Karen ❤️ was invited to her company’s anniversary celebration, which took place in Madrid, so we took the opportunity of taking vacations. However, the celebration took place at the end of the first week of our planned trip, so we had to make some unusual turns in our travel, which some border agents found weird.
Day 1: Night-time Paris
Even as we arrived relatively late to our hotel, we still decided to go for a walk. But first, we recharged energy with some crêpes1.
Once we arrived to our destination, the fact that the Tower was not illuminated constantly, but intermittently, surprised us. After a while we noticed that those were a rehearsal for the light show that would complement the fireworks that would happen in the next day celebrations6.
Día 2: Pantheón and Sainte-Chapelle
Since we visited on France’s national day, there were flags all over the Panthéon. Also entry was free, so we bought the tickets for nothing. There were guided tours (in French) and a concert from the Air Force Orchestra.
The Panthéon was built in a neoclassical style10 and was supposed to be a church, but the construction was finished within the French Revolution, so its usage became secular. The original Foucault pendulum11 was installed here and today we can see a replica.
On the way to our next destination, Sainte-Chapelle, we stumbled upon an urban intervention involving giant teddy bears.
I made the mistake of not downloading the tickets for Sainte-Chapelle in advance and there were no wifi to do it there, but after explaining the situation to the person on the ticket counter, they let us enter.
The building has a Gothic architectonic style and consist of two floors. The first one is pretty simple, but decorated with the Fleur-de-lis16 everywhere. The souvenir shop is also located on this floor, but was closed when we finished our visit, so we returned the next day. This was the only floor accessible by the common people on its time.
On the other hand, the second floor was reserved to the higher ranks and has the greatest attractions of Saint-Chapelle. The main ones are the 12 meter height stained glass windows. The windows depict several bible passages, along the history of how the Crown of thorns17 arrived there.
After visiting Sainte-Chapelle, we circled around the Palace of Justice to find people playing Pétanque18 in a park. We then crossed to the North side of Seine river19 and arrived to the square of Tour Saint-Jacques20, where we took a break.
We continued our walk by going outside of Notre-Dame21, which was closed by a fire that happened a few weeks earlier. Luckily, the front was intact, so we stayed a bit admiring its details.
When the sun started to set, we find ourselves in the quest for a bathroom, which we found in a fair in Tuileries Garden22. In the fair, there was a fortune wheel, so we saw the city from a different perspective.
We finished our day by watching the fireworks launched from Eiffel Tower on July 14th. Since my camera batteries dried out, I had to just enjoy the moment without worrying on taking photos.
Day 3: Eiffel Tower
Next day, we started by doing the almost mandatory visit to Eiffel Tower. We walked from the École Militaire subway station through the Champ de Mars23.
Once we got closer to the tower, we noticed that several famous names were over it, most of them French. I later learned that Gustave Eiffel himself picked the names of people to honor24.
Since we visited on peak season, getting tickets for the tower was almost impossible, so we circled around the tower to see how many names we could recognize.
We also tried to visit the Museum of the Sewers of Paris, but it was closed. Continuing our walk, we arrived to the rather small Jardin de la Nouvelle-France. After a quick visit, we crossed the Seine river again through Pont Alexandre III25, which is the most decorated bridge I’ve seen so far.
Before arriving to Les Invalides26, we took a break in the park in front. Once we arrived there, the cone-shaped bushes caught our attention, but the museum itself did not, so we skipped it.
Day 4: Birmingham
We left France in the high speed trains that connect mainland Europe with Great Britain27 and then we took another train to Birmingham28 for a day trip. To optimize our day, we asked for advice to a friend who was doing his doctorate there, but he was out of town that week for a conference.
Our first stop was St. Phillip’s Cathedral29. The stained glass windows were removed during World War II to avoid damage from air bombings.
We then passed through Victoria Square, where Birmingham Town Hall is located. However, a lot of places were closed, since there were renovations and constructions in progress.
Our tour continued on the Library of Birmingham30. The building has a very modern style, with circular patterns decorating the front. It also has several balconies with nice gardens and a panoramic view of the city. The Library also holds the more important Shakespeare collection in the United Kingdom.
We continued walking towards the canals that cross the city and found ourselves outside of a Lego store which, sadly, was closed. We also found a commemorative plaque to Black Sabbath in a bench, but people sat just before I could take a photo.
We finished our day in Birmingham by eating giant Meringues from a store we found by chance.
Day 5: London
Our first destination was the Sherlock Holmes Museum31, which we picked free of any influence from an anime series about a certain detective32. The museum is relatively small and you can’t go with luggage, so we had to find a place to store it. After asking a few hotels, a receptionist told us about a place with luggage storage.
The museum tries to replicate the Sherlock Holmes studio based on the descriptions given in the books, so Holmes fans are guaranteed to feel at home testing their trivia knowledge. There are also statues of several characters, including the evil Professor Moriarty.
After our visit to the museum, we lunched in a Kaitenzushi33, or conveyor belt sushi, place. However, I ate tofu curry and stir fried vegetables.
Our next stop was the Natural History Museum34, which has a whale skeleton in its main hall, like its homonym here in Chile. The museum is pretty big, so we only could visit a few expositions, including the arthropods one, the giant moon installation and the dinosaurs.
After our visit to the museum, we took one of the famous London buses to Hyde Park35. However, we were tired and we just took a nap at the park. In the way back to the train station, we went to a restaurant for tea time.
As our last destination, we visited Westminter Bridge, although we couldn’t see most of the nearby attractions: Big Ben was under repairs and London Eye was closed. On the flip side, I could photograph Westminter Palace from the bridge.
Days 6 and 7: Madrid
These two days were tainted by the airline losing our luggage and the anniversary of Karen’s company, so we didn’t have the chance to do much. On the second day, I did my lone quest for a screwdriver to calibrate the adapter for one of my camera lenses and went to a nearby park to test it.
We also reserved a tour to Toledo for the next day, but that will be a story
for the next entry.