Tag Archives: travel

London Day 2: The End of an AMAZING trip

When we woke up the last day of the trip, my sickness was gone, and we were focused! We knew we wanted to see the Tower of London and the British Museum. We knew the rest of the group was going to watch the Changing of the Guard. Armed with our handy dandy tube guide and a map, we decided to leave the group and meet up with them for dinner near St. Paul’s.

1 YEOMAN WARDERSo off we went. We stood in line at the Tower and decided to go on the guided tour first then walk around on our own. I’m glad we did. We learned about the Warders. They’re all retired military and they live at the Tower. They tell fabulous stories and point out all the attractions you want to see if you have time. While we were there, a couple celebrating their 50th anniversary was there. They were married at the church in the Tower of London property, and this was their first time back. It’s NOT just one tower. Most people probably know that, but I didn’t. After our guided tour, we stood in line to see the Crown Jewels. If you ever go to the Tower of London, STAND IN THE LINE for the Jewels. It’s a fast moving line, and even though it looks like you’ll be there forever, you won’t. It’s so worth it. HOLY COW. AMAZING.

(This weekend I saw a PBS special on the queen’s coronation, and as I watched I kept telling DH, “this doesn’t capture the majesty of that robe, that dress, that crown.” I think he might’ve gotten a little tired of hearing it, but I was serious.)

After the Jewels I headed to the dungeon aka, the torture display. All I can say to that is OUCH!

We saw the ravens. It’s said if the ravens go, the kingdom will fall. I didn’t realize how BIG ravens are. There were signs not to feed them, and all I could think was WHO WOULD FEED THEM, they might bite your finger off!?!

We ran into some of the other group as we were leaving. They said they didn’t have time to stand in the line for the jewels. I don’t know if they did or not. If not, they’ve got to go back to London.

2 British Museum

From the Tower, we hopped on the tube (mind the gap!) to the British Museum. Armed with another map, we went in search of the Rosetta Stone. But I ran into this guy instead. I’m a romance writer. When I find statues of Cupid and Venus, I take photos.

3 Cupid

No, really.

I didn’t take photos of the Rosetta Stone. Or the Assyrian statues. Or anything else in the museum other than Cupid and Venus. I think maybe my brain was fuzzy from cold meds.

I gave everyone 90 minutes to look through the museum, but after 45 my feet

4 Museum ceilingwere killing me, so I drank an orange pellegrino and took a picture of the museum’s ceiling.

I should definitely NOT be in charge of what pictures get taken at the end of a trip. I almost took pictures of my feet.

After 90 minutes we found the rest of my group and discovered they too had been done looking at the museum for 45 minutes because their feet hurt! I should’ve take a group foot picture.

6 St Paul'sBy this time it was close to dinner time, so we headed back to the tube station for a two stop ride to St. Paul’s. All I had here was the tube stop. No map. I forgot to look up and took us AROUND the cathedral. (Cold meds, hurt feet…I had an excuse!) We ran into the church AND a Starbucks. The group wanted to sit since we had a little time. I’m always ready for coffee, so off to Starbucks and their free wifi.

After I finished my coffee I wanted to look inside St. Paul’s. I lucked out. A choir from Norway was performing. It was BEAUTIFUL! I sat in that amazing space and took part in the first thirty minutes of the service before leaving to make sure I didn’t get us lost looking for the restaurant which my iMap said was within feet of St. Pauls. I trusted iMaps once. It took me to an OU/ Kansas  football game. OMG. SOOOOOOOOO much read! That stadium is crazy big and it was packed and all we wanted to do was go play poker, but we were stuck in OK Hell of tailgate parties and Kansas fans leaving because they were getting stomped and rednecks driving around in trucks and screaming like wild banshees. As much as I like the app, I don’t trust it. But this time it was spot on. Our last London dinner was fish and chips and it was delicious.

Half the big group went back to the hotel after that, but it was our last day and I wanted the full experience, so I stayed with the other half of the group for a short walk and our final tour.

8 Wobbly BridgeWe walked across the wobbly bridge from Harry Potter. And while we waited I took another picture of the Eye 5 The EyeAND discovered what I’ll definitely check out next trip to London.

I’ve walked by the Globe every time I’ve been to London, but this time it was actually open and they were showing Macbeth! I can’t believe I never thought to look and see if tickets were available. I know our super awesome amazing guide Paul would have at least given me feedback on the option had I even thought of it!

