London, England. So much to see . So much to do. And definitely not enough time to enjoy it all.
Our morning began with a delicious English breakfast, before boarding the Gloucester Road tube station to Tower Hill. Tower Hill is home to England’s most prized possessions. I couldn’t help but sing the Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’s “Heads Will Roll.” Get it? If not, brush up on your history!
The Tower of London
Diamonds are a girl’s best friend! THE most valuable items at the Tower of London are kept under close watch by the ‘beefeaters’ – The Crown Jewels. I could have spent an eternity eyeballing the nicest jewelry in London. I wish I could show photos, but flash photography wasn’t allowed – bummer!
The Crown Jewels
Enjoy the images Henry VIII’s armor and a view from outside The Tower of London. It is so amazing to see hundreds of years of history sitting right in the middle of modern London – I love that about Europe!
Henry VIII Armor and The Tower of London
Other sights from the area: The Tower Bridge and the second tallest building in Europe – The Shard.
Tower Bridge and The Shard
After sightseeing for most of the afternoon, we hopped on the tube and headed over to Bea’s of Bloomsbury for proper afternoon tea. The tea and cakes were SPECTACULAR! If you are ever in London, be sure to stop by and sip and chomp on a bit of heaven!
Bea’s of Bloomsbury
England is a beautiful country with many historic things to see from coast to coast. As our time was limited in England, we wanted to make the best of our time and indulge in a day of sightseeing around the countryside. Our first stop was at Her Majesty The Queens residences at Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle – EnglandTickets
The grounds of the palace were beautifully kept, and we even had the opportunity to see Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House. The doll house was the most elaborate child’s toy I have ever seen. The doll house is even rumored to have running water! I don’t have any pictures to show as photography wasn’t allowed. Below is a photo of the area where Her Majesty The Queen stays when she is at Windsor Castle.
The Upper Ward
The most notable activity to do in England when at a palace is to see the changing of the guard. Once we toured St. George’s Chapel, we walked out into the courtyard just in time to see the Changing of the Guard.
Changing of the Guard
After seeing Windsor Castle and eating a tasty English fish and chips lunch, we headed to Bath, England. Bath is rich with culture. On our way to the Roman Baths, we passed the residence of Jane Austen. I was walking around the town reciting lines from the Pride and Prejudice and my husband was looking at me like I was crazy!
I was most excited about tasting the waters from the Pump Room. To my dismay, the waters were not flowing that day – one of a few days in 2012 the water system would be under construction. Bummer!
Roman Baths at Bath
I am a big fan of beer, so whenever I see craft beers in a city, I take the opportunity to sit and sample the local ales. As time was limited, I decided to grab a half pint of Bath Ales. The ale was a pleasant treat as we waited for the bus to pick us up and carry us to the our next location – Stonehenge.
Before leaving the morning of our English countryside tour, the morning news called for blustery showers – they weren’t kidding. The rain was coming down hard, and we were unable to hold on to our umbrellas for most of the tour. It was remarkable to see a piece of history up close and personal. This last stop was a fantastic cap to such a beautiful day.
Finally! London – we meet again! It has been 11 years since I walked the streets of one of my favorite cities in the world. I was very happy to be back.
Once in the city, we walked around The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. There were so many beautiful parks and trails along our way to Kensington Palace.
We were unable to check into our hotel as it was too early, so we spent the afternoon sightseeing. Westminster was our next stop. The most iconic sights in London can be seen from the Westminster Bridge.
From the bridge you can see The Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament
and The London Eye.
The London Eye
When I was planning my escape to London earlier in the year, I did some research for the best Indian food in town. I came across a restaurant called Roti Chai, in the City of Westminster. It was the absolute tastiest meal we ate while in London!
Our arrival to Germany coincided with the 179th Oktoberfest in Munich. Saturday morning began with a fantastic German breakfast at the ACHAT Hotel in Schwetzingen, Germany. Immediately after, we all piled into our tiny rental to make the three-hour journey to Munich to enjoy some of the best beer in the world! After arriving in Munich, we parked at the local ACHAT Hotel and took a trolley to the fairgrounds to start exploring the beer.
Our first stop was at the Weinzelt tent. Although this tent is known for its wine and champagne, it also has some very tasty Paulaner Weissbier!
Eliza, Lauri, Jennifer, Jake and Paulaner beer
Oktoberfest was like nothing I had ever seen. There were so many people packed into one space! Since our trip to Europe was planned last-minute, we didn’t have the chance to make reservations for a tent. Normally, reservations are made a year in advance to get seats in the larger spaces. Rain started to come down and we knew it was necessary to get into a tent. Eliza, being a go-getter, simply walked up and sweet talked the guard to let us all in! It wasn’t just any ole’ tent – it was the Schottenhamel Tent. The Schottenhamel Tent is where opening day is held for all of Oktoberfest. The mayor of Munich taps the keg to signal the opening of Oktoberfest.
Remember when I said it was packed? On a full day, the tent holds up to 10,000 people!
Finding a seat in this monster would prove to be just as easy as getting in. Once again, Eliza walked right up to a table of young German gentleman and simply asked if we could join them. The rest is history!
Munich – Oktoberfest
I was blessed to have parents who served a combined total of 37 years in the US Army (Dad-30 Mom-7). My entire life was spent living as a ‘military brat’. My love for traveling came about while living in Germany for 10 years, and I have been dying to get back since leaving in 2003. An earlier post from this summer explained my eight year push to make it to London for the 2012 Olympics. When the hubs got wind he would have the opportunity to take 10 days off from work (getting time off at ANYTIME is not an easy thing to do for him) we JUMPED at the opportunity!
After settling in to our hotel in Schwetzingen, I took Jake downtown to see the streets I often shopped as a teenager.
While we were exploring downtown, I couldn’t wait to make it to the castle. The world renown Heidelberg Castle (Heidelberger Schloss) is a beautiful backdrop to the city. Our high school prom was held at the castle every year. How many people can say their high school prom was held inside a European castle?
The castle courtyard
Inside the castle’s wine cellar, you will find the world’s largest wine barrel! The Heidelberg Tun would be a great addition to any wine cellar. It holds 58,000 gallons of wine!
My old school, Heidelberg High School, is closing its doors after educating Department of Defense students since 1946. I couldn’t resist walking the halls one last time and visiting the gymnasium where I spent the majority of my high school years. Walking the halls for one last time was a great ending to my stay in Heidelberg.
Heidelberg High School