This trip started beause I had to go UK (Ascot) for a business trip for 31March-3 April. Going to Paris has always been an obsession personally so I when I knew I had to go to London I asked my BFF Sari to come with me and go to France after my meeting ends. She has been to Paris but she has never been to London. So we both are excited 🙂
Here is the itinerary:
30 Mar: check in at McDonald Hotel Ascot (http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/our-hotels/macdonald-berystede-hotel-spa/) where the meeting would took place. Ascot is only 30 minutes drive from Heathrow airport. I took addison lee car transfer to take me to Hotel.
31 March: Windsor Castle (There is a bus going from Ascot to Windsor and the bus stop was only few hundred meters from the hotel)
1-3 Apr: Meeting
4 Apr: check out Ascot. Took train from Ascot berks station to Victoria station, London. We ordered a cab to take us to Ascot train station (5 minutes drive). Ascot train station has elevator and I have checked the train route from Ascot to Victoria, all has elevators. important as I don’t want to have to haul my luggage over the stairs.
Checked in to Cherry Court Hotel, walking distance to Victoria station. Hotel website: http://www.cherrycourthotel.co.uk/ and TA review: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g186338-d290585-Reviews-Cherry_Court_Hotel-London_England.html
5 Apr: Take the train from Paddington station to Oxford. Spend half a day in Oxford and take a bus from Oxford to Bicester Village. It is cheaper going to Oxford first then a bus to Bicester if we catch the morning train. There is also a bus to Oxford at cheaper rate but we wanted to save travel time too. Catch the train back to Marylebone station, London.
6 Apr: Harry Potter museum in Leavesden. We booked the museum ticket plus the bus ride from Victoria Coach Station.
Important info about London and UK
London and UK are damn expensive! I paid the most for my London hotel compare to Paris and Nice and the hotel is the smallest among the three. Most hotel with good review in Trip Advisor usually requires direct booking instead of thru agents like booking.com or Agoda.com
We based ourselves in Victoria because it has easy access for the places we’re going to visit. It is walking distance to Buckingham palace, the coach station and the train station going to Gatwick airport (for our later trip to Nice and Paris)
A good source to decide where you should based yourselves: http://www.londontoolkit.com/accommodation/london_hotel_briefing.htm
Trains in UK:
There are 4-5 train company in London. To get cheaper rate online you have to go to each individual website. If you go out of town it is always cheaper to buy the tickets ahead of time. And if you purchase on the spot, buying in groups are always cheaper than buying single. There is one website I used to estimate the cost: http://www.thetrainline.com/ But when I bought the ticket I go to each of the train website. Bought them online and chose collection method at the train station ticket machine.
There is also a promotion running by UK rail company here: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g186338-c133479/London:United-Kingdom:Paper.And.Oyster.Travelcards.2.4.1.Offers.html
I have used this to pay 2 tickets for the price of 1 for some attractions in London.
Tube cards/Oyster card:
You need to purchase oyster card to pay for all the tube and bus rides in London. Do the math whether it is cheaper to buy Oyster and top up or travel card day pass which provides unlimited ride per day. Though Oyster also set a maximum on what you have to pay for the day.
This is a good source to read: http://www.londontoolkit.com/blog/transport/oyster-card-or-travelcard-which-is-best
Victoria train and tube station is probably the busiest train station. So opt for ticket collection at the ticket machine and don’t buy your oyster card there. Oyster card is available at all tube/train station.
Good to remember, not all train/tube stations in Europe has elevators/lift. So if you’re carrying luggages research ahead on the tube/train stations where you’re stopping.
Nice, Monaco and Paris trip
7 Apr: Took southern train from Victoria station to Gatwick airport. Fly Easy Jet to Nice. Took Bus no,23 from Terminal 1 and stopped at Tram station Liberation. Check in at Hotel Comte de Nice (http://www.hotelcomtedenice.com/english/hotel-comte-nice-home.htm). TA review: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotel_Review-g187234-d197230-Reviews-Hotel_Comte_de_Nice-Nice_French_Riviera_Cote_d_Azur_Provence.html
8 Apr: Bus ride to Monte Carlo
9 Apr: Bus ride to St Paul de vence and train to Cannes
10 Apr: spend a day in Nice for more shopping and sightseeing
11 Apr: Take TGV train to Paris –> big mistake! I somehow missed to check whether Nice train station has elevator or not. It turned out the station didn’t have an elevator 😦 and both of us were carrying big luggage, almost full from all the shopping craze. If I ever come to Nice again,I’ll fly. We took a cab from the train station to hotel. Stay in My Hotel in France Saint Georges ( http://www.hotel-paris-opera-saint-georges.com/ ), near Opera area and Sacre cour. This hotel is only few hundred meters from Saint Georges tube stop
12 Apr: Around Paris
13 Apr: Versailles by train RER C from Musee d’orsay
14 Apr: Sacre Cour and Le Marais. flying home at night. There is a bus to the airport from the Opera house. But I couldnt be bothered with so many luggages I’ve accumulated so I took the shuttle from the hotel. Still cheaper than taking a cab alone.
We bought Paris Pass for 3 days which later on I think is not necessary because we really didn’t have that much time over 3 days to fully maximize the card benefit. It’s wise to do the math before purchasing the ticket.
If you skip the paris pass the option is to purchase Paris visite pass (http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/r_61634/paris-visite/) or just buy a carnet consist of 10 tickets a the tube station.
There is always a long line of queue to enter any kind of paris attraction. So always purchase your tickets online unless you have a pass. This way you just have to queue once to enter the site instead of twice for ticket and entrance.
We travel around Nice using tram and bus. There is option for 1 day pass, 3 days and 1 week for travel within Nice. You can also pay single ticket. Tickets can be bought using credit card at the ticket machine in most of tram stops.
Bus from Nice to Monaco, Cannes, St paul de Vence etc can be bought from the bus driver
Same like London, most hotel with good review in Trip Advisor usually requires direct booking instead of thru agents like booking.com or Agoda.com
There are many pickpocket and scam artist in France. Keep your bag attached with you at all times and ensure it is zipped.
I always carry my low key bag and wallet whenever I travel to avoid un-necessary attention (branded expensive designer bag and LV wallet stays at home unless I go for business trip/meetings)
Pictures and more details will be in my next post 🙂