Monday, April 27, 2009


We spent three nights in Belfast at a hostel. The hostel had a lively feel - a bit too lively actually. All I can say is thank god we brought earplugs because I don't think people actually went to sleep at this place. And our bed was pretty much a wooden platform with a comforter thrown on top. But we're troopers! We survived. And on April 23 we took a tour to the Giant's Causeway!

As opposed to our last daytrip in Dublin, this was a big bus and there were about 25 other people with us. But it was still a good tour. We stopped at a few places for only 10 minutes just to take pictures. One was Carrickfergus Castle, which looked like a typical castle. Another quick stop was in a coastal town called Carnlough. It was just a lovely, rustic photo opportunity. And my favorite quick-stop was at Dunluce Castle because it was an influential in C.S. Lewis' Narnia series. It's apparently his inspiration for Cair Paravel! I thought that was very cool.

We stopped at the Carrick-a-rede Rope Bridge for a longer length of time. This is not only another beautiful place along the coast, but is home to a sturdy rope bridge that hangs 90 feet above the churning water. Despite the extra cost to cross the bridge, Chuck convinced me it would be worth it. As you walk across the bridge is sort of bounces like a trampoline which is exciting! It really feels very sturdy though, so it's not scary at all (unless you have some fear of heights maybe). So in the end I'm glad we crossed the bridge.

The Giant's Causeway itself was awesome (as in it inspired awe). The landscape is just huge, making you feel so small. When you look across the way at the hexagonal rock formations, sure they look big. But then you realize that those small specks at the bottom are people and that it's not just big, it's absolutely enormous. And it's strange how regular the rock formations are - all lined up like steps, all about the same size, all about the same shape. It's really very cool. And a nice long walk to see the main highlights of the Causeway, so we got some exercise.

Oh, almost forgot to mention that we stopped quickly at Bushmill's Distillery for a drop of whiskey. It had a nice, rich, hoppy smell that I liked. Chuck had a dram of whiskey that was just okay in our opinion.

The 24th was much more relaxed as we just stayed in Belfast. It was a deeply overcast day and I just felt like the apocalypse was creeping up on us. But luckily it didn't actually rain outright because we walked around a fair bit. First stop was St. George's Market which is a market (duh) that is open only on Fridays and Saturdays. It was lively! People all over trying to buy incredibly fresh fish of all kinds, various meats, baked goods, olives, clothes, "American Cookies," etc. We managed to get some pepper-marinated steaks and soda bread for dinner that night. One nice thing about the hostel is that you can cook there, so we had a very good meal.

The other main stop was at Belfast's Botanic Gardens (poor Chuck, he's been flowered out for a while now). It wasn't as nice as Dublin's gardens, but it wasn't bad or anything. The only reason I dragged Chuck all the way down there was for the water lilies in there, but they weren't in bloom! So I was disappointed about that... But they did have a nice tropical plants house with green bananas hanging off the the banana tree. That was pretty much it for Belfast! Not a bad place.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Dublin I.ii

Hello again! I have more Dublin for you. And some countryside, which is beautiful. The countryside always seems to beautiful, no matter the country you're in. On April 20 we took a day tour to the Wicklow Mountains and an old monastery called Glendalough (or Gleann da Loch, if you want to be proper). The mountains are basically all covered in peat under the surface and throughout history they have been farmed for the peat to keep people warm through the winters. Apparently people are to this day still free to farm the peat at no charge - you do the work, you can carry it off. So if anyone was interested in not paying their heating bill, they could get dirty in the fields of peat!

I noticed that the country landscape in Ireland (or the parts we saw at least) is more scrub-like than England and Wales. They have a lovely yellow-flowered plant called Gorse that is all over the place. It makes lovely splashes of bright yellow on the tan and green landscape. And in just a few months our tour guide said the Heather will be blooming and everything will be purple. That sounds lovely! Wish I could see it.

We saw a few glacial lakes up in the mountains. They're so still and serene, so peaceful. And Chuck said they were very cold! He went ahead and dipped his fingers in the water, like a real adventurer. And to make the still water even more impressive, the lakes are surrounded by mountain landscape. So it's as if the mountains are gently rolling down into this calm expanse of water.

