Tuesday, October 11, 2016 / No comments

My First Trip to London aka London Was Calling & We Totally Hooked Up! (Travel Tuesday)


You might not know this about me, but I've always wanted to visit London. Okay, maybe you did know that from reading this blog or anything I may have written on social media, but I thought I'd just explain in case anyone didn't know. Every since I read the Harry Potter books (so cliche), at the ripe old age of around 10 or 11, I've wanted to visit England. I became obsessed with everything London, from its long and rich history (I've forever loved the Tudors. The actual royal family and time period, not the show. But I do thoroughly enjoy the show!) to the Royal family (there was a time where I read everything ever published about Diana and Princes Will and Harry. I was a teeny bit obsessed). For years I have dreamed about visiting London. But thanks to my health (mental and physical), I was never ready, emotionally, mentally, or physically. But I saved my money and hoped that one day I could possibly go.

And now, at the ripe old age of 27 (27 isn't old, right? Right? Right???), my parents lovingly told me that it was time I went to Europe (they were planning on going and invited me to come along. Hey, I'm not one to complain!) and we started planning! We decided on London and Paris and on September 17 we were off to to visit the British Isles (well, just one Isle, but the big one) and the Continent (well, just France, but still!). To say it was a trip of a lifetime would be an understatement.

I got to visit places I had only read about and dreamed of. I got to hear British accents everywhere I went (in England, of course) and forget all the French I knew (which isn't much) when I tried to buy something in France (but more on that in another post). I had to figure out British pounds and Euros and try different versions of food that I wasn't used to (some of which I actually liked, The trials of being a picky eater vegetarian in another country!). There were some sticky moments (even on a vacation anxiety can still rear its ugly head) but I made it through. For the longest time I thought I would never be able to travel, but this big trip proved that I could and now I want to travel more and more and just experience the world as much as I can.

So for this blog post, I've compiled the best of the photos (with commentary, of course) that I took in London/England and that best encompass my amazing and groundbreaking (for me) trip. Come along with me as I relive my first time in London! (Can I go back already??)

Day #1 In London:


Time to go on a bus tour of London to see the sights! I totally needed to take a selfie on the tour bus before we headed out into London (I was excited, what can I say?). Our hotel was right in Kensington (beautiful city, by the way) so before we started the tour we drove past the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Palace (hi Will and Kate!), and Kensington/Hyde Park.



Drove by Buckingham Palace and was disappointed to learn that the Queen wasn't home. If she had been, I'm for sure certain she would have invited me in to play with her royal Corgis. Because obviously.



Bye, Buckingham Palace!



Ooh, the London Eye through the bus window! Ignore the glare!



Daaaamn, Big Ben! Back at it again with the London Eye! And that glare on the bus window, though!



Another selfie, but this time with Tower Bridge behind me. I've been to the somewhat original version here in Arizona, but this one was still impressive and obviously very iconic. (And another selfie)



Look! An Underground sign! Or the Tube, as Londoners call it!

After our morning bus tour where we drove by Big Ben, the London Eye, Tower Bridge, St. Paul's,  Harrod's, and various historical sites, parks, and different London neighborhoods, all teeming with information and stories that I couldn't possibly contain in my overwhelmed brain, the bus dropped us off at Piccadilly Circus (now I've been there too!) and my parents and I walked around and explored a tourist shop before we braved the London Underground system. And then we were at the British Museum to see the Rosetta Stone and a whole bunch of other awe inspiring pieces! (I was obviously too awestruck to take pictures. I just tried to soak everything in!)



Some wisdom that was left on the bathroom wall (I'm sorry, loo wall) in the British Museum's women's toilets (not bathrooms or restrooms- toilets). Amen, sister friend!



Look, a pretty much defunct but still very cute and iconic telephone booth! It didn't open so I couldn't have someone take my picture in it. My parents attempted to take a picture of me in it, but either they are terrible iPhone photographers or my non-photogenic tendencies are through the roof! (It's probably a bit of both. And then when I tried to take a selfie, I couldn't get the top part of the telephone booth in the shot because it was too tall. Or I was too short. Either way I gave up and just took a picture of it. Le sigh)



And then we went back on the Tube to go back to Big Ben and see him (Big Ben's a dude, right?) up close. Oh, look, another Underground sign!



