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  • Writer's pictureShayna Gaman-Bean

The Beans European Vacation, Part 1: UK and France

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

"Paris is always a good idea." ~ Audrey Hepburn

This European vacation has been over 3 years in the making, As a matter of fact, it was completely planned, booked and paid for in 2020 and just a week before we were supposed to leave we had to cancel everything because of covid. So devastating for us, but everything happens for a reason and because the trip was postponed it allowed more time for the kids to grow, mature, and gain travel experience that would come in very handy. We also decided to expand the trip from just the UK to mainland Europe too. In the end, this trip was phenomenal and so worth the wait. Many amazing memories were made and I can't wait to share it all here!!

Quick links to days:

Quick link to countries:

Quick links to events and locations:

Day 1:

Of course the trip had to start off with some excitement including leaving during a big storm and our flight being cancelled due to a "mechanical problem." But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Our flight was leaving from SFO, which is a 2 hour drive for us, at about 1930. And since we didn’t have to leave until 1300, we sent the kids to school in the morning to get some last minute stuff done and drop our puppy, Maverick, off at the boarders. We picked up some lunch at 1100, then off to the schools to get this kids at 1200. Then home for a quick change and off to SFO.

My mom (she's such a saint!) drove with us so she could drive our car back home. And during our very stormy drive to the airport, we started worrying that our flight might be delayed, but didn’t think too much of it in the moment because we were just so excited.

Then it happened! We got a text message that our flight was cancelled. Our hearts completely sank as the text told us to go home and await further information, but we were already half way to the airport! Of course there was no one to call at British Airways and when we talked to someone at American (we booked through American, but flew on British Airways) they said the flight was all good and to go to airport.

I'm just going to start with British Airways is the worst airline we have had to deal with and I will make sure to let everyone know they should avoid this airline and we will never book again with British Airways (hopefully!). These flights were particularly cheap (which is why we booked these flights), but there were hidden fees that increased the price to that of the better airlines. Whatever savings I thought I was getting is just not worth it! Don't make my mistake!

So we decided to head on to the airport just in case our flight was still on and at least we could talk to a human. Once we got there we found out pretty quickly that it was in fact cancelled. Enter sad face here!

Somehow I stayed calm while we figured things out. Fortunately for us there was another flight at the same time on United and they put us on that flight. Unlucky for us was that we were all seated separately except the girls were seated next to each other and no one would change seats for us. I was pretty upset by this, but the kids seemed fine with it all.

They did great on the flight. I actually didn't take any picturess because I was so displeased that they had separated us and no one would move for us, but now I wish I did have pictures of the kids being so brave. Ugh! Learn this other lesson from me that sometimes the tough situations are actually really great situations and you can see that later and to still document during the "tough" times.

Amazingly, the kids proved how resilient they are and they did fabulous along with a little help from the flight attendants. It was otherwise not such a bad flight and we actually made it to London ahead of schedule.

Day 2:

After a long night with just a little sleep on the airplane, we arrived at Heathrow at about 1400 local time. We literally walked through customs which almost never happens at Heathrow. That was such a nice welcome!

We then walked up to the baggage claim to get our stuff and walked to find a black cab. It all took about 30 minutes, a total miracle which we needed after the previous 24 hours.

The black cab driver was so awesome and shared lots of interesting information and told us about some pretty awesome places we drove by including the Natural History Museum.

Of course our black cab driver offered to take a picture of Mike in the driver seat of the black cab and we couldn't say no!

It look a little over an hour (mostly because of traffic) to get to our hotel Travelodge London City which is near the Tower of London. This was a great budget hotel with awesome customer service and a fantastic location near the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, Underground and lots of restaurants. In addition, we loved the breakfast which was included. The rooms were small, but fit our family of 5 no problem.

The set up of the room was interesting: A queen bed in the middle and 2 twins on either side. So the kids slept in the queen and Mike and I slept in the twins. It made for some pretty funny scenes:

Check in at 1600 was quick and easy. We headed to our room 112 threw down our luggage and then headed to dinner.

We had dinner at La Piazzetta nearby the hotel. Dinner and drinks were so yummy! Definitely would recommend this restaurant. And especially after the crazy trek to get here. It was finally a moment where I could breathe a sigh of relief and soak in that we were really here and the happiness feelings came flooding in at this moment.

Then we headed to see the outside of Tower of London.

And get ice cream.

And walk across Tower Bridge.

By now it was starting to get late and we headed back to the hotel. Kids relaxed in the hotel while we went to get drinks downstairs at the bar.

So thankful to finally be here!

Day 3:

We had a tough time sleeping last night, thanks to jet lag. We were all up from 0200-0400, but then fell back asleep until about 0730.

We went to breakfast and then headed to explore the Tower of London.

We only had about an hour to explore, but we were able to see the Crown Jewels and explore some other areas such as Bloody Tower.

Then we took a taxi to our cousin Anne and David’s house. It was wonderful seeing them and we started with just relaxing and catching up.

We walked to a nearby grocery store, picked up some lunch and then headed back to the house to eat. It was a delicious lunch of soup, bread, cheese and fruit. It was so nice catching up with them.

