England was my first destination on my Euro Trip of 2015. As soon as I got to my hotel, I quickly met up with my Tour Director and got some ideas of what I could explore as he waited for the rest of the group to arrive throughout the day. I took his advice and walked around London, and then strolled through Hyde Park. Hyde Park is lovely and sort of like London's version of Central Park (but with no homeless people). It was nice to see a ton of people out enjoying it. I also went to Kensington Palace and toured it. My favorite one section of the palace was the area that featured dresses of the royal family over the decades. That night a few of us went to a speakeasy called Bart's - it was inside of a hotel and then through a janky looking door. It was a teeny sized bar playing modernized music from decades ago. There I interacted with some locals who were really fun to converse with (ah, those accents :)). It was a blast.
The next day we went to St. Paul's Cathedral. The bells rang with great enthusiasm outside the church which I loved. The inside was beautiful, and it was easy to see why Princess Diana and Prince Charles were married there. From there we went by some London staples like Westminster Abbey (where royal coronations, weddings, and funerals often take place at), Big Ben (clock tower), the London eye (ferris wheel thing), and the Tower Bridge. Then we stopped at Buckingham Palace which was pretty magnificent - although apparently Queen Elizabeth prefers Windsor Castle. After seeing the must-sees, a small group of us actually went out to Windsor Castle. I am so so so glad I went. Windsor Castle is HUUUUUGE, and the tour through it was just amazing. There was so much history, and so many stories. We lucked out because parts of the castle were open that aren't normally because of the Queen's anniversary. I'd recommend anyone going to England to go there. The little town of Windsor is pretty cute, as well. It has a bunch of shops, and restaurants. I of course took it upon myself to get some Wine Gums while I was there (a British gummy candy), and got a few folks hooked on them, too.
The day after that I went with some folks over to Stonehenge! If you have an appreciation for history and mystery - I'd definitely recommend, otherwise you might just view this as a bunch of big rocks. But I thought it was really cool to see something SO old. Right around the corner from Stonehenge is a town called Salisbury. There, a couple girls and I went to a cafe and had English tea which consists of tea, mini sandwiches, teeny desserts, and little biscuits, and CLOTTED CREAM. OMG. Clotted cream is like a sweet buttery spread - it's so good. I'm almost glad it's not in the U.S. because I don't think I'd have the willpower to not consume barrels of the stuff. After we fueled up, we went to the Salisbury Cathedral which was this beautiful gothic cathedral that happens to hold one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta. It was really cool to see this historic document first hand, and mind-blowing to think of how it influenced our own U.S. Constitution.
Later that evening while back in London I tried the famous "fish and chips" meal at a pub. I don't normally care for fried foods, but I actually enjoyed the fish! The "chips" (which are American french fries) were normal. But I also got a side of "mushy peas" which apparently is a thing there. It basically tastes like someone chewed your peas for you and then spit them back out. I love peas, but definitely prefer the unmushed variation! ;) One thing I thought was interesting was that this meal was served with a side of tartar sauce (normal), and a side of this delicious curry sauce. In fact, there were a TON of Indian restaurants in London. I wasn't expecting that. After dinner a bunch of the group got together and went into town and saw "Billy Elliot" at the Victoria Palace Theatre. It's a very British show, and you could really get a feel for that punchy British humor in it. I enjoyed it, and thought the style of the humor was hilarious, but the story itself was a bit lacking, as was the music that accompanied it which shocked me because I love Elton John! But I will say the dancing was extremely impressive, and the acting itself was fantastic, so I'm still glad I went.
- There are no street signs in London! And if there are, they're hidden.
- The guys in London are way more refined than American guys, and they dress exponentially better. Girls in London are pleasant but way more reserved.
- There was basically a destructive fire near or at every important thing in England at one point or another.
- Everyone smokes.
Overall, England was one of my favorite places. It's such a neat blend of old and new. And there is something for everyone there. I can't wait to go back.