Washington DC Day 4: The White House

Our 4th day in our nations capitol was the day that I think we had all been looking forward to the most.  This was the day we were going to tour the White House.  Our tour was scheduled for 1:00 so we decided to hit up one of the Smithsonian Museums first thing in the morning.  It wasn’t tough to decide which museum we went to, since three of us in my family are history majors.
We had quite a surprise when we should up at the Museum of American History at 9:25, expecting a 9:30 am open time, and found out that they didn’t open until 10:00. So we had the immense pleasure of literally being the very first ones in line and thus the first ones in the museum.  Not that that made much difference once we started looking around! 

This museum was so massive that I’m surprised we made it though as much as we did in such a short period of time.  We made it through the majority of the museum in about 2 and half hours.  My Mom said we spent way too much time looking at the machinery and inventions room.

My favorite part of the museum was the section dedicated to each of the Wars the US has fought in.  Every war from the American Revolution to the Was in Iraq was represented with some really neat artifacts.

Like this one!  This one of George Washington’s actual military uniforms! So freakin cool is that?!  (I totally showed this to my students on the first day of school.  Some were impressed, others not so much)  The had personal items, clothing, weapons and letters from several historical figures.  As a history major I was in heaven.

There was a whole exhibit dedicated to the Presidents and the First Ladies.  Sadly I kept forgetting to take pictures because I was so busy reading and soaking everything in.  In the First Ladies exhibit they showcased the inauguration dresses worn by several of the First Ladies.  This was particularly fascinating because it basically gave you a history of fashion in the US.  They also displayed every china pattern selected by each First Lady, as well as, some of their personal items.

The President’s exhibit had similar things.  Personal items owned by each of the President’s and their families were scattered around the exhibit.  I did remember to snap a picture of Abe Lincoln’s top hat.    It’s kept in a very low lit area to help preserve it.

After our two hour stroll through the Museum of American History it was time to head over the our designated meeting spot for the tour of the White House.
When I told people we would be getting to go into the White House, the first thing they asked was, “Wow, how did you do that? Do you know someone?”  The answer is no! To get into the public rooms of the White House, you don’t have to know anyone.  All I had to do was fill out a request form. 
Here’s a little breakdown.  Back in February when I submitted my request to tour the Capitol building through my Congressman, I signed us up to get a tour of the White House.  After I filled the initial form, I was emailed back by the Congressman’s office and asked to fill out a second form that would then be submitted to the White House on our behalf by Congressman McCaul’s office.  The form was a basic security form.  I had to give names, birthdays, and social security numbers so we could have background checks done.  In March I received another email directly from the White House asking me resubmit the security part because they would be handling requests from then on.  SO if you are traveling to DC in the future and you want to request a tour of the White House, you now go through the White House Visitors Center for requests and not through your Congressman’s office.
Once I re-submitted all the required information, I got another email in response saying that we would not hear where we had been granted the tour until about a week or two before out trip.  And that is exactly what happened.  I received our the confirmation email one week before we were set to head to DC.  Then almost immediately after receiving the email I got a call from Congressman McCaul’s office saying that they never got people from my district get confirmations for White House tours and that if there was anything they could do, to please not hesitate to call!  Pretty cool huh!  I thought so! 🙂
The check in spot for the tour was right outside a park (sorry can’t remember which one) adjacent to the White House.  We were given a list of do and don’t beforehand.  For example, no bags are allowed inside the White House.  Mom and I were able to bring in a wristlet but that was it.  No cameras with removable lenses, so my fancy camera had to be left at the hotel.  We were able to bring in cell phones though, so all the pictures you’re about to see were taken with my iPhone.  
We went through 4 security check points:  two ID checks, one bomb-dog-smelling- check, and a metal detector.  We also had a bit of an extended wait because some girl passed out while she was waiting in line and an ambulance had to be called. Thankfully it wasn’t super hot that day and there was a nice breeze so that wait wasn’t too terrible.  Before we knew it, WE WERE IN!!
I’ve rambled on for a while now, so I’m just going to let the pictures speak for themselves!  The tour is 100% self guided.  There are secret service agents spread out along the tour route and they were super knowledgable and willing to answer any questions.   Since the tour was self guided though, we were able to take as along as we wanted once we were inside. 
Our first view when we walked in.  This is the First Ladies garden.