We all even tried the infamous black pudding!

Then we took the 11 bus line down to Westminster Cathedral.

Then off to Westminster Abbey

And lastly the London Eye

London Eye was pretty expensive ($300), but it was worth it! What amazing views! It took about 30 minutes to go all the way around.

Up next was dinner at Locale, another Italian place. It was not as good as last night's, but we still enjoyed.

We took the Underground back to the hotel which was quite an adventure because I thought we went on the wrong line. Turns out we did, but we still managed to get back pretty easily. When we stepped out of the tunnel it was pouring rain so we were soaked when we got back.

Another awesome day!!

Day 4:

Today we took our time getting ready and then went to breakfast.

We headed to the Underground at about 1000 to get to the train thinking we would be there early but one of the tubes was out of service so it took longer than we thought to get to the train station and then we had to wait a little while to catch a train.

We arrived in Windsor at exactly noon went straight to the Duchess of Cambridge Pub right next to Windsor.

We met up with some cousins: Jo, Larry, Oliver, Tilly, and Felix. What a treat to be able to spend some time with our cousins! We had a delicious lunch and a great time catching up.

We then headed to Windsor. Unfortunately no pictures were allowed inside, but we took many outside.

The castle is so beautiful and I loved the contrast of the old walls with the green grass and beautiful blooming daffodils.

First we went to St. George’s Chapel and then to the state rooms and doll house. As expected the details are beautiful. Very ornate and with lots of gold.

My favorite room was the dinning room in the state rooms. The chandeliers were spectacular. The rooms were massive with incredibly high ceilings.

After exploring the castle for a couple hours we headed to a coffee shop, got some treats and chatted some more before heading back to our train.

We were all exhausted on the train ride back to our hotel.

We got back to the hotel at about 2000 and grabbed some dinner to go for the kids and then Mike and I headed to dinner at an Indian restaurant that was just ok, but it was still so nice to be out enjoying London without the kids.

Day 5:

Today we woke up early because there was a chance we were going to go to Stonehenge. Unfortunately, we decided that wouldn’t work out as many of the tours were sold out or just too expensive, so we went to breakfast then headed back to the room so the kids could do some homework. I was exhausted so I napped for a couple hours while the kids did homework.

At about 1130 we headed to St. James’s Park Underground to do a fun little loop that included::

Hard Rock Cafe for lunch and drinks

Candy store Kingdom of Treats for some after lunch treats

Westminster Abbey 1700 service

Westminster Abbey wouldn’t allow pics or videos, but it was obviously stunning and felt so special to be there. We listened to an Organist Matthew Jorysz play 2 Bach songs that lasted a whole 30 minutes. It was spectacular though.

Back to St. James’s Park Underground

Then back to the hotel at about 1800 to rest since we have early mornings the next 2 days.

Day 6:

We started off with an early wakeup call of 0530, then breakfast at 0600

Then we headed to Kings Cross Train Station via the Underground.

We got on our 0830 train and headed direct to York going 125mph. It was a smooth and easy ride and kids slept most of it.

We met up with our cousins, Julie and Les, at the train station and we headed to the Principal Hotel for drinks in the Garden room. It’s a beautiful, charming old hotel.

Then we took a taxi to the Shambles. A beautiful medieval street for walking only with lots of shops and food.

Les bought the kids some Kendal Mint Cakes, curiously strong, but delicious sugar bars used for energy.

We stopped at the town square to watch a street performer and eat yummy crepes. The kids got Kinder Bueno crepes and the grown ups had savory walnut, cheese, and tomato sauce crepes.

We watched the performer juggle knives and the torches while on a 7 foot tall unicycle! Pretty amazing.

The we headed to the York Minster, the largest gothic cathedral north of the Alps. It was stunning and quite an adventure to explore.

I was quite impressed with the height of the ceilings and the details and the stain glass was spectacular too.

The kids explored with their "Little Explorer" pack provided by the Minster. Such a fun way for the kids to explore and learn about the fascinating history.

Up next was an hour-long bus tour around town where we learned more about the rich history of the town and got more incredible views of the river and the Minster..

Next we went to York Museum Gardens, which had some beautiful blooming flowers and a bird show. All 3 kids got to hold an owl. Aidan held a larger owl name Eva and the girls a smaller full grown 4 year old owl named Gizmo. They were so beautiful and quite friendly.

The kids ran around and played outside for a little bit.

Then we headed to explore the town walls. You can walk along the wall which is surrounded by beautiful blooming daffodils. The wall isn’t too far up above the ground but still terrified me watching the kids run along it.

Then on to our boat tour. The tour takes about 45 minutes and takes you up and down the river through town where you learn even more about the history. There is a school there dating back to the 7th century!

We finished off our day trip with dinner at The Star Inn. It was a delicious dinner (which included Yorkshire pudding) to finish off our day.

What a day that ended way too fast. It was so wonderful spending time with Julie and Les and having them show us around. They planned a fantastic itinerary and we all had such a fun-filled day.

