Looks like I may have to wear a Canadian flag pin on my first trip to Europe.
The State Department has issued a travel warning for all Americans traveling in Europe this month after possible threats of an attack were made by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group.
Just so happens I’m heading to the continent on Thursday and traveling around two of the major cities — London and Paris — being targeted.
This is my first trip to Europe. (We’re going to a wedding in Avignon, France, then meeting up with a friend in London.) And seeing my track record — my first trip to Japan was a couple of weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, which wasn’t the best time to be flying internationally — I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.
All of the places on my must-see lists are high-alert spots: the Louvre Museum, Buckingham Palace and, of course, the Eiffel Tower.
French solders are patrolling the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower was already evacuated after an anonymous caller phoned in a bomb threat from a telephone booth. (This was the second threat in two weeks.)
While I’m worried about my safety, the threats — and constant reminders on national news sites and stations about them — haven’t dampened my excitement about the upcoming trip.
Sure, I probably won’t pick up any unattended bags or gather around a briefcase that’s emitting smoke. But I’m still going to snap a photo with one of the Queen’s Guards and get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Al-Qaeda won’t stop me!
So send me your suggestions of places to go, things to do and — of course! — dishes I should eat. I’ll be posting blogs from Europe as your far-flung Nonstop correspondent.
To read all of Cat’s blogs, visit www.nonstophonolulu.com/thedailydish. Follow Cat on Twitter @thedailydish or send her an e-mail at [email protected]
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Eat well in Paris; it is a spectacular city and good, small restaurants are everywhere. I advise against a stroll arount the Moulin Rouge late at night, although it is an interesting area. Avignon, in particular, was a huge disappointment for me. It is just too overrun by tourists (I guess my presence made me part of the problem), and it lacks the charm, relaxed pace, and pleasant disposition of the rest of Provence. Othere people I know love Avignon, so I am not the last word, and the wedding there is the main event. I do not know whether you are a coffee drinker, but just about anywhere in Europe the largest cup of coffee you can possibly buy is no more than 1/4 litre (about 8 oz). Best piece of advice for travel anywhere, anytime: pack light.
No need to wear a Canadian Flag… wear the Hawaiian Flag. People ask where we’re from and when we mention Hawai`i they get all googled eyed and do a break out hula motion like dance.
Paris is great for eating. Little Bistro’s all over the place. The bakeries… oooh laaa laaa. Just about everywhere I went there was a bakery nearby. Snacking on pastries all day long while walking around Paris was no problem. Just need to watch out for those dog bombs that appear all over the place.
Take a walk down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Fashion and high end shops galore. One end is bound by the Arc de Triomphe and the other end is bordered by the Place de le Concorde. Just got to watch out for those crazy drives especially around the rotary at the Arc de Triomphe.
Paris has a well laid out rail system. Almost everywhere you want to go, there’s a rail stop nearby. BTW, you probably can’t see the Louvre in one day. Most likely it’ll take 2-3 days as that place is huge.
If you can, visit some of the castles in the region. I’m not sure what flowers are in bloom now but the caretakers of the castles do a stupendous job with the gardens. It would be a picture perfect opportunity if it presented itself.
Hopefully you’ll get to the top of Le Eiffel Tower. The night shots of the city of Paris from would be great to add to your collection.
As for London I don’t think the rail stops are as convenient as Paris but at least I could read and understand the maps.
While France is the place for wines, Britain is probably the place for beers and ales. Just drop into a pub for lunch and sample their fare and wash it down with a local beer or two. One pub we walked into, near Westminster Abbey, served an Apple Beer that they purchase from a farm. If you don’t like beer, this Apple Beer would probably change your mind… it was that good (imho)!
As WildeOscar mentions, pack light. If you’re going to use the Eurail system to get around a heavy suitcase will bog you down. I used a two compartment back pack with hip strap when traveling in Europe. Easy to “carry” onto the train and easy to walk around in when trying to find your hotel.
Enjoy your trip to Europe. It’ll be a trip of a lifetime.
@harrycovair True true true about be a “Hawaiian.” I’ve always found that fascinates people and improves their willingness to help you on things almost instantly!