Glendalough was neat. It's an old monastery which looks like it was basically a mini-city. It saw it's final days when King Henry VIII (I've learned since arriving in London three weeks ago that he's one of the biggest deals in royal history) switched over to Protestantism so that he could divorce his wife for another woman. So I guess he basically had the whole place sacked to help uphold his new anti-Catholic beliefs. There are a ton of grave sites there. They seem to be placed fairly chaotically around the place, so it gives it a disordered peaceful feel. And further along past the main site there are two more glacial lakes. We got ice cream and sat on the pebbled shore of one. It was a very nice day. For some reason I feel drawn to ice cream overseas... Chuck said that maybe ice cream is like a bit of home. But we enjoyed our ice cream!

April 21 was spent in Dublin, having a look around the older part of the city. So first we hit up Dublin Castle, which is only a castle in name these days. The original castle blew up when a fire broke loose and made it's way to the gun-powder room. It was rebuilt as more of a palace. We decided to pay for the tour after much deliberation and I'm glad we did! It was a good tour for 4.50 Euros each. And I got to take pictures, my favorite! It wasn't the most impressive castle/palace we've been in, but it was neat to see where the president is inaugurated when they take office. Did you know that Ireland has had a female president for the past 21 years? Go Ireland! And on top of seeing the decorated rooms of the palace we went under underground and saw some of the remains from the original building. There was a river that ran around the castle back in the day, and although it's now re-routed there is still a bit of river that seeps into this area. It stinks...literally. And someone dropped their jacket in it! Hah! I'm sorry, I have to laugh. It was funny... They got it back, safe and sound though. No harm done, except for maybe some sludge.

There is a library right next to the castle called the Chester Beatty Library and the only reason we stopped in was because it was right there. I am so glad we did because it was amazing! Remember how we saw the Book of Kells? How it was cool and all? Well this was... I mean it was about 1000 times more impressive! They have numerous old books from various times and cultures on display. And they are all displayed really beautifully behind glass that is so clean I thought I could reach out and touch the book on several occasions. They had quite a few different Qur'ans on display which were incredible. I found they were some of the most elaborate and beautiful of all the books. There were various Christian texts as well, including some of the original gospels. We're talking pieces of papyrus written on in 150, 250, and 350 AD. And there was even a fragment of scripture written in 300AD in Greek (the original language of the bible, apparantly). Those are old documents! And not just old, but incredibly influential over the course of our history. I was basically looking at one of the beginnings of Christianity as we know it. Crazy. And there were a few Japanese scrolls and books with elaborate depictions of various legends. And it wasn't just what was on the pages of the books that were impressive, many of the book covers were to die for. Gold-leaf, embossing, gems, woodwork, painting, etc. Some books were 2 feet tall, others were 3 inches. I could go on, but I won't! As you can tell, I really enjoyed the library.

Lastly, we visited St. Patrick's Cathedral. We decided on St. Patrick's instead of the nearby Christ Church Cathedral because: 1. It's the church where Jonathan Swift was dean for 32 years and he is buried there; 2. The churches choir was one of the two choirs used to perform Handel's Messiah for it's world premiere. The church itself isn't exquisite in terms of its appearance, but that's not to say it's ugly. It's definitely a very nice church. I was just happy to see Swift's burial place. There's a nice park attached to the church too. Lots of parents bring their kids there to play it seems. All-in-all, a good last day in Dublin. Next stop is Belfast in Northern Ireland.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dublin I.i

Well, I'm finally able to get some of our pictures from Dublin posted. This first set is from April 18 which was our first full day there. Since it was a nice and sunny day I insisted that we visit the National Botanic Gardens. I went crazy with the camera, as you might notice. I love tulips, so I loved the long rainbow-colored lane of just tulips. They had a great variety of them! And the few carniverous plants were neat, although they didn't o any bug-catching while we were there. There were squirrels there that come right up to you for food. A random guy gave us some sunflower seeds so we could feed them. They would all but eat the seeds out of our hands (which I know from persoanl experience is a bad idea anyways).

