This little blog series is about the first journey I ever took overseas. It was in the fall of 2007 and it not only marked my first trip as a high school grad, but also the time I fell in love with photography and decided to try and tackle it as a career (which I am now doing successfully 8 years later). Without this trip, I can’t say I’d be where I am right now. And taking some time to really recognize the photos that got me started is more rewarding than I can possibly describe.
To read more about this wonderful trip and see photos from the times leading up to this part, be sure to check out the start of it all with Part 1 and even more adventures that took me through Dover, Stonehenge, Ramsgate and many other places in Part 2.
This part, part 3, will be all about my adventures in London.
A couple days before heading to London, we bought tickets at the Canterbury train station for 2 roundtrip day tickets to London. Day 21 of the trip marked our first journey into the grand city and when we woke up early that Saturday morning, we headed down to Canterbury Station to wait for the train. The train arrived there at 7:55 am and it then began my very first train ride through England.
I didn’t take any photos of it because I remember being worried about saving space on my camera for when we got to the city. So I let myself enjoy that ride and just watch the English world wake up as we did slowly across the southeast. We stopped at many stops along the way and all the villages seemed to have as much charm as Sturry itself. When we finally started to near towards London, trees started to disappear, along with greenery, and industrial buildings, graffiti, and all other marks of a city began to emerge. I knew we were getting close to the end of the line.
Finally, the train started to slow down, and as I looked out the window, I could see the river Thames and a bridge we were crossing over. And then, I saw it. Big Ben, Houses of Parliment, the London Eye…! We had arrived.
We quickly got off the train at Charing Cross station and headed up to Trafalgar Square. With that morning sunlight, it was hitting the buildings in such a perfect way that it made my very first sights of London feel magical.
The building above is called the National Gallery. It’s collection contains over 2,300 works, including many famous works from such artists as Turner,Van Gogh, and Monet! We didn’t go in there during this trip in Fall 2007, but when we went back to England in 2012, we made a point to go. And it was glorious and nothing short of inspiring.
After witnessing the unplanned changing of the guards ceremony, we took a walk to get our sights on Big Ben in person. I remember we took a walk through St. Jame’s Park which is right by Buckingham Palace (pictured above). We had a little picnic here eating our packed sandwiches and chips under such beautiful shade. I forgot we were in the middle of one of the world’s largest cities! All the trees in England seem to have such massive presence and aged beauty to them.
Then, we walked around the corner of a building and I got to see Big Ben for the first time. My heart dropped and I was glittering with excitement.
We continued to explore around and saw sights of Westminster Abbey, Houses of Parliment, and a funeral that had so many motorcyclists it took 15 minutes for them all to pass! We then headed down to the river Thames for a river tour where we got to see even more including Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, Tower Bridge, the Millenium Dome, and all the way at the end the where the flood gates are called the London Barrier.
After the 3 hour long boat tour along the river, we got off the boat and spent 20 minutes trying to find a bathroom that was free! We had no such luck and came to find you have to pay to use their restrooms in London (I remember being kind of mad about this lol even if it was just pennies).
Afterwards, we went to Covent Garden which quickly grew to be one of my favorite sections of the city. It was so charming and decorative. We ended up having dinner at a Pizza Hut that was underground (man was it hot in there!) and then took a walk along the other side of River Thames past the London Eye and Tower Bridge which gave classic views of the city at night. We finally left around 8:30pm and it took quite a while to get home. But I remember when we finally did, I laid down in bed and felt like my life was one big imaginary dream. And it was glorious.
Almost every single weekend until the time I finally had to go home was spent going to and from London to see more and explore because there was so much! The next weekend, we spent the whole day at the British Museum and even got to visit the Star Wars Exhibition! But let’s talk about the British Museum for a second.
The British Museum is glorious. For anyone that is a history buff, or enjoys anything of the sort, this museum has anything and everything you could possibly think of. Admission is FREE to get in and I got to see such famous archeological finds! One of the biggest was the Rosetta Stone. THE ROSETTA STONE. Let’s just say, I could live in the British Museum and still not have time to see everything.
