Our flight home was January 11, 2018, at 7:15 PM. It was fairly uneventful. It was a great trip to London, and I would come back in a heartbeat. Two weeks was a good amount of time, and I think we experienced a lost of great things! It was also great to be so close to visit another European city!
I am a huge Beatles fan, and so of course, being so close to Abbey Road, I had to go. This was the last must-do on our list, and it was our very last day in London! I slept in because of a late return from Paris the night before, and our flight left in the late afternoon so we didn’t have time for more than one thing. The timing worked out perfectly. We packed up all of our belongings and left them in the room. We would go to Abbey Road, take an iconic cliche picture, come bag, grab our bags, take the long train to Heathrow and begin our trek home!. We took a long Uber and Tube ride to get there. Abbey Road is located in the borough of Camden, London. I believe it was about 45 minutes from where we were in Zone 2.
Abbey Road was the 11th album released by the Beatles and was released in September 1969 with one iconic cover. The cover was shot on August 8, 1969, on a zebra crossing. The photographer was given 10 minutes while police held up traffic and gave him enough time for just six shots. The crossing is a popular spot and has been deemed of “cultural and historical importance.”
The Eiffel Tower, named after engineer Gustave Eiffel, was built towards the end of the 1800s. For years, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world, towering at 1,063 feet (comparable to an 81-story building). Almost 7 million people go up the Eiffel Tower annually. It is the most visited paid monument in the world.
The Eiffel Tower is three stories. I was able to go up to the second floor, and trust me, that was high enough up for me! It is about 377 feet tall. We were then able to stop down at the first level, about 187 feet tall, where you have a good view of the square base of the Tower and also can stand on a glass floor!
The views were absolutely beautiful, especially from Level 2 looking over Paris. It was a little disorienting and scary being so high up, so I can’t imagine going all the way to the top! It was a great and surreal experience.
From Level 1
From Level 2
There are people wild enough to take the stairs up the Eiffel Tower (hundreds and hundreds to get to each floor), but we, along with most guests, took the elevator. The elevator was actually a little spooky and cramped, but thankfully it was only about a minute and a half in there! What’s interesting is that the elevator goes at an angle up the base of the Tower. I took a few short videos, one going up the Tower, one going from Level 2 to Level 1, and one at Level 1 looking over the base and the glass floor.
After visiting the Eiffel Tower, we had some time to explore and walk around, get some souveiners, check out some street vendors, and so forth. We couldn’t find our tour guide at the time we were supposed to meet, and he was very mad! I was hanging out with a mother and a daughter, they were the only other two on the trip so we bonded and did a lot together, structured and during the small amount of free time we had towards the end. I can’t remember where they were from, but they were very kind. The mother didn’t speak English so there was a lot of translating, but we made it work! We ended up getting back to Paris Nord around 6:00 PM. At that point, I separated from the two women and we went on our ways back to our respective home countries. Our train ticket provided was for 8:00 PM. I was exhausted and had been walking all day, so I decided to risk it and sneak onto the 7:00 PM train. Somehow I made it without them realizing I was in at the wrong time and wrong seat, but who cares! I got back around three hours later and headed home for a long night’s sleep to prepare for our last day in Europe!
The Triumphal Arch of the Star is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, which is highly respected. Annual military parades march around the arch rather than under it. Even Adolf Hitler and Charles de Gaulle in the 1940s respected this practice and avoided going through the arch when they were at the monument out of respect for the Tomb. A ceremony is held at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier every November 11 on the anniversary of the armistice with Germany. The eternal flame burns honor the memory of soldiers never identified in from the world wars. A coffin with unknown remains is buried beneath the arc with a French inscription that states “Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918.”
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get great photos of it! But here is what I have and below the two is a more official photo that I found online.
We also saw the Roue de Paris, which is a transportable 200-foot tall Ferris wheel!
Next we went to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris or simply the Notre-Dame, which is is a medieval Catholic cathedral completed in the year 1260. With 12 million visitors annually, it is the most visited monument in Paris. The line was so long, but with our day pass trip, we were able to skip the line – won’t complain about that!
