Summer Vacation 2018 Last Day

On our last morning in London we were greeting with a really pretty sunrise! Darlene left to catch her flight at around 4:30AM, but Pam and I left later in the morning, so I was able to get this shot out our window. We had the chance for one more meal at the amazing buffet breakfast before finishing our packing and making our way to Heathrow airport to fly home. 

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Oh, here is that amazing buffet I've been talking about. If you ever stay in London, I highly recommend the Park Plaza London Waterloo. The staff are fantastic, the room was lovely and the beds were comfortable. The décor is really cool, fun, and modern, and the food is great! I always enjoyed the free evening reception (for the upper three floors only), although they could've done with more food because they ran out quickly and often, but they more than make up for it with breakfast!!



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Pam and I elected to take a cab back to Heathrow, and I managed to get this one last shot of London from the window.

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Heathrow Airport is a madhouse - in a good way! I wish I'd had more time to eat and shop and people watch! The one thing that was annoying was that they would not give you your flight information until about 20 minutes before boarding! I mean we had boarding passes, so we had a general idea of when the flight would take off, but we didn't know what gate it was leaving from until nearly the last minute! Still we had time for a quick cocktail and a little shopping before we left.  


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Once again we were on British Airways, so we had two very large very delicious meals. The flight was almost 10 hours, I think, and since it was not an overnight flight, I managed to see five movies before we landed in the US. I watched Ready Player One, Unsane, I, Tonya, Ghost Stories, and Rampage.


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All-in-all this was one of the best vacations I've taken in a long time, and it's mostly down to my two travelling companions, Pam and Darlene. They are so much fun to be with and when we're together life is always an adventure! I'm looking forward to our next adventure!

Cheers!
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Summer Vacation 2018 Day 7 - St. Paul's Cathedral and Parliament

Our last full day in London was beautiful with sunshine and blue skies! Darlene booked a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral that also included a Thames River Cruise, and we had tickets to tour the Houses of Parliament later on, so we had another full day of sight-seeing to look forward to. Since we'd already enjoyed a river cruise with our London in a Day Tour, we skipped that activity, and headed straight to St. Paul's Cathedral. Photography was not allowed inside the cathedral which was a pity because it's absolutely stunning! However, it is a house of worship, so it's understandable. We were present for a morning prayer which was lovely and really enhanced the experience. We had the option to have the multi-media guide - an small cell phone-like device that had audio information as well as a visual tour. I started with that but elected to eventually stop using it and just look around the magnificent building. After our tour, we enjoyed some tea and cakes in the cafeteria before exploring the beautiful grounds. 

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We caught the Tube back to Westminster Palace for our tour of Parliament. The tour was interesting and it was really fun to go through the House of Commons and the House of Lords where the lawmakers work. I've seen it on TV, but to see it in real life was impressive. It was especially fascinating to learn that when it appears a lawmaker is hunched down sleeping on the job, they are actually listening to small speakers that are imbedded on the backs of the benches! We also saw the Central Lobby containing statues of the Kings and Queens of England, the Robing Room where the Queen puts on her Imperial Crown and ceremonial robes before going to the House of Lords, St. Stephen's Hall, and throughout were treated to lots of beautiful paintings, statues, frescoes, stained glass windows, and murals. 

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After the main tour, we went through the Voice and Vote exhibit about Women's Suffrage and Women in Parliament. It was a fascinating display that contained photos and papers from the women's struggle to get the vote and fight to participate in Parliament. The exhibit concluded with photos and video displays showing how women's participation in Parliament has grown over the years. 

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After these two amazing tours, we wandered down Whitehall to find a pub to sit and relax with a beverage and maybe something to eat. We settled on The Lord Moon of the Mall, and had a nice table by the window so we could do some people watching. After a while, we made our way back to the hotel past the heavily guarded 10 Downing Street, and arrived in time to enjoy one last evening reception before returning to the room to pack and try to sleep before rising early to head to Heathrow the next day. 

