The Final Countdown

With little over a week to go, we’re on the final countdown of things to do before our trip. Last minute laundry, print off all the tickets, vouchers, etc (I like having a hard copy), decide what to pack (two climate zones!), distribute contact information to the family (note to self!), last minute touch base with friends and family that we plan to see, airport drop off / pick up to be arranged where necessary. I’m sure there’s more on that list.

All hotels are booked, even the single overnighters. Rental car is booked for an overnight visit to see friends on Vancouver Island. Transport from Victoria to Vancouver is booked and we were lucky there, it includes hotel drop off! Bonus! Still don’t know how we’ll get from downtown to the airport hotel but taxis may be involved even if just to get the luggage to the nearest skytrain stop downtown. There’s a skytrain stop near the hotel and the hotel has a shuttle to the airport.

There’s an airport bus from the Honolulu airport into town so we’ll probably get that. Or a taxi. It’ll be fairly late so that might be the more comfortable option. Two activities are booked (Pearl Harbour, and an Atlantis submarine tour!), the rest is open to possibilities because we don’t want to schedule every minute. We will be meeting up with a friend that my husband has known online for many years but there are no set plans as to when or what we’ll be doing yet. We won’t get through the list of all the possible things we might like to do/see but the five days in Oahu will at least be a sampling in the sunshine!

Back to Vancouver for a couple of days with family before heading home again. Two overnight flights back to back is too intimidating so we needed a day or two in between. At least the flight from Vancouver to Toronto overnight is in business class! Thank you, Aeroplan!

Must get the suitcases out of the storage room this weekend and start throwing things in. I can’t do it all last minute like Mr. Mister can. One more recharge session for the laptop to make sure it’s ready to go, all updated etc. Should put my pdf documents on one of the cloud services, too, like Dropbox or Google drive. I do have them on my phone. Overly organized, you say? Me? Perish the thought!

This will be fun. I’ve been to the west coast before, twice and it’s his first time there. Hawaii is new for both of us which is nice. I’m looking forward to seeing various family members again and a few good friends as well. When you live in a country that covers 6 time zones and 5514 km (5780? depends on which source you look at. It’s over 3400 miles, give or take.) from the farthest east to west points, and you have friends and family scattered across the country, you don’t get a lot of real time with them.

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2017 Travel: Cape Breton

Baddeck lighthouse on the Bras D’or lake, Cape Breton

I’ve been blogging about our big trip to British Columbia and Hawaii in November, but there’s another shorter trip that we’ve been looking forward to, as well. We have a house guest visiting form the U.K. in mid September and we’re planning another “Three Amigos” tour, this time to Cape Breton Island (The last Three Amigos tour was to Northumberland in the UK, read about that here)  Cape Breton, an island off the east end of Nova Scotia, has often been voted one of the best islands to visit, not just in Nova Scotia but in the world. The magazine Travel + Leisure had it ranked number one  and number 3 in two different years in the past few and it’s also been mentioned by other travel magazines.

It’s not your usual beach and resort type island. There are beaches, yes but the real beauty is in the scenery and the history. Hiking, fishing, golfing for those that want active things to do. The mountains of Cape Breton and the winding Cabot Trail around the tip of the island, with lots of little coastal towns and villages along the way will take you a full day of driving with stops for the local craft shops and tea rooms and cafes. Fortress Louisbourg brings you 300+ years of history. The small city of Sydney has arts and culture and a nice waterfront area. Discover Alexander Graham Bell in Baddeck where he had a summer home. You can go whale watching and spot the seals and birds and other nature from the boats. There’s even a whiskey distillery in Glenora near the Margaree Valley.

Louisbourg gates

Gates at Louisbourg

We won’t get to do all of that, but we do hope to go whale watching somewhere off the Cabot Trail and we will definitely go to Louisbourg. (My photos here) It’s an easy day trip from Sydney where we’ll land after a day or two driving around the Cabot Trail exploring. I also fancy seeing the Highland Village Museum  and we’ll likely stop in at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site. It’s really very interesting. . We have a couple of motels and a hotel already booked. All we need is a picnic lunch, some flasks for coffee and tea and a full tank of gas to get us on the road! The great thing is that this year, to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, all of the national parks and historic sites are free to enter!