Before leaving we had to remake this apparently famous family photo.

We had a smooth train ride home with a beautiful sunset and made it back to our hotel at about 2200.

Kids were having the time of their lives.

Mike and I had to finish off the day with a drink in the hotel bar.

Day 7:

Today’s wake up time was 0700. We quickly got ready, headed to breakfast, then packed and caught a taxi to St. Pancras.

It was organized chaos for sure, but we managed to have a nice Italian lunch.

Then we went through customs and had to wait about an hour to board the Eurostar which goes about 186mph. Kids were able to get some homework done.

And then naps....

The trip on the Eurostar was super smooth and we slept most of the way. You could definitely tell you were going fast, but I couldn’t believe how smooth it felt. For the parts I was awake for, the English and French countryside were so beautiful.

So blurry because it's so fast and there was this awful screen on the window obscuring the view which was disappointing.

When we arrived we literally walked off the train and out the station and just like that you’re in France. Crazy easy!

It was a short but terrifying walk to our hotel Le Rocroy because of all the traffic you have to cross including bike traffic and Mike and Aidan never saw them coming and almost got hit so many times!! HAHA!!

But it was actually a pretty quick walk to the hotel along with an easy check in. Very nice hotel and large suite with 2 bedrooms. We loved having the space after our tiny London hotel.

Of note, the elevator is ridiculously small and made me so claustrophobic that I started having a panic attack. Fortunately, we were on the 3rd floor so by the time I really started panicking we were there. Phew!

We threw our stuff into the hotel room and headed on the metro to the Eiffel Tower.

The kids were so amazed by it and you actually get your first view from the metro. I wish I had captured the kids' reaction when they first saw it.

It was a joyous walk to the tower as we walked by so many yummy treats. At the tower we took some pics.

Then headed to dinner nearby.

Then headed back to the tower to watch it sparkle at 2100.

Then to get some treats which included Nutella churros and hot wine. So yummy!!! The girls also got some berets which look phenomenal on them!

Then back to the hotel because it was so late and we were tired. We almost lost each other on the metro as the doors closed early so that was fun and then we stopped for some champagne to enjoy before bed.

What a day!

Day 8:

Today we sort of slept in and moseyed to breakfast in the hotel at 0800. It was also delicious!

Then off to our Eiffel Tower tour.

Only to find out it was cancelled because the elevator wasn’t working.

So we decided to do the hike but we needed some fuel first so we got some pretzels and popcorn, just enough to get us up.

We waited in line for over an hour and while waiting in line they noted that the summit was closed. We were bummed, but decided we had been waiting for long enough so we’d just do the 2nd floor.

Then to our surprise, the top was open!

So we walked to the second floor which really wasn’t too bad and only took 15-20mins and then took the lift to the top.

The kids were amazed and loved it. We spent quite a while looking at all the sights while enjoying champagne and macaroons. We took lots of pictures.

The weather was stunning!!

Then it was time to head down. Of course we had to get more macaroons on the 1st floor and then to the bottom where we took more pics and soaked it in some more.

The whole thing, from when we left the hotel to when we went to dinner, was from 0930-1600. Wow!

Then to dinner nearby and back to the hotel.

We are starting to get the hang of the metro now!

Day 9:

Today was the day I was most excited about because it was all about Disneyland!

We got a 0700 breakfast at the hotel and then we headed to the shuttle stop which was very close by, in front of the O’Grain Bakery. We loaded up at 0800 and were on the road at about 0820.

Since it was a strike day in Paris it did take a while to get out of the city and it ended up taking about a little over an hour to get there.

First sighting!

We made it!

We were in the park by 1000.

It was SPECTACULAR!!!! It seriously felt so amazing to be here!

First order of business was getting our Minnie ears!

Afterwards we headed straight to Thunder Mountain. We loved checking out the abstract spinning characters throughout the center of the park.

We also ran into Jafar.

Thunder mountain was our longest wait of the day at about 40 minutes. After that all waits were 5-25 minutes, not bad at all.

We figured out quickly that they move the lines super quick and not many people use the premier access because it is stupid expensive. They also have parent swap there and one guy tried to tell us only 2 could go the second time, but that wasn’t true and we were able to send all 3 the next time.

We (even Kendall) loved Thunder Mountain!!! I think it’s better than Disneyland and even has a fun dark park.

After that we headed to Hyperspace Mountain.

We stopped to get shortbread and popcorn treats on the way.

We tried to convince Kendall to go but at the last minute she changed her mind and we decided to do a parent swap. And thank goodness Kendall didn’t ride it because it’s so intense with one upside down and 3 360 degree loops. It was absolutely amazing!! Especially when you aren’t expecting the loops in the dark.

Then we headed to our lunch reservation at Silver Spur. We got caught in the middle of a show that was spectacular. The energy, music, dancing and characters we nothing like we’ve ever seen at Disneyland or Disney World. Absolutely loved it!

Then to lunch at Silver Spur which we also really enjoyed! My salmon was so good and I loved my Spicy Arizona drink. Lunch took about an hour and a half but it was nice to relax and enjoy the food and drink.