April 19, 2012

Planning Frenzy

I've spent most of the last few days on my back with my new best friends: the heating pad and Advil. I've been dealing with some pretty bad back problems which I hope will be reversed with the purchase of a new mattress and some Pilates to strengthen up what is apparently a rather weak core.

All of this flat-on-my-backness has given me plenty of time to research mattresses, Pilates, and especially Paris and London. We've got our plane tickets, figured out what we want to see and do in Paris and bought tickets to the newly opened Harry Potter Studio tour in London.

What we're really struggling with is finding a hotel in Paris that is fairly convenient, accomodates the 4 of us and doesn't cost more than $300 a night. Egad. I didn't grow up going on vacations so it is very hard for me to spend the money. I laugh when I think of the original budget I had in mind for this trip. Well, actually I don't think those were tears of laughter.

The London hotels seem to be much more reasonably priced but I don't have a clue what area to stay in. I wonder if they'll let me sleep in Cath Kidston?? I'd also love to hear suggestions of stuff to do there. I mean, shopping, obviously, and Big Ben and double decker buses and Harry Potter and a pub, but what else?

In summary, I'd love your thoughts on: Mattresses that don't cause back pain, the effectiveness of Pilates, hotels in Paris that don't cost a semester of college tuition and must see sights in London. I'll be here spending quality time with my hot pad. I hope you're all enjoying a day of bending over and sitting up without pain. I envy you.


  1. Hi Jen longtime no see :-) So happy for you about your up comming trip and bummer about your back. Both my husband and I have back problems and have wasted so much money on mattresses from sleep number to sealy to a simmons one was even spose to be the stores version of the "Westin Hotel " All those dissapointed us terribly and rather quickly.

    anyways slept on this at my BILs house for a week last year came home and bought one- had to have it delivered from a dealer in ARkansas but that was only $250. delv cost. Here is a link to the exact model we got from their arbor collection been on it since early last fall no more problems from sleeping on a crappy mattress and best thing is we gave around $800.0 including shipping


    hope this helps
    Best of luck

  2. Oh- I hope your back is on the mend. I know firsthand how miserable that is. Have you ever looked at the Stearns and Foster line of mattresses? We have had one for many years and although they are not cheap it is the best night's sleep we have ever had.

    I will be anxious to hear what people have to say about accommodations-I am clueless. xo Diana

  3. For years we've tried all kinds of mattresses -- hard, soft, pillow top, water beds and air. And nothing helped. I had fibromyalgia and woke up every morning (if I got to sleep) in a great deal of pain. Finally about four years ago we got a Sealy Posturepedic memory foam mattress and we love it. Firm enough for good support but soft enough to provide comfort for a tender body. We looked at Tempurpedic but they are outrageously expensive and I don't think they can be any more comfortable than the Sealy. Good luck.

  4. When in London I stayed in a hotel in Notting Hill with my family. It was so quaint. Looked just like the movie...lots of iron fencing against white town houses. Can't remember the hotel name but it must have been affordable cuz my family and I are cheapskates! =) And you have to find out when the Portobello Market is taking place (it might be weekends) because it's right in that area and it's to die for!

  5. When we travel to Paris, we rent an apartment. It's almost always cheaper than a hotel, plus you have a refrigerator and sometimes laundry! We use Paris Address (http://www.parisaddress.com/) exclusively, but stay at a different apartment each time to mix it up. They have always been great to work with and really fast to fix any issues that come up (last November, we had a water heater go out on us while we were there).
    If you need any Paris restaurant recommendations, let me know! :D I'm always happy to share.
    You can also see our Paris photos from the last trip at http://digitalephemeraphotography.zenfolio.com/paris

  6. I hope you back feels better soon! We stayed at the Paris Hilton Arc d Triumphe but it was kind of expensive.

  7. Hi Jen,
    unfortunately I know with in-depth intimacy exactly all the joys of back pain as caused by bad mattress (oh, and eleven years of ballet as well)
    Last spring I spent a good deal of time out of commission and at the chiropractor- he recommended a 'latex' mattress and that's what I ended up with- it's been nearly a year and my pain is ninety percent gone! A good firm one pretty much saved me.

  8. Why don't you rent a small apartment in Paris? It'll surely be cheaper and you'll save on lunches, breakfasts etc.
    In London we stayed in the Bayswater area, just next to the Hyde Park and I really liked it as the hotels were cheaper, there are lots of restaurants, breakfast spots, bus stops and the tube in walking distance. Very close to the center as well.
    What to do in London?????????
    Oh God! Everything!! Theatre? The Phantom of the opera! A must!
    Oxford str shopping
    notting hill, camden town
    the Tate
    Victoria and Albert museum
    the british museum, the natural history museum
    A! also the Kew Gardens I loved loved loved.
    Everyday eat a different cuisine.
    Chinese pekin duck @ soho
    Indian, Thai, Turkish and the best libanese in Bayswater.
    Oh the memories...you've stirred!
    Whatever you do enjoy!

