LONDON. Tuesday, May 17th.
It was cold. It was rainy. It was beautiful. It was London.
I couldn’t believe that I had stepped foot in England. After a 7 hour flight from JFK International Airport to Manchester, UK - I had no idea that London would be my first big city stop. I should have known that this spontaneous decision would be a foreshadowing of what the rest of my trip would be like - unpredictable, surprising, and wonderful. I can’t remember what my original plans were, but my hosts, my Aunt Imee and Uncle Allan suggested we make the trip to London early in the morning. So at 3 AM my alarm clock might as well have been ‘God Save the Queen’ because I was so thrilled.
For 4 hours my face was glued to the window. England is a beautiful country. Everything is brighter, and the grass is greener…literally. It must be the rain that leaves a wet dew on everything, creating this constant vibrant sheen. But when the sun decided to make a guest appearance, the landscape took on new life. With clouds and mist in the air, the sunlight peeking through on the land looked like spotlights straight from the heavens. It all sounds so ridiculously cliche, but that’s the beauty of it. I wanted cliche. I needed it.
Before I left for Europe, I so wanted to go someplace where I could marvel at something. I had just spent the last month before my departure swimming in paperwork. I had forgotten what it felt like to be in awe by something that wasn’t how much stress I was under. But by my first full day in Europe it was already happening. Little did I know that those little moments would occur everyday for the next three weeks.
When we drove into London, it was rainy, cold, and grey - but it was what I always pictured London would look like. I had been London before back in 2003, in fact, I had travelled Europe extensively with my family when I was younger. But seeing it all now as an adult, everything is different. I appreciate “sightseeing” so much more. It isn’t just a way for me to take pictures - but a way for me to appreciate architecture, art, and history.
Because I had been London before I wanted to do the two things I never had a chance to do the first time. 1) Ride the London Eye and 2) Go to Hyde Park. The following pictures are of my ride on the London Eye, the largest ferris wheel in London. One whole ride on the wheel lasts 30 minutes and gives you the best views of the city.
Wide shot of the London Eye. I was so excited to ride it! I absolutely loved the experience, but here’s a warning: if you’re afraid of heights….the London Eye is not for you.
Views from the Top. Big Ben. Home to the English Parliament, I never quite appreciated the beauty and grandeur of this building until this trip. It is one of the most beautiful building I have seen the entire time I was in Europe.
(Below) I love this picture of me! Please allow me some vanity when it comes to my pictures. The white building behind and to the right of the parliament building/Big Ben is Westminster Abbey. A beautiful gothic church that so recently held this year’s big event: the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
Instead of taking a tour bus of London, we decided to explore London on foot. After wandering around aimlessly for awhile we ended up at Buckingham palace. I jokingly named this entire London trip, “My Search for Kate Middleton”, but alas, she was not there but on her honeymoon with her Prince.
A 20 minute walk away from Buckingham Palace lead us to Hyde Park. Finally, I’m able to walk through the park that I missed on my first trip to London but have since read about in many of the British novels I love. The sun came out just as we were entering the park. It was everything I thought it would be. It looks a little like New York City’s central park, but there are gallop ways for horses as well as bikers and runners! There are a few stables in the park that allow for riders to take their horses on a stroll. There are many tracks for horses in the park as it was once used in the 18th and 19th century as a place where upper class Londoners would convene to ride their horses and discuss any order of the day. I loved that I knew little tidbits like that and that I was able to see it. Also famous in the parks are the English Rose Gardens.
This garden smelled absolutely amazing. I wish I had carried a book in my purse that day because I would have loved to sit in rose heaven and read.
I love the close-up feature on my camera.
After spending some time in the rose garden and watching this little boy play with this HUGE swan by the lake, my aunt and uncle and I decided that we wanted to rent bikes available and ride them around the park.
After a few tumbles and falls (since I hadn’t ridden a bike in YEARS), we were quickly making our way around the park. I wish I could take pictures and ride at the same time because the park was beautiful. It was even more beautiful when the heavens opened up and it started to pour! If you know me, you should know that I love the rain. My whole life, I have been comforted by rain. Little did I know that the rain would take a significant role in my European trip…but more on that later. As much as I loved riding in the rain, the heavy fall of rain forced us to take shelter under a leafy tree (as pictured above).
We left the park after 30 minutes of riding in the pouring rain attempting to return our bikes to the proper return center. I was exhausted but wow, what an experience! On our way back to where we parked our car, I enthusiastically took pictures in fron ot Tower Bridge. Commonly confused with London Bridge, Tower Bridge is a London Icon that takes its name from it’s proximity to the Tower of London.
Now, I could NOT leave London without visiting William Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I knew that the next day I would be going to Stratford-Upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), but I wanted to visit the modern reconstruction of the theater built by Shakespeare’s playing company the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. Unfortunatey, the original theater was destroyed in 1613, but was reconstructed in the same exact site in 1997.
As the sun was setting over London, it was time for us to say goodbye. The rain had lifted and the sun was pouring a golden hue over the city. The sky was filled with soft pastel colored clouds like an impressionist painting. It was a stunning and artful way to say goodbye to London. Although it was only a one-day adventure, I felt that I had done so much, but left enough undone so that I currently feel compelled to return…and return soon.
We spent that night in a lovely hotel just outside of London, where I could only thank God that the start of my Euro-trip was everything I prayed it would be.
The next day? STRATFORD-UPON-AVON.