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Paichka
05-20-2008, 12:27 PM
Okay, so -- I need advice, oh sages of AW.

The hubs and I are now t-minus 82 days (and a wake-up!) from having our happy, camoflage-covered behinds back in the States after 15 months of chersez le awesome out here in Iraq.

We have decided, since we never got a honeymoon (unless Iraq counts...?) to go to Sedona for a week, and then on to Europe, where neither of us have been except to fly through en route to places Hot And Sandy. So, we're going to spend three days in London, three in Paris, and three in Rome. We've booked our hotels and everything, so that's not my question...my question is, for those of you who LIVE in England, France or Italy, HAVE lived in England, France or Italy, or who have travelled there...what in the F do we go look at?

Just for starters -- I love history, especially MORBID history. We have the Eyewitness Europe books for each city we're visiting, but I'd really like the opinion of people who've been there -- what do you think are the sites that you NEED to see while there? What can be skipped? How easy is it to get around? For the stuff I've listed below, can you fit it all into three days?

This is our pseudo-itinerary:

LONDON (The Elizabeth Hotel, in Westminster)
Tower of London (natch!)
Temple Church (mmmm conspiracy theories)
St. Paul's
Buckingham Palace
British Museum
Madame Tussaud's
Victoria & Albert Museum
National Gallery

We're also seeing the Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre on our last night there, so I'm super-psyched.

Is there anything else we ought to try to see? I hear the London Eye is cool but the hubs gets motion sick. Can we see all of the above in three days? Is there anything that we should AVOID? Like, I tell everyone to walk through Times Square in NYC at least once, preferably in the evening, but not to spend any real amount of time there because while it looks really cool, it's kitschy and touristy and jam-packed.

PARIS (The Globe Hotel, near Notre Dame)
The Louvre (natch)
Jardin du Luxembourg (5 mins from hotel, apparently)
Eiffel Tower (natch)
Notre Dame
Arc de Triomphe

Eh?

Rome (Forum Hotel)
The Colosseum
The Forum (our hotel overlooks this)
Vatican
Castel Sant'Angelo
Piazza Navona
Pantheon
Trevi Fountain**
Spanish Steps**
Capitoline Museums

**My friend just got back from Rome for his midtour, and he said he was very disappointed by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Do you guys agree or disagree on that one? Worth the time, or no?


Anyway, any advice or words of wisdom you can pass along to first time European travellers we'd really appreciate! Thanks guys!

cheers,
Pai

Bartholomew
05-20-2008, 12:37 PM
My friend just got back from Rome for his midtour, and he said he was very disappointed by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Do you guys agree or disagree on that one? Worth the time, or no?

If a thousand people agreed that they were unimpressive, but those places had been something you might have liked---and if you're only going to Rome once---why would you skip visiting them?

Be safe on your adventure and keep us updated!

JoNightshade
05-20-2008, 02:37 PM
LONDON (The Elizabeth Hotel, in Westminster)
Tower of London (natch!)
Temple Church (mmmm conspiracy theories)
St. Paul's
Buckingham Palace
British Museum
Madame Tussaud's
Victoria & Albert Museum
National Gallery


If you're into "morbid" history, you might want to spend some time at the Museum of Science (http://www.sciencemuseum.org.uk/visitmuseum/galleries.aspx). They have a nice medical wing. I also found this to be quite fun:
http://www.thegarret.org.uk/events.htm
It's an old surgical theatre dating back to when they basically just held you down and sawed parts off. Yick!
I also got into something... maybe someone else can tell you what it's called... it was someone's private collection once, and it features the skeleton of a giant the guy basically grave-robbed. They have a lot of natural curiosities... ie, creepy stuff in jars. I seem to recall it was connected to the Royal Society somehow and since I was with a class I'm not sure if we had to have special permisison to go there. Anyone?
I also really like the Tate Modern. They always have something fun going on in the main hall. If you come out the front of St. Paul's, you walk straight down to the millennium bridge and cross the river - can't miss it, it's in an old powerhouse.


Is there anything else we ought to try to see? I hear the London Eye is cool but the hubs gets motion sick. Can we see all of the above in three days? Is there anything that we should AVOID? Like, I tell everyone to walk through Times Square in NYC at least once, preferably in the evening, but not to spend any real amount of time there because while it looks really cool, it's kitschy and touristy and jam-packed.

