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November 4, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 1: Los Angeles to London

Monday November 4, 2002
Roger and I made our way out to the Le Meridien at Beverly Hills to begin our trek out to LAX to begin our flight. We managed to grab a cab just outside the hotel, Roger parked the car and our trip was officially underway. Our Taxi driver was a Russian version of Peter Lorre. While waiting for Roger, he filled me in on the current state of the Taxi Driver in Los Angeles. He mentioned that business was down at least 30% since the events of September 11. He also mentioned that the constant stream of businessmen that used to come out of the Le Meridien had vanished.
Peter Lorre made it to LAX in pretty good time, despite the usual traffic in the area of the airport. We managed to arrive at Terminal 4 three hours ahead of departure to a ghost town of a terminal. Despite the relative lack of people, we did managed to find ourselves trapped in a line behind a group of 20 tourists returning home to London who were having bag trauma. Apparently, they were not allowed more than 2 carry-ons and they were making a fuss. We did manage to get checked in after a good 15-minute delay and then it was off to the one thing I had been dreading – the new federalized security checkpoints. Thankfully, there was not a line, but I can see just how bad things could get when I noticed queue lines weaving back and forth throughout the upper level. Upon arriving, I had to separate my laptop from the rest of my items as well as any metal or coins. I ended up with three different cartons: laptop, backpack, and jacket. Now out of the three which do you think took the most time to be inspected? That’s right, my nice new Abercrombie jacket that contained a pen, my keys, and my wallet. It took them a good five minutes to examine.
Once past the checkpoint, we made our way down the concourse to explore. We were both a bit peckish so we decided to dine at Chili’s Too – basically a mini Chili’s smack dab in the middle of the airport. The food was pretty decent and the service was actually a notch above regular Chili’s service. We then poked around a bit in the stores while we endured the two-hour wait. Finally, we hung out around our gate. One of the highlights while waiting at the gate was a nice Japanese family who were trying to tame their two kids with a DVD of Spiderman. Unfortunately, the kids got bored before I could really get into the movie.
Finally, it was time for the flight. I was very excited that we had the personal video monitors on the back of the seat as opposed to the one movie choice. The only bad part was that there was not a very good selection available. The choices on the return flight looked much better, so hopefully we will have the same screens on the plane back to the US. One of my observations on the flight was that if you ever travel on an American Airlines Boeing 777, pray that you do not get row 28. This row is directly across from the toilets on the plane. So when they open the door you get the light shining in your face and as an good whiff of the smell of chemically treated waste. Mmm Mmmm Good. Another observation? People talk really loud on planes. I had my earplugs in, and I could still hear the people talking next to me and behind me. They talked for all but the last two hours of the flight, and you can guess which two hours of the flight I finally was able to sleep.

November 5, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 2: Arriving in London

Tuesday November 5, 2002
Arriving at Heathrow, we managed to pass through customs with no fuss (and surprisingly no line either – its strange, our flight was full, yet there was a definite lack of crowds in the airports – possibly due to the odd timing of our flight). When we collected our luggage and Roger noticed that my bag had ripped around one of the seams. It looks like I might have to search for a new bag while we are here. We managed to lug our stuff down to the Tube Station and board our train into central London. The biggest fuss we had was when we discovered that the way out of Piccadilly Station was a bunch of stairs. Thankfully, our hotel was only a half a block from the exit.
After a couple of hours relaxing and showering, we set out to meet Kris at the Mau Mau bar on Portobello Road. It took a bit of transferring to get to the nearest Tube station since there is some construction on the Baker Street station. After some close calls, we managed to make it to the Ladbroke Grove station. The night we arrived was Guy Fawkes Night, a celebration of the anniversary when Guy and some friends tried to blow up Parliament in the 1600’s. So the people of London shoot off all sorts of fireworks all night long (and really they have been doing it all week). We managed to find the bar through the smoke and the non-stop fireworks barrage and awaited Kris. After only a five minutes or so, Kris showed up and we went inside. We had some drinks and spent a couple hours catching up. We made plans to try and meet up later in the week. As we left, Kris pointed us to another Tube Station in Notting Hill that was actually a more direct route back to our hotel, and was only a ten minute walk. It was well worth the walk as we got to see the uber-swanky Notting Hill area and he was true to his word as the subway was much faster than the one we took to the bar.
After a long day we finally went back to the hotel and fell fast asleep. We didn’t get to sleep in too late as we booked a full day tour of London tomorrow. The concierge at my hotel talked me out of doing the day trip to Edinburgh. I was kinda iffy on it to begin with since it was very expensive, and I realized it would be a better day to explore London since Saturday is the Lord Mayor’s parade and fireworks show.

