Archive for August, 2014

Last Day in London

Friday, August 8th, 2014

My final day in London was filled with some of my favorite things that I had purposefully saved for last because I had been looking forward to them the most. The first of these things was actually going inside of the Westminster Abbey. I had been inadvertently circling this famous monument since I had first stepped foot in London, but despite being a constant in my time in London, I did not know what sort of treasures lay within the Gothic spires and flying buttresses of this impressive edifice.





Inside the Abbey I wasn’t actually supposed to take any photos so I only have a few secret photos of this incredible place. I spent hours slowly wandering up and down the aisles of this unbelievably beautiful building. Listening to my free audio guide, I took as much time as I wanted without a worry in the world, letting myself be wholly consumed by what was presently before me. IMG_4194

Each stain glass window, every statue protruding from the towering ceilings, every arched hallway stretching like the arms of a cross, the intricate carvings that covered seemingly every surface. It was easily worth the ridiculous cost of entry because it was up in the top of my favorite churchs, which is saying a lot after becoming a cathedral snob due to Rome’s over abundance of incredible churches.  IMG_4184

Even from within the Abbey you could see the spires of Parliament peaking around the intricate rooftops of the Westminster. It was a pretty magical place on its own, but coupled with its amazing neighbors, it was truly phenomenal.



But the interior was the real show stopper. I wish I could have taken more, and better pictures of it, but it was definitely one of my favorite things in London. The Poet’s Corner, not pictured here, was a wonderful treat for me to see all the stone tablets commemorating so many incredibly talented writers that I have been reading for years. To stand amongst their names, circled in their words, portraits, and often times their very graves, was an unforgettable experience. Chaucer, Dickens, Dryden, Hardy, Kipling, and Tennyson lay buried at my feet, and memorials to Milton, Shakespeare, Blake, Austen, the Bronte sisters, Coleridge, Keats, C.S. Lewis, and many other world changing poets and writers surrounding me. To stand in this hallowed place as a writer and English Major was mind blowing, to be surrounded with such ineffable talent was a dream come true.



But back out in the world of the living, I had a whole day of wandering and things that I had not yet experienced in London that I knew I had to see before I went on my way to my next leg of the journey. IMG_4274


Crossing the London Bridge I came to my next, and shamelessly one of the most exciting things for me besides the Poets Corner, The Borough Market because everyone knows how much of a nut I am for markets of any and every sort.


I started my market experience with a little lunch at what seemed to be a very popular outdoor assembly line of awesome food.


 I opted for the Catalan Stew, consisting of an amazing Paella cooked in an insanely huge wok type pan.


The Paella was then topped with the stew, which was a spiced blend of vegetables and meatballs simmered in yet another ridiculously large pot.


All mixed together it was a fantastic lunch that I ate under the shadow of a church while rain began to softly fall.


When the rain became to much for me I wandered into the actual market under the covered safety of a bridge with a green underbelly of iron. There were so many stands full of so much amazing food, I couldn’t even begin to take pictures of it all let alone eat it all, and believe me, I did try.


Weaving between the stands, the smokey wisps of cooking food, and fresh produced piled high, I was entirely mesmerized by this wonderland of food.IMG_4304






I tried a lot of different things, dumplings, Turkish delight, chili, cheese, olives, and even an incredible gluten free almond croissant that blew my mind and my taste buds.


I spent a long time wandering the market, even ducking into an old pub hiding under the bridge called the Globe from the 1800’s, before begrudgingly leaving with a stomach full of delicious food.IMG_4294

My next stop was the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, two iconic images of London that I had yet to see.


Walking around the Tower of London in a soft drizzle, it was an intriguing structure to behold. This historic palace and fortress seemed almost hilariously out of place with the modern surroundings that stood tall around it. IMG_4342


It was definitely a strange juxtaposition between the old and the new, a juxtaposition I had grown accustomed to during my time in Europe because this seems to be present in almost every major European city I have yet traveled to, which I suppose isn’t saying a lot looking at my travel history, but still, an intriguing motif no doubt.



Coming around the Tower of London on the side along the Thames, the wind picked up, so freezing my butt off I continued along the huge river towards the Tower Bridge, which is an incredible lift bridge with wonderful architectural features.




