Saturday, July 27, 2013


I named this blog "Pinch Me, I Must Be Dreaming" for a very good reason.  This trip was definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity that I still can't believe I actually experienced.  I look forward to sharing more pictures with close friends and family that I wasn't able to post, and sharing more stories that I'm sure I failed to record.  For those of you that have read any or all of my blog posts, I hope that you won't judge me for all the grammatical and spelling errors that I'm sure my proof-reading didn't catch. :)

Thank you for all the  prayers, words of encouragements, and following me during my month adventure.   I definitely felt your prayers, and your blog comments and Facebook comments meant so much to me in the moment and still make me smile as I look back on them.  This past month was surely a time I'll never forget that was filled with too many blessings to count.

The last day...

We took a train back to London on Friday morning for our final day.  Unfortunately a late taxi to the subway station and waiting on subway connections didn't work in our favor because we missed our train ride.  Luckily there was one leaving an hour later for London, which gave us time to eat breakfast in the train station before boarding.  Making lemonade out of lemons... :)  

When we arrived in London we went straight to Buckingham Palace to watch the changing of the guards.  I had no idea how big of an attraction this was because the palace area sidewalks outside the gate and beyond were absolutely packed.  Flashbacks of Monday night came to our mind as we were once again vie-ing for a place in the crowd to see the ceremony.  There were two marching bands that marched inside the palace gate during the ceremony, and a portion of the ceremony where one of the bands played a list of well known pieces of music, such as "No Business Like Show Business", "Don't Mean A Thing", and "Heaven" to name a few.  This part of the ceremony was a traditional concert in which the band read music from music stands.  When the ceremony was over we stayed around and watched the guards pick up the music stands that the band used during the ceremony.  As you might expect they didn't break their form at all, but picked up and actually marched the stands back into the palace.  When the guards were almost finished with the "music stand task", we noticed that a motorcycle crew of police officers rode into the palace gate.  Obviously this perked our interest so we stayed to watch, and then witnessed this crew lead a vehicle with heavy tinted glass out of the palace area.  We watched the flag on the palace change, which signifies that the Queen is not present at the palace anymore.  I should be honest that we weren't real close to the vehicle, but I can say we saw the vehicle that the queen was in! :)  

Afterwards we took a tour of the Mews, which included seeing all of the royal carriages and some of the horses responsible for pulling the carriages.  We also saw another vehicle used by the Queen, too.  This vehicle is obviously one used for more professional engagements.  

Later that afternoon we toured Westminster Abbey.  Am I alone that I didn't realize that famous poets and authors, such as, Charles Dickins,  Jeffrey Chaucer, Charles Darwin, Rudyard Kipling along with the composer Joseph Haydn were buried there!  There was also quite a number of memorials made to various others including Jane Austen, William Shakespeare, and our own F.D. Roosevelt as well.  There are several more that I could have listed, but those were the only ones that I remember at the moment.  With the royal wedding not that long ago, I couldn't help but have flashbacks to Kate walking that same big isle down the middle of the Abbey.  Really neat! Since we were touring the Abbey around closing, we actually got to hear the Westminster boys choir practice.  BEAUTIFUL!!  Now how do I get my boys at school to sound like that?!  

Our last night was spent getting fixed up and going out for our last dinner in London.  We didn't realize until after we finished eating that our last dinner really brought everything full circle for us.  We ended up eating fish and chips (not the original plan that evening, but nonetheless true British food) at a pub/restaurant called "Alberts". 

(If you're puzzled read the post called "Fourth Times the Charm"). 

*With all the royal palaces and artifacts that we saw throughout the week, we decided back in May that we should enjoy a real classy place for our last night. Our hotel room included two bathrooms, both with ceramic tiling, and a separate bedroom area.  The hotel provided bathrobes and slippers too.  I guess every girl wants to be pampered every now and then, right?!   Even though this hotel room was a wonderful end to a remarkable week, I'm still thinking home will triumph it Saturday night.  Getting excited!

Now for some Paris "culture..."

When we woke up we headed straight for the Louve to hopefully get ahead of the crowds.  Since we only had a short amount of time we probably didn't get even get close to seeing a quarter of the building, but we did get a picture of the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, and saw as much as we could in this enormous building before having to leave. 

After the Louve we went to the Arc de Triomphe and risked our lives taking a picture in the middle of the street.  Time was our enemy, so we took our pictures and then headed on to the Eiffle Tower. 

We went up to the second floor of the Eiffle Tower, and were able to get some great pictures of the city.  Have I mentioned yet that we managed to get through the whole week without it raining?!  The weather was beautiful and skies were clear all week long.  

Personal thoughts on Paris: the good, the bad, and the ugly...

The good:  A lot of history and so much to do that you really need several days to take it all in.  It's definitely a place that you should go to if you are interested, especially if you enjoy art and history.  

The bad:  The litter and the smell of trash along the streets was really disgusting.  I've also heard that French people are unfortunately not friendly for the most part, and have to be honest that for the most part I could agree. :/  

The ugly:  Gypsies are everywhere!  I was approached at a sub ticket machine where I was putting money on a card by a lady asking me to sign a piece of paper.  Well "Momma didn't raise no fool" because I didn't even look at her and told her to basically go away.  We found out later that they ask for your signature in hopes to get a glimpse of where your money is at, and probably in hopes to steal a credit card so they can later forge your signature.  Anyway, Amy actually witnessed them in action doing this very thing.  All to say that if you go to Paris--be on alert.