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Summer Vacation 2018 Day 6 - The London Eye, Walking in London, Wicked!

On the sixth day of our vacation we got a bird's eye view on London by taking a ride on the London Eye! The London Eye has 32 enclosed pods that can each hold up to 28 people. It turns continuously so you have to jump on and off fairly quickly. It will only stop to allow wheelchairs on board. The whole ride takes about 30 minutes to go around once, and the views are spectacular!  You can see all of London and a bit beyond! We had fairly nice weather - a bit cloudy, but no rain! - so we were able to see a lot!

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After our amazing ride on the Eye, we crossed Westminster Bridge and walked along the Victoria Embankment stopping into  the Pub on the Thames for a refreshing drink. We continued along the walk and checked out the various War Memorials, New Scotland Yard, and the Metropolitan Police Department. 

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After a lovely walk we made our way back towards Big Ben, and spotted information where we could get tickets to tour Parliament. That sounded like a lot of fun, and since the plan for our last full day in London only included a tour of St. Paul's Cathedral, and some shopping at the gift shop for Westminster Abbey (because we didn't have time on Day 1), we decided to add one more attraction to the list! Once our tickets were procured, it was time to head towards the West End to grab some dinner before seeing the musical Wicked! We found the Shakespeare Pub near to the theater and enjoyed some great drinks and food. I had the fish and chips with peas, and a couple drinks - a Cosmopolitan and a  Pornstar Martini - and it was a really delicious dinner. 

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The show was amazing and highly recommend it if you get the chance to see it! My friend Darlene bought these fun souvenir sunglasses from the show and let me borrow them for a selfie! I didn't think we were going to get to see a show while we were in London, so I was thrilled we were able to fit one in! We only have one more full day in London before heading home, but we still have a lot to do and see!

 


Summer Vacation 2018 Day 4: The Globe Theater, Afternoon Tea, and Soho

So after a couple days outside London, we decided to stay in the city on day four. We started by sleeping in a bit, but still making it up in time for the amazing buffet breakfast the hotel  provided every day. There was every kind of cereal you could want along with milk, coffee, tea, cocoa, orange and other fruit juices, fruit, yogurt, a variety of breads for toast, croissants, deli meats and cheeses, and heated items as well such as eggs two ways (scrambled or sunny-side up), pork bacon, smoked fish, roasted tomatoes, baked beans, sausage links, and hashed brown potatoes. I promise you will NOT go hungry at this hotel!

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After breakfast we headed down to Shakespeare's Globe Theater for a tour of the theater followed by Afternoon Tea. Because they weren’t rehearsing at the time we were able to go inside and actually tour the stage area itself. The Globe is an open air arena, so if it rains and you're on the "yard", you're going to get wet! Luckily, although it was cloudy, it didn't rain. The original Globe Theater was built in the late 1500s, burned down in 1613 then was rebuilt and used to entertain people until the Puritans closed it - and all other theaters - in 1642. By 1644 it was demolished. The idea to rebuild The Globe came from American actor Sam Wanamaker who spent many many years of his life working to get The Globe rebuilt. Sadly he died in 1993 and didn’t get to see the project finished. Shakespeare’s Globe Theater opened in 1997. Someday I hope to come back and see a play here!

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After our amazing tour, we headed next door to The Swan Restaurant for our Afternoon Tea. We had a great table by a window with a view of the Thames. It was A Mid-Summer’s Night Dream themed, and the plates featured drawings of Bottom and Puck. The tea was delicious (I had Earl Grey, my favorite,), as was the glass of Prosecco, and there was a lot of food - finger sandwiches and a mini quiche, scones with clotted cream and jam, and delicious desserts! I added the Love Potion cocktail as well and it was fantastic!


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After our fantastic tea, we strolled down the Jubilee Walkway back towards the hotel. It was a Bank Holiday, so there were lots of people out and about, and there were food trucks, and street performers (we met Charlie Chaplin!!), and even a merry-go-round! It was a lovely walk, and I think I could spend a whole day just exploring that area with all the shops and restaurants!