Well, if it were me, I'd skip Madame Tussaud's, but if you like wax figures go for it. You might also consider a walk through Hyde Park and a visit to Portobello Market, which I believe is on Saturday.

Haven't been to Paris, so...


Rome (Forum Hotel)
The Colosseum
The Forum (our hotel overlooks this)
Vatican
Castel Sant'Angelo
Piazza Navona
Pantheon
Trevi Fountain**
Spanish Steps**
Capitoline Museums

**My friend just got back from Rome for his midtour, and he said he was very disappointed by the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. Do you guys agree or disagree on that one? Worth the time, or no?

I think you'll probably be surprised by how small Rome is. Most of the landmarks you could see in one day. I'm usually a do-it-myself traveler, but in Rome I'd recommend the first think you do be signing up for a bus (or walking) tour. I think they have some that are hop-on, hop-off whenever you want, or just a regular one will do. That way you can see all the major sights and if there are any you particularly love you can make a point to come back for them later. I dunno, for me it just helped put things in context before I started running around. Anyway I like the Trevi Fountain but the Spanish Steps were kinda... steps. Yep. Woo hoo.

I would almost say leave an entire day for the Vatican. If it's a busy day it can take a long time, and it is a city unto itself. Depends on how much you want to see, but definitely definitely definitely see the inside of St. Peter's.

Now if you hadn't already booked this trip, I'd ask you what the HECK you think you're doing staying only 3 days in each place. Are you crazy??? :)

steveg144
05-20-2008, 04:04 PM
For Paris, give yourself a nice lunch at one of the famous cafes in the Latin Quarter. They're crowed, loud (by European standards; by US standards, they're quieter than church), and a bit touristy, but in the Cafe Deux Magots, for example, you might find yourself sitting at a table with a small brass plaque behind it indicating that this used to be the "regular table" of Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, or James Joyce.

Paichka
05-20-2008, 04:47 PM
Jo, thanks! The Museum of Science looks AWESOME!


Now if you hadn't already booked this trip, I'd ask you what the HECK you think you're doing staying only 3 days in each place. Are you crazy??? :)

And partially, yes. But we're also doing a week at "our" resort out in Sedona -- it's my favorite place in the world, plus it's a spa, and they have this fantabulous wine list, and you can sit in the jacuzzi and stare out at the red rocks while sipping prickly pear margaritas. So a week in Sedona plus 11 days in Europe + having to visit fam after 15 months in Iraq...eh...we ran out of days. :) The Army will only give us 30 altogether, you know. We're going to try to make a habit of visiting Europe, though...so...:)

Mr Flibble
05-20-2008, 04:59 PM
You seem to have it pretty covered for London ( unless you want to meet for beer :)) but if you like morbid go for : The Black Museum (http://www.met.police.uk/history/crime_museum.htm) Tea at Harrods or the Savoy is great too.

Paris, I'd reccommend the Musee D'Orsay (http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html) ( my favourite museum ever , it's awesome) and the Dali museum.

Paichka
05-20-2008, 05:00 PM
For Paris, give yourself a nice lunch at one of the famous cafes in the Latin Quarter. They're crowed, loud (by European standards; by US standards, they're quieter than church), and a bit touristy, but in the Cafe Deux Magots, for example, you might find yourself sitting at a table with a small brass plaque behind it indicating that this used to be the "regular table" of Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, or James Joyce.

Wow! We'll definitely have to look into that as well. Thanks for the tip. :)

Soccer Mom
05-20-2008, 06:58 PM
You seem to have it pretty covered for London ( unless you want to meet for beer :)) but if you like morbid go for : The Black Museum (http://www.met.police.uk/history/crime_museum.htm) Tea at Harrods or the Savoy is great too.

Paris, I'd reccommend the Musee D'Orsay (http://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/home.html) ( my favourite museum ever , it's awesome) and the Dali museum.