Nova Scotia’s Bluenose II

We have a few more of those on our list besides the ones in Cape Breton. We are thinking of other day trips to go on to take our friend around more of this beautiful province. A big bonus, the schooner Bluenose II has been refurbished and will be taking public sailing out of Lunenburg, another World Heritage Site, while our friend is here so we’re going to make plans to drive down the south shore and do that. I’ve never been out on the water in the Bluenose. It just never worked out, timing wise.  Lunenburg is a beautiful town as is nearby Blue Rocks,  Mahone Bay and Chester, also very nice places to stop.

There are museums and the Citadel fortress here in Halifax that he’ll enjoy. Maybe we’ll get into the Annapolis Valley. He might like the Grand Pre National Historic Site commemorating the French Acadian settlers who were the first non-Indigenous settlers in Nova Scotia (which was called Acadie back in the 17th century, thus…Acadians).

September is usually a month of pretty good weather so we’re hoping for as much sun as we can get.

Blue Rocks, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia

West Coast and Hawaii Itinerary building

Vancouver skyline (April 2000) from North Vancouver

As previously blogged, we have Hawaii booked and I am glad to say we now have the hotel in Vancouver booked as well. It’s a suite hotel called Rosedale on Robson and is not far from Chinatown and the Vancouver central library, a short walk from the old historic Gastown which is the original part of the city. I’m glad to have that sorted out. Now we get to figure out what we’ll do and where we’ll go.

Vancouver has lots of attractions and as we always do, we’ll make a list and end up doing some of it and finding things that aren’t on it at all. For transportation around Vancouver, they have a smart card called Compass. A lot of the larger cities have that these days and they’re really convenient. It can be used on the busses, seabus and the skytrain. You can pre-load it with day, month passes and with cash. Tap in, maybe tap out (don’t need to do that on busses). Simple. We’ve used the Oyster card many times in London. Love it.

We like to take a hop on hop off bus or trolley tour in a new city. You get the lay of the land and you get a decent historical background as well. We’ll probably do that. They aren’t usually particularly cheap and a lot of people think they’re a tourist rip off but we enjoy them. I’ve been to Vancouver before but not seen all the sights and I don’t expect to “do” all of them but the views from the busses will give me a perspective on a lot of areas I’ve only touched on, Stanley Park and the Lion’s Gate bridge with the view over to the city in particular. The view from the seabus to North Vancouver is great, too! It’ll be interesting to compare my  14 and 17 year old photos with the new ones. I really like the city. It’s modern, it’s on the sea coast yet you can walk and turn a corner and see a majestic mountain!

Me at Lynn Canyon, circa April 2000

Museums, art galleries, Haida art, maybe the view from the Lookout tower. I’d like to go up in the mountains, maybe to Squamish or Whistler. Perhaps we can do that with my cousins. I remember that we drove part way up a mountain the very first time I visited in 2000. I then tried to stand on the edge of a snowbank and sunk into it up to my hip! Unfortunately, I was wearing light coloured trousers and had dirty, muddy stains all the rest of the day! The snow in early May was softer than I realized. Oops! Also that day we went to the suspension bridge in Lynn Canyon and had lunch in a pretty town called Deep Cove on the inlet. It really is a picturesque area.

Hawaii:

We have most of four days on Oahu. My husband has a long time internet friend that we will be meeting up with. He and his family live outside of Honolulu. I’d like to take in a museum or two or a gallery and have seen a few, including the Iolani Palace and Shangri-La. The Bishop Museum also looks interesting but we don’t want to spend all our time in museums. There’s an International market and a night market. We will definitely be taking in Pearl Harbour and the historic sights there and really want to drive around the island. I yearn to see the surfers on the North Shore. I’ve been fascinated watching the surfers on television since  I was young.

Maybe we’ll get a chance to attend a hula. There are a few around the city that the big hotels put on. Rest assured that I will definitely enjoy having a feast of pineapple in the place where it’s grown! We aren’t really beach types, but I’m going to dip my toes in the Pacific and walk the beach. We may also look into whale watching or try a submarine tour. It’ll be a busy few days!

