Yesterday was our first day in Edinburgh, which was spent in yet another of the Queen's palaces. Holyrood House is known for a gorgeous view of the Scottish hillside known as Arthur's Seat, and I decided that I was determined to climb to the top. However, it didn't take long before we were both exhausted and intimidated by the increasingly rocky path. Maybe someday I'll make it all the way up, but for now I'm satisfied by the easy trail.
The past few days have gone by so fast, and with finicky wifi I haven't had the chance to post about them. Friday night I met at a British pub with my professors and classmates for our last night together before going our separate ways. The fact that my time studying here is over hasn't quite hit me yet, because the next afternoon Tyler arrived in London. After getting him settled in, I immediately began my attempts to prove what a professional navigator the tube system has made me. We headed over to the London Eye, and then out to dinner.
The next morning we walked over to Kensington Palace, which was under restoration projects the last time I was in London. It was interesting to see the interior without the temporary exhibits they had installed before. I have also decided that I could very easily get used to having a palace garden, especially one with so many roses. Then we stopped in at Harrods to marvel at the cost of some of their products, including a solid silver lobster for over 90,000 pounds and a fountain pen for 19,000. It was clear that if we ever are in the market for a gold plated anything, Harrods is the place to find it. Slightly more affordable (and I say slightly) were the 28 restaurants the department store includes, so we decided to get fancy pastries and afternoon tea.
Monday we left the city on a tour bus to visit Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral. We had plans to also see the White Cliffs of Dover, but immigration riots and fires prevented that leg of the journey. The end of the tour was complete with a short ride up the River Thames.
The next day was a trip to the Tower of London because Tyler wanted to "see the place where people were tortured", although he was disappointed that it wasn't as ominous of a sight as he expected. Regardless, we still had fun before climbing up Tower Bridge and walking along the glass pathways up top. Our shared fear of heights made this an interesting experience but fun nonetheless.
That night we returned to Harrods in order to celebrate our first Tuesday date night in over a month, and to get ice cream at their old fashioned ice cream parlour. I tried a knickerbocker glory, which seemed to perfectly fit my last night in the city that has began to feel like home.
Before catching our flight out of the city on Wednesday, we were able to see the changing of the guard before mutually determining it wasn't really worth the crowd. However, we did go into Buckingham Palace itself, as the state rooms have recently been opened for the public to see.
I am so grateful for the time I spent in London, and am already looking forward to returning again someday. There is something about big cities that I love. I know that although it hasn't hit me that I am going home soon, I still have a few days here in Edinburgh before returning to the US and I cannot wait to make the most of them.
I've heard people say that visiting Stonehenge is not worth the time, and that it's just a pile of rocks surrounded by a million people all trying to figure out why they paid so much money to see it. However, my experience today has lead me to disagree. I had Stonehenge at the top of my to-do list for this trip, and weeks of waiting for the day to arrive turned out to be worth it. After taking a tour that included busy stops at Windsor and Bath, a visit to Stonehenge was exactly what I needed. While there were a lot of people, there was also a lot of crisp open air, extending far into the British countryside. I sat down in front of this ancient wonder for awhile and just relaxed. Later I sat down again, this time in a field of clovers and appreciated the fact that people 4000 years ago enjoyed this same pile of rocks.
A month in the city is wonderful, but once in awhile you just need a long drive and a moment to breathe.
When planning to visit the beach in Brighton, it is important to keep a few things in mind.
1. No matter how much you hate to swim and hate the ocean for being cold and windy, buy a swimsuit specifically for this one day. It's worth it. Turns out you love the ocean.
2. Take your professor's advice about going in the water with no inhibitions. Be the first person in.
3. Do not take off your saltwater sandals. They are made for things like this and your feet are not. If you run all the way down a rock beach barefoot you will have bruised soles and stubbed toes.
4. Order fish and chips for the millionth time because they aren't the same in America and it's totally normal to eat them everyday, right?
5. Also get ice cream, because it is the beach and you deserve it.
6. It is imperative that you pick at least one over priced ride on the pier because even though the line is longer than the roller coaster, your life will never be this similar to an episode of Hannah Montana again. And that's all you've ever wanted, admit it.
Sometimes you read the weather and see that it is going to be 75 degrees, so you throw on a dress and leave your jacket at home. Sometimes it turns out to be windy and overcast instead. Turns out in London, "sometimes" ends up being everyday. Luckily, Hampton Court Palace was able to distract me from that fact that I am never able to learn from my clothing related mistakes.
Boasting 999 rooms (because 1,000 is too many, duh), Hampton Court was once the home of King Henry the Eighth. To say it is obscenely large is an understatement, especially since it is surrounded by a huge garden designed by Queen Mary herself. We even went through a hedge maze she commissioned, and I only took one wrong turn before following my classmates to the middle.
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