7 MacbethSo yes, if you ever go to London, check to see if The Globe is open!

At least I got a picture in front of a poster. 🙂

As the sun started setting our final guide of the trip met us on Embankment. Jack the Ripper. He was so funny. In the past our main guides have told us not to bother with the Ripper tour because it’s just walking around the East End through alleys looking at places the most notorios British killer left bodies behind. Paul promised us the tour would be awesome and he was right. Our Ripper tour guide was funny and insightful and full of information. Not only did he tell us the Jack the Ripper story, he showed us how the East End is changing and how diverse it is. We LOVED it! 9 Jack the Ripper tour

At the end though, my feet were wishing I was back at Macbeth.

And then…we went back to the nice town of Greenwich for one last night of London sleep.

I love EF Tours and the opportunities it’s given me and my students. When I was a kid my bucket list had two overseas places on it: London and Paris. I’ve been to both, and I feel like I could make my way around London no problem now. My students feel like they can do study abroad and experience the world no problem. They want to learn other languages. They’re fascinated by different cultures. EF helps you see the world as global. Since 2008, I’ve taken students and teachers to England, France, Italy, Ireland, Wales and Scotland. I’ve written on the banks of the Seine River and sung along with Parisiennes on Music Night. I’ve gotten lost and found my way on busy London streets. I’ve seen the place fairy tales were born. I’ve seen the white cliffs of Dover from Calais, France, and wondered what soldiers thought during World War 2 when they were so close to home they could taste it, but they couldn’t get there. I’ve experienced history in a way no classroom could ever truly teach. When I was that kid making the London and Paris bucket list, I could never have imagined. As a teacher now, EF helps me open the world to my students. I can’t wait for my next trip (Germany, Prague and Paris). THANKS EF!! #

******

If you like my blog, check out my books.

I think my Elizabeth Lee guardian angel mystery series (Dead Girl Walking and soon to release, An Angel Gets Her Wings) might make a London stop soon. Or a Paris stop. Or and Ireland stop…

 

London Day 1

Day 1 in London started a little rocky. My puny sickness was now a full blown cold. UGH! No voice, felt like crap. But I was in London. No way was I going to let a little summer cold stand between me and the sights to see.

This was my third EF trip to London, but the first time we ended there instead of starting there.

The night train dropped us at St Pancras station which is right across from Kings Cross, so several kids ran to get photos of Platform 9 3/4. I ran to the pharmacy for cough drops and cold medicine.

Usually when we get to London we go on a walking tour of the city because we’ve been on an international flight and waking up is essential. This time we started witha  bus tour. After the hostel one night and the night train the next, I kind of think a walking tour might’ve been a better idea because a bus tour while you’re sleepy is tough stuff! Our  local guide was awesome, but I don’t think we heard much of what she said.

1 off the bus

I made myself stay awake for the Westminster Abbey stop. I’ve still never been in Westminster. That must change next time I go to London!

2 I'm a tourist 4 the EyeWe stopped the bus for a few quick pictures and a walk around the outside of Westminster. Then back on the bus for the tour to St Paul’s. I love St. Paul’s Cathedral. It’s beautiful. It’s amazing that it survived WW2 relatively unscathed. One of my former students is in London right now for study abroad and she said firefighters stayed on top of it during the bombings to keep it safe. I believe it.

3 bombed church by St Paul;sRight around the corner from St Paul’s is a church that didn’t survive the bombings. Instead of rebuilding, the surviving walls were left standing and the area’s been turned into a park. I’d love to know more of this story. One day I’ll go to London for a longer stay and delve more into the history. EF does city stay trips, too. There’s still so much I haven’t seen, though, that I want to wait for one of those until I’ve seen more of the world.

After St Paul’s we took the tube (Mind the gap!) to our hotel in Greenwich to drop off our luggage. I used the time to drink Vitamin Water and try to feel better. It worked. When we left the hotel, we knew we wouldn’t be back until that night, and we had a packed day ahead.

First we went to EAT. This little restaurant is one of the favorite stops for my group of returning travelers. It’s a great place to eat with awesome fresh food. They were excited when we found one. My one new traveler loved it as much as the rest of us by the time we left London.

After food we continued on our walk toward Covent Garden. But first, we

5 obligatory Penguin picturestopped at a book store. I did not go in the bookstore, but I did get my obligatory penguin picture because I collect penguins. It started with my students years ago, but now it’s me. It’s nuts how many penguins I have in the newsroom. I love them all.

After the stop we made our way across the Thames for a walk to Covent Garden. We accidentally ran into the Strand, which meant pictures of famous addresses and possibly famous people. I loved the address 6 Pearson Publishingplaque on this building and security was everywhere, so I figured it was someplace special. Maybe even royal.  Turned out it’s the address of the business US Politicians love to credit with the salvation of education while those of us in the trenches call it the home of The Emperor’s New Clothes. Pearson Publishing. AKA Test Central.