West Coast, here we come

 

Teatime in Vancouver

We booked our package to Hawaii last weekend! That’s one more thing ticked off the list. The next thing to be done is organizing ourselves for the Victoria and Vancouver legs of the trip. We’ll stay with my aunt and uncle for a few days in Victoria on arrival in the west and then we’re looking at maybe an overnight trip up to Parksville, and possibly another night with another good friend that lives in Victoria. I don’t like to overstay my welcome in any one place and it’s really nice to reconnect with good friends.

From there, we’re over to Vancouver. I’ve been trying to narrow down where we’ll stay. It’s going to be a hotel for the first few nights and then a couple of nights with a cousin who has graciously invited us. As they’re retired, we don’t have to stick to weekends so I think we’ll go there for the Monday and Tuesday before we head to Hawaii for five nights. When we get back, we’ve got an airport hotel booked for a night before flying home and since we arrive in Vancouver very early and leave for Halifax via Toronto on an overnight flight, we’ll have the best part of two days more in Vancouver. I think the hotel is close to a skytrain station to facilitate that.

There seems to be a lot of suite hotels and condo type hotels for rent in Vancouver which is very convenient. I’m leaning towards something like that, more than just a mini-bar fridge and coffee maker. I very much doubt we’ll actually cook but we might get breakfast things in if the rate we pay doesn’t have it included and it’s great for keeping fresh milk and pop, and a chilled bottle of wine, perhaps. I think though we could save money and get a hotel similar to a Comfort Inn or Travelodge, I’d like to get something a bit nicer. They are fine, usually clean and fit for purpose but the rooms are pretty basic looking and nondescript.

I’m actually kind of surprised at the hotel prices. I expected Vancouver to be quite expensive but there seems to be a decent number of hotels in a reasonable price range in the city centre. With taxes included, you can get a fairly nice place for under $200 CAD per night. Considering when we went to New York, a 40% sale at the Holiday Inn Express near Times Square was still over $250 and even hotels a bit away from TS were that and far more, I count myself lucky. Vancouver real estate prices are sky high, I expected the hotels to follow suit. (or should I say suite? *snort*)

I’ve been to the west coast twice before though my husband has not been there. I first went in spring 2000 and the next time I flew out on Halloween, 2003. Here’s a gallery of the photos from those trips, bearing in mind they are low res scans from film photos.

First, Vancouver

Next, Victoria

Going down the road

Blue Rocks fishing village, Lunenburg County

Blue Rocks fishing village, Lunenburg County

We’re about to hit the road again. In about 3 weeks, we’re going to fire up the iPods with driving tunes and head south. Not that far south, just to the south end of the province of Nova Scotia and drive the loop around the tip and back. Even though this is one of the smallest provinces in Canada, it’s also one of the most beautiful (but I’m not objective!). Nova Scotia is almost entirely surrounded by water. Only a small neck of land about 20 miles wide attaches us to the rest of Canada. That means a lot of beautiful coastline, dotted with lighthouses, beaches and quaint, historic fishing villages along the way.

My husband hasn’t seen a lot of the province and there’s plenty of it I haven’t seen either. I’ve been down along the south shore part of the way but not all the way around. We’ve made tentative plans but as everyone knows, plans change on a whim. But as of now, We’re going to head down the highway to start off, to get past the parts we’ve already seen and visited.

Our tentative Itinerary:
Shelburne, visiting a local micro brew, checking out the town that has a lot of historical old buildings still standing. This will probably be our lunch stop and afterwards, if we have time to fit it in, a stop at the nearby Black Loyalist museum in Birchtown.

I say “If we have time” because we want to drive the coastal road the rest of the way to Yarmouth where we’re pitching up for the night. We have to have something to eat before going out to the woods for a session at a small observatory! That was a discovery in a tourist brochure we picked up and it sounded so cool that we booked it.

Gilbert Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

Gilbert Cove Lighthouse, Nova Scotia

For day two, we’re heading around the tip of the province and along the north shore, one of the pockets of French Acadian Nova Scotia. Beautiful beaches and little towns and a French university along here. We might fit in a visit to Port Royal near Annapolis Royal to see the reproduction of the old French settlement, founded in 1605 by Champlain. From there, it’s down across several long, narrow islands to Brier Island for the night in a lodge. The next day, we’re going whale watching out on the Bay of Fundy, another bucket list event. The companies here guarantee sightings but knowing Mother Nature, I will be cautiously optimistic.