The Ballroom

This is the famous painting of George Washington that was saved by First Lady Dolly Madison, just before the British entered Washington DC and burned the original White House to ground during the War of 1812.

View of the North lawn from The Green Room.  That little black dot to the left is the First Dog! Sadly we did not get a glimpse of the rest of the First Family.

The Green room

The Blue Room.  Here is where you can find the huge Blue Room Christmas Tree every year!
(Sidenote: My mom was super irritated that the carpets were rolled up like this.  She pointed out that in Windsor Castle they let you walk on the rugs, so why can’t the White House. Lol)

The Red Room

The State Dining Room

View from the South entrance into the Blue Room.  Across the hall and to the right are the stairs to the family residence. 

Family shot in front of the South entrance to the White House! 

Getting to go into the White House was definitely a major highlight of our trip.  According to the Congressional intern who gave us our tour of the Capitol, about 95% of the people who put in requests to get a tour of the White House get denied.  So we were super lucky to have been selected to go in.  And I know it is something that our family will never forget.  I’m so glad I got to experience it with my family.  Hopefully I’ll be able to do it again with my own children one day! 🙂

I have to throw in this last picture.  As we were walking off the grounds of the White House and around to the front, I ran into this group of guys.  They were so excited to be in Washington DC, they decided to dress in their best for their visit.  The hilarious part?  These guys aren’t even from the US! In the pictures we have two Aussies and two New Zealanders!  So obviously I had to snap a picture with them! 🙂  GOD BLESS AMERICA! 

Following the tour we headed out to Georgetown to look around and have a late lunch.  We had dinner reservations that night for the Old Ebbitt Grill so we didn’t want to have a super heavy lunch.  My cousin had given us a few must eat at restaurants and the one she raved about the most was Luke’s Lobster Rolls.  So we piled into an Uber and headed to Georgetown.

We decided to split two rolls between the four of us and shared their Clam cChowder and Lobster Bisque.  It was the BEST meal EVER.  Our food literally disappeared within about 10 minutes and we immediately started talking about coming back for lunch one more time before we left.

After lunch we wandered around Georgetown for a bit and then decided to head back to the hotel to rest and relax before out dinner reservations at the Old Ebbitt Grill.  This restaurant is seeped in Washington history and is located just around the corner from the White House.  It’s the oldest saloon in Washington D.C. and its patrons include Presidents, Congressman, Senators, and judges.  We had drinks, oysters, entrees, and even dessert!  My mom definitely had the best meal, she had their salmon and it was perfection.  Overall it was a delightful meal and experience.  Definitely put on your list of restaurants if only because of it’s history!

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And that friends wraps up day 4!  I am so glad we got to tour the White House.  If you go through all of that, I applaud you! What I love is that now, I can say that I’ve been in the official residence of both the Queen of England (I went to Windsor Castle in 2004) and the President of the United States.  Not too shabby if you ask me! 🙂

I’ve got one more post and then our DC trip will be completely recapped!

Linking up for Wanderlust Wednesday and with Jenn and Jess for What’s Ha-“Pinning”!

Have a great Wednesday!

