London Eye

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London was one of the few places that I had a list of all the sites I wanted to visit. One of my must-do items was the London Eye. It was fairly close to my hostel, so I made my way over first thing in the morning on my third day in London. I decided I’d buy my tickets to the London Eye first and then go back later in the day. After waiting in line for tickets for a long time (note: buy in advance), I learned you could purchase in advance for a specific time. On the advice of the attendant I made a reservation for 8:30pm. It was dusk as I lined up to board the ride and by the time I was in the air the sun had set. The last slivers of light slipped away to darkness and all of London lit up. The city sparkling below me was absolutely magical and I’m so happy I opted for that late ride. The first picture above, of one of the carriages with Big Ben in the background, took me the entire ride to capture. I didn’t think I’d get that shot and I’m really happy it came out (even though it’s on an iPhone camera). The second photo is now the wallpaper on my home screen; I just love the angle of the shot and the sky behind. Definitely some of my favourite photographs from London and one of the neatest experiences. At the end of the ride a little warning is announced to stand on the marks for your picture to be taken. It happens very quickly, much like on a roller coaster ride, and only myself and one other family heard the announcement. So, if souvenirs are your cup of tea, now you know!

August 27, 2013

Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Castle

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Tours are a great option for travellers looking to see something in particular, that might be either difficult to reach without a vehicle or if you want the detailed information a tour guide gives. I can honestly say none of the seven tours I took were a waste of time; they were all a great experience. My guides were all very knowledgeable, friendly and used the time well. As a single traveller, it was also a great way to meet people; I even keep in touch with a few of my new friends. The tour operator I used most was viator.com; they use local tour operators but it’s all booked and handled through Viator. In fact, for my next trip to Chile I plan on using them again for a side excursion. In Italy, walksofitaly.com (Walks of Italy) was my go to for tours of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel as well as Pompeii. Both operators gave me more information than I ever could have anticipated and made the experience even more enjoyable for a nerd like myself. I highly recommend tours for certain site seeing excursions, obviously if you are in a time crunch they might not be the best option, or contrary if you want to spend loads of time in one place or at one site. Do your research and see what works best for what you want out of your trip.

In England, I opted for a tour to visit Stonehenge for convenience; it included a trip to Bath and Windsor Castle also and a lunch in Lacock. We started at Windsor Castle which was very enjoyable for me as a bit of royal family lover. It was just so beautiful and steeped in history; really lovely experience. I purchased a tea cup for my mother here, which (somehow) magically made it through until I got home to Canada. Next, we travelled to Bath to visit the Roman baths. Our guide did point out other things to see if we didn’t want to do the baths, but I wanted to see them. It was a little rushed at this point because of the line up to enter the baths, but I got to see everything and sampled the famous spring water! It is very mineralized and strong tasting; some people didn’t like it at all, but I didn’t mind it in the least. Legend says the water (which comes out warm) actually makes you look younger are healthier the more you drink it so bottoms up! Truthfully, you could spend a lot more time in Bath, so maybe an additional side trip would be a better option, though for me it was sufficient. After Bath we stopped for a quick lunch at the George Inn in Lacock, where I had the best beef wellington in the whole world and a delicious pint of local Wadworth beer. We finished the long day of site seeing with the piece de résistance, Stonehenge. After a history lesson, we were allowed to just wander around by ourselves to take it all in, from every angle. It really does change as you move around and the change in the way the light hits the stones. It was almost surreal for me at this point and I was just so quiet, trying to take it all in. In the distance you can hear cars going by, and there are people talking around you; but somehow it feels like you are in a magic place, apart from the rest of the world. I definitely recommend a visit to Stonehenge if you go to England, well worth it.
It was a solid eleven hour day and while I was very tired at the end, it was beyond enjoyable! Note if you do take a tour from London, most leave from the Victoria coach station, so double check your gate prior to departure and know your tour number as it gets confusing when five different buses are all leaving from your gate.

August 26, 2013

London, England

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It’s a wonder I haven’t written about London sooner. Probably because I did so much in my 6 days and it was such an unbelievable dream come true; I wasn’t sure where to even start! This picture was taken in the spur of the moment and was so perfect (at least I think so) that I had to show it first. It fully encompasses London transportation and I personally love it. It was taken on my first day in London, as I was making my way to the Tower Bridge. I never mentioned this before but, I am the luckiest girl on earth! The whole 110 days I was travelling, it only rained on me 8 days! This was especially miraculous in London as it pretty much goes with the territory. It’s true though; they had gotten a terrible stretch of rain just before I arrived but my 6 days weren’t only dry, they were sunny and beautiful. I could not have had a better experience and fear if I ever return it would not come close to my first visit. Tower Bridge was a must for me so as soon as I got there, I headed over. Taking about a hundred photos, I walked over the bridge, pausing to snap a “selfie” here and a picture there. I desperately wanted to remember that moment; it was one of two things that symbolized London to me. Afterwards, I went to a nearby pub and ordered fish and chips. This is a huge feat, as I do not eat fish. I ordered it in memory of my father and ate 3 whole bites before my stomach started to churn; but at least I tried. The next morning I finally got to accomplish my childhood dream of riding a double decker bus; I have to say, that was my favourite. I grinned ear to ear; even after I missed my stop and had to run back a whole kilometre to make my tour group on time! There is way too much more for one post, so once again you will have to wait for more entries. I will say though , after finally visiting, I still wish I were British (for the accent) but I’m have second thoughts on the whole princess thing, it just seems like a lot of work.

August 25-31, 2013