I really enjoyed the bridge and walking across it slowly, looking back over the city that I had explored for several days, it felt right to end my time there in that way. IMG_4392


It had been a wonderful experience, so leaving on the commuter train for Wallington was a sad feeling, and the ride home gave me a good while to consider all of the incredible things I had seen over the span of my time in England. With only one day left in England before continuing on to the Netherlands, I was well pleased to watch the sun descend over London one last time. IMG_4414

Posted in Photos, Stories, Travel Updates |


Wednesday, August 6th, 2014

The day after I returned from York, I took a day trip to Oxford with my gracious host Gavin who was an alumnus and wanted to show me around this world famous university. On a rainy day, interrupted sporadically with moments of blue sky forcing their way through the stubborn rain clouds, we took in the sights of this little city with such a big name. IMG_4033

Wandering around every building it was easy to see why this was such a prestigous school with its impressive architecture, incredible location in the adorable town of Oxford, and I am sure the academics are insane but I sadly didn’t get to see any examples of that since a majority of the colleges where closed due to examinations.IMG_3995


I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t get to see the inside of Oxford’s incredible libraries that I had always dreamed of visiting, but I was still very glad to see what I could. IMG_3998

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Everything in Oxford seemed like some wonderfully ancient relic of mankind. The architecture was mind blowing and we got to see a couple of cool things like this old illuminated Bible. IMG_4014


I loved the colors of the pale buildings that surrounded the university buildings. The mixture of the architecture that was so striking in the colleges contrasted with the short, and rather plain but well colored normal houses made the town just a little bit more endearing to me. IMG_4020


We also got to wander around an adorable market with twinkle lights and red paint covering everything except for the white trim and the hanging lanterns.IMG_4038


After taking a short break in a pub for lunch, we thought we had escaped the rain, but once we left were immediately drenched in a fierce downpour that continued for a majority of our short stay in the town.



We dashed between chapels and colleges hiding as much as we could from the torrential downpour that seems so characteristic of England, which I had up until this point been spared form during my time in England. IMG_4059

The chapels where unbelievable, with their huge organs and impressive interiors.IMG_4063

Everything was straight out of a movie it seemed (probably Harry Potter if I am not mistaken) and how fairytale-like it all was. IMG_4074

It was hard for me to look at everything and think that it was a real school, where real people go to get an incredible education. It was just so otherworldly feeling and different than anything I had ever personally experienced back in the States. It was hard for me to wrap my brain around the idea of actually going to school in a place that truly belonged in a storybook. IMG_4077






We spent the whole day just wandering as I usually do when I visit a new place and I was just so grateful to get to see another wonderful town in England.IMG_4109






Magdalene college was probably my favorite with a wonderful courtyard and it’s back facing the deer park where deer roamed behind fences and a river that ran through oxford. IMG_4150



The sun finally broke through for a brief moment lighting all of the buildings and the beautiful flowers even as the sky grew darker and darker with the same old rain clouds that had been following us all day.



I really loved the river and the little colorful boats that people used to peruse down its watery ways.





With increasingly dark clouds warning us to part ways, we left Oxford behind, soaked through, but  so glad I got to see what an English University looks like, because who knows, maybe I will return to take classes there some day. IMG_4164

Posted in Photos, Stories, Travel Updates |

York: Part Two

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014


The entirety of a day lay before me, the whole of a city yet to be explored was my wondrous opportunity, so with feet to the cobblestones that lined these streets I set out to conquer every avenue in York.


The town was wondrously fairytale-like with banners of flags draped across courtyards bringing color to the old buildings that appeared on every street corner. IMG_3706

I felt like no matter where I wandered there was some mysterious building calling my attention away. With no object except exploration in mind, there is so much to discover in a place such as York because everything is new, yet old at the same time. I think in some small way I loved York deeply because it made me feel like how I felt while in Rome; like anything was possible in a world caught between the old and the new of infinite wonders. IMG_3711

After a small jaunt of aimless wandering I made my way to the Museum Garden Park, which is a wonderful little area along the river that is lined with museums, flowers, and ruins standing tall and monolithically pervading over all who passed in the shadow it cast on the green lawns. There were people everywhere lounging laughing, and soaking up the good weather cast down by the sun’s rays.