November 6, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 3: London Tour

Wednesday November 6, 2002
We arose early for our tour of London. We managed to get out of the hotel a bit ahead of schedule, so we popped into the Cafe Nero for a quick breakfast. Then it was off to the Boots pharmacy to pick up an umbrella for Roger, which turned out to be the best investment of the day since it started to rain. We chose Evan Evans Tours for the trip, and they picked us up at the Ritz hotel on Piccadilly. We were then taken to the Victoria Bus Station for organization and then separation onto our tour busses. Our tour guide for the day was Allan and the bus driver was Charlie. Allan had a dry sense of humor but did an excellent job pointing out the sights along the way. In reality we did three things in between all the sightseeing. We got a tour around Westminster Abbey, a River Thames Tour, and a stop at the Tower of London to see the family jewels. We were supposed to stop and see the changing of the guards, but it was an off day as well as a bad weather day so there was no changing to be had.
Our bus traveled from the Abbey, past the government buildings, including 10 Downing Street, home of the Prime Minister, down Whitehall. We then went through the Admiralty Arch, down the Mall and drove past Buckingham Palace. We then veered through Knightsbridge where we saw Harvey Nicks, Harrod’s, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History and Science Museums, around the Royal Albert Hall, pass the Albert Memorial, along the Ring between Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. At Victoria Gate we passed a little Pet Cemetery, went around Lancaster Gate, and then headed down Bayswater towards Marble Arch. Circling the Arch, we went through some exclusive parts of Mayfair including Grosvenor Square and the U.S. Embassy.
I had visited all the sights back on a similar tour back in 1996, but thankfully, I managed to get some good Gorn shots with the Abbey as well as Big Ben and the London Eye Ferris wheel. We then had lunch on the tour at the Silver Cross Pub near Trafalgar Square where we met a nice Australian lady Margaret who was traveling with her mother Gloria and was part of our group. Gloria was walking with a cane, but she was a trooper throughout. We met them because Margaret asked if wed take their picture. It turned out that their battery was depleted. So I offered to take some pictures of them and email them back to her in Australia. In the end, we only managed the first picture at the pub since we lost track of them at the Crown Jewels at the Tower. We did have a nice chat on the boat and we exchanged addresses so that we could correspond. She also invited us to stop by if we ever make it Down Under.
Our tour resumed with a trip back towards Westminster to board the ferry to take us down the river towards the tower of London. There was no narration on the boat so I took it upon myself to narrate and point out some of the sights to Margaret, Gloria, and a couple from Alabama. I was disappointed that I did not see the MI6 building last seen in “The World is Not Enough”. After the boat docked it was over to the Tower, Allen gave us some background on the Tower as well as some tidbits on the green area where the famous executions were carried out. He then let us explore on our own. Roger and I admired the Crown Jewels. Some of the videos were presented a bit different than the last time I was there, but it was still amazing to see the stuff in person. We then explored the White Tower home to a museum of the Tower’s history and some of the armaments used in its history. By then, it was time to get back to the bus and the Tower had closed so we were not able to walk along certain parts of the wall.
Back on the bus we finished with a little sightseeing of the City of London proper and the financial district as well as a quick drive-by of St. Pauls. We then began dropping fellow passengers off the bus at various points. We had grand plans at the conclusion of the tour to get dropped off at Harrod’s and then try and make it over to the Victoria and Albert Museum since all London Museums are open late on Wednesday. En Route back to Harrod’s near Russell Square, we were stuck in a huge traffic snarl during which Roger got very tired. We then opted to get off near where our hotel was and then crash for a few hours. Sadly, we managed to oversleep and only managed to make it back out around 11pm (five hours after we arrived back at the hotel). I figured it was a good idea to try and find a place to eat since we skipped Dinner. Thankfully, we set out and found a place to grab a quick bite. We then decided to go for a walk around Leicester Square and through the theater district of SoHo before turning around near Charing Cross Railway Station. It was not that long of a walk, but the cool crisp night air was nice. We then trudged back to the hotel in search of a local cyber cafe to no avail. I remembered I had put the address of one on my laptop so we will try and make it over there tomorrow.
Our big plans for tomorrow is to stop at places that were pointed out on the tour that seemed interesting: The British Museum (to see the Rosetta Stone and the Elgin Marbles), Harrod’s for some shopping, the Victoria and Albert Museum, possibly the London Eye if I get brave, and if time permits, St. Paul’s Cathedral. I would like to get over near the London Eye to take a good picture of Parliament and Big Ben. Ah yes, weather permitting, we’ll try and catch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

