Fall 2001:  London, Normandy, and Paris


Hampton Court
We spent four days in London at the beginning of the trip.  As soon as we landed, we were met by our guide, Nigel Hake, and immediately headed for Hampton Court.  That was just the beginning of a full day of sightseeing.  We believe that the best way to prevent jet lag is to avoid napping on the first day, go to bed as late as possible, and get yourself on European time as soon as possible.  For the third straight student trip, we stayed with Ken Palos at the Scala House Apartments.  For our groups these apartments are the perfect choice.  They are spacious, clean and comfortable alternatives to the hotels.  

We really enjoyed having Nigel with us for our entire stay in London.  It's amazing how much time we were able to save just by having someone with us who knew all the shortcuts to the different places!  This view of Buckingham Palace came as we walked toward a different setting for the "Changing of the Guard."  Nigel convinced us that we would be able to see just as much ceremony with only a fraction of the crowd by viewing the guard as they returned to their barracks after they left the palace itself.  He was right; along with only about twenty other tourists, we viewed their dismissal at the barracks and then walked over to Buckingham Palace for photos without the crowd.  
  Buckingham Palace

Paliament from the Eye
We weren't sure exactly how the London Eye would be, but  it turned out to be very nice.  We had a decent day for viewing and were able to get photos that we'd never have any other way. By buying our group tickets early, we were able to have one of the "capsules" reserved just for our group.  The Eye was one of the projects built for the Millenium celebration in London, and I'm glad it was still around for our visit.  Unfortunately, the controversy and high costs surrounding another of the Millenium projects, the Millenium Dome at Greenwich, caused it to fail before we were ever able to visit.  

The British Museum, perhaps the finest museum of its kind in the world, can be such an overwhelming experience that the visitor is exhausted before ever seeing the most important parts.  It is best to plan ahead before your visit or to plan several short visits during your time in London.  We had a very limited time, so we were fortunate to have Nigel's guiding hand.  Prior to our stop at the museum, we told him the things that were on our "must-see" list and then told him to add the most important things that we had left off.  Because of his knowledge of the layout of the building, we didn't have to waste time consulting our maps and were able to maximize the time that we had inside.
British Museum

Our day-trip from London was again to Warwick Castle and Stratford.  Warwick is definitely a commercial venture, but it provides a good mixture of history and entertainment.  There are enough different exhibitions and enough open space that the visitor doesn't feel too crowed, even with the huge throngs that it sometimes attracts.  You can climb the towers and walk the walls, see the medieval displays in the Kingmaker Exhibition and the Armory, or enjoy a "Royal Weekend Party" showing life in the late Victorian Period.

The tourist visits Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Shakespeare properties, and we did our part by first touring the museum and birthplace before walking to Trinity Church to see Shakespeare's grave.  But for our group, Stratford is also a safe place where they can visit a small (albeit touristy) town, do some souvenir shopping, and not have to worry about us looking over their shoulders the entire time.  

Paris  - Normandy
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