wrong side of the street; different side of the ocean || Guest post, pt. 1

Today, for your reading pleasure, I bring you a little commentary from my dear sister, Emily, who recently had the fantastic opportunity to start her New Year off right…and travel abroad to London, and Paris. (Color me jealous.) I asked her to write a guest post for you all, because (1) She’s a wonderful writer and has some great observations and photos to share; and (2) You must be tired of me yammering away by now. You deserve a break! Two posts off for good behavior.

So, without further ado, here is Part 1 of Emily’s European Guest Post! Cheerio!

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“So what are you doing the 5th to the 11th?”

It’s funny what life can surprise you with. A typical day interrupted by a simple question and suddenly…

…you find yourself here. Looking at this.


And this.

We arrived in London bright and early on the 6th.  The best way to get on local time is to force yourself to live by that time…not the time you’re used to, which says “it’s in the middle of the night” and “what on earth are you doing up, you crazy person?” Or so I’ve been told. As I wasn’t over jet lag until the day before we left, I’m skeptical. Anyways, for less than a week, we saw quite a bit – too much to go into here. Rather than subject you to almost 700 photos (I blame Anya’s influence), here are my top 10 favorite sights of London and Paris, in no particular order.

1. The walk to Big Ben

The hotel was located in the middle of London – we were literally right down the street from Buckingham Palace. It took maybe 15 minutes to walk to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Along the way, you could walk by the river and feed the birds (but not the pelicans, according to a sign), take pictures of the mounted guard on their very patient horses, pass by Downing Street, and see many monuments dedicated to anything from the women of WWII to Abraham Lincoln. I’m still waiting for someone to explain that last one to me.

2. Westminster Abbey

Sadly, photography isn’t allowed inside most historical buildings across the pond either. I wish I could show you the elaborate clutter of side chapels and memorials that fills the Abbey. I wish I could show you the Poet’s Corner, with the memorial for Shakespeare, and the graves of Chaucer and Dickens. But sadly, I cannot. So, instead, here is one of the few pictures I could take inside. The grill in the outside courtyard. Technically, it is inside the Abbey… As is the next photo.

3. Signage

It’s interesting traveling to a country that shares the same language as your home. Aside from driving on the wrong side of the street, the accents, different words for things, and the other more obvious, cultural differences, you quickly notice the more subtle ones as well.  Take the signs, for instance. Instead of just saying “no parking” or “no sitting,” the signs say “in constant use, please don’t…” For being “in constant use,” every thing and place marked with that warning was consistently abandoned. Then there were the cushions “for hire” rather than “for rent.” Or the crosswalk that is the normal green for “walk” and red for “don’t walk,” but complete blank for a short time between the two. No flashing yellow or countdown to warn that you’re potentially about to be run over. And finally, the sign warning thieves not to try any funny business as there were plain clothes police in the crowd, instead of a sign warning the crowd of pick-pockets.

4. St. George’s Chapel

It is very strange to be walking around a church, look down, and find yourself standing on the grave of Henry VIII. St. George’s Chapel is located at Windsor Castle, just two short train rides from London. We visited the castle on a day when the Royal Family wasn’t in residence, so were able to tour a quite a bit of the place.  Still, my favorite part was the Chapel. There are quite a few monarchs buried there, some in plain graves marked by a large, black stone, and others in elaborate sarcophagi.  King George VI and the Queen Mum (of The King’s Speech fame) are buried there. There is also an elaborate chapel attached to the church dedicated to Prince Albert (who isn’t actually buried there now, but a short distance away in a mausoleum beside Queen Victoria.) But finding yourself walking over the grave of one of the most infamous kings is just surreal.

5. Notre Dame

Part-way into our London excursion, I was surprised with a day trip to Paris.  We hopped on the Chunnel (where you try not to think about where exactly the train is located), and arrived in Paris 2 1/2 hours later. After a somewhat chaotic taxi ride, we arrived in front of this. The Bells of Notre Dame from the Disney movie automatically took up residence in my head for the next several hours. Like most landmarks, it is a bit smaller than you expect, but the building is amazing nonetheless.  And the inside.

While not quite as elaborate as some cathedrals – aside from the stained glass (Rose Window!), it’s mostly plain stone – Notre Dame is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been in. The architecture is fantastic. They’re starting a major renovation project, and refurbishing things such as the bells (which clunk more than ring). I could’ve happily spent hours in there.

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To be continued: Come back tomorrow for Part Two of Emily’s European Guest Post Fantastique!

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