Vatican City: The Smallest Country in the World

The second half of our full day in Rome was spent touring the smallest country in the world.  Vatican City.  I am not Catholic, but I have always been fascinated by the traditions of the Catholic Church and by the history of the Catholic Church.  (Thank you Showtime for feeding that fascination with The Tudors and The Borgias.)  So I was very excited to sign up for our last and final excusion of our two week European Adventure.  
We started our tour exploring 2 of the 7 Vatican museums.  There is absolutely no way you would be able to see all the Vatican has to offer in just 1 day.  I’m pretty sure I could have gone back for 3 days in a row and STILL not seen everything.  But the bits we did get to see were truly amazing.  
After walking through the museums entrance and up it’s spiral staircase we entered the main courtyard of the museum and greeted the following sites.
The only negative thing about our time in the courtyard was that there was absolutely zero shade and our tour guide stood in front of a collection of billboards with images of the Sistine Chapel on them.  He used them to explain every thing we would be seeing once we got inside the chapel since you’re not allowed to talk while you’re in there.  

After that we traveled into the museum itself.  Now I wish I could say that I remember the name of every single statue, painting, mural, tapestry, and sculpture you are about to see but sadly I cannot.  Especially since this post is coming to you 3 months after my trip.  So just enjoy the pictures and if I remember the name anything I’ll be sure to throw it in! 🙂

Enjoy!

This is the first sculpture we stopped at and I do actually remember this one.  It is a sculpture of the Greek God Apollo.  The sculpture’s official name is Apollo Belvedere and was created during the Classical Antiquity period.  It was found in Italy during the 15th century. 
I was amazed by all the mythological, both Greek and Roman, paintings and sculptures found around the Vatican’s museums.  Especially since the Vatican is considering the holiest place in the Christian world (for Catholics anyway).

I loved this view once we left the Roman and Greek mythology section of the museum and moved on to the Ancient Egyptian section.  In the back ground is a sculpture of the Greek God Hercules (one of my favorite Disney movies).  I loved the view because is showcases two different periods in ancient history.  But they seem to seamlessly flow together when you look at them from this angle. 

Our tour guide said this was a coffin for a young child probably from a wealthy Roman family.  I love the detailing on both the coffin above and the item below.

These were tapestries, hand sown during the 12th and 13th centuries. Both depicting scenes from the Bible.  There were at least 5 rooms with floor to ceiling tapestries.

This was the ceiling in a room called the Hall of Maps.  It’s a mixture of 3D paintings and moldings trimmed in gold.  Along the walls were maps of Italy drawn from each major century, from the 12-18th centuries.

It was one of my favorite rooms in the museum!

This room was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  It held a collection of books spread throughout Christendom after it was determined by the Church that Mary’s immaculate conception of Jesus was free from the stain of original sin.  

After viewing the room dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was finally time to see the Sistine Chapel. This is the Pope’s official chapel and as such you are not allowed to talk OR take photographs.  I did ok at the no talking part.  But I couldn’t help myself when it cam to the no pictures part.  I was very sneaky though and luckily none of the guards, who kept yelling “SILENCE”  it got too loud in the chapel from all the whispering going on, caught me.

So here is my contraband picture, taken via the front facing camera of my iPhone, of the Sistine Chapel, designed and painted by the famous Michelangelo (the painter, not the turtle).

After viewing the Sistine Chapel, we made our way through St. Peter’s Square and into St. Peter’s Basilica.  Which has to be one of the most beautiful churches I have every seen.  Thank you, Michelangelo.  He was tasked by the Pope to create the church, even though apparently he had been working on another project at the time.  But when you’re summoned by the head of the Church I guess you have to listen.

Thankfully, pictures were allowed inside the church as long as you didn’t use a flash.

This sculpture was also designed by Michelangelo and is called the Pieta.  It is a recreation of Mary holding Jesus after the Crucifixion. I remember having my students look at a picture of this when we studied the Renaissance period in World History.  Seeing it in person is 100% better than seeing it in a photograph.  It is placed behind a pane of bulletproof glass because in 1972 a man came in with a hammer, yelling “I am Jesus Christ, I have risen from the dead”, and destroyed a good portion of Mary.

This is also one of the only works that Michelangelo actually signed.  He did so because a few people had mistakenly given credit to another artist for the creation of the sculpture.  His name is placed directly across Mary’s chest.  I couldn’t see it and sadly my camera lens did not zoom enough for me to get a view of it.