(Big) Ben, in all of his beautiful glory ♥ I truly couldn't believe I was finally in England, staring up at it (him. Sorry, Ben!) We even got there right at four o'clock to hear the bells go off!



Another great shot of Big Ben. To me, this completely represents England and still takes my breath away seeing it (him! Sorry again, Ben!). But by now we wanted to head back to our hotel because the jet lag was kicking in plus we had done a lot of walking/sight-seeing. More adventures tomorrow!

Day #2 In London (Well, outside of London):


Day #2 had us get back on another bus and head out to Stonehenge! The ride took about an hour and forty-five minutes which gave our tour guide some time to chat with us and then for us to sleep (aka me listen to music/podcasts on my iPod). And when we woke up, we were at Stonehenge! (Cue Spinal Tap's legendary song "Stonehenge"!)



Yet another selfie, but this time with Stonehenge in the background! This was after I had walked around once already (I walked around twice), trying to take pictures, listen to the recorded tour, AND dodge tourists. I'm quite talented. After Stonehenge I went to go try to take pictures and talk to the sheep in the field next to Stonehenge. (What can I say, I love sheep!)



Panoramic shot of Stonehenge. Thanks, iPhone 6!



Some recreations of the dwellings of the people who built Stonehenge. You got to go inside some of them. It was quite...rustic. And cozy. I can only imagine how cold it was at night, with only a small fire going!



Another little dwelling. Thatched roofs have never gone out of style.

Now back on the bus and we were off to Oxford. Our tour guide was ah-mazing (she was with us in England and France) and knew that some of us were Harry Potter fans (ahem, me. And another couple who wanted to take some Harry Potter pics for their kid) and showed us a couple of the filming sites from the movies (along with some of the other historic and beautiful parts of Oxford. But obviously in my mind the Harry Potter references took precedence. Not that I didn't enjoy every part of Oxford!).



Look familiar?



How about now?



If you guessed it might be the location in the fourth movie aka Goblet of Fire, where Professor Moody (aka Barty Crouch Jr) turned Malfoy into a bouncing white ferret under this tree, you'd be totally right! I literally started squeeing (it's not just an internet thing) when I realized what location it was! Talk about hallowed grounds! Not to mention that it's a gorgeous old tree (I have a thing for trees. It's probably because I grew up in a desert and was surrounded by cactus my whole life).



When the tour guide first showed us this hallway, I definitely knew where I had seen it before! Harry, Ron, and Hermione talking about how Snape wants to steal the Sorcerer's (wait, I was in England, so I guess Philosopher's) when lo and behold, Snape sneaks up behind them and gives them a patent Alan Rickman stare down. Can't you just imagine little Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson on set, all bright eyed and bushy tailed??



Isn't it just breath-taking? And not just because it was a set on the Harry Potter films. All the buildings in Oxford are just living, breathing history! As someone from America, it's hard to fathom something that's older than 200+ years.

After we toured Oxford (we didn't just look at filming sites from the Harry Potter movies, I swear!), we split up to do some shopping (you know, if you wanted to pick up some Oxford sweatshirts and other paraphernalia), get some lunch and just do some exploring before meeting back up on the bus to head go back to London. Our tour guide suggested checking out this certain shop in Oxford because of their cool Harry Potter window display (you can tell that a lot of shops and Oxford in general were totally encouraging welcoming/attracting Harry Potter fans that were on a pilgrimage to see the filming sites).



Look how fun the window display is! You got Oxford gear, Harry Potter stuff, and Lord of the Rings as well (?)!



Wands and Gollum! What could be better? Preciousssss.....