Adds to the excitement! 🙂
Don’t worry about it just enjoy and have fun! 🙂
Still think you should have at least one semi expensive meal in Le Procope in Paris … reservations are needed, but the set plate meal is reasonable. Took train down to Avignon from Paris a few years ago, amazingly fast. Stayed out in Mouires with friends. Loved hiking around Chateux Le Baux. Hit Gallerie and other stores in Paris, Gallerie for the amazement of the place. Hit Harrod’s too in London just to see it. Take a tour at the Globe Theater in London, fun and the guides are hilarious. Saw your pic of Louvre. Prob with Louvre is that it is almost overwhelming. Notre Dame is worth the trip even if you are not religious and it doesn’t take long. Plus do the boat trip down the Seine. Don’t sweat the alert thing. London dealt with the IRA much to long to worry about latest threat. Don’t be surprised if you get turned away from a ‘tube’ (subway stop) due to a warning. But, it ain’t no big thing for the Brits. Have fun and just open yourself up to it. Have no doubt you will.
Oh yeah … take the train through the chunnel (London to Paris)
“Green Bean” makes a useful suggestion about telling people you are from Hawaii…I used it while I lived in Europe and especially in Paris. Parisians are not very tolerable to Americans but are intrigued by anything that seems exotic. Do attempt to speak French they are more forgiving when you at least try. Go to the latin quarter, you will find great small restaurants…there are Japanese restaurants that will blow your mind…with fresh sashimi too!
@Annoddah_Dave In both London and Paris I found the Oriental restaurants on the expensive side. With the Euro trading for what it is now, it’ll probably be more expensive.
If you are craving Japanese/Chinese food while in Paris Cat. Just look inside and see how many Oriental’s are eating in the establishment. Seems to work for me at least.
@Annoddah_Dave is right about speaking the local language. Even the most simplest of phrases has a dramatic effect. I found this to be especially true in the Tuscan country of Italy.
@harrycovair @Annoddah_Dave Once, when my brother needed his Chinese food fix, we went to Mirama at 17 Rue Saint-Jacques. I would compare the food to….maybe Mini Garden in Chinatown. But really….if you’re craving Japanese/Chinese food in Paris, just wait till you get back home!
Cat, I still need to hand off my books to you! @Harrycovair is right, tell people you’re from Hawaii and you’re an instant celebrity. BTW, I’m one of those that loved Avignon, but I went just before tourist season peaked. I think you will be there when tourist season is winding down, so it won’t be too bad. The town is a quick bus ride away from Geant, the French version of Costco, which I loved!!
Enjoy your trip Cat. I loved London and France, especially Southern France. Last time I was there, I was there for a month. And everyday, and everyone I met was super nice and super helpful. The secret??? Tell them you’re from Hawaii, and their faces light up.
Funny, I’ve been to London twice and did mostly tourist stuff around the Thames. My recommendations are:
1. Thames River attractions
– Big Ben and Parliament
– The London Eye (incredible pics of London from the top of the wheel)
– Tate Museum
– Tower Bridge at sunrise!
2. St. Paul’s Cathedral
3. Westminster Abbey
4. Trafalgar Square/Nelson’s Column
5. Buckingham Palace
6. Hole in the wall beer pubs–order the Fish & Chips!
7. Lloyd’s of London and the Gherkin Building (by Architect Norman Foster)
8. The old London Tower (the heart of olde London!)
1. As Harrycovair mentioned, walk the entire length of the Avenue des Champs-Élysées
– Arc de Triomphe
– Obelisk of Luxor
2. Eiffel Tower
3. The Louvre
4. Notre Dame
5. Take a ride down the Siene River (mini Statue of Liberty)
6. Moulin Rouge
7. Take a day excursion to Versailles–THE Palace of all palaces in the world!!!
@MaxMaxMax Lots of Museums and Castles in Paris and the vicinity. As @MaxMaxMax said, Versailles is a must. That’s at least a 3/4 to full day outing. Notre Dame is on an island so there’s a little walking involved but the history and the architecture of the church is so fascinating.
As for London, don’t forget to check out the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London. If you’re pressed for time, I’d skip the pomp and circumstance of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. I really wasn’t that impressed.
The food in Paris, as you no doubt know, can be rich and delectable. London’s cooking style was more on the blander side. You might want to consider and pack some shoyu packets.