  9. I've heard renting an apt. is better/easier/cheaper than getting a hotel. Check out this blog :
    This is a blog written by a San Francisco based party planner who is living in Paris for a year with her artist husband, and 2 small children. She has a guide of what to do in Paris with kids. Have a great trip. I'll try not to be jealous!

  10. Hello! I've never commented, but have two suggestions- we have a Tempurpedic mattress and it is amazing. Also, try airbnb.com...we are currently staying in an apartment in Rome we found on airbnb- $43/night and the owner is a scriptwriter and film producer! Awesome way to really experience Italy and Italians! :) Good luck!

  11. I wrote down the suggestions for a new mattress. We need one badly.
    I have had alot of back issues. I have degenerative disces. I have had one back surgery a lamanectomy......I know a crazy name.
    I would suggest not using heat. I always used ice. I fill a large ziploc baggie, wrap it in a towel and stick it inside my underwear and wear it almost all day. I know that may sound weird but I did. I even went to work sometimes that way. It really helped my back.....and the advil. Just be very careful taking it. My son went into kidney failure from taking 20 in two days......for his bad back. He kidneys are okay but he had to have two back fusions already and he is only in his thirties.
    Good luck.....I know how bad it can hurt.

  12. We also desperately need a new mattress - I have back and hip pain and our mattress is way too old.

    London: Buckingham Palace (the changing of the guard), Westminster Abbey (glorious) The Tower of London, Portobello Road, Camden Market, Harrod's, Liberty, Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum, The Tate, St. Paul's, I could go on and on. I love London.


  13. I only have advice on the mattress. We've had a sleep number bed for about 7 years now and I can highly reccommend it. I have 3 herniated discs in my back and it has helped me so much. It's nice to be able to adjust it as needed and my husband can do the same. Check it out-they are great.

  14. We have a memory foam mattress that we bought at Costco and are very happy with it, but mattresses can be a very individual thing. I hope you find the right one. Make sure in London you go for a ride in the London "Eye". Also there is a site called Slow Travel and people tell their stories and recommend places to stay. If it is at all possible, you might want to visit York and the Cotswolds, too.

  15. Love London!! Here are a few places that I love to visit: Westminster Abbey, Harrods (the food halls are a little crazy, but it's worth it just to see it), the Victoria & Albert, Liberty, Buckingham Palace, St. Pauls Cathedral, The London Eye (amazing views) & pubs.
    Two of my favorite places I will say with a caveat -- I am hugely interested in the British experience during WWII (did college level research on it), so I really enjoyed the Imperial War Museum & the War Cabinet Rooms (the secret rooms where Churchill worked during the war). Both put a lot of focus on the human side of war, as opposed to battles, etc, so you might want to check them out. If you are totally not into that subject, then you might want to skip them.

    Another place that you should definitely check out is Alfies (http://www.alfiesantiques.com/). It's an antique co-op & they have amazing stuff -- many British movie & tv set designers go there for props.

  16. PS -- Don't go too cheap with your hotel or you will get what you pay for! We went cheap on our last trip to London & stayed in a great location (Queensway/Notting Hill) but the hotel was horrible -- loud & poorly kept. The next international trip that we went on, we spent a few more dollars per night and were much happier. Keep in mind that "a few more dollars a night" for us was about $160-$175 a night (total) in Italy, so I'm not talking about the Ritz.

  17. oh my so sorry to hear about your
    back Jen. My husband has back problems from time to time very
    painful stuff. We should probably
    invest in a new mattress as well.
    Pamela form the blog "The House Of Edward" travels to London frequently and list her favorite
    places to stay she might be helpful. Good luck narrowing what to do in London it's an amazing city.

  18. I'm glad you found a sweet Parisian pad! Is it selfish all I can think about is how you'll spend the $100 I'm sending with you to bring me back cool swag?

  19. sorry i can't help you on any of those items. what good am i? i hope your back feels better soon. as for the trip, i am so jealous. you are going to have a wonderful time.

  20. Well, I can't help with London, Paris, mattresses or Pilates.

    But what I can say is this: Mix 4 cloves of sauteed garlic with 4 T brown sugar. Smother over 4 chicken breasts. Bake at 500 (yep) for 20 minutes or so.

    Also? I'm sorry about your back. That totally stinks.

