In preparation for your big trip, here are c jane's places of interest in London and Paris for first timers. (I've only been to Scotland once and Ireland never, so I can't much help you out there.) Hopefully, you won't have to buy a guide book--blah! How touristy!
London Top 5 Places to See:
1.) Parliment, Big Ben and Westminister Abbey
You just can't say you've seen London until you've tipped your hat to Big Ben. Also, for my sake, please take a moment of reverence for my woman Boudica who stands amid a chariot on the corner of Westminster Bridge and the Embankment (across the street from Parliment). She kicked the Romans out of Londonium back in the day for killing her family. Go girl!
2.) The Tower of London
Get yourself on the moving floor in front of the crown jewels, then line up and do it again and again until you know every diamond in every setting. And get there VERY early in the morning before everyone else on this planet shows up.
3.) Saint Paul's Cathedral
Try to imagine what it was like for Di to get married in that humongous church. It's worth admission to get in because you can whisper to your friend across the dome, and climb to the top for a gorgeous view of the city.
The "mall" or the street leading to the Palace is red reminding you that you are walking towards royalty. Don't miss the changing of the guard, with all of it's pomp and circumstance. Just wear deodorant, it gets hot and long.
5.) The British Museum
It will take you back to British colonialism and all the artifacts that, by jove, British fleets recovered all over the world, including that time-honored rock the Rosetta Stone.
Top 5 Places to Picnic:
1.) Hyde Park
Try to find the Albert Memorial statue at the South/ West/Central bottom of the park. If that is too confusing to find, at least try the Princess Diana memorial along the Serpentine. Or, just get lost in the green. So lovely.
2.) Leicester Square Park
Just an itty bitty piece of land in the middle of the Pop culture center of London. Leicester Square is home to movie theaters where the big premieres take place. When I was there last I saw the red carpet walk of "Over the Hedge" with Brucey Willis.
3.) Trafalgar Square
My favorite square in London, gives you a great view of Parliament and sits in the shadows of the National Gallery. Feed the pigeons! There are no less than one million of them. Tuppins? Tuppins?
4.) The Victoria Embankment Gardens
Get a view of the South side and eat along the Thames. Sometimes there is live music. Posh!
5.) Covent Gardens
So much is going on in this shopping hot spot. Performers and people all over the place. Paul's Church, in the square is called the Actor's church for being the place of worship for many actors performing in nearby in West End theaters. After lunch go to the huge Virgin Records store and buy whatever album is number one on the British charts. Most likely it will put you about six months ahead of anyone else on the music scene in the States.
5 Pieces of Art Not to Miss:
(All of London's museums are free, thanks to Tony Blair, and you must not miss the National Gallery/Portrait Gallery, Tate Modern and Tate Britain. There is no excuse!)
1.) The Arnolfini Portrait -National Gallery, van Eyck
2.) The Ambassadors- The National Gallery (Crazy painting! Look for the foreshortened skull!), Holbein
3.) The Kiss-Tate Modern, Rodin's erotic statue.
4.) The two fabulous paintings by Meredith Frampton, "Portrait of a Young Woman" and "Marguerite Kelsey" they are both breath taking.Tate Modern.
5.) Waterhouse's Lady of Shalott-Tate Britian
5 Things to Eat:
1.) A roll of Hobnobs, or 5 rolls of Hobnobs. I know you can get them in the States but they simply will not taste right. They make a perfect breakfast.
2.) In London you will see about four hundred "Pret a Manger" which is the most beautiful concept of fresh foods that are already prepared and ready to eat. Do yourself a gigantic favor and buy a LOVE bar. Bring one back for me (not really, but I see them in my dreams.) Everything is good there, perfect for lunch.
3.) London's food is wonderful but it is rare to find a purely British fare. When I first went there, I had fish and chips out of newspaper, drizzled in vinegar in Leicester Square. Today, in that same spot there is a Burger King. If you want to try the original fish and chips shop, head to Rock and Sole Plaice (nearby Covenant Gardens) on 47 Endell St. Good eating. And you can eat outside on picnic tables!
4.) You must try Indian food at some point. Stop in for a Samosa somewhere. If you want to get really fancy and go to a place with a waterfall, try Porte des Indies you might never be the same.
5.) This is important! If you are ever in the Queensway/Bayswater intersection, you must stop by the roadside Belgian Waffle stand and have one. They are genuine Belgian waffles and we don't have anything like them in the States. Queensway is a great place to shop, so buy 2 or 3 waffles and shop it all off. I am drooling right now...
Stay Tuned for Paris...
Anymore ideas my dear c jane readers?