I second Musee D'Orsay. It's fantastic. And you could kill a week in the Louvre. Seriously. You have no idea how humongous it is.

waylander
05-20-2008, 07:13 PM
The Louvre is huge as is the British Museum.
I would also vote for losing Madame Tussauds - rather tacky and with a long queue to get in.
Hampton Court Palace (Henry VIII's palace) is impressive, but is on the outskirts of London - requires an overground train ride to get there.
Take a look at the Transport for London website to investigate a visitors travel pass. Single journeys on the Tube are damned expensive.
The open-top bus tour is OK
Dinner at Simpsons is expensive but quite an experience, best roast beef ever but your husband must wear a jacket and tie.

Smiling Ted
05-20-2008, 08:27 PM
Paris:
I'd third the recommendation for the Musee d'Orsay.
If you like the morbid, check out the Paris Catacombs in Montparnasse, and the Montmartre cemetery.
Spend less time at the Louvre than you were expecting.
Also, for the big museums in Paris, you can buy an all-in-one pass that not only gets you in for free, but allows you to avoid the GINORMOUS lines for the most famous exhibits (the line for the Louvre stretched four blocks when I went; but I was able to waltz right in).
If you have the time (because the line is long and you can't use the pass) check out the Sainte Chapelle (a former royal chapel) for amazing Medieval stained glass windows.
When I was there two years ago, there was an excavation under Notre Dame Cathedral where you could see original Roman ruins. It's probably still open.
If you're at a cafe, order a hot chocolate (chocolat chaud). It's like drinking a Hershey bar.
Food is pricey. For a cheap hot lunch, the creperie stands are your best bet.

London:
Check out Harrod's for their food rooms and/or tea. Pheasant box lunch, anyone?
Although you have the Lion King tickets, you might want to consider seeing something by the Royal Shakespeare Company.
The line for the Royal Jewels in the Tower of London will be enormous.
Picnic in Hyde Park.
(I'd have more for London, but it's been too long since I was there....)

Have fun, you deserve it!

cethklein
05-20-2008, 08:45 PM
When in London, ALWAYS go see London Dungeons. They're a load of fun especially if you get a good guide with a sense of humor.

Check out SoHo just do it during the daytime.

Go to Harods jsut to say you did it (I hated it but I hate shopping in general but a lot of people like it.)

Outside London, make sure you do at least one hedge maze (I think Windsor has one, or maybe it's a different castle, can't remember.) Also, if time permits, visit the Lake District, it's great.

DWSTXS
05-20-2008, 08:49 PM
I have not been to Paris, but I am a dedicated francophile, so, here you go:

PARIS SIGHTS : HIDDEN PARIS
Much of Paris is obscured; in warrens of medieval streets, at the end of moody looking alleys, below ground, within anonymous buildings. Many galleries, clubs and restaurants are hidden away, content to keep a low profile. Discovering these treasures for oneself is half the fun but we do have some tips.

A good place to start is to get off the main thoroughfares and explore. One option is to visit Roué Libre, hire a bicycle and find your own way around. Pick a landmark and aim for it, be prepared to meander and to take your time and you will be rewarded.

Similarly, the Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise provides an interesting perspective of the city. Get down low on the water and only then will you see how much of a port city Paris once was. You’ll notice curious sightlines, hidden places and unexpected open areas where you expected none.

The Musée des Égouts de Paris will introduce you to the vast subterranean world of the sewers, the scene of a thousand stories. Home of gothic arches and secret tunnels, this museum is a fantastic journey into history, engineering and adventure.

Notre Dame may not be a hidden aspect of Paris, being perhaps the most well known sight following the Eiffel Tower, however it does boast some hidden gems which those who do not hold the Paris Pass could well miss out on.

Almost all of the grand châteaux hold secrets and all are amazing. Versailles hides within it's walls much of the history and heritage of today's France, while lesser known beauties include the Château de La Motte Tilly, Château de Rambouillet and Château de Maisons-Laffitte.

The Chapelle Expiatoire is a lingering reminder of the French revolution, bang in the middle of Paris. This beautiful and seldom visited chapel is where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were laid to rest after they were guillotined and in which the bodies of 3,000 victims of the revolution are buried. It remains today a magical, haunted place in the bustling heart of Paris.

cethklein
05-20-2008, 09:38 PM
If you go to the Louvre, make sure you have pelnty of time. One day just won't cut it. Also, Notre Dame is one you'll want to go see early in the day before it gets too crowded. It's dark in there and when there are a lot of people, it's a royal pain to move around.

