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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Caleb's European Graduation Trip Part 1

Since Caleb had been a junior in high school I had been saying that I wanted to take him for a cultural trip to a foreign land to get him off and running into adulthood and being a traveler.  At first I had the idea of just buying him a one-way ticket but I thought a bit much and sort of like throwing him to the wolves.  I settled on us taking a trip together...I need a vacation and plus who's a better teacher of world travel than a world traveler LOL!!! I wanted somewhere very exotic that was a complete 180 from what he was used to. Somewhere we could immerse ourselves in culture and come home really appreciating our lives and the privilege of travel.  I was dead set on Turkey and the Middle East but right when I was making my argument with my parents Turkey exploded and a travel ban was issued making my case that much harder to plead.  I was vetoed and I wasn't happy about it.  I had no other ideas on where we could go to get that sort of experience that I had my heart set on.  I came up with two separate itineraries for Caleb to decide from...a week long trek through Peru or a split of time between London and Ireland.  Caleb and my Mom had already mentioned Ireland and that is the one he chose.  I got to planning and before I knew it we had both graduated... him from high school and me from grad school and June was upon us.  I made the final checklists and travel plans and we left out on Wednesday June 15, 2016.  

After flights and traveling "into the future" LOL we arrived in the morning of Thursday June 16, 2016.
Asleep already and we hadn't even left DFW yet!

Once we arrived we took the underground from the airport to the hotel.  We stayed in the Ashburn Hotel which was a really cute and nice boutique hotel. We arrived at the hotel around 9:30 am and it was way too early to check in but they did store our bags and I used the lobby bathroom to freshen up and put on different shoes.

NOTE: I love hitting the ground running and find that ESPECIALLY when traveling into different time zones the best way is to just keep pushing forward.  We were very tired even at this time in the morning from traveling and a nap could have gone a long way but we had so much to see and do I wanted to make sure we got it all in.  Also once you succumb to jet lag it is VERY hard to get back on track and I didn't want our days to waste away.

After dropping our bags and freshening up we headed out to start our full day of exploring. I had my checklist and pen ready to mark some things off.  I had purchased our London passes before traveling and we had to pick those up... but first coffee.  I found an open coffee shop up from our hotel on the main road and grabbed a black coffee before hailing a black taxi cab. The London Pass was sort of a waste for us as we didn't utilize it in its entirety but the Oyster card was the winning prize of the combo purchase. An Oyster card is your public transportation pass that you can reload at different locations around London.  If I ever return I will just buy an Oyster card and leave the London pass and just take my chances on the museum fees and missed discounts.  Once we picked up our passes we utilized our map to see what was nearby and we set off!




Right off the bat we were surrounded by all the things you see on TV and on movies... I loved all the little iconic red phone booths spattered across the city. This was the first of many. I would have loved to stop and take posed pictures with all the booths but come on...you know how I feel about looking/acting touristy LOL.  This was also one of the most touristy trips I have been on in a while. We saw all the historic and iconic sights to see in London and didn't get involved in that much deep culture but with our limited time I wanted to be sure we felt accomplished especially seeing there is just so much to see and do. Much like Paris, France you could spend months immersed!

Piccadilly Circus


We found ourselves in Piccadilly circus which during the day is not crowded at all...at night...well that's a whole different story the place is packed and a complete mad house.  While here we saw several double decker buses and when leaving all these British flags celebrating the Queens jubilee and birthday (I'm pretty sure but not certain). On our way to Buckingham Palace we exited a side street and saw the London Eye for the first time. It's such an exciting feeling seeing so many things that you recognize and want to experience but they are all in different directions. Instead of making a bee line for the Eye we stayed on our path and headed to the Palace.  

First view of the London Eye
The main street leading to the palace is beautiful.  The light posts are all topped with colorful crowns, the landscaping is beautiful, and the street gives you a direct view to Buckingham Palace.  We took the long way around instead of just walking the street we walked through St. James Park.  The park was so nice and I can see why when the weather cooperates that all Londoners take it to the parks to enjoy. They are beautifully landscaped and are little escapes from the city. 

Outside Buckingham Palace



Buckingham Palace


We didn't pay to go in the Palace but we came, we saw, we conquered LOL.  On our way towards the Eye and on our way to other sights we saw these members of the royal band lining up for inspection. 


After our pass by the palace we made our way towards the London Eye by way of Westminster Abbey and BIG BEN!  I got so excited seeing Big Ben. It is really beautiful and the old setting near the river is just stunning. Really too much beauty to explain or soak up in a few hours.


I didn't realize that really all the main sights of London are really in a general vicinity of each other and if you enjoy walking and soaking up the day and the culture it makes for a perfect day. We had yet to ask for a cab or take the tube to our destinations yet.  Big Ben is one piece of a square that also housed Westminster Abbey.  This is one of the places I for sure wanted to purchase tickets for a visit inside. I stole a few quick snaps inside then had to put my camera away but old architecture amazes me. The ornate decor and general size of these historic buildings are mind boggling alone then add in their stories and it is truly amazing. 




All I saw when I was snapping this courtyard at the Abbey was Harry Potter.  I could imagine myself on a broomstick learning to fly! :)



Next we walked across the river to the London Eye. I stood in line for a good bit to get our tickets...I could have purchased these in advance but due to the chance of bad weather I didn't want to chance it.  The views are amazing and they just keep getting better and better all the way around. The bubbles that you are in are really roomy and there isn't any extra movement from wind or anything like you have on a ferris wheel or ski lift.  I'm not afraid of heights but even if you are this is something you would definitely enjoy. 



Some of our views from the London Eye!


Big Ben and Parliament




After we were finished riding the London Eye we made our way down and back across the river across a different bridge to of course see more sights and find a lunch spot that had great reviews. 

Captured Caleb between new age, London Eye and old school, Parliament
We stopped at lunch at The Clarence Pub neither of us were that hungry even though we hadn't ate all day. I think it was the jet lag and we were just going nonstop our bodies were all out of whack.  We ordered a couple beers and a couple appetizers. Caleb got mini bangers and I got a little order of fish and chips...when in Rome.




After our light lunch we walked to Trafalgar Square which sadly was under a bit of construction at the time and then visited the National Gallery which was a free entry. 



After that we were REALLY worn down and it was nearing 4 in the afternoon. We decided now was a good time to head back to the hotel and get settled into our room.  We navigated the underground to get back to our hotel and it is so easy and fun. We felt like such city slickers!  




Back at the hotel we both showered and got all our bags situated and took a little nap. I barely got Caleb up but I finally was able to convince him to go to dinner at 9 at a nearby Italian restaurant.  The restaurant was very authentic and very good.  




After dinner we went back to the hotel and stayed up watching The Night Before. It was a really good movie and a perfect end to a jam packed day full of culture, sights, travel, and TONS of walking.  

Stay tuned for Part 2, more London!

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