It was quite difficult saying farewell to all the amazing and wonderful people we met on Contiki. I’m convinced there were a couple of people amongst the group that I will remains friends with throughout life. Most of the group headed out the very next day we returned. I woke up early to bid them farewell. We hugged. We cried. We hugged while we cried. It was very emotional. You do not realise how attached you get to people that you have spent every minute of the last 37 days with. I am not usually an emotional person, but I cried like a baby wanting to be bottle-fed. I will see you guys again, I’m sure of it. Who knows where in the world it will be, but someday soon, we will cross paths again.
Back in London for some full-on sight seeing. When I left London to explore the rest of Europe it was warm. Six weeks later and it is absolutely bloody freezing! London, I adore you, I really do. I even considered obtaining a European passport and flying out to live and work here for a year, but why are you so friggin’ cold? Do you want me to freeze to death? Warm up, please, then I will consider re-locating for you.
There were still a few of the Contiki group remaining in London for travel or live/work related purposes so we hung out and went sight seeing together. First up was Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace is the official London residence of the British Monarch. Located in the City of Westminster, the Palace is a setting for state occasions and royal entertaining. It just so happens that, at the time I was there, the state dining rooms were, for the very first and last time, open to the public for viewing. This being a once in a life time opportunity, I did not hesitate one bit. The dining rooms were set up as though a royal banquet was being held. It was a spectacular sight. The maroon carpets and rugs blended nicely with the gold antiques and cutlery. I tried to picture myself there, dining amongst royalty; what a thrill it would be. Through the work that he does, my uncle had been invited by the Queen of England to dine in that very room many years ago; lucky bugger!
Westminster Abbey was next on the agenda. At home, I try, whenever possible to avoid going to church, but here in Europe, I have visited so many churches and absolutely love them. The history and architecture behind them is simply superb. Hmmm… I wonder if our churches looked like this back home, would it make me attend more frequently? I have some doubts there. I took a guided head-phone tour through Westminster and while exiting through the gift store, I purchased a cross to wear on my chain, along with my dove pendant that I bought in Mondsee, Austria.
The Tower of London was next. I did not enjoy this tour as much as I would have liked to. Perhaps because it started pouring down rain mid tour, who knows? I did, however, enjoy the spectacular views of Tower Bridge from the Tower of London.
Ugh, so I will admit now that I am hopelessly addicted to Hugh Grant movies. He may not be the hottest male to graze this earth, but there is something about him; his witty style and sense of humor perhaps, what ever it is, he has miserably won me over. So knowing that we were going to be going to the Notting Hill markets, I had to find the address and make a stop over at the Travel Bookstore from the movie Notting Hill, and once I found it, of course, I had to take a photo of it as proof of being there. I took some wonderful snaps at the Notting Hill markets. The place was vibrant and alive with colors and so many different cultural presence.
The next morning Jane and I headed out to check out the London Eye. The London Eye at a height of 135 meters (443ft) is the biggest Ferris wheel in all of Europe and has become the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3 million people a year. We pre-purchased our tickets online and did not have to wait to ride the wheel. I felt a little uneasy looking down at first, because frankly, there was filthy river water below us, but I soon got use to the feeling. The views from the very top point of the London Eye looking out onto Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament were sensational. Again, I was quick to snap up some awesome shots. Later that day I went and took some photos of Big Ben and explored Piccadilly Circus.
I was still yet to cross off Madame Tussauds from my list of things to see, so that is where Jane and I headed next. oMg LyKe MiLey CyRuS’ waX FiGuRe WaS TheRe SoOoOo I NeeDed To GeT a pHoTo!!! Haha. Jane and I posed with Miley for a laugh. Jane secretly admires Miley, though, she is just yet to admit it. We were rather amused to come across the wax figure of Australia’s ex-Prime Minister, so, to be the damn proud Aussie’s that we are, we posed with him, Jane kissing one cheek and me kissing the other. Awww Johnny, shux. My time at Madame Tussauds was thoroughly enjoyed.
London is known for its big, dazzling Westend musical stage productions, so I definitely had to make the time to check out a couple while here. Jane had never before seen The Sound of Music and had heard me go on and on and on about it so we both went and checked out the stage production of it. As you could imagine, I was terribly excited for this. We got great seats, 7th row from the stage which I was extremely happy about. The show was amazing! I sat there in my seat with a gigantic grin on my face while singing along to all the songs which I know by heart. The actors, especially Maria, did a phenomenal job. It really was nothing short of spectacular. The following day, I had Jane come over to my aunty and uncles house and we watch The Sound of Music on DVD. Jane told me she loved it, but if I told anyone that, she’d have to kill me…
Aunty was able to take some time out of her busy schedule to come and see another Westend production with me; We Will Rock You. It is based on the music of Queen but with a completely different story line. It was absolutely brilliant. I am not a huge Queen fan but I am definitely familiar with their music. The entire theatre clapped along to the songs and joined in with the lyrics. The ending was bloody awesome! I thoroughly enjoyed this stage production.
I know I was cutting it short with only one day in London remaining, but I could not have come all this way without paying a visit to Stonehenge and Bath. I went down town to the tourist information center to grab a few tour brochures and found a tour that was running at a reasonable price. I got back to my aunty and uncles house, jumped online and secured my spot in the tour group. The next morning, I woke bright and early at 5am to make my train into town and meet at the pick up point. I was off to Stonehenge and Bath!
Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 3.2 kilometres west of Amesbury and 13 kilometres north of Salisbury. One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, Stonehenge is composed of earthworks surrounding a circular setting of large standing stones. Archaeologists had believed that the iconic stone monument was erected around 2500 BC, however one recent theory has suggested that the first stones were not erected until 2400-2200 BC, whilst another suggests that bluestones may have been erected at the site as early as 3000 BC. Seeing this monument in person was amazing. How those men, way back BC were able to move such gigantic stones without the technology and equipment we have available to us today is beyond me!
The Roman Baths in Bath, England, is one of the only natural hot water baths still existing today. Most Roman cities had at least one, if not many, such buildings, which were centers of public bathing and socializing. Baths were extremely important for Romans. They stayed there fore several hours and went daily. Wealthier Romans were accompanied by one or more slaves. After paying a fee, they would strip naked and wear sandals to protect their feet from heated floors. Before bathing, patrons exercised. They did such things as running, mild weight-lifting, wrestling and swimming. After exercising, servants scraped off oil and dirt. After exploring the Roman Baths, I ventured throughout the city of Bath to explore its inner beauty. It really was a cute little town.
My train home got delayed. Not good considering my uncle had booked me a chauffeur to pick me up from his house at 9pm. I had to call uncle and ask him if he could pick me up from the station and drive me back to his house. My last ride in his Porsche, how sad. I ran right up stairs, made sure everything was packed, bid aunty and uncle farewell and off I went to my hotel at Heathrow airport. I had a super king-sized double bed all to myself. My room was luxury. I had a wonderful nights rest in preparation for a 5am wake up and 8am flight out to the United States of America.
Two months in Europe went by way too fast. I absolutely loved every minute spent in London, England. I really do adore the city and I hope to return some time soon. I’m not quite sure I could ever love England, the way I do, the USA though. Tomorrow will be my third time returning to a country I would like to one day make my home.
Ah USA, how I love thee.