@harrycovair @MaxMaxMax I agree, the Changing of the Guard wasn’t all that and was a waste of a LARGE chunk of time. Save it for your next trip if you can.
@Melissa808 @harrycovair Yeah… agree with you both about the changing of the guard and Buckingham Palace in general. The Palace can only be seen from the outside anyways, so that, along with the guards, was a half day that I couldn’t get back.
@Melissa808 @harrycovair Oh, and if you have time, take a day excursion up to Stonehenge. One of the great mysteries of the world …who built it? …when? and the biggest question, why?
@MaxMaxMax @Melissa808 OH YES! Forgot about Stonehenge.
Bring a warm and if possible waterproof jacket. It’s windier, colder, and maybe wetter than London town.
Have fun on your trip! Is anyone going to sub for you on the Hawaii 5-0 epsiode reviews though?
Cat, this isn’t a total must-do, but if you want to try good steak & frites, go to Relais de l’Entrecôte at either 20 Rue Saint-Benoît or 15 Rue Marbeuf. They used to only serve the steak “bleu” (rare) but I guess enough picky Americans come through now that they give you a choice of how you want your steak cooked (if possible, just choose “bleu”). The thing with this place is that they have a yummy secret sauce on it. Mustard? Peppercorns? Not sure. But it’s pretty simple and good, if you have the time to try it. I know you have limited time in Paris and there are so many other places to try.
if ur train from paris to avignon leaves from gare de lyon, go upstairs and have a meal or coffee at le train bleu: https://www.le-train-bleu.com/uk/index.php
it’s ornate, over a century old, and over the top, w/ overhead racks to put ur things in, waiters in tuxedos pushing cheese carts. totally memorable. when i was there we were the only tourists. had the lamb and petits fours. loved it.
Just carry a surfboard… people will think you are nuts and leave you alone. Take a lot of money because London is expensive.
Wow Im excited for you. My aunt won a three day trip to Paris and I got to go with her. She is a french teacher who had been to Paris quite a bit so she took me all over the place. One of the highlights for me was seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. I did most of the stuff that Max mentioned, it was an adventure that I will never forget. Oh the food, my aunt took me to this shop called Fauchaun which was a feast for the eyes. I had the best crossants there. The street markets were interesting too. Can’t wait to read all about your trip!
Just got back from 2 week tour of Europe. We didn’t have any problems in either London, Rome, or Paris. I was more concerned about finding our way around the London Tube, and the Paris Metro, than worrying about terrorists. BTW, the Paris Metro is very easy to navigate.
Have fun, going to Europe is a wonderful experience.
Ooh, Paris! Where do I start? As @harrycovair & others mentioned, say you’re from Hawaii & you’ll get a friendly greeting. If you know a little French, they’ll appreciate the attempt. Aside from the Eiffel Tower, Champs Elysees & the Louvre, you’ve got to check out the department stores. Le Gallerie Lafayette is just awesome! There’s also Au Printemps and Samaritaine. If you go to the roof of Samaritaine, you’ll be rewarded with a 360 degree view of Paris. All of the cafes are great for people watching. The Metro isn’t hard & it gets you just about anywhere. Go to Pierre Herme or Laduree for macarons.
Have fun & don’t let the security alert spoil your trip. I’ll be there for the holidays & I’m looking forward to it! Have a great time!
@konaish I also like BHV, the department store near City Hall. Ooooh and wandering in the Marais! The boutiques! Le mariage freres! Drinking at Le Lizard Lounge, where I once threw up! LOL
@Melissa808 @konaish Oh yeah, I did the touristy thing at Le Gallerie Lafayette. Took a picture of their stained glass domed roof. Actually bought a couple of t-shirs with Monet paintings silkscreened on.
Another reminder if you have time to visit Cat, Musee d’Orsay (https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html), has a vast collection of Impressionist paintings. The building was formerly a train station.
@harrycovair @Melissa808 One more thing…the outdoor market at Rue Cler.
I have the pic of the dome in Lafayette, too. Gorgeous store – with a gourmet market & beautiful pastries, too. And Le Lizard Lounge – lol! Gotta go back to the scene of the crime. If Cat needs tour guides, I think we could pack our bags pretty quickly!
