S: London, Paris, & Madrid Vacation - February 2012
BC: London, England Paris, France Madrid, Spain | Created by Deb
FC: Our awesome vacation to Europe! February 6 - 16, 2012 | London | Paris | Madrid | Joe & Deb
1: London Paris Madrid | Who would have thought we'd be taking a trip to Europe! | Our next great adventure . . . | Don't you just love the care the airlines take with your luggage? This piece was brand new!
2: Our hotel was across the street from Hyde Park. | Our first stop... London, England | We were surprised to find that it was only 29 degrees & snowing when we arrived in London. And so were they!
3: What a great place! We had a quaint room with a balcony view of the street and Hyde Park. On our first morning, we had a traditional English breakfast. | The London Elizabeth Hotel
4: Buckingham Palace | This is the official London home of The Queen. | The Queen's Life Guard are the mounted troopers of the Household Cavalry who guard the official entrance to St James' Palace and Buckingham Palace. | This was great to watch! | We see it on television all the time, but to actually be here and see it all up close and touch the gate is amazing!
5: The Changing of the Horse Guard
6: The Household Calvary Museum | Joe gets to try on the royal guard''''s armor - all 60 pounds of it!
7: Deb hanging out with the "bobbies" Policemen became to be known as " bobbies" after Robert Peel who set up the first organized police service in London, 1829. Bobby is short for Robert. | The Albert 52 Victoria Street, London Where we had lunch during our London tour. The Albert is a large Victorian pub built in 1864 and named in honour of Queen Victoria’s husband. | Joe enjoying the popular English "Fish & Chips." Served with warm beer! | The Mitre Pub Our first meal in London... | We took a ride on the vintage red double-decker buses.
8: The business of Parliament takes place in two places, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Parliament exists to challenge the work of government, approve new laws and debate government policy and current issues. The oldest part of the Houses of Parliament is Westminster Hall, dating back to 1097. Westminster Hall is officially a royal palace. | Westminster
9: The House of Parliament and The Clock Tower (which houses Big Ben) on the banks of the River Thames. | Such a great place... and to actually be able to see these places in person! | Victoria Tower was built in 1860. The tower contains the records of both the House of Lords & the House of Commons since 1497.
10: The quire... a 'church within a church' was where the monks once worshiped. | The great rose window was breathtaking! | A view of the nave | Westminster Abbey
11: 1st WW poets memorial dedicated in 1985 | Westminster Palace became a World Heritage Site in 1987, but it is almost always referred to as Westminster Abbey. Traditionally kings and queens are crowned here, and buried here. This is where Prince William & Kate Middleton were married on April 29, 2011. | Around the nave are many memorials & graves of famous musicians, poets, writers, actors, philosophers, scientists and mathematicians. It's amazing how many names you recognize.
12: St. Paul's Cathedral | This was the first cathedral to be built after the English Reformation in the 16th century, when Henry VIII removed the Church of England from the jurisdiction of the Pope and the crown took control of the Church's life. It was built between 1675 and 1711 after its predecessor was destroyed by fire. | The inside was just beautiful! We even got to hear the boy's choir sing! This is where Prince Charles & Lady Diana Spencer were married in 1981.
13: The London Eye - 450 feet high | You can see over 25 miles from the top on a clear day! | There are 32 capsules. | It takes 30 minutes for one rotation. | The views from the top at night were just amazing!
14: Tower of London | The Tower of London is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames. It is where we saw the Crown Jewels!
15: Godfrey was our tour guide for the day. | Tower Bridge | * The Jewelled Sword of Offering, 1820 * The Sovereign's Sceptre with Cross, 1661. It has the Great Star of Africa Diamond of 530 carats! * Queen Mary of Modena's State Crown & Diadem, 1685. | The Tower Bridge has become an iconic symbol of London. It is a combined bascule and suspension bridge over the River Thames. The bridge consists of two towers which are tied together at the upper level by means of two horizontal walkways. | Some of the many amazing Crown Jewels on display...
16: the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom | The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for civil cases. It hears appeals in criminal cases from England, Wales and Northern Ireland. | We were amazed that we could just go right in and see this. There were no cases being tried at the time though. | What was surprising was seeing a statue of Abraham Lincoln at the entrance of the Supreme Court. It was installed in 1920 to commemorate a 100 years of peace between Britain & the USA after the end of the War of 1812.
