OK, we're back (to Lincoln, anyway; I'll be returning to California tomorrow).
Outbound flight: F on United was very nice, actually, and the Arrivals Suite and priority immigration queue at Heathrow was a big win.
London: Interesting but bizarre rental flat, in a converted brewery (Maltings Place) in a part of town I've never spent much time in (Bermondsey); good food (in & around Borough Market); the Tube was amazingly crowded every day at all hours; first time on the London Eye. Alas, no time to see friends but I'm sure I'll be back reasonably soon. Ate at Black & Blue, The Bridge Lounge, Roast, Porter's, and The Garrison.
Eurostar: Comfortable and quick, although the check-in and security at Waterloo made it (unfortunately) more airline-like. Food (in business class) was pretty good but not exceptional.
Paris: We had a surpassingly awesome apartment on Ave. de la République near Oberkampf, in the 11th, which was a very, very cool neighborhood. (I'd walked around there before & eaten at Cafe Charbon but never stayed there.) Otherwise, well... it was Paris. What can you say? Ate at Le Barometre, Brasserie Lutetia, Au Pied de Cochon, Pinxo, and L'Ebauchoir.
EasyJet: We decided to ditch the road-trip part of the trip and just stay in Paris an extra 4 days (alas, we had to give up the apartment after 5 days since it was previously booked, and ended up in the Paris Marriott Rive Gauche for 3 nights) and fly to Berlin. At short notice the only reasonable flight available was from Orly to Berlin Schoenefeld on EasyJet. After some initial problems (their web site crashed with ASP errors in the middle of my credit card transaction.. TWICE) it turned out just fine, a nice shiny new A319 and shiny happy cabin crew.
Berlin: We were met at the airport (Schoenefeld is the old East Berlin airport, way out in the sticks) by Ed Ward, and went into town and checked into the rental flat, which was on Schönhauser Allee between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg, in an old building mostly modernized since the DDR era. Ed took us on an amazing four-hour walking tour of the history of Berlin, from the 18th & 19th centuries to WWII and the divided city and the Wall. Ate at 1900, Lutter & Wegner, Trattoria Paparazzi, and Gugelhof.
Air Berlin: Long lines for check-in at Berlin Tegel, but I found a self-service kiosk and that saved us at least half an hour. This flight featured another shiny new Airbus (this one an A320) and happy cabin crew, and, believe it or not, free food and drink (a ham & cheese sandwich) -- virtually unknown on European LCCs.
Stockholm: Chilly fall weather had just arrived. Our apartment deal did not come through (long story, but there was a possibility that it was an illegal rental or sublet, and the guy wanted payment in cash up front, and so we cancelled and booked into the Sheraton). The Sheraton was lovely, and our room had a panoramic view of the water, some of the Old City, and the Stadshuset (City Hall), which hosts the annual Nobel Prize banquet. Toured the Stadshuset, the Old City, and some of modern Stockholm. Ate at Backfickan (at the Opera House), Mälardrottningen (the luxury yacht turned hotel-restaurant), Prinsen, and Stadshuskällaren, the restaurant in the Stadshuset.
London redux: Just for a night. Stayed at the Marriott Heathrow, met our friends Matthew and Laura at a nearby pub-restaurant (The Pheasant, West End Rd. at New Rd., Harlington, Hayes, just off the Bath Rd. Heathrow hotel strip.)
Return flight: Hung out at United's International F lounge in T3, which was nice (although not having free wi-fi is sort of lame) and had all sorts of free food and drink, though, and we had an excellent 7.5 hour return flight. Maggie tipped off the cabin crew that it was my birthday (I got 6 extra hours of birthday this year, due to the magic of jet travel and time zones!) and they made me a present of a nice bottle of Bordeaux.
(Tip: if you're ever in international F on a UA 777, try to get seat 3J -- it's the last row of F, with a bulkhead behind you, and it's a quiet little corner that's almost like your own compartment. The only unfortunate part of the trip was that the flight gets to Chicago too late to catch the last flight to Lincoln (or else it was booked on the day of our return), so thus another airport hotel stay (Marriott Suites O'Hare, very nice) and a morning flight to Lincoln on United Express, and they managed to lose my luggage. (It's been 7 hours since we landed and they still have no idea where it is, and I am supposed to return to Calif. tomorrow.) Not to mention that in sharp contrast to absolutely everyone else we met or dealt with in London, Paris, Berlin, or Stockholm, the staff (United, TSA, etc.) at O'Hare were cranky and surly.
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