Exceptional England

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I’m going to begin this post with a little story…

I have long been fascinated with everything England, largely due to Queen Elizabeth I, Princess Diana and the Royal Family. And now that it’s 2012, my current love affair with this iconic nation only grew, along with countless others because of the beautiful Duchess of Cambridge, Catherine Middleton. With the Royal Wedding a year earlier, the excitement of it all was sure to still be in the air, and it was!

So around February 2012, Paul got off the phone with someone, a longtime friend, and came directly over to me and said “If we ever want to go to London, we have a friend that we can stay with. She’s been there for a while now and said we can come and visit anytime!” Now mind you, Paul knows about my love for everything Royal as he watched me watch William and Kate’s wedding a hundred times over! I don’t think he actually finished the statement above before I whipped out the laptop and had tickets bought! The only thing I remember asking him was why he was just telling me about this friend who lives in London now!

A bonus to this whole scenario was that the summer Olympics were happening in London later that year! Traveling to an Olympic city during the actual Olympics can be very expensive (Accommodation wise) but we already had a place to stay so we decided to take part in the festivities and booked our travel so we could be there for the opening ceremonies! How cool was this going to be!

Now seeing as it was only February and we had already bought our tickets, I had a few good months of getting things organised and ready, but not before coming up with another great idea! Since we were going to be gone for a little more than 3 weeks, we had the opportunity to maybe add another destination on to our adventures!

One night while we were getting ready to close our eyes before bed, we were watching something on TV and the island of Majorca had popped up on-screen. Paul’s eyes instantly lit up and needless to say, again, round trip tickets were bought and we were going to take to the Spanish island for a week while we were over there! You know, a little vacation from our vacation!

And with that, we’re off!!!

The date is somewhere around the middle of July, 2012. The opening ceremony was held on July 27th, so I’m thinking we landed around the 15th or so. The flight was a breeze, and we were just too excited to get this show on the road!

HELLO LONDON!!!

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And there it was! The Olympics! And…. LONDON ENGLAND!!

*From this moment on, we would come to find out that no matter where we would travel in the future, we would be witness to some extraordinary events. Most of the time those moments wouldn’t be planned or scheduled around, they would just simply be there for us to experience and boy, we couldn’t be more blessed!

First stop, as always, is coffee for my other half!

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Now I’m not sure if it was solely because of the Olympics, but this place was spotless! Everything ran smoothly getting through customs and out of the airport and now it was time to find Monika!!

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I sadly do not have any pictures of us at the airport, we were way to busy with hugs and overcome with excitement that I didn’t even think of getting pictures… but that’s Monika on the far left with the orange and black backpack! Little did I know that she would soon become one of the best we’ve ever known!  More on the above picture a little down the road!

So back to London!

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So after hugs and more hugs, it was time to take to The Tube!!

The Tube, officially known as the London Underground, is the world’s oldest and second-longest rapid transit system with over 270 stations.  Over 4 million journeys are made every day with over one billion each year. The world’s first underground electric line started here in 1863.

Monika lives at one of the last stops on the Piccadilly Line, Wood Green. We were going to head straight there to drop our bags and head back out for our first set of sites! Even after our flights, we were ready to explore!

Bags dropped and we are ready to go!

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First stop, Wood Green! Our home away from home. And when in London, the first things you will see are the iconic red Double Decker buses! I guess this means we actually made it! And yes, KFC’s are everywhere!

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This was my sight most of our time there… Following Paul and Monika! I was always taking pictures and they had a lot of catching up to do so it was a perfect fit.

Now Paul and Monika grew up together in Poland, so they had known each other for years. They hadn’t seen each other since High School so getting to catch up here seemed almost fitting. What a great three weeks it was going to be!

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After walking around Wood Green for a bit, it was time to take to the Tube again and head into the city. I could not wait!

Our first stop, Piccadilly Circus!

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Circus, in this context, is from the Latin word meaning “circle”, a round open space at a street junction.

Piccadilly now leads directly to the theatres, major shopping and entertainment area’s as well as the heart of downtown. When you make it to London, make your first stop Piccadilly Circus… you won’t be disappointed!

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The energy you feel from this place is fantastic! The architecture is amazing, the lights are shining, (even during the day) and the smiles on our faces were from ear to ear. Time to head onward!

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Two more iconic sites… the Red phone booth and the Hackney carriage. (the famous black taxi)

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Next sight, Trafalgar Square.