The other main highlight of the day was a tour of Kilmainham Gaol. By the way, "gaol" is pronounced "jail." I kept trying to figure out if it was pronounced "gowl" or "goal" or "gal." Imagine my surprise when he said "jail." Sheesh. But it was a good enough tour! That jail has a bit of a gruesome history with it's massive number of hangings, political executions, and imprisonment of children. The guide told a bittersweet story of a man destinied for execution who was allowed to marry his finace before the event. They marched her into the jail chapel, they were married and she was marched right out. The next day she got to see him one last time and he was taken out and executed. Note: More after the pictures!

The next day, the 19th, we went to Trinity College to see the Book of Kells. It's definitely an impressive book - made around 800 AD I think. It's a religious text with beautiful and elaborate illuminations throughout. So much time, energy, and devotion has gone into it. We also got to see what's known as the Long Room. It's a... well, a long room. Filled with two stories worth of books. Old books. I loved the smell when we stepped in! The smell of old books. We weren't allowed to touch any of the book though, boo.

We sort of wandered around and ended up down Grafton Street, which was jam-packed with people and performers. There was a really good string quartet actually. We also spent a bit of time in St. Stephens Green (another of the many beautiful parks all over the UK and Ireland). We ended up at the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology purely by chance, which was great because it was free! The best exhibits here were four very well preserved bodies. Two of them still had full heads of red hair attached to their squished heads. One even had a tuft of red hair attached to his chin. Another had nearly untouched hands - they might have belonged to a living body except for their unnaturally dark color. You could still see the pores in their tightly stretched, leathery-looking skin. Sorry if I'm grossing anyone out! They were by far the most exciting thing there though, in my opinion.

And I have to mention that we passed by a lamp post known as "The Five Lamps" because it has five lamps at the top of the post. I had to stop by and take a picture of that.

I have more that I should be able to post tomorrow or the next day. So if you want more, it's coming!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Cardiff I.ii

I haven't been able to post recently due to verrrry slow internet at our current place of residence. I did manage to get some pictures up, although they're not recent. And when I say "not recent" I mean they're almost a week old. Time is flying by! Yet going so slowly at the same time.

We are in Ireland right now. We took a train from Cardiff to a town called Holyhead, and from there hopped a ferry to Dublin. We've been doing a lot of walking around the city each day, and even took a pricey day-tour into the Wicklow Mountains to see an old monastery called Glendalough. I can't get any more pictures up right now though, so I'll have to tell you more about all that in a couple of days hopefully.

I'll leave you with the last photos we took in Cardiff. The first few are in Cardiff Bay, right on the water. It was cold an windy! And the last few are through the lovely Bute Park and back by the governmental buildings again. I found out there was a garden that I had completely missed the first time through, so I insisted upon going back to see it. It also gave us something to do... So there you go.

Oh, and just a warning: the next post will have a lot of pictures... Mainly from the National Botanic Gardens here in Dublin. That means lots of flower pictures. I hope you all like flowers! Who doesn't like flowers? Everyone likes flowers.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Cardiff I.i

So we've made it to Cardiff which is the capital of Wales and a pretty cool city. I'm liking Cardiff so far. We've visited Cardiff Castle and walked around the various government buildings. I actually took about 160 pictures that although I posted a ton of them online, I had a lot more! I tired to prune as much as I could, but I thought all 48 of the pictures were worth posting. Phew!

Cardiff Castle was cool. I especially enjoyed the interior tour of the castle. I'm sure it was all completely reconstructed, but it was just awesome. The ceilings were great - I love all the intricate details. And every fireplace had incredible carvings all around it. The library was lovely with all the old looking books and the big wooden bookcases. Very lovely. The keep of the castle was on a hill surrounded by a moat. Very fortress-esque. I nearly fell down the stairs twice while we were making our way to the top of the keep... The views are quite nice from the top. It's a pretty cool castle/fortress - I'm glad we decided to pay and go in (although I think admission was just a bit steep, although perhaps I'm actually just a bit cheap!).