Priene
05-20-2008, 10:15 PM
I'll second (third, fourth) the Musee D'Orsay. If you're doing the Eiffel Tower, do it late in the afternoon. The queues in the morning are horrendous, and the view's just the same when you get up there.

And, if you're thinking of getting out of Paris, see Chartres.

Mr Flibble
05-20-2008, 10:58 PM
If you go to the Louvre, make sure you have pelnty of time. One day just won't cut it.

It depends on what you like. I loved all the sculpture, the Egyptian exhibit etc. But fifteen miles of pictures of Jesus on the cross -- I could live without :)( ok I exaggerate, but at least one section has little else but religious pictures, and if your not christian it wears off pretty quick) SO if you don't dig that stuff you can miss loads

AndreaGS
05-20-2008, 11:02 PM
Everything in Rome is pretty much within walking distance, depending on how much you like to walk. So you won't save much time by skipping the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps.

I thought the Trevi Fountain was beautiful! It can get a bit crowded at times, but it's really lovely to look at.

The Spanish Steps...now I know I've seen them, but I can't visualize them in my head for the life of me.

I really enjoyed Palatine Hill, which is above the Forum. The guidebook was "meh" about it, but I found the ruins really gorgeous, and the view of the city breathtaking. I know they've been excavating the catacombs beneath the hill recently and have made some fascinating finds. Not sure if they're letting tourists in there yet.

HAVE FUN!!

And eat lots of gelato. That stuff makes me wonder why people bother making ice cream...

Kitty Pryde
05-20-2008, 11:37 PM
Is it possible to get sick on the London Eye? It moves super slow (0.5 mph), not like a ferris wheel.
You will love love love the tower of london!
Here is my one of my favorite things in London: First, read "Peter Pan and Wendy" and then read "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" (you can download them free cause they're in the public domain. Go to Kensington Gardens and see the Peter Pan statue there. Kensignton Gardens is peaceful and beautiful in general.
Loads of other novels take place in London and it is very cool to visit the places you only saw in your imagination (Platform 9 and 3/4 at King's Cross Station from Harry Potter, Paddington Bear at Paddington Station, and the Angel Islington from Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman pop into my mind right away). Lots of books have chase scenes that run through Picadilly Circus.
Congrats on getting your long deserved vacation! Enjoy!

JoNightshade
05-20-2008, 11:48 PM
To piggyback on Kitty's comment, another fun thing to do is choose a famous person you like for whatever reason, who also lived or spend time in London, and go around following their "footsteps."

I am not embarrassed to say that I "stalked" Samuel Johnson through London. I went to every place he'd been that was still around.

Also if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan, there's a statue on Baker St as well as a "museum." (Basically a re-creation of what his apartments were like in the book.) They let you dress up in his "clothes" and take pictures. Totally tacky, but I had a great time.

Mr Flibble
05-21-2008, 12:10 AM
Also if you are a big Sherlock Holmes fan, there's a statue on Baker St as well as a "museum."

Did you know that 221b Baker St used to be owned by a bank and they employed a person purely to answer Sherlock Holmes's post?

JoNightshade
05-21-2008, 12:23 AM
Did you know that 221b Baker St used to be owned by a bank and they employed a person purely to answer Sherlock Holmes's post?

LOL! I think the official 221b is still a bank, actually. The museum is down the street, but the statue is right outside.

Smiling Ted
05-21-2008, 05:00 AM
It depends on what you like. I loved all the sculpture, the Egyptian exhibit etc. But fifteen miles of pictures of Jesus on the cross -- I could live without :)( ok I exaggerate, but at least one section has little else but religious pictures, and if your not christian it wears off pretty quick) SO if you don't dig that stuff you can miss loads

As so often happens, IrU is spot on.

The Louvre is the family attic of France. For every wonderful thing - their Antiquities section is terrific - there are miles and miles of lousy oil paintings under bad lights. Great if you're a real fan of Napoleonic propaganda art; otherwise :sleepy:

Of course, they've got the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory, and I suppose everyone has to see those.....