November 7, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 4: Museum and Movie Day

Thursday November 7, 2002
We awoke somewhat early to set out on our Museum day. Our first stop was the British Museum – a place that when I began my journey back in Los Angeles, I really had no desire to see. I wanted to visit a museum here and there, but it wasn’t until I saw the BBC show on the plane over about countries wanting items from the British Museum back, that I decided to go out and see it. Thankfully on yesterday’s tour, Alan had pointed out where the museum was located, and thanks to our London map provided by the Concierge desk, we were able to figure out that it was only a few Tube stops away. London is such a large city, that it is easy to become disorientated. The last time I was here in 1996, I never really got a good feel for where things were in relation to each other. In reality, we could have easily walked to the Museum, but since we were going to be hopping all around London today, I felt we’d better buy an all day pass on the tube.
Arriving at Russell Square, we had a quick jaunt through the park. Once in the park, we came across a squirrel that kept following us around. It was very reminiscent of the albino cat from the Tiki Village Theater on Moorea. Once through the park, we had to find the entrance to the museum. Not wanting to go through the back entrance, we decided to hoof around, follow the tourists, and head for the grand entry. The main entrance to the museum is not unlike some great Greek or Roman palace, full of nice columns and a grand plaza out front. From there, it was into the museum and quickly into its showcase center. The Great Court was redone in 2000, and from what I can gather from the locals, it has really brightened up the place. The Reading Room, a massive library that famous people including the likes of Virginia Wolfe and Jules Verne have held library cards, dominates the area. We were set on visiting the most famous of the collections first so we were off to ancient Egypt and Greece. Our first stop was the famed Rosetta Stone. I just think that it is amazing that some random Disneyland cast member like myself can just walk up and look at such a famous artifact like I was going to pick out donuts at the local Krispe Kreme. For those of you who for some reason have no idea what the Rosetta Stone is, let me try and describe it. The stone was an artifact found in 1799 in the city of Rosetta in Egypt by some French soldiers rebuilding a fort. After many years of studying the Rosetta Stone and other examples of ancient Egyptian writing, Jean-Francois Champollion translated ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics in 1822. The stone features hieroglyphics, Greek, and demotic and using these Champollion put it all together. Needless to say it was all pretty impressive.
From there, we moved on to ancient Greece and what I consider one of the crown jewels of any museum – the Elgin (Parthenon) Marbles. Almost since they were removed, Greece has been asking for them back and have recently promised to put them into a spectacular new museum near the Acropolis. I am not going to take sides on the issue, but I knew that I wanted to see them when I got the chance since who knows what their ultimate fate will be. The display in the museum is very airy and full of light, and in the case of when we visited, full of school kids. Now, when I was in High School, I was stoked at the chance to visit the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Imagine having the opportunity to visit the Elgin Marbles. These Marbles originally were around the top of the Parthenon in Greece and were basically looted by Thomas Bruce, seventh earl of Elgin back in 1801-1810. There are many more classical Greek and Roman treasures located throughout the museum. After admiring the marbles, we set off to discover other areas of the museum. Along the way, we saw tapestries and even some table settings from the 1950’s. The Museum certainly has a lot of artifacts from different continents all over the world: more than the mind can hold in one viewing. Other highlights included actual mummies (making us wonder if it stunk inside of the cases – I can only imagine what it smells like in there), and another of the Museums controversial pieces, the Benin Bronzes.