17: Out and around London... | Some of the great restaurants we ate at... The Mitre Pub, The Albert, Villa Rosa, The Swan, & Taormina. | "Number 10" is the headquarters of Her Majesty's Government and the official residence & office of Prime Minister David Cameron. | This old man was painting right on the sidewalk! | They still have these red telephone booths all over London!
18: Eurostar is a high-speed railway service connecting London with Paris and Brussels. All its trains traverse the Channel Tunnel between England and France at a speed of 199 mph! The 2 1/2 hour trip went fast! | Off to Paris on the Eurostar
19: We had a nice breakfast on the train. The service was great! | We saw really cool graffiti art all along the train trip. | It was snowing when we left London! | The 2012 Olympics were coming to London in the summer so the Olympic rings were displayed in the station as a reminder.
20: The Victoria Palace Hotel Paris - Rive Gauche | Loved the café créme! | Our next stop... Paris, France | Arriving in Paris...
21: Bicycles for rent seemed to be a popular way to get around both in Paris & London. | Our hotel concierge, Joao, was so helpful in planning our trip to France... | The lounge in the Lobby of our hotel.
22: Room 505 | Wow! Our room was a junior suite with a king bed! In Europe this is considered a huge room! The walls were cloth-covered, known as Toile, to create an uniquely French style. Toile has a distinct look, even though it is seen in a range of colors and patterns. The original 1760s patterns usually depicted scenes of the French countryside. It was just beautiful! | A view from our balcony.
23: The cabaret show has been going on since 1946 in the City of Light. The 100 minute review includes the Bluebell Girls & the Lido Boy Dancers. What an experience! The dinner was at 9pm followed by the show, but I was SO tired that I kept nodding off. Finally, Joe said "I think it's time to go. What do you think?" We left and I crashed as soon as we got back to the hotel... | On our first night in Paris we went to the champagne dinner show at the famous Lido!
24: The Louvre Museum | The Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) in Paris, France, is one of the largest and most famous museums in the world. The building is a former royal palace. | In 1989, the Crystal Pyramid was inaugurated. It is in the central courtyard of the Louvre. | Every part of this tour was just amazing! I wish we had more time to explore some of the other exhibits there.
25: Part of the royal palace of the Louvre was first opened to the public as a museum on November 8, 1793, during the French Revolution. | Our tour guide Christina looked like Daryl Hannah.
27: The Louvre holds the rich artistic heritage of the French people from the early Capetian Kings through the Empire of Napoleon Bonaparte and to the present day.
28: Venus de Milo | So many beautiful pieces of art & sculpture...
29: The Mona Lisa is a portrait by the Italian artist Leonardo da Vinci. | Deb yells, "Take a picture of me by the sign!" (and I wasn't the only one). Our tour guide just laughs... | We were surprised by the small size of the actual painting.
30: the Eiffel Tower French: La Tour Eiffel | The tower stands 1,063 ft tall, about the same height as an 81-story building. The tower has three levels for visitors. The walk from ground level to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from the first to the second level. The third and highest level is accessible only by elevator. Both the first and second levels have restaurants.
31: It was SO cold and windy the day we went (19 degrees), but I'm glad we didn't have to stand in that really LONG line!
32: The views from the first level, where the restaurant was, were great!
33: The Hot Chocolate tasted SO good at the stand here! We've never had anything like it! It was hot chocolate with a whipped & steamed cream topping. Mmmmmm good! | Had an awesome picnic style lunch at the "Le 58 Tour Eiffel" Restaurant. It came in a fancy, metal picnic basket!
34: Our boat ride along the River Siene... It was about 35 minute ride from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame. The Seine is a major river of North Western France. The Seine, is the best-known French river in France and travels from Dijon in the Alps, through to Paris, which it cuts in half, and then onto Le Havre, where it meets the English Channel. | It was SO cold there were icicles on the boat!