Off to Paris

We left Wednesday morning for Paris, and actually spent a whole day at the "happiest place on Earth".  Yes, we spent 1 out of our 2 day stay in Paris at Disneyland.  You are more than welcome to judge us for not taking in the historical culture in Paris, but I have to admit that spending a day embracing our inner child was a blast.  Amy is actually a Disneyland/world princess (AKA fanatic), and had the whole day mapped out for us.  She's been to both Disneyworld and Disneyland in the states almost 10 times, and was the one that orchestrated this idea of going to Disneyland in Paris.  By the end of the day we decided that Paris Disneyland couldn't hold a candle to Disneyland in CA or Disneyworld in FL, but it was still a lot of fun and I'm so glad we went!  If you haven't judged me yet, you may start now because we definitely bought and wore Minnie Mouse ears, and then rode just about all of the little kid rides in the park (including my child favorite, Dumbo).  

*Fun fact that I learned about Disneyland/world from Amy...On every ride in the park there are hidden Mickey's to be found.  Isn't that cool?  On your next Disney experience, see if you can find all the hidden Mickey ears on each ride.

*Another side note--Amy rode Space Mountain (Mission 2) and reported back that it's very different than the one in the states.  She said that it nearly gave her a concussion from all of the twists, turns, and loops during the ride.  Kinda glad I skipped out on this one!  Yikes!

Taking in more royalty--Windsor Castle

On Tuesday morning we took a train to Windsor to see another home to Queen Elizabeth II, Windsor Castle.  It was absolutely beautiful in and around the castle area. We toured the state rooms and Queen Mary's dollhouse.  The rooms are just as glamorous and ornate as you can imagine.  We obviously couldn't take pictures inside, but I'll post the ones that we took outside the castle including a couple from the main street in front of the castle area.  

After touring Windsor Castle we ate at "The Horse and Groom", and had the best onion rings and fish and chips-yum yum!  There's been a pub  at that restaurant site since before 1719!   It was certainly a very historical, fun place to relax for lunch.  AND how many people can say that they ate lunch while facing a castle?!  We sat outside and unfortunately there was a low entry way...I obviously wasn't paying attention to the warning sign either.  (Fun fact: they say "mind" instead of "watch").

When we left Windsor it was already time to head back to the hotel to get ready for Les Miserables that night!  It was Amy's first time to see this musical, and Jenna's first musical that she's ever seen.  A lot of pressure was on this night, but thankfully Jenna & Amy both seemed to really enjoy it.  The vocalists and musicians didn't disappoint, they were truly incredible.  This was actually my first time to see Les Mis performed by professional musicians, and I decided that this musical (when performed well) is probably one of my absolute favorites.

Royal Baby!

As I mentioned in the last post we woke up Monday morning to the news that Kate was admitted to St. Mary's hospital and in labor!!  At this point we decided to plan part of our day around this event and take in the local hype around this piece of history.  However, we already had some concrete plans set in place that we needed to do first.  So we left the hotel and took a 30 minute boat tour down the Thames River to the Tower of London.  

We then took a tour directed by a Beefeater at the Tower of London.  Beefeaters are guardians of the tower and actually live at the Tower of London.  We also walked through the crown jewels exhibit, which holds jeweled swords, crowns, and anything that would be used for a coronation ceremony (other than the coronation chair which is housed at Westiminister Abbey).  The crown of jewels was a jaw opening, eyes wide open feeling moment after moment.  Absolutely amazing!

*Fun fact that we learned on our tour of the Tower of London were centered around two princes who disappeared around their pre-teen ages, which meant the uncle was next in line to the throne.  The boys were never found until many years later (past the time of their generation) when two bodies were found behind an old trapped door within the Tower of London area.  Any detective such as yourself might have guessed along with many others that their uncle likely killed and buried these boys himself to gain his royal power.  Sounds like a movie doesn't it?!

After we left the Tower of London, we headed to Saint Mary's to hopefully take pictures of the hospital and to see the news and press crews.  I was pleasantly surprised that we were able to be exactly where the press was, and to actually get pictures of the private wing that Will and Kate were in.  We found the Today's show and Fox News stationed there, but unfortunately couldn't find any other American news station there at that time.   :(

That afternoon we toured Kensington Palace, and then got to see a special exhibit dedicated to the royal fashion from Queen Elizabeth II in the 50's through Princess Diana in the 80s.  Isn't this day adding up to be the perfect girls day?!  Crown jewels, royal fashion, and then the royal baby extravaganza!  :)

In the evening we headed back to the Thames River to ride the London eye.  It moves really slow so it never has to stop to load people, which means that one ticket buys one turn on the Farris wheel.  It might sound like a lame ride, but it was the perfect place to take really good pictures of London, and to see where everything is in relationship to each other.

After eating dinner along the river we heard that the baby had been born, and that the proclamation was announced at Buckingham Palace.  So like any good tourist we decided to forgo an earlier bedtime, and went straight to Buckingham Palace to see the proclamation.  As you can imagine the atmosphere was crazy!  People were everywhere, and everyone was pushing each other around to get their perfect picture of that tiny piece of paper on the easel.   Thankfully police officers began working the area shortly after we got there, and added some organization to the chaos.  This organization enabled us to finally get our perfect picture of that tiny piece of paper.  Even though it was not an enjoyable experience to stand in a mosh pit of everyone's sweat, while also having to constantly vie for our place in line.  It was completely worth it and an experience that I'm sure we'll never forget.