Once we’ve done communing with the whales, seals and dolphins, we’re off to a Bed and Breakfast near Annapolis Royal. We’ve been to Annapolis before but will likely drive into the town for our meal and have a walk around. It’s a very nice place and has gorgeous gardens and the remains of an old fort, Fort Anne.

Our final day takes us through the Annapolis Valley on the way home and we thought we’d stop at a military aviation museum in CFB Greenwood, an air base near Kingston, NS. A casual meander through the Valley, perhaps a stop at a farmers’ market or two, and we’ll be back home by the end of the day.

The Next Road Trip – Maine

Our next trip is going to be a road trip. We decided to head down into New England, with the end destination being Salem, Massachussets where there be witches! We really enjoyed the Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle, in Cornwall (UK) and wanted to see the American version. The museums around here will focus on the Witch trials, no doubt and be just as interesting. We’re also going to take the train or the ferry into Boston for a day as well. I’ve been to Boston but he’s not been there and it’s quite a nice city.

We’ll probably do the hop on hop off tour and then wander around. Boston has a good Fine Arts museum, that’s a possibility or we could just soak in the atmosphere of the city.

I had thought we’d take the more southern route, crossing at st. Stephen/Calais, Maine and taking an older road, called the “Airline” (route 9), maybe staying over in Bangor but according to Google, it takes just as much time to go north further into New Brunswick on the Trans Canada highway, past Fredricton and cross over at Woodstock/Houlton and take the I95 down to Salem. I suppose, it’s all highway so it would be faster. I think we might do that and break the journey overnight at Woodstock, as it’s quite a long day to drive all the way through, even just to Bangor which is 3/4 of the way by the time you get that far.

Coming home, we do plan to travel along Route 1 along the Maine coast, exploring. Seaside towns, lighthouses and gorgeous scenery. Might even go to Campobello Island and come back into Canada that way, by ferry from there to Deer Island to the mainland. We can decide when and where to stop on the road and pick a little motel along the way, or two and take our time coming back. We will also plan to make a stop or two at the famed outlet shopping areas of Kittery and Freeport if time allows.

And Time Will allow for at least one shopping stop, if I have my way :)

We’ve got a B&B booked for Salem, Amelia Payson House which looks lovely. The lady I spoke to was very nice, too so I think we’ll be happy there. We’ll book a hotel in Woodstock but the other nights we will be on the road, we probably won’t book ahead of time. Could be interesting!

The Vikings are Coming

British Museum, London

Social media may have it’s skeptics and detractors but it has often come in handy for me. I’ve often seen links to really interesting things float by on my Twitter or Facebook feed, links to news, lifestyle, travel, books, movies, great websites and all kinds of other things.

When I joined Twitter, I followed a few Coronation Street actors. Well, I still do. One of them was also an artist and a man I would have liked to have a conversation with. He always seemed to have interesting things to say though he doesn’t seem to be tweeting much anymore. I own a portrait of one of the other Corrie actors that he did. It was part of an auction he did for charity. He also mentioned this very old library in Manchester that he’d visited. It’s in the city centre but it’s tucked away in a music school behind the cathedral and because he mentioned it, I made sure to go visit it the next time I went over.

Chetham’s Library Reading room, Chetham’s Library in Manchester. Apparently, Karl Marx worked at this very table.

I never would have known about this interesting place to visit had it not been for social media. The reason I’m bringing this up is that over this past weekend I saw a mention of a new exhibit coming up at the British Museum in London. It’s called Vikings: Life and Legend and it’s being put on in conjunction with the Danish National Museum (which we’ve been to!). Immediately I went looking for details and was gratified in discovering that it would be opening in March and ongoing while we are there at Easter.

I am lucky to have a man who really likes museums and galleries and I know he loves things like Vikings and ancient Romans, armour and weaponry. I would find this exhibit on Vikings really interesting, too. We both enjoyed the Roskilde Viking Ship Museum in Denmark a few years ago and apparently they have sent one of the ships, or remains thereof, to be part of this show. We are also both fans of the tv series Vikings which begins it’s next season soon.