Later on we saw the capital buildings (I think they were the capital buildings at least) which was cool. They have a nice, old look to them. And one building has a nice clock tower with a gold face. I managed to get a few flower shots around here. I love tulips. The highlight of the day was out dinner though. Chuck made a very good trade in the market so he decided to treat us to a pricier dinner than we would normally do. We ended up at a microbrewery called ZeroDegrees. A bit into our meal Chuck got us a couple of beers from the bar and caught the attention of a very friendly gentleman on 66 years. I know he was 66 because he made note of it several times throughout the night. He was interesting for several reasons, number one being that he actually lived in Ft. Lauderdale and Pompano Beach for a while back in the 70's. Small world huh?? Number two reason is that he was incredibly drunk. This led to overfriendliness. He pulled a chair up to our table not ten minutes after Chuck broke off conversation with him at the bar. Number three reason he was interesting is that he was a firecracker just itching to explode. When he sat down at our table our waiter basically asked him to leave us alone, but in a very polite way. The 66 year old became very indignant and ready to throw punches over the "audacity" of the waiter. We didn't want any trouble so we made eyes at the waiter letting him know it was fine if the man sat with us for just a bit. Throughout our conversation he would jump back to the topic of our waiter and how he'll "knock him out, that mother fucker," etc. Man, what a character. He even invited us to to stay at his place north of Cardiff if we wanted. Hah. Yeah right. Alone in Wales with a crazy old man. No thanks! So yes, he was an interesting fellow. Note: See below the massive number of pictures for our trip to Tintern Abbey.

Today we went to Tintern Abbey. To get there we had to take a 40 minute train ride to Chepstow and wait an hour for the bus to Tintern. The bus was an experience. It had to work incredibly hard to get through those hills, but we made it intact. It was freezing up there! And there was a light fog over the country side. Really beautiful. In fact, it was the perfect backdrop for the ruined abbey. That abbey is just incredible. It's not so impressive as you're working your way through the fallen remains of the kitchen and sleeping quarters, but once you step through the little stone door into the main chapel area it takes your breath away. The scale of the place is amazing and looks more like it was built for people twice our size. It just towers over you! I was really amazed by the whole thing. It was very cold though, so we didn't stay out too long before catching the bus and train back. It was nice to be able to visit such a grand sight in such a secluded, beautiful place.

Monday, April 13, 2009


I know I just posted yesterday, but I have the opportunity to make another post today. You all must be soooo thrilled!!! I have pictures of the town we're staying in right now: Salisbury. The main "attraction" here is the 1000 year old Salisbury Cathedral. It's an impressive sight! It's currently under construction (from 1986 until 2015 apparently) so the best views of the place are marred by three stories of scaffolding. I think I still managed to get a few good shots though.

I was happy that I managed to take pictures inside too. So many places say "No Photography" inside. Well, actually this place did say "no photography" and I was perfectly content to abide by that, but I walked in and see three people taking pictures. So I said what the hell and whipped my camera out. It's not as impressive as St. George's Chapel or St. Paul's Cathedral, but it's still beautiful. The stained glass on every possible wall was amazing.

The Cathedral also houses one of the four remaining original copies (that sounds like an oxymoron to me...) of the Magna Carta. It's also the copy that in the best shape of the four. Apparently it was mislabelled for a hundred years or so, thereby escaping being manhandled by tons of people. I tried to read it, but it's totally illegible to me. I couldn't even make out half of the letters. It's still very cool though - so ancient looking. Note: continue reading after the photos if you're interested in how we're getting by out here.

So I thuoght I'd share with everyone our... strategies if you will. Such as food - we can't afford to go to restaurants for breakfast, lunch and dinner. So we go to the grocery store and will get a bag of apples, or oranges, or strawberries, etc. Most of the supermarkets here also sell premade sandwiches that are of a good quality and usually cost less than 2.00 GBP. We tend to get 2 liter bottles of water to drink, which are between 0.35 and 0.65 GBP. When we get bored of sandwiches we'll go find a pasty shop and have one of those for around 2.50 GBP. We find we like pasties... Yum! So we try to keep food as cheap as we can.