  21. Jen, I'll ask my daughter where we are staying. I know on the edge of the city. Mattress: We just bought a new Sealy Posturepedic at Sam's. It was the best price and most comfortable of all I tried. It is one of those HUGE mattresses with a pillowtop. I feel like the princess and the pea and love it! xo, Cheryl

  22. My mattress is a Sealy Posturepedic with a pillow top and I Love it!! I stayed with family when I went to London and have never been to France. So many of these ladies have given helpful tips I bet you will find an excellent deal!!

  23. We stayed at the Hotel Raspail. My sister goes to Paris frequently on business. It is quite reasonable, clean, and SMALL. She just stayed recently and said it is still a good deal. We were sisters traveling with daughters and the girls had an incredible view of the Eiffel Tower.

    I am so envious. I wanted Paris in April, but Uncle Sam wanted the money instead.

  24. Wow! France!! How exciting. Have a wonderful time and feel better soon.

  25. I think Claudia said it - Portobello Road market is on saturdays. Also peek in to those little antique shops at Portobello road - huge inside with lots of interesting booths.
    Hyde Park on a sunny day - relaxing at the serpentine.
    A trip to Greenwich to see the observatory - go with the Docklands railway out and by boat back.
    I love London too :-)

  26. Rent an apartment in Paris. Very reasonable. In London you have to go to the Tower and see the crown jewels. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral. Divine.

  27. I am big on renting apartments too while traveling! Checkout slowtrav.com and slowtalk.com for tons of info, reviews, etc. We rented thru VRBO last time.

  28. I am big on renting apartments too while traveling! Checkout slowtrav.com and slowtalk.com for tons of info, reviews, etc. We rented thru VRBO last time.

  29. I LOVE London. We lived 40 miles north of it for 3 years in the early 70's. My fav is the Tower and the Crown Jewels. Westminister Abbey and St. Paul's are fab. We would buy meat, bread (English bread is incredible) and cheese at a deli and have a picnic in St. James Park (near Westminister Abbey if I recall). If you want a splurge high tea at Fortnum and Mason's is a lovely. We normally stayed in B & B's when we traveled in England. But since we lived so close to London we never spent the night there. The public transportation in England is fabulous! Enjoy your stay :)

  30. JEN! so sorry to hear about your back pain - that's the pits - i've been there too... i had luck with a chiropractor ( she introduced me to China Gel - a menthol type cream that i LOVE! you can find it online - we use it on lots of aches and pains)

    mattress- our christmas gift to each other this year was a new mattress! we did get a firm, foam therapeutic type - it has been wonderful for my back - BUT the foam holds body heat and is sooo very warm! i'm always hot, and had i know this about the mattress... i would NOT have gotten it. just fyi :)

    PARIS! my husband and i went last May for our 15th anniversary. uggg. the best week I've had in a looong time! we stayed at small boutique hotels (one right and one left bank) both were adorable, stylish (moderate priced) and well located - not in the heart of things - (nights were a bit quite... but we usually just headed back to the area to sleep , and then walked/or used metro to get around. (LeWalt - could walk to Eiffel tower, and the Hotel Mayfair)

    to do:
    try to get to LePuces (flea markets!)
    we took the metro - very easy, and you can easily walk to it once you get off train.

    my fav areas for just walking and browsing was the St. Germaine area & Ile de la Cite (nice small shops)

    fav. meal food and atmosphere
    (darling small, homey place, great food, wine)
    Vins Des Pyrenees
    25 rue beautreillis

    fav dining (Atmoshpere- food just ok)
    -very old french -
    Bouillion Charter
    tucked away - but worth finding if u are in that area.

    can't wait to hear about your adventure!

  31. I've never been to Paris or London, so I'm no help there. (Can I add that I'm envious of your trip though?!) I've been to southwest England - 12 years ago - and I've stayed with friends.

    As far as your back pain, I'm an expert on that. ;-) I herniated 3 disks in my back a few years ago & have been through 2 chiropractors, several rounds of physical therapy, acupuncture, and yoga classes. Out of all of those, the acupuncture and yoga worked the best for conquering the back pain. I've been taking weekly yoga classes for a year now and it has helped tremendously.

    Don't stay in bed too long - it'll actually make the back pain worse. Try to get up and walk a little bit and do some stretches. Also, if you've been using the heating pad for more than a day, switch to a wrapped ice pack now.

    Hope this helps!

  32. I love my mattress, but couldn't tell you what it is without taking all the sheets off:)) It's a firm pillow-top if that helps...

    I have no advice on either London or Paris. I am jealous though :)

    Pilates is quite effective! So is yoga and easier to do for a beginner.