I spent a while walking around the ruins, looking into ancient fortress walls and towers left behind by the mercy of time.

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When I returned to the main part of the park area I was surprised to see a birds of prey exhibit, which meant that there was a tent where a bunch of huge birds and small ones where on display. IMG_3757

This little guy was probably my favorite, he had a lot of energy and wanted nothing to do with his perch.


The owl was the funniest and I actually got to hold him, which was really incredible yet scary because he was not exactly pleased to be so surrounded by people. IMG_3778

He was very vocal as well, constantly screeching and reeling his head around to stare down some innocent passerby.



This little one with the big dark eyes was absolutely silent, he watched quietly all of the people without the slightest sound as his loud companion, the great horned owl squawked up a storm. IMG_3796

After enjoying the birds, I returned to the famous walls of York to take a walk around the city to observe the center from the outside. IMG_3842

It seemed like from almost every angle on the wall you could see the impressive spires of York Minster peeking out from behind brick buildings or through tree branches covered in small blossoms.




I loved every little street or alley way I wandered down, everything was so incredibly quaint.IMG_3872 IMG_3879

I got to see some of the most historical places in York aside from its ancient walls, like these white houses below which are the oldest buildings in York. IMG_3886

Also an incredible old church with box style pews and crooked floors where the dead where buried under each slab of stone. IMG_3889

After getting to see all of these sights I stopped for a quick lunch break and got my first taste of fish n’ chips at a lovely little place with the biggest portions ever. IMG_3891

With a trough like box full of fries and fried fish I sat in a cute courtyard surrounded by little ice cream vendors with a direct line of sight to York Minster looming in the distance. IMG_3897


Next on my agenda were the famous York Shambles, a small area with crooked leaning houses looming over a cobblestone street lined with adorable shops. But while taking a short break, wherein I talked randomly with an elderly woman about her garden and her children, I got to take in the sights of the market just outside of the shambles. IMG_3941

The Shambles where like every picture in a story book of England I had ever seen before, and they were maybe my favorite thing in York. IMG_3917

It was a small street, but I wandered up and down it again feeling like I was strolling through a story book trying to understand when exactly my life became a fairy tale. It is a strange thing to realize that suddenly you are leading a life that is everything you had hoped it would be, but you still cannot really believe that life truly belongs to you.  IMG_3926



After my breath taking time in the Shambles I returned to the garden area to see that the birds of prey were now released from their perches and where casually hopping around on the grass freely. There was a exhibit going on where the bird keepers where showing off the skills of the birds and it was pretty fun to watch, like the low flying skill of the Great Horned Owl. IMG_3968

Or the diving and swooping of an Arizona Kestrel Hawk snatching food from the keeper’s hand in a flash of feathers.


The rest of my time in York was spent wandering up and down every street that I could find, weaving my way across the fabric of this wonderful little place. IMG_3950



Finally I made my way to my last stop of the day, York Minster, the towering cathedral that is the most impressive sight in York aside from its walls. IMG_3953

I had decided to go to an evening song service, so instead of going inside I marvel at the exterior and then decided to get some afternoon tea to kill time until the service. IMG_3815



I stopped to get some good ol’ tea and scones with clotted cream and jam since I had already had the classic fish n’ chips I figured why not go for all of the english classics? The waiter was super nice and I stayed in the tea shop for about an hour and a half just savoring the peacefulness of tea and the view of the Minster right outside of the window lined with colorful flowers.IMG_3981

When the time came I left behind my new friends at the tea shop and went to the cathedral for service.


The inside was massively impressive but I wasn’t really supposed to take pictures because I hadn’t paid to get in since I was attending a service which is free. There was a majestic beauty in the immense stain glass and the high arching stone of the interior that matched the exterior I had been marveling at all day from afar. IMG_3991

The service was beautiful and the surroundings unbelievable, I was sad to have to leave by the end.


The bells of the church, the song of the choir still ringing in my ears as I boarded my train back to my temporary home outside of London was a perfect way to conclude my time in York. The entire train ride back I marveled at how incredibly lucky I am to be able to see the things I saw. The sun descended behind the train as we rocketed homeward, closing the final light on my adventure to York, but as I closed my eyes that night back in my bed, I knew it only meant there would be a new adventure tomorrow.