The extraordinary bronzes of the Benin kingdom in what is now Nigeria exhibit a virtuosity and sophistication of style that has astonished the Western world since they were visited in the 15th Century. Their work was brought to Europe following a punitive expedition by the British in 1897, causing a great sensation. Basically, the British were ticked off about something and decided the best way to get back at the Nigerians were to take their bronzes. Although the Museum acknowledges that the bronzes are “booty” they have claimed that they were purchased by the museum legally and they have no plans to return them, even though they apparently sold some off as late as 1972.
After the bronzes, it was time to head over to Parliament and the London Eye. I did want to make it over to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the afternoon, so we opted to just pose for photos on the bridge across the river Thames and skip the London Eye. We hope to make it back here on Saturday and ride it at that time. I had wanted to get the photo of the Gorn and I with Parliament since I had neglected to get that picture back in 1996. Getting there required some creative transfers on the Tube and we ended up walking to adjacent stations on both the British Museum end as well as after the pictures on our way to the V&A. On our way to the St. James Tube stop, we stopped into the Westminster Abbey gift shop since we didn’t get a good chance to go over it when we were on the all day tour yesterday. Roger picked up a souvenir guide of the Abbey as well as some postcards. In the St. James Tube station, Roger admired some “Mind the Gap” boxers, but not heeding our Disneyland buying advice “If you see it, buy it – you will never know if you will see it again”, Roger opted not to purchase them.
It was then time for the Victoria and Albert Museum. I have to admit, after the British Museum, the V&A was quite the startling opposite. Full of great modern art as well as some Pop Culture exhibits! Roger and I spent some quality time in the Northern Europe Cast Court. For some reason, I really liked the fact that a major museum would have a whole section devoted to reproductions of famous architecture, sculpture and other works of art. Roger enjoyed the historical musical instrument section the best, especially all the pianos. I did enjoy another area of the V&A – the different rooms that each showed off how a typical room would be decorated throughout British history. It even had a few rooms with artifacts from the 60’s and 70’s as well.
After the V&A, Roger and I headed back to the hotel so that we could get ready to rendezvous with Kris again. Tonight, Kris was taking us to a showing of some of the pre-Hayes Commission films. We saw “Age of Consent”, and “10 Cents a Dance”. After the movies the three of us reflected upon what was going on in our lives at that point and each came up with an action items list that we dubbed the London Waterloo Accords.
(Editor’s note: Starting with this day, I am transcribing the diaries from a notebook discovered in August 2009, almost 7 years after this trip. Some of the details have been lost from time, and some have survived in the notebook. One thing I noticed: The London Waterloo Accords fell by the wayside in March 2003 when Roger and I went our separate ways. I am not sure if Kris managed to keep his end of the Accord up.)