  33. Hi Jen! I've never commented on your blog before, but have been checking it out for awhile now! Love it! Just had to say that we just returned home from Paris last week, and stayed at a wonderful hotel on the Isle St. Louis, on the Seine River. I think you can get a room for 4 for under $300--check out this week's post at www.sugarandspiceadk.blogspot.com for photos....have a fabulous trip!

  34. Paris: Hotel du Champ de Mars
    7 rue du Champ de Mars
    Walk to the Eiffel Tower!

    London: Victoria & Albert Museum, Kew Gardens (wonderful!), St Pauls Cathedral, Trafalgar Square.


  35. In London... Spitalfields..which is a flea market on steroids and inside of an old train station. I could have done this for days.

    Never been to Paris but I like the idea of renting an apartment from your other commenters. But then again, there would be no room service. hmmmm.

    I say when in Rome, do as the Romans. Or in your case, London and Paris. Some touristy stuff...some just walking the streets and commuting with them and eating where they eat.

    Hope you're sleeping better and on the mend. xoxo, Julia

  36. i hope you are feeling better, i am of no help to you today as i have never been to either place {hear the envy in my typing} how exciting for you and the familia. We purchased a tempur-pedic a few years ago, best investment ever.

  37. WAS just in London visiting our son who was there on a semester study program (go Butler!). My best advice for London is to find a place to stay near a TUBE station. This is my #1 recommendation. There is SO much walking. Also, what ever amount of money you bring, double it. They of course warned us but it's so true. I found shopping depressing as I basically could buy the same things here in the US cheaper. I was in London 30 years ago and brought back a whole suitcase full of treasures that one could not find in America. Now...everything is imported. Try to find one special keepsake. It will be $$$.
    Also, we were in Paris.......lovely time and again, bring your money.

  38. wouldn't that be just great to curl up in a Cath Kidston shop?! i bet you are so excited to visit her shops! i have never been to either place, so i am not much help there :(
    maybe this site can help:
    (also search Paris on it)
    hope your back is better too!!

  39. Have you found a hotel yet? If not, check out NOVOTEL on Vaugirard Rd. It is a walking distance to the Eiffel. My husband, son and I spent $700 for seven nights. The Eiffel lights up at 9:00 pm (so magical) and on top of every hour...do a night picnic on the Eiffel grounds. Boatride on the river Seine. Lunch at the Latin Quarter. Walk the streets of Montmarte. Eat Pariessiene macarons. Enjoy yourselves.

  40. If you haven't found a place yet, check out Novotel on Vaugirard St., a walking distance (10 minutes) to the Eiffel Tower. It was $700 for 7 nights for a queen bed and sofa sleeper (summer of 2010). They should still be reasonable. The Eiffel puts on the light show at 9|00 pm and on top of ever hour thereafter. bring your picnic basket and eat alfresco picnic dinner on the Eiffel grounds. quite magical! Get a boatride on the River Seine, eat lunch at the Latin Quarter, eat Parisienne Macarons, Walk the streets of Montmarte. Hop on the train and go to Varsaille. After you've done things in London, take a side trip to Salisbury and visit the Stonehenge then lunch in Town of Bath. Enjoy!

  41. Hi. I'm just catching up on your blog so sorry that this comment is on such an old post but wanted to add my suggestions -
    London - I lived in London for about 7 yrs and now live about 20 miles outside so know it pretty well.
    For shopping The Kings Road(The further away from Sloane Square you get the better it gets and there's a CK here), Marylebone High Street has some nice individual shops(and another CK!), Pimlico Road(pricey but lovely to look at antique shops), Spitalfields Market on a Sunday, Borough Market on Sat or Sun for foodie treats, Liberty on Regent Street(beautiful store). I would say stay clear of Oxford Street as you probably won't find anything there that you can't get at home and it's pretty tacky and crowded.
    Other stuff - take a trip on the river to Greenwich from Westminster or Tower Bridge, V&A Museum, Parks(Regents Park is the nicest in my opinion). Apart from that I'd say walk as much as you can.
    Paris - I can't remember exactly where the hotel is we last stayed in but I would alway recommend Novotel. Hubbie and I stayed in a lot around Europe on our Honeymoon and have stayed in them in Germany and the UK since with our little one. They're always good,comfy,clean and affordable.
    Paris central is much smaller than London so you really can take in loads by walking. We walked Notre Dame to Eiffel Tower along the river and it was beautiful and didn't take that long. So many lovely little streets if you just wander.
    Sorry, this is really long but I hope it helps a little. Enjoy your trip. Fiona x

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Thank you for taking the time to say hello today! I always love to hear what you have to say.