This is the main pulpit in the Vatican and only the Pope is allowed to preach from it.  There are smaller chapels surrounding the main area of the church where cardinals and bishops may deliver sermons from but only the Pope is allowed to deliver them from this one.

There are a series of mosaics around the church that are utterly breathtaking.  They look like paintings from far away but when you get up close you can see that really it’s a series of thousands of pieces of colored glass.  I love how rich the color is and how detailed they are.

Well there ya have it.  A just a few of the highlights of the inside of the church.  We then had a few minutes to explore the courtyard where the Pope does his public appearances.  And the area the rest of the world sees on TV at various times throughout the year.

Our tour guide told us that Pope Francis has made 2016 a pilgrimage year.  So Rome will be expecting millions of pilgrims come next summer.  Thank goodness we chose last summer to go to Rome rather than next summer.

That tiny little chimney you see in the back is where the white and black smoke come out when a new Pope is chosen.  I kept having flashes of the movie EuroTrip while we were exploring the courtyard.

Overall I was blown away by the smallest country in the world.  The amount of history in this place is unreal and as a history buff I was soaking in as much of the information our tour guide had for us as possible.  Even if you’re not Catholic or super religious you will enjoy exploring all the country as to offer.

I would highly recommend having a tour guide with you  because there is so much to see that it can get overwhelming.  And definitely buy your tickets in advance.

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Well there ya have it.  A complete recap of my epic European Adventure.  I still can’t believe the trip has come and gone already.  I am already planning where in Europe I want to go summer after next.  After seeing some of the highlights I want to see the rest! 🙂

Linking up for Travel Tuesday!

European Adventure: Bonjour Paris!

The next leg of our European Adventure took us to the city of love or is it lights or is it both?  I can’t remember, but up next we went to Paris!  
I was really excited to see Paris, because it was the first place we were going that I had never been before.  And we were getting there via the EuroStar.  The first of 3 train rides we would take on the trip.  
Our train left Kings Cross Station (I’m a little giddy just typing that. Thank you Harry Potter) at around 10:25am and we arrived in Paris at around 2:35pm.  
Travel note: If you’re ever going to be taking the EuroStar make sure you get to the train station at least 2 our before your scheduled departure time because since your going to another country you have to go through security and customs again.  (Which I loved because it meant I got another stamp in my passport).  But sometimes those lines can be long.  
One we arrived in Paris we were told a few things.  First keep our carry ones and purses close because the train station was packed with pickpockets (or gypsies as our tour director called them) and two don’t sign any of the “petition” that women and children are trying to get you to sign.  It’s a scam.  So packed with those two warnings we made our way of the train to wait for out luggage.  We waited for the luggage and the bus that would take us to our hotel for about 35-40 minutes and then we were on our way!  
We got to our hotel at around 3:30 and after a minor lost luggage scare (thankfully not mine, Jenny’s, which she handled with amazing calm.  I would have been panicking) we were on our way to the Metro to pick up our tickets to our first stop in Paris……the Louvre!  
Our hotel was called the Pullman Montparnasse.  In the Montparnasse area of Paris.  
This is where our time in Paris starts to take a slightly negative turn.  At least for me for about 15 minutes.  So we walked to the Metro, where we purchased 20 tickets for the 3 of us.  Thankfully the 20 tickets would be the perfect amount of tickets to buy for all 3 of us to get around Paris the 2 days we were there.  Total it came to about 30 Euro, so we spent about 10 Euro each on Metro tickets.
The rest of the people in our group was heading straight to the Louvre.  We on the other hand had to find the tourist shop where we could pick up the tickets I had purchased for us in advance.  Now everything I read said to buy tickets to the Louvre in advance otherwise you’d be waiting in the longest line in the world.  So I did.  What I did not realize is that we would not get to start exploring Paris until 4:00.  
SO…to make a long story short, by the time we got to the place we needed to pick up our tickets it was already 5:00pm.  And guess what time the Louvre stops letting people in.  Yep, that’s right 5:00. (Correction, they close at 5:30 but stop letting guests in at 5:00) So we missed the Louvre.  I did not take the news lightly.  I got very upset while we were in the shop and as soon as we stepped out of the shop immediately started crying.  It was just so frustrating!  I thought I had been doing the right thing by getting our tickets in advance but that wasn’t the case and I felt bad because not only were we NOT going to get to see the Mona Lisa but we were out 15 bucks! 
I was in no position to make any decisions by that point (I trying to pull myself together and failing miserably) so the others decided we should stop for some lunch and make a game plane there.  This was our restaurant.  I seriously couldn’t seem to get it together when we sat down.  I ordered some wine and just sat there moodily.  Tears kept filling my eyes every time I thought about it.  Until finally my friend Katie said I just needed to let it out and cry.  I put on my sunglasses let myself have a good cry and then I was able to pull myself together and help make a game plan.
After that minor crisis, we ultimately decided we would still make our way over to the Louvre to see the pyramid and the Louvre itself and then just see where the afternoon took us from there.   The walk to the Louvre turned out to be absolutely delightful and the even just getting to see the outside buildings was a treat.  I mean look at these buildings!!