November 8, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 5: Avebury, Stonehenge, and Salisbury

Friday November 8, 2002
Today was an early morning rise since when we returned from hanging out with Kris last night at the movies, the Concierge was already gone for the day. We had to get up bright and early so we could place a call to Astral Travels to book our “Stones and Bones” Tour. Because it was very last minute, the company was unable to arrange to pick us up. We had to get down to the London Underground and ride the Tube out to Gloucester Station to meet up with the bus. Off we went, and we arrived at Gloucester with no problems. We waited about 30 minutes in the area for our coach to arrive. Our 16-passenger coach was quite manageable and it reminded us of our Tahiti Island Tour with Luc from two years prior. Heading out of London I was reminded of my 1996 trip and how long it took to get out of the city centre. It took us about an hour to get to Avebury no thanks to rough London traffic. Cool stat from our driver was that in the 1800s horse traffic averaged 8mi/hr and in 2000, automobile traffic in London averaged 6 mi/hr.
Other London tidbits were passed along to us by our driver Alan included the fact that London was originally two settlements: London and Westminster. London was the original Roman settlement and Westminster was added later on as the site of the Church of England. Today was similar to our other coach tour day – light rain and chilly! If the pattern holds we will have decent weather for the Lord Mayor’s fireworks and then Monday for Disneyland Paris. One more note of historical interest regarding Westminster: The tomb for Mary, Queen of Scots is more elaborate than Queen Elizabeth I because Mary’s son was the next King and he was peeved that his mother lost her life to the chop.
Along the way to Avebury, Alan provided some more great English notes of interest. Hungerford is the antique capital of Great Britain and if you want an authentic thatch roof, it will cost you about 25,000-30,000 GBP to have it installed. Also did you know that there are not many ancient forests left in Great Britain? They have tried to preserve the few that are left. One more great note: Marlborough is the alleged home of Merlin.
Arriving in Avebury, we all disembarked the bus and proceeded to explore the stone circle. I have to admit, I didn’t know what to expect from the site, but I was impressed. Alan proceeded to give us a brief history of the area pointing out that in the 1320’s, the stones were all buried because the church wanted to get rid of a site that was so pagan. When they resurrected in the 1930’s, they found the skeleton of the barber under one of the stones and thus gave it the name the Barber stone. Leading theories suggest that the locals used antlers and sheep shoulder blades to help build the whole thing and it took about 200 years to get the whole thing put together. We posed for photos in the area and then set off again this time towards Stonehenge.
Along the way, we passed the outline of a horse on the side of a hill. It turns out people over thousands of years have exposed the chalky soil in the shapes of horses. Not sure why, but it seems like a better idea then placing a letter on a hillside for a city name. Never one to give a dull tour, Alan then proceeded to give us the history of the term “pot luck”. In olden days, your luck depended on what you get. When houses had thatched roofs, there was nothing between the roof and the floor. So if birds or other critters got into the roofing, they would drop their feces down below, usually into the day’s pot of boiling stew. So if you had pot luck, it meant that there were no droppings in your food.
Our visit to Stonehenge was pretty exciting, except I didn’t remember when I visited the last time that we had to walk so far away from the site. Apparently there is one side that is close to the monument and the other goes way around to help preserve the grass. Not sure about it, but always nice to visit the area and you forget that the motorway is right next to it. I sure hope they go through with the plan to remove the motorway and restore the valley to a more natural state. After the Megalithic Monument, we headed out to Amesbury for lunch at a small pub. It was really quite nice to get out of the cold and into a warm pub for some bits to eat. As we were chowing down on some fish and chips, Alan piped in that when you see “bury” in a name, it means the town was a Saxon town.
After lunch, it was time to for Old Sarum and Salisbury. Old Sarum is where Salisbury used to be before someone decided in 1220 to move down the hill into the Salisbury plain and build a brand new cathedral. The old town of Salisbury in Old Sarum is now the parking lot for the ruins of the Cathedral and a fortress. We noodled around the ruins for quite a bit and took some excellent Gorn photos as well as photos with the new cathedral in the background. We headed to the new cathedral in Salisbury and it was just as impressive as the previous visit. Fortunately, on this trip we had Alan – ever the source of tidbits of knowledge that helped explain the cathedral and the sites inside. I totally never remembered that Salisbury cathedral had one of the best 4 copies of the Magna Charta, as well as the oldest working clock in Europe. Alan also mentioned that they used some of the stones from Old Sarum in the new place, and that the spire is now 29″ out of alignment just from the sheer weight of the thing! Thank goodness for flying buttresses to keep the thing from toppling over. He also pointed out where there was a pagan body buried under the cathedral (apparently missed in the site clearing) as well as the spot where the poor choir boys are bumped three times once they are signed off.
After our whirlwind tour, it was time for nap time as we headed back to London. I must say I really enjoyed our trip today and it was well worth the money. I highly recommend Astral over the bigger companies if you are looking for some tours of the UK.
Once we arrived back in London, we crashed and cleaned up for a bit and then headed out to sample the local nightlife. We had a pretty good time, but we didn’t stay out that much later since we were both zonked.

