Monday, November 25, 2013

My Trip to England (Part 3)

If you missed any of my trip, you can read about it here and here.

Day 6 Paris:

When we first began planning this trip, I knew that if at all possible I wanted to sneak over to Paris for a day. All my life, I had wanted to see both the Eiffel Tour and Notre Dame. We scheduled a Eurostar trip over to France. We arrived at St. Pancras station at 6 a.m. and boarded the train at 6:30 a.m. I was a little nervous about riding a train that travels underneath the English Channel, but it was the most smooth ride we had the entire trip. We left while it was still dark, and came out of the tunnel to the French countryside illuminated with the morning sun. It has to be one of the prettiest things we saw on our trip and makes me want to take more trains throughout Europe.



We alighted at the Paris Gare Du Nord station. My French is more than a little rusty and it took us a while to ask enough people and make enough mistakes to find our way to the subway which would take us to Notre Dame. This was our one and only argument the entire trip--how to get out of the station. It is the most confusing place. Thankfully everyone was very kind and spoke enough English to help us. We were truly grateful.

We had only about seven hours in the city so we again booked a Hop On, Hop Off bus tour. And because I knew I most wanted to visit three places, for the rest of the tour we simply rode around the city taking in the sites. I cannot even remember most of the places that we passed. It was definitely a whirlwind trip, but here are the photos from the tour.

Notre Dame:






This was one of my MUST visit places and it was everything I wanted it to be. Far more sparsely decorated than Westminster or St. Paul's cathedral, it was lovely and quiet and solemn in such a beautiful way.

Eiffel Tower:








This was my little girl fantasy come true. When I first saw it and it dawned on me that I was truly seeing it in person, I got a little choked up. There really is a magic to places that you long to see and then eventually get to visit. When we walked up to the tower, the first thing I wanted to do was touch it. I ran my hand up and down the metal, desperately trying to soak up the reality that I was truly there. I did this often throughout my visit. Whenever we went somewhere where I could touch a wall, or a door, or a gate, I felt as if I were somehow melding the history into my soul in the hopes of forever capturing my love of the place. Brett climbed the stairs to the second level of the Tower as the wait for the elevator was quite long. Again, not being a fan of heights, I stayed on the ground level and sat in the shadow of the place I have always wanted to visit.

The Arc de Triomphe:




Again, little girl's dream come true. Driving up the Champs d' Elysee was everything I dreamed it would be. It was too crowded to try and walk around the Arc but well worth seeing.

Louvre:





Everyone talks about large this museum is. But you cannot really appreciate it until you're standing in the courtyard of it. City blocks could be contained within this area. We only had about an hour to explore the museum so of course we headed off to see the Mona Lisa first. I'm realizing that I didn't really take a moment to stand and absorb it like I should have. I think we were so tired and feeling so rushed at this point to get back and make our train that I didn't take it in like I should. For the extra part of the hour we explored the Egyptian exhibit as this is a favorite part of history of Brett's. Then we promptly got lost and add to ask an irritated staff member to help us find our way out (I think he was ready to go home for the night).


Additional sights:








Some things that stood out to me about Paris. First was the traffic. Isn't that funny? But I've never seen so many cars try to navigate in such a small space. Second was the difference in architecture to London. And third, this day trip made me realize that I want to get outside the big city and see more of the quieter, country towns. We definitely need to go back.


We arrived back in London around 10 p.m. and at our hotel by 10:30 p.m. It was an amazing day and well worth the cost and effort to get over to France.

Day 7 Our Final Day in London:

Today I wanted to see a few more things before we left for Coventry. I wanted to soak in the city a bit and really just leave feeling content and happy with our visit to London. Here are some things we did today:

Kensington Palace:






I have been a fan of Queen Victoria since I watched the movie "Young Victoria." Getting to walk where she walked was an amazing experience. This was a lovely palace that felt more like an estate than a castle.

St. Paul's Cathedral:




This was one of those unexpected experiences on our trip. When we entered the cathedral, there was an orchestra setting up. They were practicing for some event so while Brett climbed the steps to the rotunda, I sat in the nave listening to the musicians fine tune the piece they were to play. There are things on vacations that you just can't plan. This was one of them. It made me think how much my Dad would have loved to share that part of my trip with me as we both love music and architecture.

Tower Bridge:







I finally got to walk along this bridge. While typically I am afraid of heights, this bridge didn't bother me at all. It was all that I hoped it would be and made my heart happy.

Other Sites:







When I first learned the event would be in November, all I could think about was if it was going to be snowing. But we actually came at such a beautiful time as it was right in the middle of fall. Another thing I appreciated was the good food. I'm a picky eater so I was concerned that I wouldn't like the food. While I didn't try anything too risky, there are so many choices that you are bound to like something. Being in London was an experience I will never forget. I have completely fallen in love with the city and can't wait to take the kids back for a visit.

Day 8 Coventry:

One of the ladies that would be attending the retreat picked us up at our hotel. Louise Squires and her mom Lyn were the most friendly, sweet people and have become our friends. We asked them lots of questions and they kindly answered every one.








When we arrived at Ansty Hall in Coventry, all my Jane Austen dreams seem realized. I felt as if I were right in the middle of one of her novels. Brett teased me that I should have brought a long dress to wear throughout the trip. But there was something so different about this part of the trip as if it were an entirely new vacation within a vacation. Right away we began exploring the grounds. I spotted the steeple of a small church behind the wall of the hotel grounds. We found our way to the church and found the prettiest view of Coventry and a small graveyard full of beautiful tombstones dedicated to loved ones lost. As I have lost my own son, the place felt reverent and sacred to me and I wanted to visit it again each day of our trip.