Dobby! RIP. (*sob* He died a free elf *sobs again*)



In case you were wondering, the shop was called Flaggs. They sold a bunch of Harry Potter themed gear, which I would have gladly bought a bunch of, but I knew that my parents and I would be off to the Harry Potter Holy Land the next day, so I was proud of myself for showing some restraint! We did end up at other shops and had such a fun time looking around. I found the British (aka original) version of Philip Pullman's book of The Golden Compass (which is the American title), titled Northern Lights in England, for my sister (we both love the His Dark Materials series) at Waterstone's, which I'm assuming is the British version of Barnes & Noble. As different as countries might be, I love that some things, like book stores, are just the same in the US as they are anywhere else. Books unite us all! ♥ (Sorry for that tangent, but you know how it is, fellow bookworms)



Fun Harry Potter themed shelf display inside of Flaggs! That made me want to buy everything in the store. But I didn't. Yay me!



The floating candles!!!! ♥

Day #3 In London (Our Final Official Day *sob*)

This day was one totally reserved for a very special day: visiting the Harry Potter Studio Tour! As you can probably tell, I'm a big Harry Potter fan, so this day certainly deserves its own blog post! That'll be up next Travel Tuesday, so keep your keep your eye out for it!

After we got back from the studio tour (which was incredible, by the way, but obviously I'll be singing its praises officially on my next Travel Tuesday blog post!), my dad and I walked over to the Victoria and Albert Museum before it closed, just to take a look around on our last day. If you've been to London and have never been the to Victoria and Albert Museum, please go! It has art, furniture, clothes and so much more from so many different countries all over the world. Plus they have a teeny, tiny little codex that belonged to Leonardo da Vinci! How cool is that?? Spending time at the V&A Museum was a nice, quiet way to spend our last afternoon/evening in Paris. It was pleasant but still so bittersweet. I couldn't believe my time in London was almost over! Didn't we just get here??

Day #4 AKA Leaving London for Paris via the Chunnel

On day 4 we had to leave for St. Pancras Station to take the Chunnel to Paris. I was so sad to leave London, but excited to see Paris. We had a little bit of time before our train left, so our tour guide suggested that all Harry Potter fans go across the way to visit King's Cross Station to visit, you guessed it: Platform 9 3/4!



Of course they have a shop there. OF. COURSE. (It's good for all of England to be in the Harry Potter business!)



And here it is! They have a fun little display on where they imagined Platform 9 3/4 would be, including an attendant who works at the Platform 9 3/4 shop to assist in taking pictures of people posing with the cart! (They'll lend you a scarf in the house colors of your choosing and even hold it up for you out of frame to make it look like your pushing the cart into the platform. Talk about a dream job!) As much as I wanted to have my picture taken, I usually don't do my hair/makeup on traveling days (is that just me that does that? I don't see a point in looking nice when I just know I'm going to get gross from traveling and lugging my luggage around) so I just decided to take a picture to commemorate this historical site in the Wizarding World. Also, I didn't want want to be sad that the Platform didn't magical let me through to the Hogwarts Express (I mean, I never got my letter to Hogwarts, I didn't want to add on to the hurt!)

Trip of a Lifetime

I still can't believe I got to go to England! I had dreamed about it for so long and it finally happened! I only had three official days in England, so of course there were things I didn't get to see (on our first day, we could have gone on a tour of Windsor Castle, but my parents wanted to go to the British Museum and on the day we went to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, we missed the tour of the Tower of London) or go to, but my older sister reminded me of this: When you travel, there's always going to be places you're not going to be able to visit, especially in a big city. Don't sweat what you can't see, just enjoy the things you do see and go to there, and make a list of everything that you didn't see or do so that you can go do those things and see those places on your next trip.

I'm going to take her words to heart and not be frustrated that I didn't tour the Tower of London, or ride the London Eye, or see the Changing of the Guard. I'll get to see all those things on my next trip to England. Which I'm totally planning already. I knew I already liked London, but after visiting it I fell in love with it. I can't wait to go back!!

-Emily

Leave me a comment if you've gone on a big trip out of the country! Especially to a place that you've always wanted to go. Was it everything you've ever dreamed of?? Let me know!
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