Places to stay for the night are hard to find for less than 50.00 GBP. We've managed to find a few specials, but mostly it's about 50.00. This is the most costly part for us. In the evening we'll search around for hours trying to find a deal on a hotel or bed and breakfast at our next stop. I hate that part!

Trains are another expensive part. Not much we can do to lessen the expenses there. We just learned that we can uy our tickets a day ahead of time for a possible savings, so maybe that will help a bit. We're managing to average around 90.00, or $135.00 USD. Some days (like the past three) we stay nicely velow average, and others (like Windsor Castle) are painful. But we're managing to do all right! Tracking all our spending and cutting back on food if we need to, or not visiting a certain site because it costs too much. Sad, I know! But necessary sometimes. So just thought I'd share a bit about how we're doing this travelling thing.

PS: Oh, last night some guy got arrested at a restaurant or bar that's below our hotel room. How crazy is that?? We started hearing a lot of shouting and cursing at about 11:30. Then some girl started screaming at the top of her lungs. I couldn't sleep through that so I went to the window. There was a police car out there already. After a while they finally loaded some guy into the back of the car and took him away. Must have been some drunken fighting going on. Oh this English craziness.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Since I last wrote we've left Slough, stayed a night in Reading, and moved on to Salisbury. Slough was an all right sort of town - certainly nothing exciting. Had a bit of a run-down feel, but we did only see a very small section of the place. However, in Reading we had to walk nearly a mile through residential areas to get to our hotel, so we got a bit better sense of the place.

I liked Reading! It had a nice and active downtown that felt clean and cozy with just a bit of trendiness. I don't think there's much to do in there, but we did manage to find a lovely park called Forbury Gardens. It was one of the most beautiful parks I've ever seen! Lovely clusters of flowers along the paths (I love how they put flowers on everything over here), nicely kept, green, scenic with a pretty little church in the background. There was a tree absolutely covered in large white blossoms. The ground under it was just covered in petals as though it had been snowing. There was a really beautiful rose garden that wasn't even in bloom. It was lovely even without the flowers though! And various war memorials were standing throughout the park.

There's also an old ruined abbey (strangely enough called Reading Abbey) by the park. It's about 1000 years old and mostly fallen apart by now. Unfortunately we only got to see the outer parts of it because they were doing construction ont he rest. Construction. On a fallen apart, 1000 year old building. I just found it a bit amusing. Note: Keep reading below the pictures for our Stonehenge trip!!! Or just scroll all the way down for the pics.

Today (April 11) we went to Stonehenge! Woooo, so exciting! We didn't want to be swindled out of 17.50 GBP per person (about 25$) by going on the tour bus, so we decided to take a city bus to Amesbury and walk the rest of the way. We read online it would be about 20-30 minutes. So after a bit of being-in-the-wrong-place we caught our bus and found ourselves in good ole Amesbury.

Oh, I have to mention that our bus was a double-decker. They always looked kinda cool, but nothing exciting. Man, it's awesome up there on the top deck, right in the front seat! It's like... an IMAX movie or something. I just wanted to ride the bus all day. Anyways, back to Stonehenge.

So we guessed which way Stonehenge must be and started walking. Luckily we did run into signs pointing the way, but our expected 30 minute walk turned into 50 minutes, a lot of which was uphill. You can see the stones across the highway as you come over the crest of a small hill. The juxtaposition of all the cars lining the road past Stonehenge was interesting.

The whole thing is surrounded by a fence and you have to pay 6.60 GBP per person (about 10$) to get through the fence to take a closer look. To be perfectly honest, Chuck and I did not pay the 6.60. We'd actually had this discussion before about how we feel these old sites shouldn't charge for entry. It just seems as though a 2500 year old site should be available without lining someone's pocket. Yes, I know that the price goes towards conserving it as well, but at 6.60 a person it's definitely lining someones pocket as well. Besides, according to a Druid (as he claimed to be) who has set up a display right at the entrance gate, the National Heritage Foundation had promised to keep it free of charge when they took over, but have since gone back on that promise. So that made me a feel a bit more justified in my decision not to actually pay and cross that fence. We did contribute by buying an ice cream cone though...