Afterward spending all morning and most of the afternoon here at the British Museum, we decided to go down to the Star Wars Exhibition which was down by the river Thames and the London Eye. I got to see THE costumes of Queen Amidala, Obi-Wan, Qi-Gon, Darth Maul, Princess Leia, and TONS of models, sets, and a life size speeder, Naboo Starship, and Anakin’s Pod Racer. It was FANTASTIC.
I remember after the Star Wars Exhibition, I wanted to go back to the British Museum and spend even more time there before it closed. So we jumped on the tube from Waterloo and spent a couple more hours at the British Museum. We got to see mummies, inner sections of a sarcophagus, and studied the ancient ways of the early Egyptians. It was so nice to see all of that in person because as a kid, I had a weird obsession with ancient Egypt (probably because I was/am such a huge Tomb Raider fan).
After the museum closed, we hit the tube again back down to Waterloo and got tickets to ride on the London Eye. We seriously couldn’t have planned for a more perfect day to be up in the sky. It was clear, warm, and with it being sunset, the light was absolutely magical. When we reached the top, London had no end in sight and stretched for miles and miles in all directions. It was incredible and its seriously a MUST if you ever go to London.
I remember we had dinner at Subway that night and it was my first time ever having Subway. Which is kind of funny because Subway is ALL over the place in the states lol.
The next weekend we woke up early again to spend yet another Saturday exploring London. We got off at the London Bridge Station this time around and took the tube right to the Natural History Museum. I was absolutely STUNNED by the architecture of the place!
This still has to be the coolest museum I have ever been to. I remember going up into that escalator, into the Earth, and inside there was the largest collection of rocks and geological formations I had ever seen! And they were beautiful! My inner nerd was super excited and I remember being inspired to build a fireplace someday with stones filled with fossils. Someday, this will happen.
After spending about 3 and a half hours there, we walked over to the science museum and I fell in love with the way it looked inside. I remember being really tired by this point though and I didn’t take many photos, which I regret now. (never let tiredness stop your enjoyment!) Paul and I went and saw a 3D IMAX movie at the science theatre called Dinosaurs Alive and we were both fighting off sleeping (Paul didn’t win lol)
A few hours later, we got on the tube again to Hyde Park and we went on a little boat ride just the two of us. It was a perfect way to end a hustling day.
Another weekend, we set out to explore St Paul’s Cathedral, Tower of London, Her Majesty’s Jewels, and even the completely gorgeous and modern Canary Wharf. There was a Burger King there that we became regulars at and it made any home sick feelings slip away for a while (looked so much like parts of Cincinnati to me).
We also got a chance to see the Royal Observatory, stand on the Prime Meridian, see the original Queen’s House used before Buckingham Palace, took a stroll through Lindenhall Market (used as another scene setting in the Tomb Raider movie), and even got to climb into the tall towers of Tower Bridge (or London Bridge as we call it in the states), and saw a whole new view of the city.
London is still my favorite city I have ever been to. There is so much character, charm, history, beauty, and overall wonder around every corner you can possibly turn and invite yourself to. It has the city atmosphere but still has that English charm where life feels a little slower. I recently traveled to NYC and the whole time I was comparing it to this charming place and nothing will replace the love I have for this city. Their underground Tube system, is a challenge to master and their streets are filled with taxis that look like they’re from the 1940’s. You’ll hear a HUGE variety of languages, accents, and see more diversity than you ever thought possible. You’ll have amazing food, find amazing shops, meet really cool people, and just overall feel like your walking through the hub of the world. You’ll find SO much culture, art, and passionate souls sharing their talents with the world and feel like your walking through history books. If there ever came a time in my life where I felt I needed a change and needed to move, London would be at the top of the list.
There is still 1 more part to this blog series! If you want to read the other parts, feel free! 🙂