here, like Geoffrey Chaucer, Charles Dickens, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, George Frederic Handel, Laurence Olivier, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Rudyard Kipling, and Lord Kelvin. Many kings and queens as well. Shakespeare actually isn't though. He has a memorial there, but was buried in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is a stunning building and the history inside is almost palpable.
Going to France, we started and ended our trip in Paris. Probably the most famous landmark in Paris is the Eiffel Tower. Kristin was born in Paris and has memories of playing in a little park almost at the bottom of this structure, which was the tallest building in the world when it was built as part of the World Exposition 1889. It is not made of steel but rather of wrought iron. Which could be why Superman had to save it from a bomb explosion. For those of you interested in calculus here is a link to a site explaning how the tower designer, Gustave Eiffel (duh), used a differential equation to design the curve of the tower.
Kristin planned a special meal for us while were in Paris. We ate at the exclusive Jules Verne restaurant on the Eiffel Tower. She called in February to make reservations (we went in June) and they said dinner reservations were full until September. There were still a few lunch reservations left though, so we had lunch. It is actually just above the observation deck and has a private elevator that takes you up. As you exited the elevator, a pianist played beautiful music on a grand piano. The foie gras was excellent, as was the fromage. The view was just amazing.
While in France, I ate everything different I could try. I'm normally a somewhat picky eater, but wanted to give everything a shot. The escargot wasn't fabulous, but not terrible.
One last thing about the Jules Verne I'll share with you. Having demand so high made them able to charge virtually whatever they wanted for the meal. So when eating at a restaurant where jacket and tie are required, and the ladies' menus don't have prices on them (the men's do - sexist French - or...I'll just have the salad ;) ), you go ahead and buy a nice bottle of wine. Everything was listed in French Francs, so I had to divide by 7 in my head. The cheapest bottle was about 850 FF. So I try to seem like I have at least some knowledge of wine and order the third from the cheapest bottle. It shows you don't just want the cheapest wine, but some of the prices were truly astronomical. Boone's it was not. Jé voudres un bouttile de vin rouge. I made sure I could at least order alcohol while overseas!
Another famous Paris landmark is the Arc de Triomphe on the Champs Elysées. I drove our rental car around the traffic circle there. It is about 10 lanes wide, but no lines are painted, which is probably good, because stoplights are placed randomly around it on the side of the road, so you have to watch for those and no one was really following any kind of lane anyway. I'm surprised the German army didn't have a 2 month traffic jam after parading through here. It is very beautiful though and is lit up at night.
Another neat building was the Basilique du Sacre Coeur. It is the church to the Sacred Heart. It is on the butte (flat topped hill for the geologically challenged) called Monmartre. It is made with stone that gets whiter as it weathers. Rain actually makes it look cleaner and brighter. You can see when you walk in the entrance the original color of the stone, and it has only become more beautiful with each passing year.
We then rented a car and spent a few days travelling through Normandy. Very beautiful area. Here is a picture of one of the main streets in the city of Baeux.
We enjoyed a beautiful sunset in Ouisterham. This was beach was code named Sword Beach for the D-Day invasion. The British landed here.
We then drove on to Le Mont Saint Michel which was easily my favorite part of the whole trip. The Mount of Saint Michael, is a monestary/abbey/fortress next to the sea which is over 1000 years old (first built in 708, destroyed then rebuilt in its present form in 1203). During high tide it becomes an island with the ability to walk out to it during low tide (although there is a permanent causeway to it now). During the Middle Ages the island was actually 3 miles off shore. If you watch closely during the movie "Armageddon" during the President's speech to the world, you can see it behind some sheep herders from about the angle we took this picture from.
A very nice picture of the island with it's amazingly beautiful Gothic abbey on top.
As you walked into the island fortress, only one narrow, steep, cobblestone street winds its way to the top of the abbey.
Inside looking up at the abbey.
A closeup view of the amazing spires on the Gothic abbey at the top of the island.
The beautiful Gothic architecture inside the abbey.
A picture at night. We went out on the causeway to take this picture.
We spent the night at an inn on the island and this is a nice view from one of the walls.