The Louvre itself was originally built as a fortress in the 12th century.  Then it was turned into the gorgeous structure we see today and used as Royal Palace for The Sun King, Louis XIV in the mid 1600s.  Eventually the Sun King would abandoned the palace (and all the work he put into it) for his new palace and permanent residence just a couple miles from the city in Versailles.  During the French Revolution the Louvre was almost torn down but was eventually turned into a museum by the Convention Nationale.  
And that is your history lesson for the day! 🙂

We then began to just wander and take pictures. We walked through the Jardin de Tuileries, we walked through the Place de la Concorde (sight of the guillotine during the Revolution, our guide said the streets would be covered in blood for days), and made our way to the Champs-Élysées.

We walked and walked and walked and I wore the WRONG SHOES!!  I knew I was wearing the shittiest shoes in the world that day, but hey they went with my outfit. So I didn’t complain once that my feet were really hurting.  At least I didn’t until Jenny noticed that I was walking like a little old man and basically hobbling my way down the street.  And I wouldn’t have complained at all but Jenny kept looking at me with such…sympathy and saying things like, “Oh my god, you look like you’re in SO much pain.”  
The plan had been to walk all the way down to the Arch de Triomphe, but we had paused outside of Louis Vuitton and I suggested we skip the rest of the walk and just jump on the Metro and head to the Eiffel Tower.  Thankfully the girls agreed with me, so off we went. 
Here’s the evidence of my stupidity. (Don’t worry, I didn’t wear the shoes the rest of the trip.  I learned my lesson)

We spent the rest of the evening at the Eiffel Tower.  We briefly stood in line to go up to the top.  But it was already 9:30pm by this time and they stopped selling tickets to go up to the top at 10:30 and the line was at least an hour long.  Instead, we wandered around the structure, grabbed ourselves a VERY tasty nutella crepe and parked ourselves just in front of it on the riverbank and watched it come to life at night.  

The following morning we began day 2 with a guided bus tour of all of Paris. We went from arrondissement to arrondissement taking in all the famous sights of city.  Our local tour guide was SO incredibly knowledgeable about the entire city that we had a very nice little overview of the history of Paris.  For example did you know that Paris was originally settled on an island?  There are bridges just like this one connecting the originally island to the rest of the city.  So neat!

We drove past the Palais Garnier (the opera house The Phantom of the Opera is based on), down the Champs-Élysées ( the French flags are lining the way in preparation for the end of the Tour de France), and over to Les Invalides, the military museum and home of the tomb of Napoleon.  After a quick stop and photo op in front of Les Invalides, we headed to the Eiffel Tower for a day time photo op!