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When we got back to Westminster Bridge, we were checking out the Hop On/Hop Off double-decker bus tours when Darlene spotted a bike taxi and said, “Let’s go to Soho!” So we did! We thought it would be fun to do a pub hop, and went to a few different pubs and bars and had some very good cocktails. As we walked around one corner we found ourselves in Piccadilly Circus across the street from a theater ticket kiosk. Did we want to see a show in London?? Of course!! So we checked out what was available and settled on three tickets for Wicked! 

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Excited but exhaused, and knowing we had another big day coming up, we hopped on the Tube back to the hotel. 

Stay tuned for the next exciting stop on our amazing adventure!!


Summer Vacation 2018 Day 2: Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge

On day two of our summer trip, Pam, Darlene, and I took a day-long coach tour to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge with a stop in the village of  Lacock for a traditional pub lunch. There wasn't as much walking as the day before (only 10,301 steps), but we got to see the  beautiful English countryside and quaint little villages with thatched-roof cottages and lovely little gardens from the comfort of a lovely coach. 

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The first stop was Windsor Castle. The Castle and grounds are beautiful, and St. George's Chapel is gorgeous! I wish we'd had time to do a little shopping in town, because it looked like there were some fun shops. We got to see a bit of their Changing of the Guards ceremony as well!

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Next we went to Bath and got a coach tour of the town before stopping for an hour or so for some free time. I'd already seen the Roman baths on a previous trip, and the lines were really long anyway, so I was planning to tour the Abbey instead. Unfortunately it was closed for a private event, so I just did a little shopping and sight-seeing. They were having a public art event called Minerva's Owls of Bath so there were painted statues of owls scattered around town. I was able to see just a few of them, including the one called "J.K. Owling"!

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For lunch we stopped in the adorable village of Lacock and enjoyed a traditional pub lunch at The  George Inn. I had the cottage pie with peas and carrots along with their own house-made ale, while my friends opted for the fish and chips. Mine was delicious, and theirs looked good, too! After lunch we had a few minutes to wander around the village which is famous for being the location for several movie shoots including "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince". In fact the home I photographed below was used as the exterior for Horace Slughorn's house! One of the residence has a food stand set up on their block which contains cookies, baked goods, and jams and preserves. It was set up on the "honor system" with a box for you to leave your payment and made change, if needed. I couldn't resist, and picked up a jar of Raspberry Jam!

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Our final stop was Stonehenge! I was really looking forward to seeing this again, and wasn't disappointed! Stonehenge is simply awesome and beautiful! Even with the crowds of people, I was still able to get a couple really good shots of the circle. They have significantly improved the Visitor's Center since I was last there, including a large cafeteria and Gift Shop, and have added a life-size replica of the type of village that might have stood on the sight to house the labourers who worked on the site. There are also maps and other educational information around the area.

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All-in-all this was a really fun day filled with lots of sights, attractions, great food and drink, and wonderful information provided by our guide, Leon, and great driving from our coach driver Fernando.  We got home late, and collapsed into bed to rest up for our next action-packed day which would include Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford University!

Cheers!


Summer Vacation 2018 Day 1: London in a Day

For the first day of our Summer Adventure, Darlene, Pam and I decided to tackle the London in a Day walking tour. The tour included Westminster Abbey, the Changing of the Guards outside Buckingham Palace, lunch by Trafalgar Square, a Thames River Cruise, a tour of the inner workings of Tower Bridge, and the Tower of London to see the Crown Jewels. Phew! 

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We met our Tour Guide, Toby, and other people in our group by the Churchill statue in Parliament Square across the street from Big Ben and Parliament and right next to Westminster Abbey. These walking tours max out at 15 people, but I don't think we had more than 8 - 10 in our party, which was really nice! I also liked that technology made the whole experience super easy as we each had an earphone and receiver so we could hear our tour guide even if he was several feet away from us. I'm sure the tour guides like this much better, too, as now they don't have to shout to be heard over the hustle and bustle of the city! Surrounding Parliament Square are statues of 12 statesmen and other notable peoples such as Gandhi,  Abraham Lincoln, Nelson Mandela, and the newest - and only female statue - Millicent Fawcett who campaigned for women's suffrage. 