We managed to get plenty of pictures through the fence with our awesome camera. We also got some pictures with the sheep in the field across from Stonehenge. That field is just covered in sheep poop! It was like walking through a mine field! I just had to take a picture of one of them... So gross.

I got lots of lovely pictures of flowers on the long walk back. We are sore today! Hopefully we'll be recovered enough to see Salisbury tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


We've been staying in Slough which is just 2 miles from Windsor. Today we hopped a train to Windsor Castle. It was great! A little steep on the price (15 GBP), but I think it might have been worth it. I really enjoyed it at least. Oh - and I would just like to note that the queen was in residence while we were there. We knew this because the royal standard was flying above the "round tower" instead of the British flag. How cool is that?? But we didn't see her. Oh well.

In the price was included a free audioguide which consisted of a little keypad with a speaker attached that you held up to your ear. It was nice to hear the various facts and histories of the castle and learn what was significant about various paintings or pieces of furniture.

The castle felt and looked very much how one would expect a castle to feel and look. Large grey rocks cemented together to make big, thick walls; archer's narrow window slits; humongous gates; small wooden doors with big key holes; etc. The round tower sits on a little hill from which flows a lovely garden. It has a little waterfall, and a little pond, and a number of flowers. And the view from the castle across the town and countryside is pretty wide. I can see why they decided to stick a castle in that particular location - I'm sure it made for a good lookout and defense position.

We weren't allowed to take pictures inside unfortunately, so I have none to show you. I can only tell you that inside the State Apartments there were some pretty impressive sights. I'll start with Queen Mary's Dolls' House. It is incredibly intricate and detailed. It actually has fully functioning plumbing and lighting, the text in the books is supposedly an exact copy of the full-sized originals, and the wine bottle actually have wine in them. Here's a few links to pictures if anyone is interested: link 1, link 2.

The State Aparetments were incredible too. Just to think of how many people throughout time have walked through those rooms, and the different people who have shaped history that have slept in those walls and eaten in those rooms is amazing. And here I am, wandering through, hoping to get a sense of all that. There was a room where Napoleon and his wife had slept when they visited England. It was the actual bed they slept in I believe - it had their initials embroidered into the footboard and it looked quite old.

Rooms were hung with paintings all over every wall. One room had an intricately fashioned silver desk and mirror. The ceilings were exquisite. Some of the treasures on display were amazing - golden chalices and tankards encrusted with jewels. Did people ever actually drink out of those?? And weapons from all over the world - half nonfunctional I think. Swords, guns, daggers, some glittering with gems and crystals, but some looking very serious. There were numerous busts, one of the composer Handel and one of Winston Churchill. St. George's Hall was covered in hundreds of Coats of Arms of the Knights. And right now they have a display of art work that includes pages from a sketchbook of Leonardo DaVinci. There was a lot too see!

St. George's Chapel was beautiful too. It's constructed with tall stone pillars that spread into intricate fan-like designs on the stone ceilings. And the woodwork in the back of the church was just breathtaking. It hardly seems possible that someone could carve that much wood so delicately. King Henry VIII is buried here under a marble slab in the floor. Would be neat to see a service here.

It was a good visit. They have a nice tour system there and I appreciated that I didn't have to pay even more for the audioguide. It definitely satisfies ones desire to see an old castle. Would be nice to experience it without the roped-off rooms and crowds of people, but we can't have it all! It was still a very satisfying experience.

Monday, April 6, 2009

London I.ii

Well, we made it to London as I previously stated. And now we're leaving London already. Not that I'm too sad about that - this place is incredibly busy and that's just not really my cup of tea. We have packed a ton of stuff into these three days though. I am just beat today. We only stayed out until about 2:00PM today, which is only a half day for us. We haven't had enough rest time and just had to take a break. Let me give you our impressions of London though.

I do like London. We've been lucky enough that there has been no rain and in fact has been sunny about 60% of the time. It's much nicer when sunny in my opinion... The history that surrounds you as you walk around the city is really nice. I love looking at lamp posts or statues that have plaques reading "1902" or "1884." Very cool! People have been walking thorugh these streets for hunders of years! In some places they've been around for 1000 years. The buildings are old and you can feel that.

