Exploring the Diamond Jubilee Celebrations: London & Paris Royal Holiday


Rail Europe’s Employee Samina Researches for the Jubilee Event Travel and Trip to London and Paris

Photo Courtesy of © www.visitlondon.com

Samina Sabir is the Public Relations Manager at Rail Europe, Inc. and has spent most of her career in the travel industry doing what she loves most – traveling! Samina’s favorite way to travel in Europe is to use the train to connect her to as many of her favorite cities as she can fit in to one visit. Her favorite train journey is from London to Edinburgh as it is so scenic as the train travels through the north of England up to Scotland. For this trip, she used the Original London Sightseeing tour, the Eurostar between London and Paris and the Paris Visite to take day the quick day trip from Paris to the Chateau at Fontainebleau. And she used her Eurostar ticket to gain free access into the Musee D’Orsay.

Ask anyone about London and they will tell you that the Olympics are the next big thing to happen there. I would beg to differ, as I think the Queens Diamond Jubilee is a pretty big deal too. She stands out not only because there just aren’t very many monarchs left in Europe these days but also because there certainly aren’t many who have ruled for as long as 60 years.

I travelled to London & Paris recently and was on a mission to try to do some royal themed activities. I only had a few days but I planned my trip & put my limited time to good use. Here is how I did it:

Day 1: Diving right in with Victoria and Albert Museum, Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly and London’s West End

Photo Courtesy of © www.visitlondon.com

Arrived at London Heathrow Airport at about 8am, picked up my rather large suitcase (shoes take up a lot of space) and followed the signs for the London Heathrow Express. This 23 minute train ride really is the quickest and most affordable way to get to the city center. It takes you straight to Paddington Station and once there you can take the tube or hail one of those lovely black London cabs to get to your final destination.

After a quick rest, I spent the afternoon at The Victoria and Albert Museum, as I wanted to see the photography exhibit by royal photographer Cecil Beaton – the exhibit included photo’s of Queen Elizabeth II taken from her youth to the current day.

I had heard that the iconic British store, Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly, had a great selection of Jubilee themed teas and biscuits, so of course I took some time to shop for some souvenirs to bring home. This shop is definitely worth a visit – they have everything from traditional teas and biscuits to cheeses and wines. Try the Jubilee Clotted Cream and Pistachio biscuits – the tin is definitely a keepsake! And if you have time, try the fish and chips served with mushy peas in their Fountain restaurant – they give this traditional British fast food a fancy twist and it works!

Once my afternoon of shopping and (over)-eating was complete, I made my way to London’s West End to enjoy a theater production of The Kings Speech at The Wyndham Theater. I had loved the movie, but as this was originally written for the stage, I was eager to experience it in its originally intended form. I was not disappointed –put it on your “must do” list.

Day 2: Taking the Public Transport around London

Photo Courtesy of © www.visitlondon.com

While I am a big fan of public transport (especially on rainy days in London) I do enjoy exploring a city on foot. I always get a better feel for the place and its people when I walk along the streets. As my hotel was so close to Buckingham Palace, I took an early morning stroll in the direction of the Palace.

I then took a guided tour of Kensington Palace – they have the exhibit “Victoria Revealed” on display there right now and it is an interesting record of her life there with Albert and their nine children. She was the only monarch to rule longer than the current Queen and was also the first one to make Buckingham Palace the official royal residence. There is also a brand new exhibit with 5 of Princess Diana’s dresses on display at Kensington –it only takes about 15 minutes to walk through and is definitely worth a visit.

Lunch at the Orangery restaurant in Kensington Palace is a great option. The restaurant has a bright, airy feel to it – sunlight pours in through the windows and you are surrounded by the pretty ornamental orange trees. If you are eating there, don’t leave without trying the Jaffa cake dessert.

I ended my day with a royal walking tour of the city which included the Mall and a walk past St James’ Palace, Clarence house (the London residence of Prince Charles) and ended up outside Buckingham Palace. I realized that the royal family all live so close to each other – in fact if they weren’t “the royals” they could easily walk from one house or palace to another along the Mall.

Day 3: Taking the Eurostar train from London to Paris

It is no secret that the Queen takes the Eurostar train to Paris and so I thought it fitting for my royal themed trip to do the same.

I boarded an 8.30am train to Paris and my trip from the center of London to the center of Paris was seamless, fast and comfortable. They served breakfast on board, which was perfect as I am not much of an early morning person and had not made time to eat before I left my hotel.

I had the day to explore and enjoy Paris, so as soon as I had checked in, I used my Paris Visite to board the metro and visit another favorite of mine- the Musee D’Orsay. If you show your used Eurostar ticket you get free entry into this train station turned Museum. I spent my afternoon in Paris people watching along the Champs Elysees and pondering on what “royal” themed activity I could do in the French Republic!

Day 4: Centuty Chateau at Fontainebleau with the Paris Visite Card

Jardin © Chateau of Fontainebleau © MsAnthea http://www.flickr.com/photos/anthea/281715948/

I realized that the 12th Century Chateau at Fontainebleau was only about a 45 minute train ride from Paris and with my Paris Visite card I could hop on any train headed that way.

I took the 9 am train and arrived at the town of Fontainebleau a little before 10. I took a guided tour of the chateau which really was the best option for me as I was not familiar with its history. I learned that this was never a permanent residence for any French monarch but was only used during hunting season in the autumn and early winter – so basically it was a hunting lodge for the kings and emperors of France! Interesting things to see in the castle are the Long Gallery with its Fresco paintings; the only remaining (furnished) throne room left in France; Marie Antoinette’s Gambling room – she loved to gamble and the bed that was custom-built for her but she never got to sleep in it because… well, we all know the end to that story!

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