I think out of the 2,000 pictures I took on this trip, out ones in front of the Eiffel Tower are some of my favorites.  We had so much fun posing in front of the tower and it was a gorgeous day.  Which made for GORGEOUS pictures! 🙂

After the photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower the group that had signed up for the excursion to Versailles jumped back on the bus and headed out to the sumptuous palace.

I absolutely ADORED our afternoon at Versailles.  I could easily have spent the entire day out at the palace.  After a tasty lunch at a restaurant close to the palace (where I was stung by a bee for the first time in my entire life) we met our guide for a private tour of the palace.  Thank goodness we had signed up for the excursion because just like every other major attraction the line to simply buy tickets at Versailles was at least a 4 hour wait.

Travel Tip: If you’re not traveling with a tour group, BUY ALL TICKETS IN ADVANCE!

The palace chateau was built by the Sun King, Louis XIV in 1682.  It became the official residence of the royal family until 1789 when they were forced back to Paris at the start of the Revolution.  The last royal couple to live in at Versailles were the famous Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.  Sadly since most of the tour was of the palace itself we did not get the opportunity to explore any of the gardens of the palace.  That’s why I say you really need a full day to get the most out of your trip to Versailles.

We got to see all the major highlights of the palace.  Both the King and Queen’s private apartments (I was most excited to see the Queen’s apartments) and of course the Hall of Mirrors.

After Versailles we were dropped over by Notre Dame Cathedral, sadly I did not see Quisemodo, nor did I get to go up to the bell tower and sing The Bells of Notre Dame.  It doesn’t cost anything to actually go inside the cathedral, but once again the line was crazy long so we took a few photos and moved on.  The cathedral was stunning though and the next time in Paris I may make the time to go inside.

Our last stop of the evening before we headed back to the hotel was of course another nutella crepe.  It was still extremely tasty but not as tasty as the crepe we had at the Eiffel Tower the night before.

Our last night in Paris we met up with a high school friend of Jenny’s who has been living in Paris the last few years.  It was great getting to see Paris at night by a someone who actually lives there.  She even showed us her apartment, tiniest thing apartment I’ve ever been in by the way and we got to see how the locals do things which was amazing.  The place we had dinner was over by Les Invalides.  It was a huge park directly in front of it and there were tons of people lounging on blankets with bottles of wine and food just enjoying the night with friends.

I really wish we had more parks in Texas like this.  Parisian (and all Europeans for that matter) really take the time to enjoy each other and the cities they live in.  Life is more fast paced in the States and in Europe it’s much more leisurely, I guess is the word.

If I’m honest though, I didn’t fall in love with Paris.  I really enjoyed my time there but it didn’t strike me the way I know it strikes some people.  I will most definitely go back to the city of love or light (still not sure which it is or if it’s both) because I need to see the Louvre and the gardens at Versailles and Disneyland Paris of course.  But it’s not at the top of my “return to” list.

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And that my friends was Paris.  Tune in next week to find our all about Amsterdam!  My personal favorite from the trip! 🙂
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The Start of Our Epic European Adventure

We started our epic European Adventure on July 17th.  We had a late afternoon flight that left Houston at around 3:15pm.  The overnight flight was long and uninteresting, save for the very attractive British man that sat in the row next to me.  Sleep was attempted but didn’t happen.  I think I was way to excited to sleep!