Viking ship silhouette, Roskilde Viking ship museum, Roskilde, Denmark

Anyway, the upshot of it is, I didn’t even wait to consult him, I booked tickets straight away. The last time the British Museum had a big exhibit while we would be there was in 2008 for the Terra Cotta warriors from China. I waited too long and we couldn’t get tickets for the days and times that would work for us. I wasn’t taking that chance this time as it was again over Easter. The tickets are now booked and I sent him the link to the information the museum has online. When I spoke to him later, he was quite happy. We’re looking forward to the exhibit and I may even buy the exhibit book considering no photos will be allowed. These books are usually stunning in their content. I bought one from the Henry VIII exhibit that the British Library had a few years ago.

Isn’t the internet wonderful? Chances are that we would not get tickets if we show up on the day we arrive in London, and if there’s a chance, there would likely be long queues. We only have two days in London so would be limited in our dates so we probably would miss out if we couldn’t pre-book this far out. That’s what happened with the Terra Cotta exhibit. I did try to get tickets online but couldn’t and when we went to the musuem, all the tickets for the times we could get there were gone.  In some ways pre-booking does restrict you to dates and times but in other ways, you can skip the long lines, or not be disappointed by missing out.

This trip coming up looks to be quite a cultural one, with lots of museums and galleries. We’re planning on seeing Giverny and Monet’s house, also the Orangerie museum in Paris which has a lot of Monet’s Water lilies, and we’re going to see the Bayeux Tapestry. Other places on the list, and we will get to at least some of them, include the Musee Carnavalet, Sainte-Chapelle, possibly the Concergerie as well, and Les Invalides with the Army museum and Napoleon’s tomb. We’re also going to Rouen for a day as well. Monet painted the Cathedral there and it’s also where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.

Back to the original point of the post, social media. It’s not just all about following celebrities or news feeds. You can find something to match any interest you might have. If you don’t follow something specific, you may still see it shared or re-tweeted by someone else which is how I think I saw the Viking exhibit. I didn’t follow the British Museum (but I will now) on Twitter but I do follow the BBC History Magazine and I think that was the source of what I’d seen.

And while we’re on that subject, the British Museum shared this from the Guardian’s site, 10 Best Vikings from books, history, movies and even cartoons. Wonderful!

We got Day trips

Day trips, we got day trips. Now that we have a rental car booked for my trip to Manchester, we are starting to think about day trips to make. I fancied seeing Chatsworth house again. I visited there with a group of friends back in September, 2000 on a rainy day. Wasn’t very good for walking in the gardens, just the house and a quick trip to the cafe. It’s a beautiful manor house, home to the Cavendish family, the  Dukes of Devonshire. In recent years, it’s been featured in both the movie about Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (“The Duchess”, played by Keira Knightly), and in two recent appearances, it has represented Darcy’s home Pemberly in a remake of Pride and Prejudice (also with Keira Knightly) and in a television series, Death Comes to Pemberly.

There’s been a house here since Tudor times when it was first owned by “Bess” of  Hardwick from 1549. The house that’s there now dates from around the turn of the 18th Century. It’s pretty spectacular inside, with painted ceilings, elaborate plaster work and the gardens are extensive, with fountains and outbuildings. The stables and greenhouses can be visited (I believe the cafe and gift shop are now in the stables as well as some little shops).

I fancy another visit to see it again and update my photos and it isn’t that far to drive across the beautiful Peak District from the Manchester area so, weather permitting, I think that’s on the cards. We can go in the morning and find a nice country pub on the way back for lunch. In fact, I did some judicious Googling, as you do, and found one called the Royal Oak near Buxton that will suit requirements perfectly.

Not sure yet on other day trips though we’ve discussed taking the train over to Liverpool perhaps. I thought about Ripon and Fountains Abbey in the Yorkshire region or maybe just another visit to one of our favourite cities, York. We’d like to find somewhere where we could meet up with friends that might come from the Sunderland/Newcastle area.

