Tuesday, April 2, 2013

England Top 10

Since I've been home, people have been asking me about my trip: How was it? What was the best?

I seem unable to answer the first question with anything but superlatives: amazing, wonderful, spectacular, life-changing.

The other thing I am unable to do is answer the second question the same way twice. Every day it seems, I remember something different as the best. There are so many great stories from this trip, so I might be blogging a few of them, but I thought I'd start with a top 10 list. I'm working on some projects that will get my fun photos on display in places I can enjoy them every day. One such project requires that I pick my favorite 18 images. Every time I try to narrow it down, I can't do it! So I thought I'd make an attempt at a top 10 list from my trip.

1. Wicked. Truly spectacular! I don't go to the theater often, and other than London or New York, I'm not sure it would make my travel wish list. I. Loved. Every. Minute. Note. Costume. Character. I LOVED The Wizard of Oz film when I was a kid, watching it over and over and over, so to see Wicked was something I will remember for a long, long time. And I will never, ever see the original again without seeing it completely differently. Oh, Elphaba! If only I had known. Loved, loved, loved it.

2. The London Eye. The Eye hadn't been built when I was in London before, so it was a must on my list. Never  have 30 minutes gone so quickly! The day I went up, I had already seen snow twice, so I felt especially lucky to go up during an interval in the day with plenty of sun. I loved seeing the London skyline from above, and I was completely fascinated by watching the wheel in action and seeing how it worked.

3. Evensong at Westminster Abbey. This was pure loveliness, and I loved it so much I went twice. (I also went to Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral, but I enjoyed it more at Westminster Abbey.) In a building as majestic as this, it is hard to not think of God's greatness; I think this was the point of such giant churches. I loved the beautiful choir, the reading of Psalms, and time to sit in this beautiful place, hearing God's beautiful words and reflecting on my life.

4. Vincent Van Gogh's Sunflowers at The National Gallery. When The National Gallery went on the list of things I must do, I confess: it was because of Claude Monet's Waterlilies. When I was in London before, the famous Monet was off display for cleaning or on loan or something - I forget! But it was the Sunflowers that captivated me more. Not that I overlooked Canaletto, Renoir, Pissarro or Degas, the temporary exhibit of Frederic Edwin Church, and dozens more amazing paintings.

5. The Underground. I'm pretty sure it was living in London before when I fell in love with public transportation, and I've been enamored of it every since. It's a crazy thing for a girl to love, but that colorful map is so cool, and this idea that you can just hop on and hop off and get anywhere you need to go without a car. On this trip, I also traveled by train and bus quite often, and enjoyed them all, along with the all-important advice to "Mind the Gap!"

6. Windsor Castle. What's not to love about wandering around a real castle, especially one where the Queen herself lives sometimes? As a added bonus, I got my picture taken with a royal guard.

7. The Tower of London. So much history like "this is where Anne Boleyn was beheaded!" and interesting fun facts, like learning the reason a pound is called a pound. The Crown Jewels were spectacular. I went to the Tower before when I was in London, and I confess, it was the Crown Jewels that lured me back! But as we walked around the Tower of London, we just kept saying "this is SO cool!" The icing on the cake was that although it was rainy when we got there (of COURSE it was!), the sun came out later, and we enjoyed brilliant views of Tower Bridge.

8. The Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour. I know, I know. Go to England with all it's culture and history, and visit the Harry Potter tour? Absolutely! As a fan of the series, it was so  much fun to see how the stories were brought to life in the movies through sets, costumes, art, design, and more. Like so many of my favorite things about this trip, it was a chance to see beautiful things. I spent hours soaking up the details. On the other hand, I spent mere minutes enjoying my Butterbeer as it was literally freezing outside!

9. The Three Horseshoes. One Sunday, the biggest adventure of the day was a walk to the local pub, a favorite of my friends, for dinner and a pint. I'm 1000% positive that beer tastes better after a long walk on a brisk day, because I have not enjoyed a beer that much in a long, long time. I also enjoyed the very tasty fish and chips, the lovely walk home along the local canal, and the fact that the pub has been around since 1535.

10. Days of Rest. I knew when I planned this trip that most of all, it was rest I most needed. Yes, I wanted to revisit London for the first time after living there. Yes, I wanted to see amazing sights, and have new experiences. Yes, I wanted to take a bazillion pictures. But mostly, I wanted a VACATION. I wanted to do all those other things, and not come home needing a vacation from my vacation. There was plenty of down time on this trip. I read a book. I printed pictures of my vacation before I got home. I watched movies. I wrote in a journal about my trip. I enjoyed time with friends. It was soooooo good.

Speaking of friends, I can't say enough good things about  my hosts Nathaniel & Dean. I met Nathaniel almost two years ago when I started a new job, and started working with him. He moved to England exactly 3 days after we met, but we work together a lot and over time have become really good friends. Not only did he invite me over to England to visit, but he and Dean took such good care of me while I was there, making me feel welcome well before I arrived, and at home the minute I arrived. Friends, thank you - again and again and again - for your hospitality, because that made everything on this list possible. I'm so glad we're friends, and your kindness and hospitality will never be forgotten.