November 9, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 6: Buckingham and Lord Mayor’s Fireworks

Saturday November 9, 2002
Being zonked from the previous full day of activities, Roger and I slept in and didn’t leave the hotel until after 11am. We decided to go to TGI Fridays for lunch and then head out shopping. First stop in the shopping adventure was the HMV in the Trocadero to pick up some music. Not to impressed with their headphone display (where you listen before you buy) since I could only hear out of one ear. We then headed over to the Hard Rock Cafe to pick up a shirt for Gary. We should have just walked since we had to take a circular tube route since someone was on the track on the Piccadilly line. After getting the shirt we headed across the way into Green Park to get to Buckingham Palace. At the Queen Victoria Monument, we lucked out and got a good action shot of the Royal Horse Brigade heading past us. Continuing our trek, we headed back through Green Park via the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. I decided to take a quick photo of me “napping” on the bench – one of my favorite pictures of the trip!
We headed to the Tube and got off at Oxford Street. It was full to the brim of Christmas shoppers and we were a bit overwhelmed by all the people and it wore us out. We never did actually buy anything else, even if it was fun to look. A quick glance at our watch and we noticed we had to head to the Embankment area to catch the Lord Mayor’s fireworks show. We made it there in plenty of time for the 5pm show that started promptly at 5:10. It was a good assortment of fireworks and a 15-minute show, which left me satisfied.
Covent Garden was next on the list, and unlike other parts of the trip, it really shocked me with how much it had changed in the 6 years since I had been here. I had forgotten how much of a LA Farmer’s Market vibe the place had, but it was still neat to poke in and out of the various shops. We stopped to eat at the reasonably priced Spaghetti House. It was so reasonably priced, that I didn’t mind so much when my notebook got some sauce on it to go. After dinner, we headed to the Internet Exchange for a quick email and blog post before retiring for a disco nap at the hotel.
One last journey out on the town as Roger and I hit some clubs, again not too late since we had to get our stuff packed to head off to Paris the next day. We did manage to find the same place in SoHo I went to back in 1996. Like most other things, it was nicely refurbished in the ensuing six years. As a nightcap, we hit one of the few things still open – A McDonald’s! Doing some quick mental math, it seems that we are actually doing good on money this trip. I hope this trend keeps up as we head to the continent and Paris!

November 10, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 7: London to Paris

