Wednesday, September 9, 2015

London & Paris - Summary & Tips

This is a continuation of our London & Paris trip. You can find the full trip itinerary here. 

We had such a great time in London & Paris. We definitely packed in so much for the short stay...hehe. We especially loved Paris and hope to come back some day.

Here are some tips based on our experience during our trip in London & Paris!

Wi Fi:
  • London: We pre-booked a wifi hotspot device since we did it in Japan and thought it was super useful. For London, a lot of cafes actually offer free wifi, so having a pocket wifi might not be as necessary. But it was still helpful -- the cost was just over $8/day and we got it from Tep Wireless.
  • Paris: We felt wi-fi in Paris was more necessary and useful than in London, because it wasn't as easy to find free Wi Fi. We got ours from Hippocketwifi that Dan ordered beforehand, and cost around 30 Euros. You can choose to pick up at airport, or they can deliver it to your hotel. If you can, do the airport pickup to avoid confusion at the hotel.

In City Transportation
  • London
    • Get an Oyster card if you are going to use the tube (subway) a lot. During our first tube trip to Harrod's, we didn't get an Oyster card, and turns out the one way ticket costs double if we buy a single ticket versus loading money into the Oyster card. The Oyster card requires a 5 pound deposit, and you will have to buy it from a booth.  Once you're done, you can get the deposit back.
    • We also took Uber a lot. Distances between places in London were not that far, so going places for the most part only cost us 5-10 pounds. So I would recommend Uber for in-city transport.
  • Paris
    • The Metro in Paris was a lot cheaper than the tube in London. We got the 10 pack tickets for around 14 Euros, so each trip cost roughly 1.4 Euros. The metro lines were all color coded and for the most part pretty self explanatory. One thing to note though, if you have to transfer lines, the distance between one line and the other could actually be quite a bit of a walk.
    • It looks like there's an 8 Euro minimum for in city Uber ride as all our ride cost exactly 8 Euros! We used this a couple times before we figured that out. :)

Airport Transportation
  • London
    • We booked an airport transfer from LHR to our hotel in Covent Garden with Exclusive Airports. They were on time and we were pleased with the service. It cost 48 pounds, and I paid 50 pounds total.  This would probably be my recommendation (versus taking taxi, or even the train). We considered the train but it would still cost around 40 pounds total to get to the city, and then we still have to buy another ticket to get to our hotel, and I really didn't want to be carrying suitcases up and down the stairs.
    • On our way back from the hotel to LHR, we tried requesting Uber, but the driver canceled our requests twice (probably because they didn't want to make the trek to LHR), so we ended up having to find a taxi last minute! I would NOT recommend using Uber to go to the airport, but it would be better to pre-book return with transfer service like Exclusive Airports. We ended up paying taxi a total of 86 pounds, since they were more expensive and charged a fee for paying with credit card. This was 36 pounds more than if we had pre-booked the transfer! The only positive was I got to ride in a black London cab, but at a premium price! :)
  • Paris:
    • We didn't pre-arrange arrival transfer and ended up getting a taxi that supposedly took credit card. However, when we arrived at our hotel, the taxi driver could not process our credit card. We did not have any Euros, so Dan was held up for a while. Thankfully the hotel concierge offered to pay the taxi driver in cash for us, and have it charged to our hotel bill. So in hindsight, we should have pre-booked transport beforehand.
    • For our return to the airport, we pre-booked transport with for EUR 55. We were very pleased with the service. It was a bit cheaper than our Taxi, and the car condition was much nicer, and we didn't have to worry about hailing a cab. 

Restaurants: Here's a summary of all the places we went and a brief note on each one:
  • London
    • Shake Shack: Great burger place (the shroom burger is really good), but not unique to London as they originated from the US (NYC).
    • Hawksmoor: Famous steak place. Not the best that we've had, but pretty decent. The Sticky Toffee Pudding though was outstanding.
    • Corinthia's Afternoon Tea: Good experience, but not outstanding. I think the most famous one (which we couldn't get in) was the Claridge's.
    • Rock & Sole place: Very low-key fish & chips place. Pretty decent and huge portions!
    • Gauthier Soho: Our most favorite meal in London! Price was not too bad for fine dining.
    • Dishoom: Super popular Indian restaurant. We tried eating here twice but lines were always too long. Finally went in for breakfast and it was really good.
    • Bone Daddies: Hipster ramen place - we both think Ippudo is still better, but this place has unique flavors.
  • Paris
    • Angelina's: LOVE their hot chocolate. Very touristy place but worth a visit, if not for the hype.
    • Breizh Cafe: Excellent crepe place. Must make reservation in advance.
    • L'avant Comptoir: Our favorite meal during our whole trip. Low key wine bar with menu hanging from the ceiling. Everything we ordered was delicious and price was reasonable.
    • Les Cocottes: Solid restaurant near Eiffel tower.

Other Tips:
  • London:
    • West End Shows: We wanted to catch a show very last minute, and tried getting same day ticket from Mathilda's box office the morning of at 10AM. We came a few minutes after 10AM, and the cheapest tickets remaining were 67.50 pounds each. I found an online deal from London Theatre Booking for 33 pounds each, but was too afraid to pull the plug. But we went to their counter next to the Covent Garden station, and ended up getting those seats for 35 pounds each! So definitely recommend last minute tickets from London Theatre Booking!
    • Bath & Stonehenge Tour: I also signed up for Groupon UK (separate login from US), to get Buy 1 get 2 tickets for a Stonehenge & Bath tour with Day Tours London. Definitely recommend looking up for local Groupon discounts during your trip. :)
  • Paris:
    • If you are going to be in Paris for a few days and want to visit museums, definitely get the Paris Museum Pass which allows you to visit several museums and you won't need to be in line to buy tickets. We got the 2 day tickets for 42 Euro. The more museums you visit and the longer your stay, the more back for your buck. Don't confuse it with the Paris Pass, which has a lot more included but costs way more.
    • Versailles Tour: If you want to visit the main palace, either come REALLY early (like 30 minutes before opening), or visit it in the afternoon after the lines die down. We arrived at 10:30 AM (1.5 hour after opening), which appeared to be the worst time. The line snaked around multiple times, and we ended up waiting in line for 1.5 hours. If you arrive around the same time like we did and the line is too long, my recommendation would be to go visit the garden first, and leave the main palace towards the afternoon around 3-4 PM when the line was non-existent.

Until next time!

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