7 The SavoyRight next door is the Savoy. One day I’ll stay at the Savoy. Or maybe not. I think a nice B&B will do, but the Savoy sure looks cool.

Covent Garden is just a couple blocks from this area. We made it there and split up to shop and just take in the sights. Making it there was an adventure. Our guide was with the group going on the Eye. We chose to leave him so we could see more of the city. So armed with a map and our memories we made the trek across town on our own. Definitely worth it.

8 Living Statues in Covent GardenCovent Garden is a must see in London. It was raining while we were there, but the living statues never stopped performing. The acts in the square were entertaining and the shopping delightful as always.

9 Indian FoodWe met up with our group after that for our London dinner. Indian Food! Indian food is probably my favorite thing to eat in London. It’s so amazing. Maybe it’s amazing everywhere, but we don’t have it in Wichita Falls, and if I could eat it every meal in London, I would. Curry=awesome. This time my group had to eat separate from the rest of the group because they didn’t quite have enough space for us. We made it an adventure.

And then it was time for the night’s highlight. Wicked.

I could see Wicked a million times and not get tired of it. This was the third. And it was still awesome. 9 Wicked

Day 1 in London was done and it was time to head back to the hotel. At the end of the day I was happy. Still sick, but happy. My first international trip with EF my guide told me they try to let us experience the towns in a way that we can come back and feel comfortable navigating our way through town using public transportation while also educating us on the history. This third trip made it clear the system works. I truly understand London now. Going back on my own won’t be a problem…one day. My next EF trip will be the first that won’t include London, but I will be back because I love it. #

*****

If you like my blog, check out my books.

I think my Elizabeth Lee guardian angel mystery series (Dead Girl Walking soon to release, An Angel Gets Her Wings) might make a London stop soon!

 

 

 

A New Favorite: Rydal Mount

I didn’t take pictures at the hotel in Manchester. I wish I would’ve. I met a couple who’d been married for 63 years while we were waiting for dinner the first night. They were precious. He couldn’t hear very well, but he loved to talk. She wanted me to talk because she liked my accent. I wanted them to talk because I liked their accents. Perfect.

RydalMount_England201306190001The next morning we went to the Grasmere area in England. I’d fallen in love with Ireland, but this was a close second. The area is so incredibly beautiful and the people so nice. Once again , it was like we’d been transported to a different time.

Our first stop was Rydal Mount, William Wordworth’s home. His gardens were incredible, and the guide told he cultivated all of them. Today, descendants still visit the home. It’s well worth the trip.

All of the pictures are from my short walk through the gardens. I could’ve spent hours here.

RydalMount_England201306190010 RydalMount_England201306190009 RydalMount_England201306190008 RydalMount_England201306190002 RydalMount_England201306270004 RydalMount_England201306190003 RydalMount_England201306190005 RydalMount_England201306190006 RydalMount_England201306190007

 

Ireland Day 1

I’m always excited to get on international flights, but when we boarded the plane in Chicago for the long trip to Shannon Ireland, I worried. The plane was as small, maybe even smaller than ones I’d taken to Vegas.

Sleeping on the flight is imperative or you lose at least one day. Sleeping in the United Airlines plane with no leg room and people squished in like sardines would take some serious will power.

I did not have the will power. I wish I would’ve take photos of some of the kids on the trip though. They took off their shoes, huddled in little balls on their seats and slept for hours. Maybe at their age I could’ve huddled in a ball like that, too. Or maybe if I’d kept up the Pilates. Or….no, no way.

So the flight out was sleepless, but there were plenty of movies. Thanks, United. I enjoyed the latest 007.

Flying into Shannon it quickly became apparent we were in for a treat. There’s a reason Ireland’s called the Emerald Isle. Oh my gosh, it’s gorgeous.

When we landed our awesome guide Paul greeted us with news that our other groups were delayed so he sent us to see Limerick.

Even though I was exhausted, I could tell I was going to love Ireland.

Ross Castle, Killarney

When we got Killarney we took a jaunt (carriage ride) to Killarney National Park and Ross Castle. The lushness took my breath away.

I loved Ireland, but at the end of day one, I really had no idea. I just knew one thing: I needed sleep. Bad. The fact that it didn’t get dark and our room had skylights didn’t bother me at all.Skylights over the bedsOur Killarney room

At Killarney National Park

At Killarney National Park

Ross Castle Pretty trees

No WIFI so….

We didn’t have wifi in Europe except the night in Dover, and then only until 7:30 p.m., so I didn’t get to update. Because of that, I spent yesterday updating my travel journal.

If you’re interested in our adventures in the UK and Europe, you can check them out here.