Sunday November 10, 2002
Today was travel day to Paris, and we got out of bed around 8ish to begin the adventure. There was light rain as we headed to the airport. Our Le Meridien was a nice hotel, and I wish we had explored it more while we were there. Two more things I wish we had visited were the London Eye as well as visiting St. Paul’s Cathedral. We arrived at London Heathrow with minimal bag trauma. The trip to the airport from Piccadilly was about 45 minutes. Thankfully, it was Remembrance Day here “Please Remember My Daddy” as the signs indicate, and the tube was not crowded.
When we checked in at Terminal 4, the British Airways lady who was making sure people were going the right places, gave us a scowl and had us check in at the Business Class desk. We arrived 1h 45m prior to departure, but apparently that was not good enough for them. After checking the bags, it was off to the Security Checkpoint where Roger got full wand treatment due to the little metal “Guess” label on his wallet. After wandering the terminal again, we decided to risk eating at Garfunkle’s. I had a pretty good bacon and egg omelet, but then again, it is hard to screw bacon and eggs up. Well, at least they were not runny! Our flight was delayed 30 minutes due to the ‘everything stops to remember my daddy’ moment at 11am on Remembrance Day as well as a late arriving plane, and waiting for a departure window at the every overcrowded LHR.
I was looking forward to getting into Paris’ uber-retro CDG and then getting on the Air France Bus to the Le Meridien Etoile. Our flight was on a smaller plane, but it did feature cool flip down screens with up to the date position maps and flight information. Helping the good spirits, the plane was not very crowded so it was a nice relaxing time had by all. Once we arrived at CDG, it was smack in the face with cultural differences time. In the heat of being in Paris (ooh-la-la) we neglected to remember that they were in fact on the Euro, not the Pound, and we needed money if we were going to get on the bus. We also noticed Roger’s bag had developed a nice big tear similar to the one I received going from LAX to London. Also since we were in France, my brain had forgotten that some pantomiming and bad French were required just to get out of the airport. Somehow, we managed to get our money at the ATM and get onto the correct Air France bus to take us to the hotel.
We arrived at the stylish hotel and immediately felt out of place. This Le Meridien had more of a business feel to it than even the Piccadilly hotel and there were suites and dresses as far as the eye could see. The decor and furnishings were very nice and once everything was settled we headed to the room. It was certainly smaller than the Piccadilly, but then again, this is Paris and I have stayed in some very small rooms here. I do find it hard to believe that this room went for over 500 Euros a night! I was glad we were on the employee rate plan.
We telephoned Nathan and agreed to meet up at the Cafe Boubourg next to the Pompidou Centre down near to where Nathan lives. Seemed like a simple plan as it was on the same Metro line that ran next to the hotel. Sadly, we got stopped a few stops down from where we got on the Metro by some sort of calamity. We ended up having to exit the Metro train we were on in a flurry of rushed French shouted over the loudspeaker. Luckily, the locals took pity on us and motioned to us to get off the train. We sat there for about 30 minutes before another train arrived and service resumed. We were both tired, but we pressed on and had some major issues trying to find the Cafe. We arrived 45 minutes late to the Cafe and Nathan was no where to be seen. Of course, we did not have mobile phones and after waiting around for another 30 minutes we decided to head back to the hotel. I telephoned Nathan and left a message apologizing for the mess and told him I hoped we would try again tomorrow evening after we got back from Parc Disneyland. After the message, Roger and I took a nap which turned into sleeping for the rest of the night. We both had a lot taken out of us by the whole day, and in hindsight I am glad we got some rest so we would be ready for the next day.

November 11, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 8: Parcs Disneyland