We have pretty much everything booked for the France/London trip. The rental car is reserved, the theatre tickets for The Mousetrap are bought, the tickets/voucher for the Tower of London also bought and printed. We thought we’d stay at an airport hotel the night before we have that really early flight to Paris so that’s booked, too. Maybe we won’t have to get up *quite* so early though it still won’t be much more of a lie in. Every little bit helps and we can drop off the car at the airport the night before as well, after we check in with the luggage.

Itinerary building – Accommodations

Abbesses Metro, Paris

Abbesses Metro, Paris

Step one: Book the main flight to the U.K. ….. check
Step two: Book the one way flights to Paris….check.

LeavingParisEurostarStep three:  Pick and book a hotel in Paris (five nights) and one in London (two nights).
Step four: Book the Eurostar Paris to London.

The Eurostar website won’t let me book their own hotels with the ticket as a package unless I book a return ticket. Too bad because you can get some very good package deals from Eurostar with a return ticket.

Requirements: Location, and budget. Budget is very slightly flexible, depending on what’s included we could go a little bit over if necessary. Wi-fi is a must and having a safe deposit box in the room that will fit the laptop is desireable. Breakfast included would be nice but not a deal-breaker.

In Paris, we were thinking of staying around the Opera district, the 8th or 9th district. We want it to be fairly central and we don’t want to be right on top of the train stations (Gare du Nord and Est) because I’ve heard that area is a bit rough even if the hotels are cheaper. Probably a good reason for it, you get what you pay for! The right bank of the Seine will be more convenient this time because we’ll be using Gare St. Lazarre for our day trips and leaving via Gare du Nord on the Eurostar.

I did look on the British Airways site to see if I could get a deal on Paris hotels with the flights but they were still all very expensive. Fail, B.A.

For London, I thought either near Euston station or Bloomsbury might be the most convenient as we’ll arrive at St. Pancras and G. leaves from Euston to go back to Manchester (oh, note to self, make sure he books that train ticket, too!) I will probably get a taxi to Paddington and then the train to Heathrow from there. The Canadian Dollar has taken a hit against the pound lately so hotels are going to cost a bit more than usual but the Euro is still a good exchange rate at this moment in time.

I have been scouring websites like Expedia, Trivago, booking.com and hotels.com, making notes of likely candidates and making the mistake of looking up the TripAdvisor reviews which only further confuses me unless overall it’s generally not so good. Reviews, as I’ve said before, are so subjective and you really have to read between the lines. A lot of people whine about small rooms. I can handle small rooms unless they’re like a closet. Were the rooms as dirty as some people complained when others have found it spotless? I am a bit skeptical of that one as am I about scattered reviews about rude staff. In my mind, it takes two and in general most hotel staff are professional, sometimes a bit business like, and often very friendly,  but never rude.

Yesterday, I visited the hair salon and after that, post-coffee break with some relatives I bumped into, went to the travel agent. The woman I usually deal with wasn’t in and I wanted to get this sorted so sat down with one of the other agents. I have her the list of possibilities but told her I was open to anything else she found that was in the budget range and location. They don’t always have the access through their booking agents to everything you could find online but often they can sometimes get better deals with their sources.

The Welcome Hotel, Paris. It's on the left bank near Odeon stop. Rooms were small, but not closet-sized and it was in a great location.

The Welcome Hotel, Paris. It’s on the left bank near the Odeon Metro stop. Rooms were small, but not closet-sized and it was in a great location.

One of the Paris hotels I’d noted was in one of those sources and she also found another one not far from it which I think I’d seen on my web surfing. She couldn’t book straight away. Some hotels through her booking system are “On Request”, that is, she has to request the availability and wait 24 hours or so until the hotel replies so she’s put in for that for these two hotels: My Hotel Opera St. George, and Hotel Opera Lafayette. I gave TripAdvisor a cursory glance and overall either sounds ok, they’re in our budget range albeit very slightly over the top end. Breakfast is included in both so I think that makes up for the little over-budget because you’d have to buy it anyway. I think we’d be happy with either one.

Ok, so we’re waiting for availability on those. Crossing my bits that at least one of them will be a go.  Next step: Eurostar. That’s pretty straight forward. I knew the time and the class of the ticket we wanted so it’s booked and pre-paid. Check.