Trafalgar Square is a public square in the City of Westminster, Central London. It’s name commemorates the Battle of Trafalgar, a British naval victory in the Napoleonic Wars with France and Spain which tool place in 1805 off the coast of Cape Trafalgar, Spain.

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(We will visit all of these places again on this trip, this is just our first day taking it all in!)

Onward!

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Now on your first visit to London, you have to prepare yourself for people. Lots of People.

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London has a diverse range of people and cultures with more than 300 languages spoken in the region. The municipal population of Greater London was close to 9 million at the end of 2016 and a metro population of close to 14 million. London was the worlds most populous city from around 1831 to 1925.

And a little further down you will begin to see the one and only Palace of Westminster.

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The palace of Westminster is the meeting place of the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom.

The first royal palace was built-in 1016 and was the primary residence of the Kings of England until a fire destroyed much of the complex in 1512. After the restoration, it served as the home of Parliament. In 1834, an even bigger fire broke out and left behind only Westminster Hall, the Cloisters of St. Stephen, the Chapel of St. Mary Underfcroft and the Jewel Tower.

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I will admit, even though a breathtaking sight, I was more interested in what was right across the street…

Westminster Abbey.

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The first sight of it really does take your breath away. The sheer size and detail are magnificent. (We will come back here in a few days for more details!)

I stood here for a few minutes as the other two walked ahead… I just didn’t want to leave. But I knew once I did get my feet to walking, I was going to see much more!

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Before we left for this trip I had purchased us 7 day London City Passes with transportation included. I believe this was the best travel choice I have ever made. With this pass you were granted free entry to over 70 attractions, tours and museums. You could either pick a 3,5 or 7 day pass and I chose the 7 day as we had plenty of time to spare. The first time you use your card starts your countdown until it ends. We wanted to start ours in a few days so that’s the only reason we didn’t go in any of these places yet!

After walking around the Abbey for a while, it was time to head on. Even though I knew we would be back, it sure was hard walking away from this piece of history.

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Down the road we go. And here is another sighting that just made me 100% sure we were actually in England…

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The one and only real place to get fish and chips. This was also going to happen very soon!

Down the road we go…

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It was no coincidence we were heading the way we were as I was on a mission to see another bucket list place, the great St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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There. It. Was.

Besides seeing Westminster, this was without a doubt one of those life changing moment’s.

With my longtime love affair for everything England, and Royal, and I will openly admit, weddings, I was finally here where the most famous wedding of all time took place. The Wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer.

To be here meant more than I could ever put into words.

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I know it may sound silly, but I think seeing this place was the ultimate tipping point in finding my love and passion for travel. Even though we had just gotten back from a European trip the previous year, this was the final turn of the key that opened the door to the rest of the world.

And of course and only fitting, a restaurant right next door…

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So, I couldn’t take it any more… I had to live in the moment so it was time to go in! We didn’t use our passes, we just bought tickets and went inside. I think I was able to snap one picture inside before noticing there was no photography allowed inside… Oops!

So the one and only:

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Wednesday 29th of July, 1981, 3500 guests made up the congregation at the Cathedral to be apart of the spectacular event. An estimated 750 million watched the wedding world-wide including my mother, who remembers it very well.

All of Europe’s crowned heads attended with the exception of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. First Lady Nancy Reagan represented the United States.

Once out of her glass coach, you can hear the reporters on television simply say, “What a dream she looks, what a dream she looks.”

And so is the view from the top.

Now to get to the top is no easy feat… Next year, when we are here again, Dad and I will make the trip again, and again be simply blown away.

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Fantastic! It is rather windy once you get outside, but it is without a doubt one of the best views in all of the city.

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One of the most notable exterior features of the cathedral is the dome, which rises 365 feet to the cross at the summit. The dome is considered by many, even foreigners, to be one of the most perfect in the world, or “without equal”.

Above the keystones of the arches (Inside the dome) 99 feet above the floor and 112 feet wide, runs a cornice which supports the Whispering Gallery so-called because of its acoustic properties. A whisper or a low murmur against the wall at any point is audible to a listener with an ear held to the wall at any other point around the gallery. (Yes, it really does work!) To get there, 259 steps up.

Please read more about this magnificent place when you get time. Or better yet, pack your bags and make your way to London to see it for yourself!

You won’t regret it!

And with that comes the end of our first day in London. There will be SO much more to come as we get the next three weeks to explore!

As always, Stay Tuned!

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(Westminster pictured above)

 

 

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