The plane arrived at London Heathrow at around 7:00am.  And after getting through customs, getting our baggage, having a slight freakout because the wifi at the airport wasn’t working and our shuttle not being there right when we arrived as we were led to believe it would be.  We were on out way to our hotel by about 9:00am.
The drive through London was fantastic.  I was so excited to be back in one of my favorite cities.  I cannot tell you how much I wish we would have had more time there.  We were luckier then others in our group in that we got to London first thing in the morning and had pretty much then entire day to explore, whereas the others didn’t arrive in London until noon or later.  So yay us!
Our hotel, the H-10 Waterloo was in a fantastic location.  Just a few minutes walk from the Waterloo tube and train station and with a fantastic view of The London Eye.  We were pleasantly surprised to find that the hotel was very nice.  It had a very contemporary feel to it and the room was spacious enough for all three of us.  We didn’t feel like we were on top of each other.  And it had great air conditioning which compared to some of our other hotels was a blessing.
So, after getting settled in, meeting our Tour Director John, and making a game plan we set out to explore the city.
London Day 1
We started out by filling up an Oyster card.  Which we used the entire two days we were in London. The Oyster card is what Londoners use to get on and off the tube and buses around the city.  We filled it up with the maximum amount and actually ended up having to refill it on day two.  The tube is so user friendly, at least we thought it was anyway.  And once you get the hang of it it will literally take you anywhere you want to go in the city.  Loved it.
Our first stop was the Westminster area of London.  We wanted to see those iconic postcard pictures. Plus it was close to the London Eye, which we had reservations for at 1:00pm.  We explored the areas for about an hour and half.  Snapped a ton of pictures and just generally enjoyed being in hustle and bustle of the city.  We decided we would come back to wander through Westminster Abbey after the London Eye.  

Next up we walked up to the Trafalgar Square area to grab a bite to eat.  Sadly the first few pubs we walked into were reservations only at that time in the day.  (We found out later that one of the pubs we walked into is frequented by members of Parliament and is where they give their “off the record” quotes to reporters.)  We eventually found ourselves in a restaurant that turned out to be an Italian restaurant and not a very good one.  I was pretty disappointed in us.  I mean it was our first night in London and I had mediocre pizza.  Nuh-uh not cool.  
After lunch we wandered over on of London’s many bridges (sorry no idea which one) and made our to the London Eye.  We had 1 o’clock reservations.  I cannot stress this enough, BUY YOUR TICKETS IN ADVANCE!  The stand-by line was ridiculously long and my guess about a 2-3 hour wait.  But with our “fast passes” we waited probably about 25 minutes.  So yeah, buy them in advance it will save you a ton of time and energy!  
The ride took about 30 minutes total and gave some breathtaking views of the city.  Jenny was exceptionally tired by this point so she spent most of her time sitting on the benches looking slightly miserable.  It was pretty entertaining to watch.  I spent the entire time snapping picture after picture after picture.  

After the Eye we made our way back to the Westminster area via the Westminster Bridge.  Where we encountered about 12 different groups playing this really weird gambling game.  The men were basically trying to get people to “guess where the ball was” under three little cups.  Jenny couldn’t figure out why everyone was so stupid and not guessing the right cup.  I had to pull her away several times and explain that the “game” was just one big scam.  And that the people who were actually participating were part of said scam.  (We saw them in Paris too).
We headed back to Westminster Abbey and purchased tickets to go inside.  It was absolutely breathtaking.  I’m a rule follower so I didn’t take any pictures on the inside, and I have to say it was nice to just wander through the Abbey and really look at everything rather than look at it from behind a lens.  I saw the tombs of some of my favorite royals, namely the Tudors and we marveled at the Coronation Chair and the fact that this was the place where Will and Kate were married and Princess Diana had her funeral.   About half way through though the day started to catch up with us and we realized it was probably time to head back to the hotel and rest a bit before we had to head to our welcome dinner and meet the rest of our group.  

We napped for about 2 hours (it was much needed) and then headed to the hotel restaurant to meet the  rest of our group.   There were 20 of us total and we were pleasantly surprised to find out that 3 of the couples were our age and around our age.  The others ranged from my parents age, late 50s to late 60s.  We had the best mix of people and we all ended up getting along fabulously!  It was perfect!
After dinner were pretty exhausted and headed to bed to get ready for day 2!
London Day 2
We started day number 2 with a delicious breakfast at the hotel.  Seriously, SO GOOD.  Then headed off for our guided sightseeing tour of London.  Our local tour guide, John was hilarious and so incredibly knowledgeable about the city.  Most of the tour was a bus tour but we did stop several times for some great photo ops.  We stopped at a great place to see the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, then we stopped at St. Paul’s Cathedral (sadly since it was Sunday the church wasn’t open for tourists), and we ended at Buckingham Palace to see the beginnings of the Changing of Guard.  