Melia White Hotel, London. We bagged a great rate that time. Possibly through the Air Canada website, I seem to recall

Melia White Hotel, London. We bagged a great rate that time. Possibly through the Air Canada website, I seem to recall

On to London. Here’s where I ended up being delighted I had gone to the agent because what we ended up booking was far nicer that I would have found on my own.  I had given her a few names for hotels I’d chosen including one, a Hilton, that had been in the budget range earlier in the week but which, I thought, was a sale that had just ended. She came up with another name, and said it looked like she could get a very good rate. It was just a little over our budget but  it had free cancellation (barring a fee of one night’s accommodation and taxes) and a full breakfast buffet. The location is perfect, the hotel is a luxury four star and I didn’t hesitate. We’re staying at the Radisson Blu Edwardian Grafton. I looked at the cheapest room through the website’s booking widget and we’re paying almost 25% cheaper than that. The equivalent booking on Expedia was a little more expensive again. Result! I never would have considered this hotel otherwise. Booked and prepaid! Check.

Yeah, that’s the other thing, most of the time you get the best rates if you prepay the whole thing. Often you still get free cancellation, sometimes with a fee of one night’s accomodation or even less. Sometimes, though, it’s non-refundable. If you have trip cancellation insurance that will cover you.

Once the Paris hotel is booked, we can book a rental car for the week I’m in Manchester because we like the flexibility for day trips, visiting mates and getting groceries and shopping. That’s pretty much the main items on the list, then we turn to a new list, our itinerary, both in Paris, the Paris day trips, London and things we might do while in Manchester. But that’s something for a future blog post!

Quandaries

Here’s the quandary I’ve been tossing about in my head. We are planning to go to Paris from Manchester next spring. There are two ways of getting there and each has advantages and disadvantages. Cost wise and time wise, I don’t think they will be all that far part and both have some messing around and schlepping a big suitcase. We’re planning to do this on the second of the two weeks that I will be overseas and I will be leaving from London to come home at the end, that’s why I’ll have my full size suitcase. I am not capable of living for two weeks out of a rolling carry on size bag. It just won’t happen.

Method 1: Fly from Manchester to Paris, (early arrival at the airport). Go through customs and wait for baggage. Get to the RER train and into Paris, Gare du Nord (there should be elevators from the train to the concourse, right? Or escalators at least?) Taxi to the hotel because lugging a heavy case up stairs from the underground/Metro isn’t going to happen either.

Method 2: Take the train from Manchester to London Euston. Taxi to St. Pancras (I know it’s not too far but we’ll have that luggage to contend with which also leaves out trying to get underground tickets, dragging around on that and up into the train station. Taxi it is.) Get the Eurostart to Paris Gare du Nord and a taxi to the hotel.

Getting to London to Paris  will definitely be on the Eurostar.

The second way sounds like less messing but with both ways, there’s two legs of the journey, either plane to train or train to train, both ending in the same place. Time wise, probably the train to train will take longer, with each train journey a bit over 2 hours plus the time in between that you need to check in to the Eurostar terminal. Cost wise, hard to say. You can get fairly cheap advance tickets for the Manchester to London journey if you’re on top of things and the Eurostar can be fairly cheap too, with advance tickets.

Sometimes you can get good prices on the one way flights. But you have to be at the airport over an hour early, and then wait for your bags at the other end, hoping they arrive. Still, that way will probably take a little less time overall but then, the last time we flew to Paris, we were stuck waiting on the Manchester runway for over an hour and a half with a delay. Planes and trains both get cancelled but I think planes have more chance of delays. Can’t really use that as an excuse though.

Comfort wise, flying is cramped and crowded. The train in second class still has seats with not a lot of leg room but it’s perhaps a bit more comfortable. First class is nice if you can afford it! Perhaps lots of advance booking might get the Eurostar first class in an affordable range, not so sure about the British trains. I know I have signed up in the past for email notice for the cheap seats in second class when they are released but I can’t recall if they do the same for the first class seats.  I’m still kind of leaning to the train except that it will make the journey longer.

I get myself all in a tizzy over little details like this, long before I even need to think about it! My partner will just say he’s fine with whatever I decide.

The next tizzy will be choosing a hotel! That’s something for a whole other blog post!