We met the group I would be teaching later that night and settled in for the evening.

Day 9:

I began the day teaching a Christmas Mini Album class. The 50 attendees were the sweetest women. They were all advanced scrapbookers and kept up with this rather fast-paced class. We laughed, teased each other, and had so much fun. I felt very lucky to be working such a fantastic group.




In the afternoon we took a taxi out to Warwick Castle. Now this is what I think of when I think of a castle: knights, princesses, dungeons and more. We explored the castle grounds and then walked along the top. I wanted to explore this part of the castle even though I knew the heights would bother me. I literally climbed up the very narrow staircase with hands on each step so that I could get a view of the surrounding area. It was worth the fear and anxiety to see it all. I wish we had longer to explore as this place had more to offer than we had time to enjoy.









Day 10:

Once again, I began the day with a class. By now we were family and the "Wildflower" double-page layout we created came together easily. I love it when you can interact with the students and form bonds of friendship, and that's exactly what those amazing women became--friends!



In the afternoon, Geraldine, a student in the workshop offered to have her husband drive us around Stattford Upon Avon. We couldn't resist the opportunity to visit Shakespeare's birthplace. Mick, our "tour guide" was a delight and teased us that we might not know if what he was telling us was true or not. He's right! We wouldn't have known, but he was the best tour guide we had; and we saw one of the prettiest little towns I've ever seen thanks to his and Geraldine's generosity. The people you meet make these trips amazing, and they are the reason we love visiting new places.









I feel very grateful that Tracie Hudson twisted my arm and encouraged me to come over. The event exceeded my expectations and the experience of visiting England was one I will forever cherish. I hope I get the opportunity to visit with all those girls again, as they truly have become like family.

A special thanks to Tracie for inviting me in the first place and making it all run so smoothly and beautifully. To Louise and Lyn for driving us to Coventry. To Geraldine and Mick for the tour to Strattford. To Debbie Scrivens for driving us back to Heathrow. To Ali who flew from Ireland just for dinner. For Shimelle taking a train into London for lunch. And to all the attendees who provided me with chocolate, gave us advice on places to see, and made us feel at home. 

Day 11:



I could not wait to get back home to my kids. The 11 hour flight could not pass quickly enough, but before you know it we were back at home hugging on the children. They were as happy to see us as we were to see them. I don't think any of us like being separated from each other very long. I feel blessed that they feel that way.

22 comments:

  1. Wow!! What an amazing trip!! I am so happy you were able to go and that you had a wonderful time. (I am going to have to show my 15 yr old your Eiffel Tower photos. She loves seeing pics of the tower. She dreams of going to Paris one day and seeing it).

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    1. Michelle, I understand her dream. And she should totally do it! :)

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  2. Jen, I'm SO jealous! Your pictures look amazing! Seems like you had a great time! So happy for you and hope that my dream will come true one day also!

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    1. Anya, I hope your dreams come true too. There is something very magical when they do. Thanks for always posting such nice comments on the blog as well. :)

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  3. I loved following your trip and your pictures are pretty fantastic. You got to see the best of everything and have photographs of places that I have never been to. I'm so pleased that you got to Stratford-Upon-Avon. It's a beautiful little town. You are quite the seasoned traveller now, Jen. You need to come back with the kids and visit us again. x

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    1. Ali, Brett and I are already talking about how we can come and visit you in Ireland. That's on our "Places we MUST visit" list as well. And we didn't get enough time with you. :(

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  4. Wonderandful - had no idea you had snuck off to Stratford Upon Avon it is so pretty. It was great to meet you both and your classes were wonderful.
    I shall have a little smile when we have our malteser reindeers in our christmas stockings this year !

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    1. Liz, you always make me giggle. ;)

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  5. Anonymous8:45 AM

    Wonderful blog entry and photos, Loved all of your classes and seeing your hubby stuffing his faces with sweets was so funny. Hope to see you both again soon xxx Roz xxx

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    1. Thank YOU, Roz, for allowing me to come. :)

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  6. Loved seeing all the photos and hearing the tales of your trip! What a wonderful opportunity. Would love to take a class from you one day. How can I find out where you're teaching?

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    1. Christina, how sweet are you! :) I try to announce my teaching assignments on my blog ahead of time. I'll be sure to announce the next one once it's scheduled.

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  7. It was a pleasure to meet you and Brett, seeing all you photos made me smile thinking of you both describing them and the look of wonder on Brett face when I asked him question about his trip - it was a joy to see.

    Thanks you for coming over and thank you for 2 amazing classes.

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    1. Jackie, you and your table were so cute. So nice and happy to be there. I'm so glad I got the chance to meet you! :)

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  8. Dreams do come true xxx

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  9. Wow, looks like you had a trip of a lifetime! You hit all my "bucket list" spots. Thanks for sharing your pics and your story with us.

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    1. Thanks for reading through those terribly long posts. :)

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  10. How cool that you were able to squeeze in a trip to Paris! It's such a fun city and it looks like you really made the most of your 7 hours! Looks like your class went awesome too! :)

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    1. It was amazing, Mendi. Thanks for commenting. :)

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  11. I loved hearing all your wonderful details about your trip! I'm so glad that you got to go and that you enjoyed your time there! I can only imagine the memories you've created! Are we going to see lots of pages or an album about this? What can I say? I can't get enough! Thanks again for sharing!

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  12. I love these pictures of beautiful English autumn - and a castle? oh... you are a lucky girl.

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