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Love in London and Paris - Traveling is a test of compatibility

By Tom P Blake – Finding Love after 50

Note from TomThis article was originally published January 10, 2003

ABOARD THE PARIS TO LONDON EUROSTAR TRAIN – This Christmas, instead of exchanging gifts, my girlfriend, Greta, and I treated each other to 10 days in Europe. Using the Internet, we booked roundtrips on American Airlines for $319 each.

On Dec. 26, we flew from LAX to London, arriving 21 hours later at our hotel, the InterContinental, near Hyde Park.

A trip tests a couple's compatibility and is a learning experience.

Virtually every decision is a compromise: What sights to see, type of restaurants to select, streets to travel and how much to spend are decisions that come up often.

Our first travel lesson came early. We were dog-tired when we landed in London, so we decided to take a taxi from the airport to our hotel without inquiring beforehand about the fare, which turned out to be $85.

Had we braved riding the Underground, also called the Tube, the cost would have been $10.

Greta said taking a taxi was worth it.

In London, Leicester Square has places where half- price tickets can be purchased for shows the day of the performance. Greta wanted to see the musical "Bombay Dreams."

Because it's popular, we had to pay full price, about $80 per ticket.

Both agreed it was money well spent.

Sleeping in on a cold and rainy Sunday morning was tempting, but we attended a church service at Westminster Abbey instead.

Sixty of us were fortunate to be seated in the pews normally reserved for royalty, a few feet from where Princess Diana's marriage and funeral were held.

After three days in London, which included visits to Buckingham Palace, Oxford University and the National Gallery, we rode the Eurostar train through the Chunnel to Paris, where we spent four days. We returned to London by train for our final day and flight home.

A couple must agree on many things, even on how to get around. We're both walkers and logged over six miles each day on foot. When we weren't walking, we rode the Tube in London and its equivalent, the Metro, in Paris.

The cost for an all-day ticket is about $6 per person.

Couples shouldn't expect that everything will go smoothly.

Near the Montmarte District of Paris, we passed a money-exchange booth. The posted exchange rate appeared to be the best we had seen. We needed to exchange dollars for euros.

On a $100 exchange, the guy took a $34 commission (normal is $6). When we protested vehemently, he shrugged his shoulders and pointed to the sign in French that showed the commission. There wasn't anything we could do, although I wanted to strangle him. (He was behind bullet-proof glass. I understand why.)

Greta said, "Things like that are bound to happen. Forget it; don't let it ruin our trip." She's the practical one in this relationship.

Most romantic outing: New Year's Eve on the Champs Elysees in Paris, mingling with 1 million people near the Arc de Triomphe.

Most-asked question: "Where should we eat?" Our favorite spot was a Paris brasserie. A French baguette stuffed with salami often was breakfast and lunch. Most meals were winners. We ate well but walked off most of the calories.

Our most pleasant surprise: the Louvre in Paris, arguably the finest museum in the world. The staff is cordial and organized, and the restaurants inside varied, clean and reasonable. Getting there at 9 a.m., when the doors open, is advised. By noon, the crowds and lines are impossibly long.

Biggest trip negative: London and Paris streets and restaurants are filled with smokers. There's nothing worse than enjoying a romantic dinner in Europe and having the person next to you light up.

Although the sun shone only once in 10 days (the day we returned, of course), we had a great trip and got off the plane holding hands. We learned a lot, had fun and passed the compatibility test.

Reader comments from previous articles:

Michele, San Juan Capistrano: "Women are in search of a best friend, then comes intimacy, then comes commitment in relationship, not necessarily marriage." Response: Some singles, men included, get the order of those items confused.

Audri, Laguna Hills: "I always say I'm not looking, but who knows? I could be startled out of my complacency by a pair of sparkling blue eyes that belong to a good dancer!"Response: Brown eyes won't do?

Gina, Long Beach: "I met someone in the grocery store. He was picking up a frozen pizza, and I was buying hamburger for dinner. We met at Coco's and had a nice evening and made plans for another date." Response: Singles ask, where can I meet someone? Be alert whenever you're out and about; you just never know.

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