I also really like the London Underground system. I had to get used to it though as it was very intimidating at first! But once you jump in you find that there are signs everywhere directing you to exactly where you want to go. We got the 3-day pass which ended up being a great investment. We've used the Underground so many times in just three days.

Things that don't impress me about London is all the trendiness. It's cool at first but then it just starts to get old. Everyone is always dressed so spiffy and looks so good! Personally, I need some relax time after a while. And everyone is go-go-go. Chuck says London isn't actually all that fast paced - that New York is worse. I've never been to New York though. But I think these are just things that come along with big cities. Wouldn't want to live here permanently, but very cool to visit.

I'll skip the first day as it was not really a good day. I, personally, was freaking out. But we managed to find a place to stay for the night and got a bit of sleep on and off. So nothing very exciting. But I do apologize in advance for all the photos from the next 3 days...

First day (April 3, 2009) we went to see the Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament. We saw Big Ben! He was big. He's attached to the Houses of Parliament building. We didn't go in the Abbey as it was 16 GBP which is a bit steep. I bet it would have been pretty cool though. Instead we walked over by the giant London Eye and the Aquarium and that area. There were a bunch of interesting street performers painted gold and silver and blue. We walked through Green Park to get to Buckingham Palace where we took a break and sat for a bit. Buckingham Palace isn't all that impressive in my opinion, although the gates are nice. We stopped for a Beef and Stilton Pasty on our way home - very good!

Second day (April 4, 2009) we headed back to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards. We were there an hour before the ceremony started and it was already a bit crowded. We found our spot and waited. By the time it started the whole square was so packed you could hardly move! I was glad we got there when we did, but we left after 30 minutes of the ceremony. Too many people and too much standing! We then headed out to see Mom's old house: 248 Finchley Rd. I imagined her running in and out to and from the tube. We did a lot of walking after that. We went through Covent Garden and stumbled upon Somerset House which was neat. We didn't even know it was there! We passed a few other impressive buildings before ending up at St. Paul's Cathedral. I really wish I could have taken photos inside, although they would not have done it justice. It was just amazing and beautiful and breathtaking inside. The ceilings were so detailed and golden and high! And we were lucky enough to arrive when the boys choir was beginning to sing. It was really lovely.

Third day (April 5, 2009) we visited the financial district. The Bank of London, Royal Exchange, London Stock Exchange, Swiss RE, and Mansion House. They were all pretty much right next to each other, thank goodness. We walked down to the London Tower, which we were very disappointed to find required 17 GBP to get into. I was upset but did not think 17 GBP was a reasonable price! So we just went on to teh London Tower Bridge. An impressive bridge, although the blue color of it threw me off a bit. We passed by city hall as we started getting really worn out and made our way to Waterloo station. We hoped to find food there but that didn't pan out. We ended up having fish and chips and an italian beef pie. Yum! But we were done after that. So tired. We went back to our hotel and relaxed most of the rest of the day. Which is where I am now...

So there you go. That has been our time in London. Lots of things to see here, but I think we did it a bit of justice!

Friday, April 3, 2009

London I.i

So we actually DID make it to London. We even got stopped at customs and were questioned, searched, and told to wait. It took an hour to get through and we were given stern warnings: "You'd better not get any jobs here in England!" I was just glad we made it through and weren't turned back to America...

And then we had to find a place to stay that night because our previous plans would no longer be working out. There was a medical emergency that unfortunately makes it impossible to stay with Chuck's Aunt for a few weeks. So we (probably mostly myself) panicked a bit, but managed to set up a Bed and Breakfast for that night via one of those "Hotels 50% Off!" stands. It was called Romano's Hotel and it was pretty dingy and tiny with thin walls, but it got the job done.

We've had a nicer day today. We went and saw Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. We're trying to get pictures uploaded right now so hopefully we'll be able to have them posted here on the blog in a couple of days - it all depends on whether we can get to the internet or not! I'll write again as soon as I can!