Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A Farewell to London

Westminster Abbey
Sorry for the delay in post, we've been very busy on our last few days here in London. We began our tourist festivities on Sunday with a tour around the city featuring Bob the driver. He was awesome and told us all about London's history as we weaved through the cobblestone streets of the city. We saw everything, from Parliament, Westminster Abbey to the Tower of London and the site where the great fire in London began. I also showed my family the area in Spitalfields where I stayed during my study abroad program. It was so cool to show them my favorite coffee shop, Tinderbox, and the building where I spent the past few weeks in London!

Tea sandwiches and... SCONES!
Since it was Mum's Day back in the states, after our tour ended we honored my mom with tea at the famous Harrod's department store. I was so excited to eat those amazing scones again! The tea was delicious and I may have gone home with a stomach ache from one too many of the scones baked in heaven, but the English Tea Time experience was worth it. And, I know my mom felt like the Queen she is during the day! 

We ended the day with dinner at an Indian restaurant near our hotel called Quilon. I've had Indian food in Ann Arbor before, but nothing like this. The food was so flavorful and rich. I liked that it wasn't drowned in sauce, but really well seasoned and crafted. I knew London was known for its Indian food, but I had no idea it could taste that good! Taste of India in Ann Arbor definitely has some new competition for me. It was a great day of tasty food and history in London!

On Monday, we had our free day in London. The weather was rainy, but perfect for a day filled with museums! We started the day off with a trip to the Natural History Museum, where we attended a human biology exhibit that was much more graphic than anticipated. But, my sister finally knows how babies are made — down to every, single last detail!

A rainy wait to enter the Abbey
After the Nat museum, we went to Westminster Abbey for a tour. The abbey is filled with royals who have passed away as well as shrines and tombs dedicated to their lives. Many famous individuals, such as Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, are also buried there. I really enjoyed going to the Poet's Corner, where I saw the tombstones of Ben Johnson and John Milton, the writer of Paradise Lost. The English nerd in me was definitely psyched!

A trip to the British museum followed our tour of the Abbey, and then my sister and I broke off from my parents to hit up the famous Top Shop store. We only had a quick time to shop, however, because we met up with my parents to go see Billy Elliot the musical. It was very cool to be in a theater in the famous West End of London. Supposedly, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie even took their flock of children to see the musical a few nights before. The staging and dancing in the musical was amazing, and the 11 year-old boy who played Billy Elliot — who was starring in the role for the first time that night — was incredible. It was a great day of exploring for the Goldbergs in London!

While Sunday and Monday were great, today had to be one of my favorite days of my trip thus far. After a breakfast with AMAZING waffles at the hotel, my family and I boarded a tour bus to travel out to Windsor Castle, the city of Bath, and Stonehenge. Windsor Castle is the site where the Queen Mum spends her weekends. I thought the castle would be surrounded by empty land, but it sits in the middle of a beautiful town that seems straight out of Beauty and the Beast, which my Dad compared it to. We walked the grounds of the castle and even got to see the changing of the guards. The fluffy headed guards were just small boys! I guess they start training them early to protect the Queen. Of course, we had to take the classic picture with the guard. I said thanks, and he nodded back to me!


After our quick look at Windsor Castle, our tour group boarded the bus for an hour ride to Bath. Bath is a beautiful city that sits in a valley in the English countryside. It's known for its ancient Roman Baths, which were used as spas as early as 40 years AD. The tour of the bath house was cool, but the city itself was amazing. Each corner held a charming coffee shop, river view, or store, and I just wanted to visit all of them. We had lunch at Jacob's Coffee Shop, and sitting inside the restaurant was like snuggling up in a warm blanket. Maybe it's because it was freezing cold and raining outside, but Bath seemed like the coziest place on the planet today! I hope to vist Bath again and get a chance to explore the ins and outs of the city. There was so much to see, and we only had about two hours before we headed to our final destination of the tour: Stonehenge. 

As we drove through the English countryside to Stonehenge, the land became greener and the sheep became more populous by the minute. While the dark sky poured rain as we drove through the hills, we were lucky to find a spot of sunshine when we pulled up to Stonehenge. While I was skeptical about visiting Stonehenge, since the meaning of the monument is virtually unknown, the site possessed a strange sort of magic. Not only was the landscape around the site gorgeous — with rolling green fields and cute white sheep — but as the rocks stood proudly against the blue sky, they just seemed so mysterious and intriguing. We listened to the audio tour as we walked around the site, and it suggested that the monument was possibly used a calendar or a means of honoring the solstices. The true meaning of Stonehenge, however, has been lost. I think that's what was so intriguing about the site, which sounds obvious but took me by surprise. Why would anyone want to drag such massive rocks to such a particular area and arrange them in that pattern? And, how did they do that? After thinking about it for a while, I came to the answer: I have no idea. And we may never know! But, it's so cool that we can still see the monument today and wonder what it meant to people long ago.

Sheep loving on their Shepard!
A funny moment at Stonehenge had to be the sheep. Tons of sheep surrounded the Stonehenge area and the fence beside the tourist walking path. As my dad walked around the monument, the sheep followed him. When he stopped, they stopped. When he walked, they walked! It was a true Shepard moment for Shep. And, it was then I decided maybe the sheep built Stonehenge. They just seemed like a smart bunch!

We boarded the bus after touring Stonehenge, and a nice nap later we were back in the heart of London. While my parents went out for dinner, Carly and I met up with a friend from home who moved to London about five years ago. It was so cool catching up at the cheery local pub, Bag O' Nails!

Today was the perfect last day in London, and I can't believe my time in this city is up! I've had such a great experience, and I feel so lucky to have had this time in the city. I leave London with a new passion for British culture, and I hope to return someday to further explore all this city has to offer! That being said, I am very much looking forward to traveling to our new destination tomorrow... PARIS! Au revoir :)

Peace out London friends! Thanks for a great time.

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