By the way, did I mention that the Catacombs are cheap?

Shweta
05-21-2008, 05:22 AM
I adore the Tower of London. Think you will too. Say hi to the rooks.

My biggest piece of advice is -- breathe! If you can get out of at least one city and get a slice of the quieter country life, do it. If you have to miss out on a Wonderful Item in order to have a nice long dinner and soak in a hot tub, do it. If you're running late on something, don't fret.

Far too many people forget, when their holidays are packed, to enjoy them :)

ETA: Second biggest piece of advice is, hydrate :) Yes, it's possible to go from the Middle East to Northern Europe and get heat exhaustion and dehydration in Northern Europe. Go figure. I think it's 'cause the buildings aren't made for heat, nobody thinks about it much, and there have been some pretty hot summers lately.

Smiling Ted
05-21-2008, 06:22 AM
My biggest piece of advice is -- breathe! If you can get out of at least one city and get a slice of the quieter country life, do it. If you have to miss out on a Wonderful Item in order to have a nice long dinner and soak in a hot tub, do it. If you're running late on something, don't fret.

Far too many people forget, when their holidays are packed, to enjoy them :)


A-yup.
Or, as they say in France, "It's true."
In fact, I'd go farther - Accept, the fact, right now, that you just AREN'T going to see everything, and that some stuff you'll have to see next time. Don't make yourself crazy.
Also, it's a lot easier to get from London to Paris than it is to get down to Rome. If you have to drop something....

Paichka
05-21-2008, 10:13 AM
Wow! Thanks everyone for all of your awesome advice.

Smiling Ted -- Well, seeing as I've already booked all our travel and our hotels...:p We had to compromise -- I've wanted to go to London since I read Ghosts I Have Been by Richard Peck when I was 10. In the book, Blossom Culp goes to London and meets the Queen after channeling a ghost from the Titannic. She went to the London Dungeon (thanks Ceth!), and ever since reading about that, I totally want to go too.

Morbid museums are my absolute favorites, but the hubs has told me that I am absolutely NOT allowed to make him go to more than one museum per day, and I am not allowed to have an itinerary. So, since we're going to be in London for 3 days, I get one museum per day. (The Tower doesn't count; he wants to see that too ;))

I'm happy -- our London hotel is a block or so from Victoria Station, which looks rather close (on my map) to Buckingham Palace, and an easy tube right from Westminster and all the fun government buildings. So I think that's day 1. (I figure he'll never know if my itinerary is in my brain.)

Shweta -- that's wonderful advice, thank you...I'm going to try not to be the kid in the candy shop...there's SO MUCH I want to see, especially outside the cities. I'm a huge King Arthur nut, so I really wanted to make it out to Glastonbury Tor, but I'm not sure that'll be possible this go-round. Next time, yah? :)

Jo -- DRESS UP LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES???? Dude, I'm so there! My hubs can be Watson. *Squee!*

As far as the Louvre goes, the hubs put a time limit. I think we're allowed to spend one half-day there, no more. So I'm going to pick my favorite artworks and stick to the map -- no diverting. I saw the Mona Lisa a few years ago when it came to DC -- I was frankly a little underwhelmed, but that was before they did that restoration of it. The hubs bought me a small replica of Cupid and Psyche, so I deeeeeefinitely want to see that. I'm just looking forward to wandering around in the Louvre -- if I don't see everything, meh. I've lived in DC my entire life nearly, and I still haven't been inside the White House. So I figure there's just some things I won't be able to see. :)

The Chapelle Expiatiore sounds AWESOME! I'll put it on our to-see list.

Thanks everyone! Keep the recommendations coming. ;)

cheers,
Pai

JoNightshade
05-21-2008, 10:34 AM
Jo -- DRESS UP LIKE SHERLOCK HOLMES???? Dude, I'm so there! My hubs can be Watson. *Squee!*

:ROFL:The Sherlock Holmes museum holds a special place in my heart because it was the place I learned everyone is really nice to you if you look confused and pretend not to speak English. :) (I'm so bad. The truth is, I was alone, I was kinda embarrassed, and they mistakenly assumed I was some poor confused foreign girl. I went with it. And it worked so well I kept doing it. ;))

Shweta
05-21-2008, 11:27 AM
The Sherlock Holmes museum holds a special place in my heart because it was the place I learned everyone is really nice to you if you look confused and pretend not to speak English.

