“London, thou art the flower of all”

We started today off early. Today we were heading to the Tower of London. The one tip I can give you about this attraction is to get there as soon as it opens. It will take you a few hours to see the whole place, but the first thing you need to see are the Crown Jewels. Get there the second it opens and head to the Jewels first. You’ll thank me for it! To be alone amongst the endless shimmer of diamonds, rubies and gold….it’s something you just have to experience!

That was our game plan today. Knowing this attraction would take up most of the day, I didn’t plan much else for Mum and Dad. We made our way via the Underground. It was a bit of a trek with a lot of walking. I’m pretty sure my parents thought I was misleading them. There isn’t one train that takes you from Holborn to the Tower of London. It requires of bit of train hopping.

In any case, we made it. I took them straight to the Jewels and I was happy to have them experience them the way I first had many months before; alone. They really enjoyed it, as I knew they would ;). We spent the day wandering through the White Tower — four floors of history! It’s the oldest part of the Tower and it’s purpose was to impose fear onto unruly citizens.

When wandering the grounds, be sure to keep your eyes open for the ravens. Some of them are in their cages, but some of them are roaming about the yard. Trust me when I say they’re huge! They are the guardians of the Tower and it’s been said, ‘If they ravens leave the Tower, the kingdom will fall…’

The day was beautiful. The sun was out and it was fairly warm…well, warm for London anyway. We left the Tower exiting on the side of the Thames. It was a perfect photo op for Tower Bridge. Afterwards we made our way to the gift shop (for mum). This is yet another attraction that boasts some fantastic gifts to take home with you. After shopping, I took Mum and Dad to nearby Wagamama. If you haven’t tried this place, you must! Nadia introduced it to me when she visited back in April. You won’t be disappointed with their endless Japanese cuisine!

A day out of the city!

Today I set up a day trip out of London. Our tour bus would take us to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath. It was the easiest way to seem them all without losing multiple days in London itself.

It was an early day to meet the bus and we were off! Our first stop was Windsor to see the Windsor Castle. The most disappointing part of being a part of a tour was that we couldn’t stay in Windsor longer. It’s such a beautiful place with lots to see and do other than the Castle. We just didn’t have enough time. The Castle is beautiful. The downside to it would be being pushed through the interior like a herd of cows. We were on our own while visiting the Castle, so it wasn’t the fault of having a tour guide. But once you get inside, you’re following a path through the building and people stop to gawk over tapestries and the clogs the whole thing up. By the time people start moving, you’re literally being herded through. Mum and I walked past these groups to try to find a patch of open space to wander at our leisure. We had already lost Dad at this point back in the Abbey.

Our time was coming to an end at Windsor Castle and Dad was no where to be found. Our guide made it a point to tell everyone if we weren’t back on time on the bus, they would leave without us. For fear that Dad would be late, we notified our guide and grabbed our stuff off the bus. We thought for sure we’d be left behind! But low and behold we see dad coming off the staircase with about 30 seconds to spare. Needless to say Mum and I were furious!

From Windsor we made our way to Stonehenge! This was something I’d always wanted to see!! We arrived and I was happy to see the crowds were very small in number. You were given the option for an audio guide as you entered, but we opted out. Except for Dad…he loved those damn audio tours!

To my surprise, I felt Stonehenge was quite small in person. As I walked around them, I couldn’t appreciate their size because we were quite a distance from them. Don’t get me wrong, they’re amazing to see but I felt a bit underwhelmed by them.

After Stonehenge, our final stop would be Bath. Again, we had limited time here so we made sure we went to the Roman Baths first. I had missed them on my trip here months ago, so I wasn’t going to miss them a second time! I am so glad we went inside! It’s a very interesting place to explore. The baths still have water in them, but the levels have decreased significantly. Some baths were empty entirely, but it exposed some of the amazing technology of the time. There were rectangular stones stacked in columns all over the floor of the bath. The columns would harness the heat from the hot springs below, the heat would carry up through the pillars and heat the floor that sat on top. Quite amazing!

I’d say put Bath and the Roman Baths on your must see list! Bath is a beautiful town if you’ve got the time to explore it. Thankfully I had already visited Bath earlier in the year, but I did feel a twinge of guilt that Mum and Dad couldn’t see most of it while they were here. Before heading back to the bus we stopped at a little cafe and had a bite to eat. Afterwards we made our way back home on the bus.

All in all it was a great day! There were certain parts of the tour that could have been better, but for the most part it was quite enjoyable. It killed a few birds with one stone, so I really can’t complain. We arrived back in the city fairly late. I had met up with some friends that evening while Mum and Dad explored the neighbourhood by themselves. To my surprise they didn’t even get lost!

Our last day before Italy!

Today would be our last full day in London before we left for Italy. It would be a rather easy day — no major walking tours or explorations involved. We set out for Baker Street to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum.

If you’re a fan of the series Sherlock, have a fascination for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, this is a must see! With a small shop on the first level, you pay for your entrance inside — see if you can get through the shop without buying anything first! Then you make your way upstairs to Sherlock and Dr. Watson’s place of residence. It’s a step back in time to be sure. My poor mum at this point had turned to me and said, “how cool is it that they used to live here?” A bit confused, I asked her what she was talking about. The look of puzzlement on her face clearly showed me she thought Sherlock was a real person. I felt terrible to be the one to break it to her that Sherlock Holmes was in fact a figment of Doyle’s imagination. It was as if I told her Santa didn’t exist! I broke her heart…

Getting past the upsetting news, we spent the rest of the day wandering close to the hotel. For one of our final dinners in London, I took them to Jamie Oliver’s Union Jack. If you get a chance to, stop in for a lunch or dinner here. It’s a great menu with some fantastic cocktails!

Tomorrow our journey to Italy would begin! I’d be crossing off one of the final few things on my bucket list and I couldn’t be more excited! Despite my excitement for Italy, this also brings to mind that this was my last full week in London. It is with a heavy heart I have to say goodbye to such a wonderful city. The year has come and gone so quickly that I feel like I didn’t have enough time to enjoy London. The friends I’ve made, the memories I’ve created…it will be one of the most difficult things leaving this city.

Pushing back my tears, I get ready for what lies ahead! Stay tuned for my Italian adventure!

Until next time…

(Title quote by William Dunbar)

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