Day 2 – Off to meet the Queen

 

Emillee, Silke and I along the Thames
Emillee, Silke and I along the Thames

Today we planned a day trip to London, where Silke and I met up with Emillee, one of my travel companions from my trip to Australia. It was so great to see her again and catch up after nearly 2 years. You never know how it will go when you bring two friends together, but I must say, once again it went exceptionally well!

The actual plan for the day was to walk around London and see some sights but also to just be together and chat. I must admit, aside from London being an unfamiliar city, I don’t necessarily feel like I am in a different country, and I think that helps to be surrounded by familiar faces.

Buckingham Palace from the side
Buckingham Palace from the side
Queen Victoria Statue
Queen Victoria Statue
Coldstream Guard with bearskin in front of Buckingham Palace
Coldstream Guard with bearskin in front of Buckingham Palace
Emillee and I in front of Buckingham Palace
Emillee and I in front of Buckingham Palace

Once we arrived and met up, we walked over to Buckingham Palace. The Queen was not in and being off-peak they were not doing the Changing of the Guard that day. I was able to get a shot of the Guardsmen in front of the Palace. It was great practice switching lenses and using my zoom lens to get in close.

As we were leaving, we witnesses the Household Cavalry headed down the Mall. It was quite an unexpected surprise but what a sight it was!

Household cavalry headed down the Mall
Household Cavalry headed down the Mall

We continued our journey through St. James’s Park where we saw a lot of water fowl. There were these three pelicans that looked to be patrolling the lake, with what we guessed to be the senior at the head. We also observed coot with their chicks, a couple of heron as well as the great crested grebe. They were so fun to watch as they dove under water for fish, with their butts up in the air!

Three pelicans patrolling the lake in St. James's Park
Three pelicans patrolling the lake in St. James’s Park
A Coot with it's baby fishing in the lake in St. James's Park
A Coot with it’s baby fishing in the lake in St. James’s Park
The Great Crested Grebe catching a fish in the lake in St. James's Park
The Great Crested Grebe catching a fish in the lake in St. James’s Park
A heron in St. James's Park
A heron in St. James’s Park

We rounded out being a tourist with the red phone box, pictures with the Bobbies (which unfortunately did not come out), the London Eye, the Elizabeth Tower at noon to hear Big Ben, the Tower of London, and the Tower Bridge, which to me looked straight out of a fairy tail.

The London Eye
The London Eye
Silke and I at the Tower Bridge
Silke and I at the Tower Bridge
Elizabeth Tower at noon to hear Big Ben
Elizabeth Tower at noon to hear Big Ben
London's Red Phone Box
London’s Red Phone Box

With all this sight seeing, we needed to eat so we walked over to a outdoor market to grab lunch. As it turned out, the theme was Africa, so almost all the food vendors were African inspired dishes… which made me more nervous of how much I may not be eating in Africa.

The Walking Talkie building that houses London's Sky Garden
The Walking Talkie building that houses London’s Sky Garden
Sky Garden
Sky Garden

The last activity was going up to the Sky Garden, located on the 35th floor of the Walkie Talkie Building.  Unfortunately with the rain, we were not allowed out of the viewing deck, but we did have quite a 360 degree view of London.  This is where we had the best view of the Gherkin, the Tower of London and the Tower Bridge!

The view of the Gherkin from the Sky Garden
The view of the Gherkin from the Sky Garden
The view of the Tower Bridge from the Sky Garden, raised for a yacht to pass
The view of the Tower Bridge from the Sky Garden, raised for a yacht to pass
Sky Garden view of the Tower of London
Sky Garden view of the Tower of London

For doing London in a day, I think we did pretty well! It really was so great to see friends that I never get to see and explore a city while doing it.

The one thing that surprised me, was the rifles that most of the guards were holding. I was under the impression that London police did not carry gun, and some did not, but the guards in and around some of the buildings were all carrying some powerful rifles. It makes sense, but I was not expecting it.

The fun fact of the day, Big Ben is the bell inside the clock in the Elizabeth Tower, so unless you go inside you do not see Big Ben, you just can hear him. Big Ben is responsible for the “bong” of each hour only, and not the chimes that happen prior or on every 15 minutes.

The Bull with his Mariachi
The Bull with his Mariachi

Funniest sight of the day, was what we could only assume was a Bachelor party, where all the men where Mariachi and the bachelor was the bull.

 

The first day is always a struggle

Disclaimer: This post was written on little sleep, so I may need to edit it later!

After an uneventful but nearly sleepless flight I have made it to London! I made it through customs, although between not sleeping and needing a restroom, I struggled to form sentences to the questions the agent was asking me. To say the very least, it did not go smoothly, but I made it through, then was off to pick up my bag, with a quick pit stop along the way!

Our flight made record time and we made it into London nearly an hour ahead of schedule. Thankfully, my friend was following my flight and was waiting for me, waving her arms at an end of a line of waiting people. It was an exciting sight to have someone waiting for me. After speaking only through text for the last year, it was great to actually see her and be able catch up in person.

As the title says it all, the first day is a struggle. We thankfully had a low key day, one that I as able to schedule an hour nap in. We walked around my friend’s home town of Walton-on-Thames and did a lot of chatting. I even successfully order myself a breakfast sandwich, bacon and egg on a baguette, and a coffee. I must say the bacon here was loads better then what they have in Australia! So far, I feel it has been an easy transition, with simple adjustments, like where to sit in the car as the passenger! I look forward to spending this time with friends, and exploring London before I am off to explore more of Europe. Tonight, we are headed out to go Salsa dancing and then a much needed good night sleep before a day in London.

3 days and counting…

Welcome all to my travel blog, I am excited for you to join me on this adventure! After a solid four months of “patiently” waiting and preparing, I cannot believe we are now only 3 days away from my start day!

These trips are a dream imagined. I have always wanted to take time to travel the world but I never expected that I would actually be able to do it. In April 2016, while rehabbing from shoulder surgery in December, and having a rough couple of years, I made the decision to book it. I had the perfect trifecta; time, money and limited responsibility.

I have always loved to travel. After going to Australia in December 2014, the desire to travel magnified and I started planning a list of destinations. The new friends I made in Australia, who shared this desire to see the world, kept that desire ignited. It was because of these new friends that I asked for a scratch travel map for Christmas the following year.

I think I may have squealed like a teenage girl when I received the map, and it soon became an obsession.  Once you scratch the first location, you want to keep scratching, and the plans start to formulate about how you are going to see the world. That plan I envisioned started to take form and is now this adventure that is before me.

I look forward to sharing this adventure with you, and please be advised, I am not a writer nor do I pretend to be on TV.  I now must go re-pack my bag, probably for the 10th time, as I have given myself ample time to rethink every choice I made.