Monday, June 9, 2014

London - An Enchanted Place

Greetings from France!!! We are currently experiencing some technical difficulties with my family's missions site (I can't get to the log-in page to blog...) so I will blog on here (which I needed to do anyways) until then! Where to even begin?! I suppose I should start with the first week... I started the trip out with a little vacation time with one of my best friends, Amber. We flew into London, spent 2 1/2 days there, took the train to Paris and spent 3 1/2 days in Paris. That first week was wonderful and positively exhausting!! We were going non-stop!! Especially in London... we landed at 6:30 am (neither of us slept on the flight at all...) and hit the ground running! We had 2 tours booked for that first day and didn't get back to our hotel until 10:30 pm and then had to shower, wind down, let family know we arrived safely, etc before finally collapsing in bed around midnight. We had been awake for 34 hours straight at that point. But we did fully enjoy that first, exhausting day. 

It started out with a tour at the Warner Bros Studios where they filmed all of the Harry Potter movies (which I know absolutely NOTHING about but Amber is a huge fan so I went along anyways lol!). It was pretty cool to see the actual sets, props and costumes that they used in a movie though! 

From there we went straight to downtown London for our 2nd tour of the day. We took a 1 pm London in a Day tour. It was a 5 hour tour in a vintage, double decker red tour bus. We got to ride around London and see all of the biggest and best sites! I would have liked to get out and actually go in and see most of them but we just didn't have the time on this I'll have to do that next time ;) (yes there WILL be a next time! London was too amazing for there NOT to be a next time!) We got out and took a 20 minute boat ride down the Thames River and ended the tour with tea at the Orangery, which an extremely nice tea house in the gardens of Kensington Palace. The tea and food were AH-MAZING! Seriously. I was sooooo full when I left! 

Day 2: We were up bright and early to eat breakfast and catch the bus to get back downtown to get on our tour for that day. We did an England in a Day tour. That consisted of going to Stratford-upon-Avon to Shakespeare's birthplace, from there we drove through the Cotswolds (some of the prettiest country and cutest old little villages you will EVER see!) to get to Bath where we got to spend a couple of hours wandering around and getting lunch, and from there on to Stonehenge. 

So first, Shakespeare's birthplace: I have always been a huge Shakespeare fan. One of my all-time favorite classes that I took at the U of MN was my English Lit class "Intro to Shakespeare" where we delved into his plays and disected them. I know, I'm a nerd and it can't be helped, so embrace it like I have :) So this was a pretty big deal for me! Before we toured the house we had scones and orange juice (we had the option of champagne or orange juice...aren't you all proud of me for drinking the orange juice?! Lol jk jk) in the garden of the house, where there were actors in costume to recite sonnets and bits of his plays. Then we did a quick tour of the house. Sadly there was a big group of school kids (don't get me wrong, I love children but not in hoards and not in a tiny old house that I am trying to soak in and enjoy...) so we did a quick run through, but it was an amazing experience nonetheless! 
From there we headed to Bath via a drive through the Cotswolds (which I sadly didn't get any great pictures of because I didn't have a window seat on the bus...but it was a beautiful drive!!) I was SUPER excited about Bath because I've always been a huge Jane Austen fan as well (basically I REALLY like old English literature...) and in her stories the families always "go on holiday to Bath" so I can finally say that I "went to Bath on holiday"! (In a British accent of course). We didn't actually go into the Roman Baths because it was 30 pounds to get in and that's $50 and we were on a budget and couldn't spend THAT much just to look at the old Roman Baths. So instead we grabbed a sandwich and coffee (it was a chilly, somewhat drizzly day to begin with and we had both been falling asleep on the bus) and headed down to the Jane Austen Center. We didn't actually go through it because we only had an hour and a half total to spend in Bath but we stopped in the gift shop so I could pick a couple souvenirs and presents up and then headed out to see more of Bath and stop in some souvenir stores. I actually had to keep reminding myself to buy stuff for me because I was so engrossed with finding stuff for friends and family back home lol! We ended our time in Bath by walking down to look at one of the prettiest bridges spanning over the River Avon (a different river Avon from the one where Shakespeare lived....there's 3 different Avon rivers in England). 
We got back on the bus and headed to Stonehenge! Which actually ended up being my favorite part of my trip to England. I don't know if it's the whole mystery surrounding it, the sheer amazingness of it or what but I absolutely loved it! Not to mention that the weather had improved and it ended up being a super nice day to wander around in the English country side. I was simply in awe of it...and spent way to much money at the gift shop lol!!!

Day 3: Our last day in London was really only a half day. We had to be at the train station ready to go by 3 pm and check out at our hotel was 12 pm, so we really only had the morning free to explore. We went down to Baker Street and visited the infamous 221B Baker St! Another literary favorite of mine (I just have an obsession with British literature!) Sherlock Holmes! We did the tour and of course hit up the gift shop there as well. I thoroughly enjoyed that! That was how we spent our last day in London! Basking in the wonders of Sherlock's study :) 
And that concludes my time in London and England!!! I absolutely fell in love with the city, the people and of course the accents :) 2 1/2 days was not nearly enough time to see and experience everything so a trip back to London is definitely on the list for me! 

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