@konaish oooooh yes! I was just telling @harrycovair today that as soon as I get off the plane, I like to go to Ulysees on the rue Cler for a crepe. Good, cheap, comforting crepes. hmmmm @Konaish should I go to Europe with you for Christmas instead of Vegas???
@Melissa808 Yes, you should come with me! Europe > Vegas. Christmas markets, castles covered with snow & of course food. My friends are also planning a trip to France next fall, so come along on that one, too.
@Melissa808 @konaish I like my Crepes simple, non of this fancy American whipped cream with fruits and chocolate chips. Simple as in Clarified Butter with some sugar then heated to a light Caramel (and maybe with a small dab of Creme Fresh). Try that on your next Crepe. It’s the street vendors or the small cafe’s/bistro’s/etc. that make the simple dishes that I enjoy when visiting a new city.
I guess Lafayette and Harrod’s are about the equivalent in each respective city except that Harrod’s doesn’t have a stained glass dome.
Hey Cat, have you noticed that your topics tends to stray to fuud more than often?
@harrycovair @konaish That;s how I eat my crepe!!! Altho….ham & cheese, steaming hot on a very cold Paris day, works, too.
Sorry I haven’t been posting in my own comments. For some reason, I’m still having a tough time logging on. It just keeps loading and loading and I end up giving up.
Thanks for all the advice and tips! I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment… I can’t believe I’m leaving on Thursday!
be careful, cat. have a good time!
Have a great time! One thing no one else has mentioned: If you go the Louvre, it is HUGE. Plan for much more time than you expected, especially since there’s also a sort of mall next to it, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll wander around it as well. If you’re into cemeteries, check out the Père Lachaise cemetery. There are quite a few notable people buried there. It’s also quite large, so plan on getting lost there. You may want to save these for another trip where you’ll have time to wander around, though. Have fun!
Be careful and enjoy your trip! I’m sure it’ll be snag-free and wonderful.
I lived in Germany for 6 years and was fortunate to be able to travel all over…Europe is a phenomenal place! I have no doubt you’ll love every second of it!
I love that beautiful continent you’re on! Traveling to Europe from Hawaii is rough, but oh so worth it!
Here are my favorite places:
Ditto the other posts – – – it IS overwhelming. After you’re admitted, get a copy of their Plan (map of the exhibits). Circle the exhibits you’re most interested in for your first visit. I particularly enjoyed Napoleon’s Apartment, Art Objects and the sculptures. . . and, of course, the Mona Lisa is a must. They open one evening a week, so you can enjoy the beautiful city during the day and back to the Louvre at night to finish up. The Food Court is very convenient.
A short train ride away, it is one of the most beautiful palaces in Europe. Many other cities have palaces that were inspired by Versailles. Take the palace tour and allow time to walk the grounds to include a visit to the the Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon. Beautiful! Marie Antoinette enjoyed spending time there to feel more like a commoner.
Near the Notre Dame, this cathedral has simply stunning stained glass.
Ask your concierge about an Illumination Tour by bus followed by a cruise on the Seine. The sights you enjoyed during the day are illuminated at night.
if you’re into Monet and the other Impressionist painters, as I am, visit the Musee d’Orsay. The original water lily painting tho is at the Musee de l’Orangerie in Tuileries. Ask your concierge to make sure they’re open.
Invalides – Napoleon Bonaparte and some members of his family, among others, are entombed there.
A must: Walk down the Champs Elysees. Also, stop at sidewalk cafes to people watch.
As for food:
Pierre Herme for macarons – you will fall in love with these!!!
If you like hot chocolate, try Angelina’s on Rue Rivoli. It’s rich and thick, so you may want to add some hot water to your taste. In the morning, their croissants are absolutely delicious.
Someone recommended going to brasseries for our meals. After trying several, we found bistros to have higher quality food. Although, if all I wanted was a simple meal of French Onion Soup and a salad, I’d go to a brasserie.
In London, try to join a day tour of Stonehenge. It was the highlight of our trip to London.
For me, the cuisine in London was not impressive. We found ourselves going ethnic most times. My husband is a meat-eater and enjoyed pub food.
Have a fabulous and safe trip!!!