:ROFL:

Paichka
05-21-2008, 12:04 PM
Haha -- unfortunately I've got flaming red hair, eyes of blue, and I couldn't look more Anglo if someone painted me with woad and did me up like Kiera Knightley in King Arthur.

If I were blonde, I'd try to go Swedish, but the red hair is a dead Isles giveaway. I could probably pull off Lebanese if I'd skin like my little sister's, but I look peaky compared to milk, so...yeah.

I'm sooooo dressing up like Sherlock Holmes. I'm doing backflips prepping for this, I'm so excited -- the hubs is too, but he's much more of a "fly by the seat of one's pants" sort of dude.

So I'm all going, "Oh check it out, we can visit the oldest temple in Paris...oooh, they slaughtered monks there back in the Revolution! *squee!*" and he's all, "Dude, if you tell me about one more tourist attraction I'm chucking your guide out the window."

He wants to make the decisions once we're on the ground. Me, not so much. I spent yesterday figuring out how we're getting from Heathrow to our hotel and then to the Eurostar Station, and from Gare du Nord in Paris to our hotel, and then from our hotel to CDG Airport at the buttcrack of dawn...that sort of thing. :) The hubs says we'll take a taxi. Fffft. Men. :)

waylander
05-21-2008, 12:53 PM
He wants to make the decisions once we're on the ground. Me, not so much. I spent yesterday figuring out how we're getting from Heathrow to our hotel and then to the Eurostar Station, and from Gare du Nord in Paris to our hotel, and then from our hotel to CDG Airport at the buttcrack of dawn...that sort of thing. :) The hubs says we'll take a taxi. Fffft. Men. :)

Take the Tube from Heathrow and change at Green Park to get to Victoria

Go here www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/default.aspx (http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tickets/default.aspx) to look at getting a tubepass for your visit

Cheapthrill
05-21-2008, 02:06 PM
In regards to London:

As others have said, you could lose Madame Tussauds. Though it could be a fairly quick visit, the queues and costing about £25 per adult(almost doubly worse for you given the exchange rate, though if you book you can get discounts) are silly imo. Though having grown up going to it quite a few times it may just seem less impressive to me, as when my cousin came with her kids even after seeing the prohibitive cost they wanted to still go in. Plus last time I went they had a whole dungeon gallery which you might enjoy given you predilection for morbidity.

The Science Museum is indeed quite interesting and also located next to the natural history museum, though I guess those aren't so uncommon the world over, so might be of less interest.

Nice places to walk around for me personally are Covent Gardens, it is a market area, quite old, filled with shops restaurants and bars, also has some nice street performers. Also South Bank, where the London Eye is located, is also nice and laid back on the bank of the Thames. Both of these are fairly close to each other. South Bank is interesting for the modernist concrete architecture, place like the Natoinal Theatre, plus if you do like Art and Modern Art the Tate Modern is located close to it, there was also a Dali exhibit right next to the London Eye, though not sure if it is still there.

JoNightshade
05-21-2008, 02:11 PM
The Science Museum is indeed quite interesting and also located next to the natural history museum, though I guess those aren't so uncommon the world over, so might be of less interest.

I love the main hall of the Natural History Museum. One of my favorite architectural spaces ever, always makes me feel like I'm in an Indiana Jones flick or something. When I'm rich and famous I'll be building my mansion pattered after that place. :)

(But if I had to choose a museum to visit, I would probably pick the V&A, just because it has the most interesting cultural stuff-- costumes, instruments, what have you.)

Cheapthrill
05-21-2008, 02:43 PM
I used to love that place as a kid, partly because I wanted to become an archaeologist. Funny you mentioned Indiana Jones, as I'm sure half the reason I wanted to become one was I secretly thought a career in archaeology was basically one big Indiana Jones movie.

I actually did my A-Levels at a school right next to the place and used to have my lunch on the benches out in front of it, at the time they were trying to charge for entry which was a shame as I couldn't wander around inside willy-nilly, glad they made it free entry again.