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Our first stop was Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately we were not allowed to take photographs inside the Abbey, which was disappointing because it's just as gorgeous inside as it is outside. It's most known as a burial place for Kings and Queens, and other notable people like Charles Darwin, Sir Isaac Newton, and the most recent to be interred, physicist Stephen Hawking. One section known as Poet's Corner, boasts Geoffrey Chauser, Charles Dickens, Lawrence Olivier, memorials for Shakespeare and C.S. Lewis. 

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Next we headed up along St. James' Park towards Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard. I didn't get many pictures because I was trying to take video instead. It didn't  really come out too well, unfortunately, but I did get a great shot of the Palace complete with the huge number of tourists mingling about! After the ceremony, we headed up the Mall and watched the Horse Guards come out, then headed up to Whitehall to walk past the heavily guarded 10 Downing street, Horse Guards, and Ben Franklin's home (when he was staying in London). 

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Then we headed up to Trafalgar Square where the 14-foot-tall Nelson's Column stands with four Bronze lions at each corner, and two fountains in front of the National Gallery.  Here we had an hour to ourselves to get lunch and look around. We chose The Admiralty pub close by where I had a delicious brie and jam sandwich. We were able to get a table on the patio, and enjoyed some people watching!

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After lunch we met up with our group in front of the George Washington statue by the National Gallery. It is said that Washington stated he wouldn't step foot in England, so soil from the US was shipped over and placed in the ground where the statue stands! We headed over to the Thames for our River Cruise, and enjoyed the view of London from the water.

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Once back on dry land, we made our way toward the Tower Bridge for a tour of the inner workings of the bridge, a walk along the upper clear glass walkway, and were even treated to the sight of the bridge rising to let a larger boat through! 

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After crossing to the other side, we ended our day-long walking tour of London at the Tower of London and got to view the Crown Jewels! Of course they do not allow photography of the jewels, and don't even let you get a close, lingering look at them. I remember the first time I saw them (back in 1987), they had you walking around the jewels in a large glass case with guards constantly chanting "Move along! Move along!" if people stood staring too long.  If you wanted to linger longer, you could go up a small flight of stairs to a viewing loft.  Now, while they are still in a glass case, they have the "moving walkways" you see in airports to take you past either side of the case the Crown Jewels are in so there's no chance of getting a very long look! There is space behind the walkway to stand back and look at them, but you can't get a real close view. 

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Phew! So after all that walking (only 16,234 steps according to my bellabeat, though I swear I took more steps than that!!), we were exhausted and our feet hurt, so we took the tube back to our hotel in time for the evening reception then collapsed into bed! I really do recommend this tour, though! You get a great overview of the highlights of London, and it gives you ideas of sights you might want to take a closer look at. But! Be sure to be in really good shape beforehand, and wear really comfortable shoes!! 

Next up: Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge! Cheers!


Summer Vacation 2018: London and Beyond!

So this past August I took an amazing trip to London and Paris with my two friends Pam and Darlene. We had a blast, saw tons of awesome stuff, and walked miles and miles and miles!  I know I probably should have written all this stuff down sooner, but we did a LOT, so the prospect was a bit overwhelming! However, with Holidailies, I figured what better time to finally get all these great memories recorded for posterity!

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My friend Darlene was already in London with her brother visiting family, so Pam and I travelled together. We flew on British Airways which I highly recommend as it was probably one of the best flying experiences I've ever had! Even in coach the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of legroom. We had two large meals, free wine, and new movies to view on our own personal viewing screen (also free!)! Since the flight to Heathrow was overnight, however, I only watched 1 movie (Avengers: Infinity War) and spent the rest of the time trying to sleep. We arrived early afternoon to beautiful sunshiny weather. Originally Darlene was going to meet us, but she was not able to, so Pam and I decided to just take a cab to the hotel rather than fight the Tube with all our bags and stuff. It worked out perfectly, and we were able to see a lot of the city as we were driven in. 

