London Travels

So l went on a trip to London at the beginning of October. It was a two fold trip–one there was a small career expo being held, and two it was going to be a mini-vacation (plus checking something off my bucket list, and I actually managed to get a couple of things checked off the bucket list).

Flying into London, circling over the Thames River

Getting to London wasn’t that bad–the overnight flight wasn’t packed so I was actually able to have several seats to myself–which meant I could stretch out to try to sleep (which I did–until the turbulence hit).  Then there is always the fun of trying to find your way through a new airport (not to mention customs and security).

After all the fun of getting to the hotel (and I cheated and got a cab once I got into London, instead of trying to walk to the hotel), I checked in my luggage (since my room wasn’t ready yet) and then decided to do some exploring.

The hotel that I chose to stay at was just across the street from Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, so I decided to walk through the Gardens/Park on my way to a couple of the museums.

Fountain in the Italian Water Gardens in Kensington Gardens/Hyde Park

One nice thing about London museums is that they are all free to enter, though they do ask for donations. The first one I went to was the Science Museum.  It was interesting, I wandered through the space portion of it twice.  I didn’t see that much of it because, one I was hungry (and while I grabbed lunch in their cafe–I wasn’t hungry [if that makes any sense]), and there were a lot of kids running around the museum. I forgot that trips to museums are still a thing, and since it was early in the week, I shouldn’t have been surprised to see so many kids about in the museum.

Planet at the Science Museum

The next stop was the Natural History Museum, which was just down the street from the Science Museum.  After entering, the first thing that you saw was the Stegosaurus skeleton.  Now this is a museum that I managed to wander through basically all the corridors and rooms of. They had an entire wing that was fossils of the Ichthyosaur, showing different fossils found in different parts of the England.

Stegosaurus skeleton at the Natural History Museum

They also had a room that had different types of minerals and petrified stones/woods on display as well. Below is one of my favorites.

One of the many minerals on display at the Natural History Museum

After spending about two hours wandering through the museums, I decided to head back the way I came so that I could check into my hotel room.

An Egyptian Goose

One of the birds that I saw constantly in the Gardens/Park was an Egyptian Goose–which is now semi-native to the area, after several escaped and started breeding.

Dinner was at Tukdin Flavours of Malaysia, which was just down the street and around the corner from the hotel. I decided to go with something small and lite, since I wasn’t super hungry (body still wasn’t sure what time it was or what day it was either). So I tried the the Satay goring (chicken pieces marinated in oriental spices served with rice cubes, cucumber, onions and peanut sauce along with a serving of Nasi lemak kosong (coconut rice). It was just the right amount of food, and wasn’t super spicy or hot either. It was a nice little restaurant, that had good food–would recommend it to anyone–though it can fill up quickly as well.

Wednesday was spent figuring out the London metro system and finding my way to the Business Center where the Nature career expo was being held. It was an interesting day, where I met several people that I probably only communicated with over the internet, and came away with some valuable information on job searching. The Business Center was an interesting place, though I think they could have used a little more for the Nature career expo, because it did seem to be squished a little (at least where most of the schools were). But it was a good day over all, even if I didn’t come away with a job liked I’d hoped I would.

Then it was the vacation portion of the trip. I tried to squeeze just about everything I could into the next three days. One thing that I would strongly suggest–if you buy the London Pass (which is a great idea)–buy the two or three day pass. I bought the one day pass, and while I managed to see most of what I wanted–I didn’t get to spend as much time within certain places as I would have liked because of the fact I was trying to get from place to place to place.

So which places did I managed to see over the next three days?

Well, after getting the London Pass, I decided to walk towards Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. So I walked pass the National gallery, where one of the statues out front is a Big Thumb Up.

A Big Thumb Up at the National Gallery

I managed to see Big Ben, and while it wasn’t ringing–it was still an impressive clock tower to see.

Big Ben is getting a little TLC right now.

I managed to make it into Westminster Abbey. So, I am not a western religious person by any stretch of the imagination. While I believe in a higher power–that power that I believe in is the cosmos–we all came from star dust, and we will all return to star dust at some point. Going to Westminster Abbey, was a chance to look at the architecture and history of a building. While I was disappointed that you couldn’t take pictures inside of the Abbey, I also realized that it was a good thing–I would have used up probably all the memory on my camera and phone before leaving the Abbey. It was a little spooky to realize that you were walking over Charles Darwin’s tomb, and then past the tombs of Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scot.

Some of the lovely architecture of Westminster Abbey

Across the street was the House of Parliament, that was also getting a little TLC as well.

House of Parliament

I then wandered over the Westminster Bridge to get a glimpse of the London Eye.  One thing that is still on my bucket list is actually riding on the Eye, and getting a picture of London from the Eye. But I hadn’t bought the tickets, and had several other places that I also wanted to get to in the afternoon.

The London Eye

What is a trip to London without seeing the Tower of London?

