UK and Berlin
Trip Start Jul 29, 2013
1Trip End Aug 11, 2013
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Took a 9PM flight to London and engaged my most ironic love/hate relationship. Love to travel, but deathly afraid to fly. I made sure yo get comfortably numb for the flight and fortunately it was no big deal. Somehow I wasn't too bothered by the bumping throughout. Besides gotta love a direct flight.
Funny, this summer almost got by me and for the first time since I couldn't even remember I almost did not have any travel adventure. But I spontaneously threw the trip together a week ago and it will return the evening before I must go back to the joys of work.
Arrived to London at 10:30AM local time. From there I successfully navigated my first of numerous subway rides to come. You have to love London; all the beauty, history, romance of a European city, but they speak English. Granted, I sometimes have difficulty understanding " their English" but it makes things so much easier.
So despite my long flight, I took a subway directly from Heathrow airport to Kew Gardens. This is a UNESCO world heritage site filled with plants from all over the world. I enjoyed the botanical houses and pagodas for a couple of hours before I felt the jet lag slam my body. I found my way back to the subway and took the long ride to my hostel.
For whatever reason, for this night only I got my own room so that was nice considering I'd be sharing a room with 13 others for the rest of the nights. I laid down just a moment arguing with logic that I can not go to sleep until it is later in UK time, but as usually happens, logic lost and I passed out for a couple of hours. When I awoke I decided to take a walk. I made my way to the Millenium Bridge and walked along the Thames on both sides. Then I went to a locals pub along the river to do a tourist thing by having a pint and fish and chips.
After feeling a sense of pride after succeeding to find my way by a long subway ride to Paddington Station to meet up with a tour, I then felt totally overwhelmed to discover that the Paddington Train Station is a massive place with people walking in every direction imaginable. I met up with my tour and we took an hour train ride out of the city to Oxford. From there I boarded a bus for a 30 minute ride to the Cotswolds. It was an extraordinary area with homes from about 700 years ago and the story book style with straw roofs.
In the afternoon we explored Oxford. It's mind blowing to think that this university is 300 years older than my own country!
In the evening I spent a couple of hours on the steps of Saint Paul's Cathedral.
Today I independently explored alone. I began by taking the tube to Buckingham Palace. I've been there a few times before. I've seen the changing of the guard before. But today I did something only possible two months every year; I visited inside of Buckingham Palace to explore the State Rooms which included the throne room and gardens. I viewed some of the crowns and gowns of past kings and queens. There was also a cool long hallway filed with works of art you would expect to see in a museum.
Next I walked to Westminster Abbey. After waiting in the que I made my way inside. This is one of the few (maybe only?) repeat activities I'll be doing in the UK. But the last time I visited Westminster I was too young to appreciate it. But today I loved it! Dead people all around me. Famous dead people all around me. There were tombs for Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Chaucer, Handel, Isaac Newton, Oliver Cromwell, Queen Elizabeth I, King Edward I, III, King Henry III, King Richard II, and many, many more!
From Westminster I walked to Traffalgar Square. I saw the lion statues and the Lord Nelson column. Then I spent time walking through the National Gallery to see works by Monet, Manet, Michaelangelo, Raphael, Botticelli, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Rembrandt, Degas, Rubens, Velazquez, Seurat, and da Vinci.
Next I hopped a couple of subways to Borough Market. Ok, I know everything else I did today were supposed to be the top sites of London, but as a foodie, I loved Borough Market. I tried a meat pie with venison, boar, fowl and duck. There were all kinds of sausages like red deer and chilli chorizo and numerous other varieties. There was Indian street food, fresh seafood, cheese, etc. when my belly was full I went to wash it down at a couple of outdoor pubs. At my 3rd one they brewed 10 varieties and I wanted a flight to try them all. Surprisingly he never heard of such a thing but pored me more than a taste of all ten. Outside so many people came up to me as apparently beer flights are not a common thing. Everyone enjoyed seeing me with so many and amazed at how many colors beer comes in. This, and the fact that most of England's beers are below 5% alcohol changed my mind that England is not really the beer elite as I had imagined.
From the Borough Market I took a long, long walk back to my hostel. I crossed over the London Bridge and the walked along the Thames. I grabbed a sandwich and a liter of water and relaxed on the steps of Saint Paul's church. I soaked in all the culture and people around me and was enthralled by this live reality show. There was a concert inside of the church and from the steps I watched a fashion photo shoot, an assembly of 30 people taking turns giving speeches for change in London, and a dozen dancers from the Phillipines doing a photo shoot while wearing cultural outfits. Overall a relaxing evening.
I must have set a record for most site-seeing in one day. Woke up at 6AM and took the tube to Victoria Station. Then boarded a bus there. After a 90 minute ride I arrived at Leeds Castle; once home to King Henry VIII. It was an impressive medieval castle situated in one of the widest moats I've ever seen. Almost as if the castle was a floating island.
After more time on the bus, I made a short stop at a Memorial to the Battle of Britain. The memorial commemorates Britain's struggle from July to October 1940 to prevent Germany's invasion.
The next stop by bus was to view the White Cliffs of Dover. They were very impressive! I had lunch in Dover and then sat on the pebble/stone beach. I counter four lighthouses surrounding the harbor.
After more time on the bus I arrived at Canterbury, home of Geoffrey Chaucer. Here I toured the famous Canterbury Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site. Inside i visited the tomb of King Edward IV among other sites. The history here began in 597 AD when Pope Gregory sent a monk, Augustine, to England as a missionary and he became the first Archbishop of Canterbury. In 1170, Archbishop Thomas Becket was assassinated in the Cathedral by four of the king's knights.
Once again I boarded the bus for an hour drive back to London. This time I stopped to visit Greenwich, a UNESCO world heritage site celebrating England's navigational and naval brilliance. So it was only fitting to take an hour boat ride down the Thames River.