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The hotel Darlene chose (Park Plaza Waterloo) was really nice and in a perfect location just around the corner from Westminster Bridge, Big Ben and Parliament, and the London Eye. The Tube and bus stops were all right across the street! Pam and I had a chance to unpack and relax a little before Darlene arrived and we hit the ground running! The Hotel had a free evening reception for the upper three floors which included salads, snacks, and wine or soda. It was really nice and there was lots of food to choose from (we did learn , however, that it is best to get there right when the reception starts, as if you're even a half hour late there will be very little food left!), and the view from the observation deck was spectacular! After eating, we went for a walk and headed down towards the Thames river to check out the London Eye (but didn't ride it ... not yet!). We spotted Big Ben on the other side of the Thames all covered in scaffolding as it's undergoing a refurbishment at the moment. It is also silent, as the famous bells have been shut off while the work is being done to protect the workers. It will only chime on special occasions such as New Year's Eve, and the refurbishment is expected to take until 2021. We've already decided we have to come back to London that year so we can hear the "bongs"!

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After wandering around until after sunset, we headed back to the hotel to rest up for the adventure that awaited us! In just over a week we will visit London, Warwick Castle, Windsor Castle, Bath, Stonehenge, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Paris! 


Friday Five: Vacation Regrets

It seems to happen every time. No matter how precisely I plan out a vacation, I always end up missing something, forgetting something, not doing something, or regretting something. Here's five things I regret about my July vacation:

1. I regret not getting to talk to everyone as my class reunion. It was a case of so many people, so little time, but I sure wish I'd had the chance to talk with more folks at my reunion (aside from the "Oh, my gosh, HI!! How ARE you!?"). I started conversations with several people, only for one or both of us to get pulled in another direction. It was still awesome, and it was so wonderful to see everyone after so many years (the last reunion I went to was the 10th), but I wish I'd done more socializing.

2.  I regret not visiting Pullman, WA or Moscow, ID. I spent lots and lots of time in both cities as a teen and young adult, and even lived in Moscow for nearly four years after graduating college, so they both feel like "hometowns" for me. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough time to drive over and wander around either city, but it would've been nice to see how they've changed, and whether or not my favourite haunts (Ric-o-Shay Rags, Pterodactyl Records, The Old Mole, and Combine Mall in Pullman, and the Palouse Empire Mall and The Peppermill in Moscow) are still there.

3. I regret not getting out of the car and wandering around Cle Elum and Ronald. I just drove around and took pictuers of our old house and places I used to hang out through the window, but that was it. And at the time that was okay; I just felt kinda meh about the whole thing. But now I wish I'd parked the car and wandered around on foot.

4. I regret not taking any "outfit of the day" pictures, or pictures of my feet. I wore several really cute outfits over the week and a half I was away, and really only have a couple pictures of one of them - the maxi skirt and tank top from IGIGI. I honestly didn't even think about doing OOTD shots until I was already home. Also there were numerous opportunities to take pictures of my prettily painted toes in various places -  The Rose Garden pathway at the Butchart Garden, anywhere on the CWU campus,  and the beach at Lake Coeur d'Alene are the most obvious places, but I'm sure there were others I just missed because I wasn't thinking of it.

5. I regret not letting myself enjoy it all more. I mean, I had a great time - touring Victoria with Darlene and Pam was awesome, visiting with my original BFF Kelly was fantastic, the class reunion was super fun, and the road trip was cool, too ... but. I guess I wish I'd let go more. Let myself really see, feel, and truly experience everything. I guess I've always been more of an observer of life, rather than a participant in it, and I really hoped I wouldn't do that this trip.  I guess a leopard can't change its spots, though, right? I guess I'll just have to keep working on it!

Until next time, cheers!