Monday November 11, 2002
Today it was time to return to Disneyland Paris, one of my favorite Disney Parks of them all. It was Roger’s first visit to a non-US Disney park and he and I had a great time. I had forgotten the details of most of the attractions that I had visited before, so for some it was like visiting them for the first time. Big differences were that Space seemed more turbulent than before, and Pirates and Mansion seemed way cooler than before. I also finally got to ride the Casey Jr. Circus Train, something that was closed back in 1996. However, the Nautilus walk through still has eluded me as it was again closed while we were in Paris. Midday, we headed over to the Walt Disney Studios Paris. It was a very simple theme park which had just opened a few short months ago. They were getting their operating feel down, and it reminded me of California Adventure post opening in February and March of 2001. One of things that most impressed me was the Aladdin Magic Carpets attraction. I liked the dual controls so the people in the back had something to do. Of course, that says a lot about a new park if the spinner attraction is the thing that impressed me most. I did like Rock and Roller coaster as I did in Florida, and I think the Lights, Motors, Action show has some good potential.
We then headed back to Disneyland Park for the remainder of the operating day. As the hours winded down, I noticed that they shut their restaurants down early so getting something to eat was a bit of a challenge at the end. We got to see the Paris version of the Main Street Electrical Parade which felt very short compared to its California cousin. In a twist, it did feature some Christmas tunes interspersed with the classic Baroque Hoedown. The Christmas Fireworks were a nice 10 minute show. I described them to Roger as “10 minutes of pops and sparkles”. There were about 5 minutes left in the operating day at the conclusion of the Fireworks spectacular, but all the attractions were already closed. Apparently there was some sort of private party happening and they wanted to get us all out as quickly as possible. I really enjoyed Disneyland Resort Paris. It is very beautiful and despite the shortcomings in several areas it is a lot of fun. Of course Disneyland Park in California is still the best, but I am pretty sure that is not a bias-free statement. I do want to come back, but I really would like to go to Tokyo Disney Resort before heading back here.
After making the trek back to Paris, we met up with Nathan at the elusive Cafe Boubourg. The only incident on the Metro this time was some strange man with a cardboard stand up figure navigating he way through the train. Roger and I both wondered if the stand up had to pay full fare or not. We had a great time over drinks with Nathan. We gabbed for a while talking about careers, Paris Life, the cost of housing, where we need to travel next, and Nathan’s possible job with the UN. We made plans for dinner for tomorrow night at one of Nathan’s favorite restaurants and then headed back to the hotel for some well deserved sleep.

November 12, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 9: Paris

Tuesday November 12, 2002
Today was tourist day in Paris proper. We took our time heading out on the town, and it was already almost noon before we left the hotel. First up, we were off to the Hard Rock to get Gary another shirt and grab some lunch. After, we set off through the middle of Paris to Notre Dame to take some photos. One of these years, I will pay to climb to the top of the bell tower and pretend I am Quasimodo. We did go inside and look around at the artifacts and architecture and lit the requisite candles. We then headed over to the Tour Eiffel for a trip to the top. It was my second time up to the top of the Tower and Roger’s first and I took the usual Gorn and Josh photos at the top. I was glad there was not an extended queue – partially owing to the questionable weather. It was chilly, but didn’t seem like it was going to rain.
After some leisure time, we headed back down to the Marais area to meet up with Nathan for dinner. Nathan took us to the L’Osteria Vianello, where I had some Gnocchi and some wine. Now, I never really drink wine, but it seems like every time I am in Paris, I end up having some. The Gnocchi was also a step up from the crazy veal dish I had with Nathan back in 1997. After dinner, we headed over to Dome for some more drinks. I had a great time this night and we ended with Roger taking a photo of Nathan and I in front of the City du Ville building before we headed back to the hotel. I always love meeting up with Nathan and I can’t wait until next time!

November 13, 2002

Europe 2002 Day 10: Paris and One Last visit to Parcs Disneyland

Wednesday November 13, 2002
Our last full day in Paris, and Roger decided that we should just see the Arc du Triomphe and then head back to Disneyland Paris. Being on a limited budget for the trip, I agreed since Disneyland was free for us to visit. Heading from the Arc to the Metro station, we were almost put on TV in France. They were filming a spot about Die Another Day, the forthcoming James Bond movie, but alas, neither of us spoke French and that disqualified us. Undeterred, we headed back to Disneyland Paris.
The second time around, I again relished the park and noticed more detail that had eluded me before. I also got to hit certain things I missed like the Disneyland Railroad. I noticed that it actually goes through Pirates of the Caribbean a la Splash Mountain at Disneyland in California. After a great day, the Cast Members again rushed us out of the park. Most places had closed at 7pm even though the park itself was open until 8pm. Such a weird experience since I am a Cast Member myself, I now have a greater appreciation for what Guests go through when things close early. We headed back to Paris for our final night in Europe and took our time getting back to the hotel. Roger was Europe-d out and ready to get back to home life, and I was ready to get home for the simple reason that I didn’t want to spend any more money. If money was no object, I would be raring to go for another few weeks.