On our way over there, we got to walk across a bridge and view the Seine River, which was nice!
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and a central landmark in Paris with 10.2 million visitors a year and 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art. Many people just attend to see the Mona Lisa, but there is so much more! Because my trip was only a day and there was a lot to see, they only allocated us an hour to visit and explore! I was able to see the Mona Lisa, as well as a lot of other pieces of art. You could spend years there looking at every object!
You enter down below (under the triangle) and can travel up multiple floors. To give you an idea of just how large this museum is, check out this slideshow which is an image version of their PDF map.
Being so close to other European countries, I decided to seize the opportunity to go to Paris! I purchased a package from Viator that included a Eurostar ticket, a day-long tour, and admission to various sites.
I started my day super early by arriving at St. Pancras International to collect my ticket for the trip and board the Eurostar, a large train system that operates throughout Europe.
Riding on the Eurostar was really cool! It goes very fast, like up to almost 200mph. The slowest it went was 100mph, and that was only when it was under the English Channel in what is referred to as the Channel Tunnel or the “Chunnel.” It was so weird to know that for 30+ miles, we were underwater!
It took about two and a half hours to arrive from London to Paris. We arrived early in the morning at Paris-Nord, and it was time to begin our jour à Paris (day in Paris)!
January 9, 2018, was my 21st birthday! Spending it in London was super cool, and there’s definitely a lot of positive memories to hold onto!
I started the day by taking some time with myself to enjoy lunch and then my typical activity: getting piercings. I had been planning this for a while, and it finally happened: my 21st piercing on my 21st birthday! I got my left second forward helix (20th) and my right anti-tragus (21st). I traveled 45 minutes via Underground and Overground to get to an affordable shop. It ended up being super sketchy back-room type shit, but I went with it.
For dinner, Brady and I went out and had some drinks. Even though the drinking age in London is 18, and I’d been drinking the whole trip, it was still exciting to celebrate “being legal” back in the US.
I wanted to go out to a club to celebrate. Clubs aren’t totally our scene, so we tried to find something a little fun. We decided on a place called Ballie Ballerson, which is a club with a large ball pit.
On January 8, we visited Greenwich, which is home to the Royal Observatory, the Prime Meridian, and other museums. Greenwich is a borough in London on the bank of the River Thames. It is significant in its shaping of astronomy and maritime knowledge.
First, we explored the museum. Admission was affordable, and an audio tour was provided for us to use as we walked around.
The Royal Observatory Greenwich is an observatory situated on a hill in Greenwich Park, overlooking the River Thames. It played a major role in the history of astronomy and navigation, and is best known for the fact that the prime meridian passes through it, and thereby gave its name to Greenwich Mean Time (Wikipedia).
We were able to explore the Royal Observatory and learn a lot about astronomy history and knowledge.
We were also able to stand on the Prime Meridian, which was super cool! This is the point where longitude is 0°. By standing on the Prime Meridian, you have one foot in the Western Hemisphere and one in the Eastern Hemisphere.
On our 10th day in London, we visited the British Parliament. We did an audio tour and walked through the chambers. There were areas we could take photos and areas we couldn’t. Here are some quick facts about the government:
The official lengthy name is “Her Majesty’s Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland”
The main Parliament is located in the Palace of Westminster in London
Parliament (formed in 1707) is the legislative body of the UK and is composed of the House of Commons and House of Lords
The government is lead by the Prime Minister who has the power to choose the other Ministers. They are all members of Parliament (MPs). The Prime Minister is an individual from the dominant party who is voted on to lead.
The current Prime Minister is Theresa May.
General elections are held every five years.
The House of Commons, or the lower house, is the most powerful and introduces most of the significant laws. The 650 members of the House of Commons are elected by the people, which represents 650 constituencies.
The House of Lords has less power but can still vote to amend laws and introduce bills. They are not elected/voted in. They are appointed by the Queen in consultation with the Prime Minister.
Any bills must be given a royal assent by the monarch to be passed (fun fact: this also applies in Canada because they are technically still under British rule as a constitutional monarchy)
Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland have local parliaments with some limits
Next, we went out for a drink, reflected on the day, and headed back for the night!