35: Notre Dame
36: The Virgin of the "Pieta" who receives on her lap the crucified body of Jesus. | The stained glass windows were absolutely breathtaking! The rose windows are practically the only ancient windows left in Notre Dame. The Rose windows are each 43 feet wide. The south window (left) has been re-worked to let in more light, but the north window (right) contains 85 percent of the original stained glass.
37: Some of the other places we ate... La Maison du Jardin and Au Baroubeur | Le Nemrod was one of our favorite places to eat. They had an awesome omelet! | This was the "Latin Quarter" in Paris. I wish we had more time to go and explore it.
38: We took TAP Portugal from Paris to Madrid with a stop in Portugal. | Madrid | Our Hotel in Madrid, Spain | One of the street performers | Madrid
39: Joe & Deb are in Puerta del Sol (the city center) where kilometer 0 of the Spanish road system radiates out from. We are in front of the statue of the Bear & Strawberry Tree, the symbol of the city of Madrid. This is a great shopping area. It was where we started our Tapas Tour on the first night.
40: El Escarpin... the first stop on our Tapas Tour. We met people from England, Ireland & Australia! | Joe learning to pour Spanish Sidre (cider) the correct way! | Great atmosphere & good tapas! | We went back again the next day for more tapas!
41: - You must drink the whole bottle at one sitting. Cider oxidizes quickly and becomes flat. - The ideal temperature is cool but not cold. - A "gulp" or small amount of cider should be poured into a narrow glass from a height of around three feet. This aerates the cider, enhancing the bouquet and the natural carbonation, and is called "throwing" the Cider, which produces the gas. - This should be consumed at once. | Fatigas del Querer This place was amazing! The fresh ham & cheese tapas were SO good! It was hard to leave this place... We loved going down the small alleyways & streets to see the different gems they held!
42: El Cervantes is where we were served the shrimp and octopus tapas... mixed reviews by all of us though. Then more walking & taking in the evening's sites & sounds. La Venencia is where we ended the night with various types of Sherry or “Jerez” as its called in Spanish. They are: Fino, Oloroso, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Pedro Ximénez and Manzanilla.
43: There are just SO many beautiful buildings and styles of architecture in Madrid.
44: Christopher Columbus stands on top of the monument. He is perched at the pinnacle of a tall column, facing eastward towards the open sea. | The flag of Spain | The most popular sight at the Plaza de España is the monument to Miguel de Cervantes, writer of Don Quixote de la Mancha and his trusty squire, Sancho Panza. | Estadio Santiago Bernabéu is the third largest stadium of Europe and home to Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. It currently has a capacity of 85,454 seats. The stadium has hosted four Champions League finals in its history.
45: Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is a famous bullring in Spain. The bullfighting season starts in March and ends in December. | Puerta del Sol was one of the oldest entrances to the wall that surrounded the city in the 15th century. | Real Casa de Correos houses the President of the Community of Madrid. The Calle del Arenal0 Plaza Mayor market square is the center of many events & celebrations. | Old Madrid
46: The palace has 1,450,000 sq. ft. of floorspace and contains 2800 rooms. It is the largest palace in Europe by floor area. The interior of the palace is notable for its wealth of art, in regards to the use of all kinds of fine materials in its construction and the decoration of its rooms with artwork of all kinds, including paintings. Other collections of great historical and artistic importance that are preserved in the building are the Royal Armoury, Porcelain, Watches, Furniture and Silverware. | The Royal Palace "Palacio Real de Madrid" | The Palacio Real is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family in the city of Madrid, but it is only used for state ceremonies. King Juan Carlos and the Royal Family do not reside in the palace, choosing instead the more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid. | The ornate ceilings were incredible!
47: The palace is owned by the Spanish State and administered by the Patrimonio Nacional, a public agency of the Ministry of the Presidency. | This place is huge!
48: The grand staircase | The State Dining Room | Royal Armoury... the armory includes some of the most important pieces of this art in Europe and worldwide.