After snapping a few pictures at Buckingham Palace, we headed to the Victoria Station to catch the tube over to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace.  We ended up right at once of the entrances to the park (which happened to be the tube station I used 11 years ago to get to my hotel!) and headed in to the park.  It was the best day weather wise, y’all.  The temperature was perfect and it was slightly overcast.  We wandered through Hyde Park and ended up at the Peter Pan statue and then finally at the Princess Diana Memorial fountain.  Which was something that was at the top of my to-see list.  I slipped off my shoes and wadded into the fountain along with tons of others.  People were everywhere just lounging and little kids were swimming and splashing in the water.  Such a fun atmosphere.  

After that, we made our way over to Kensington Palace where I had made us reservations to have afternoon tea at The Orangery.  I’m not going to go into details now because afternoon tea at Kensington Palace deserves a post all on it’s own! 🙂  Needless to say it was perfect! 🙂

By this time is was around 4 o’clock and we realized we probably needed to book it over to the Tower of London.  Unfortunately however, I ‘m sad to report that we did not make it in time to go into the Tower.  We got there right at 5 and they close at 5:30.  And apparently it’s not one of those, “well we close at 5:30 but still allow everyone who was in by 5 to see everything.” No it was, “Everyone MUST be out by 5:30 sharp.”  So we just go to see the outside.  This would turn out to be the first of several missed opportunities on the trip.
Following that we decided to head over to King’s Cross to see the famous Platform 9 3/4 which was AH-MAZING! It was so fun standing between platforms 9 and 10 (not the actual platforms obviously but still) and pretending we were off to Hogwarts.  

We were starting to get hungry so we hopped back on the tube to head to Piccadilly Circus to find ourselves a pub and have some traditional English fare.  We found just the right place, called The White Lion.  The restaurant was upstairs on top of the pub and had about 10 tables.  Jenny and I had traditional fish and chips and Katie had a traditional meat pie.  SO. DELICIOUS.
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Well that about wraps up our first two days!  I hope you made through all of that.  Hopefully the pictures helped!  Man, it’s hard putting this post together.  I have to shuffle through over 1800 pictures to find the right ones and then remember everything we did!  Luckily I took notes as we went to that is helping. 
If you have specific questions about the hotels we stayed in, places we ate, or things we did please feel free to ask!  I’m trying to be as detailed as possible in the posts and that’s making them kinda long. But I’m glad I’m writing down all our adventures for future reference! 🙂 
We really did have the best time ever and I’m so thankful to have gotten the opportunity to go on this trip!  
Tune in Thursday because we’re heading to PARIS!! 
Linking up with Travel Tuesday! 🙂

Hello from Europe!!!

Hello hello lovely friends!  
I’m stopping in just to say hello and say that I’m having the best time ever over in Europe!!! Things are definitely different across the pond and I’m loving getting to actually experience all those difference.  
I’m already planning out all the posts for when I get back but I figured I would share a little preview and share some of my pictures from Instagram!  
Get ready for a very large photo dump!
LONDON
PARIS
AMSTERDAM
GERMAN COUNTRYSIDE /COLOGNE/ HEIDELBERG
Thats just a little taste! I’ll be sharing full details of each day of my trip as soon as I get back.  If you’d like to follow along with me you can follow me on Instagram or just go to #placesiwillgoabroad and boom you’ll be able too see all the pictures I’ve been posting. 
Crazy to think I still have an entire week left!  Most of which will be spent in Italy!! 
Hope everyone has had a great week! Catch ya next Saturday!