Tower of London

The tower of London was a magnificent medieval fortress to wander through. I even ate lunch (had the necessary fish and chips) there. Though I did not make it up to the actual top of the white tower–204 steps up a winding staircase with a lot of other people, just wasn’t something I wanted to try to do.

From the Tower of London, you could see the London Bridge.

London Bridge over the Thames River

One cool thing with the London Bridge is that in the walkway–there are panels of glass so that you could see both the road and river below.

From the London Bridge, I made my way back to the next stop which was St. Paul’s Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Cathedral

Though by the time I got to the Cathedral, it was close to the end of the day–so they seem to have been almost getting ready for an evening service. Again, they don’t allow pictures inside (which is a good thing or else I would have ran through more memory taking pictures of the stain glass and architecture).

Friday was a full day of traveling and playing tourist. I decided that I’d join a group tour that was hitting several different places within England, and get some other things checked off my bucket list.

The first stop was Windsor Castle.

Windsor Castle

When I bought the group tour, I decided that I wanted to be able to tour Windsor Castle, and it was a very interesting place, especially since it is actually the home of the Queen of England (though she was up in Scotland). Luckily again, there were no pictures allowed on the inside tour of the castle. One of the cool things was seeing Queen Mary’s Doll House and all the work that went into making it. Walking through the State Apartments were cool as well. Also on the grounds is another chapel (St. George’s Chapel), where other kings and queens are said to be buried.

After Windsor Castle was on to Stonehenge, but first we saw this on the side of the road.

A Medieval prison cell on the side of the road

Visiting Stonehenge has always been on my bucket list of things I wanted to do at some point in my life. It was amazing seeing the stone circle in person. True, you couldn’t get very close to the stones (I think they keep you back at least 1/4 of a mile), but you could see them. I did feel calm while there–probably calmer than I’d felt in awhile.  Also it was an unusually sunny time when we made it there as well, though I did manage to get the illusion of dreary weather as well when the sun went behind the clouds once or twice.

Sunny day at Stonehenge

After Stonehenge, we traveled on to the village of Lacock and then onto the town of Bath.

The abbey in Lacock, that is also set for several Jane Austen movies

Lacock, was a quaint little village that is merging protecting the past with the present quite well. The only way you knew you weren’t a couple hundred years in the past was the fact that there were cars and not horses in the streets.

Avon River running through Bath, England

The Bridge in Bath that goes over the Avon River.

Outside architecture of the Abbey in Bath

More Gothic architecture in Bath at the Abbey. One thing that I didn’t do, but would like to is go back and actually go into the Roman baths–I’d decided to wander along the river instead of going back into Bath (somewhat) before the tour departed to head back to London.

Saturday was my last day of playing tourist and again I tried to put as much into the day as I possibly could. So I started off my day by finding myself at:

No visit is complete without coming to Platform 9 3/4

I decided that I needed a new tshirt, scarf, and the marauder’s map (as I solemnly swear I’m up to no good).

From there I found myself

A chemistry set that Sherlock and Holmes might have used. Sherlock Museum, London

Again, what is a trip to London without stopping at the house of a famous detective?

Next door was the Beatle’s store, and as much as I wanted to go in and browse, I didn’t–mainly because I knew that I didn’t have enough room for souvenirs and I’d probably try to pick some up (so next time).

My last stop for the day was at the British Museum:

One of the many interesting items in the African wing of the British Museum

The Museum is extremely large–and the time I spent in it (about 2 1/2 hours) wasn’t nearly enough time. I could have easily spent that amount of time in each different wing of the museum.

One of the many interesting items in the America wing of the British Museum

One of the many hieroglyphic pictures from the Central American portion of the American wing of the British Museum. I’ve always have been fascinated by the Mayan, Aztec, and other pre-Columbus cultures of central America.

One of the many interesting items in the Egyptian wing of the British Museum

They had a large Egyptian collection, that contained numerous sarcophagus and hieroglyphic pieces. This is another time period that has always fascinated me. Again, I could have spent several hours just in this portion of the museum.

The one wing I didn’t get to was the Asian wing–mainly because I got so turned around in the museum I’d actually thought I’d been through most of it.

Sunday was spent flying back to the States, getting through customs (which in Dallas feels like you’re going through the self checkout line in Wal-Mart), security, and then almost missing the last connecting flight for the day.

It was a amazingly short trip to London, but one where I managed to see several things that I had on my bucket list, make new friends, and be able to say yes, I’m slowly marking things off my bucket list.

I’d recommend traveling to London to anyone who loves history, architecture, or just wants to travel abroad (but may not know a different language). While we do live in dangerous times, if you pay attention, keep your eyes open, you can stay safe and still have fun.

I’m already trying to figure out where the next trip could be, and what I will need to start doing in order to prepare for it. Learn another language? Perhaps. Build the savings up to pay for it? Definitely.