49: There were so many beautiful rooms and painted ceilings... | The Throne Room
50: Celebrating on Valentine's Day... 40 years ago Joe called Deb from Spain & ask her to marry him! | La Barraca was founded in 1935 and is one of the most famous paella restaurants in Madrid. This long established Valencian-style restaurant, is designed and built like an old Levante country house. Their signature dish is PAELLA . | Queen Seafood Paella with Lobster Tail, Mussels, Clams, King Prawns & Giant Red Prawns. | This place was in a dark back street that was hard to find because it was covered with scaffolding and was dark because it didn't even open up until 8:30pm for the first dinner service! Our tour guide said it had the best paella in Madrid so we decided to go in. It was definitely worth it! We split the Queen Seafood Paella. The shrimp were enormous! It was SO good!
51: Mercado de San Miguel | This place was a great little marketplace! It had fresh produce, meat & seafood, gourmet olives, a nice wine bar & lots more! | Restaurante Botin is the oldest restaurant in the World | Founded in 1725 | This was cool... It's the "shut your mouth" shop.
52: Ávila | Fun on the bus ride to Avila
53: The Basilica de San Vicente is just outside the walls of Ávila. It was built in the 11th century and finished two centuries later. St. Vincent was a Christian who was martyred during the rule of the Roman Empire. | St Vincent's Basilica
54: Just amazing!
55: Convent of St. Teresa | This 17th-century convent stands on the site of Teresa's birth and contains her relics. This is where Teresa lived as a nun, wrote, and had many of her mystical experiences. | I just loved the little courtyard where Teresa played as a young girl. She lived at the Catholic convent for 30 years then left to open 16 new convents and reformed her order. The pews were just plain wooden benches, but the stained glass windows were so beautiful!
56: Having a quick snack on our tour. | The old stone streets were amazing! We definitely had some long walks but it was beautiful to see everything.
58: Ávila Cathedral is a fortress-like cathedral adjoining the famous medieval walls of Ávila. Most of the cathedral that can be seen today was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. | The Cathedral of Ávila is a Gothic church in Ávila in the south of Old Castile, Spain. | St. Peter's Church (Iglesia de San Pedro) located on Plaza de Santa Teresa | The Plaza de Santa Teresa where Deb bought wool gloves. It was SO cold!
59: Then it was back on the bus for the ride to Segovia... | Segovia | The highlight of Segovia is its spectacular Roman Aqueduct. Built nearly 2000 years ago in the second half of the 1st century AD, over 25,000 granite blocks were stacked without the use of any mortar. It remains one of the oldest standing structures on earth. Until the late 19th century, it transported water to the city from the Rio Frio, over 10 miles away. It has 166 arches & at its highest point the aqueduct spans 93 feet over the Plaza Azoguejo below. | This aqueduct was just an amazing structure to see up close. It was definitely ahead of it's time when constructed.
60: This is the city's most famous restaurant, the best place for Cochinillo Asado (roasted baby pig). The suckling pig is fed only by breast-feeding, which gives this great flavor and taste. It weighs around 10 pounds & is only 21 days old. | The local soup of La Granja (white beans) was delicious! But the real treat was the Roasted Baby Pig. Crispy on the outside and juicy and tender throughout. They continued to pour their local red wine and their fresh bread was excellent! | Mesón Restaurante El Cordero | Joe enjoying the roasted pig....
61: Walking through Segovia... | was like going back in time.
62: Casa de los Picos, is a mansion with an unusual facade studded with diamond shaped stones. | The St. Martin Church | The Church of San Clemente
63: The Cathedral is the last Gothic cathedral build in Spain. Constructed from 1515 to 1548, on the spot where Isabella was crowned queen. | Loved this place!!! | Segovia
65: Simply amazing!
66: Alcázar castle, was the source of inspiration to Walt Disney for Disneyland, and where Queen Isabel promised Columbus the financial backing he needed to discover America. | The castle looked like something straight out of a fairy tale, complete with a moat and drawbridge. | You can see the old sun dial on the side of the building.
67: For many years,the castle served as the prestigious Royal Artillery School and still houses an artillery museum.
68: Views from the castle balconies...
69: Joe strolling through the plaza on our way back to the bus for our ride back to Madrid. We really wished we had more time to spend in Segovia. It was so beautiful! There was so much to see and enjoy. Just not enough time. Maybe next trip... | Our last night in Madrid before our long flight home to Las Vegas... | Our vacation was fabulous! We saw SO much in the nine days we had here. We look forward to coming back to spend a few weeks in Spain the next time.