Category Archives: England

P&O Cruise from Dover (UK) to Calais (France)

At the end of our stay in London we joined our tour company in London and from there we started our European adventures. From London they took us to Dover where we boarded a P&O Cruise to Calais, France.

A cruise holiday has also been in my list for a long time as there are so many cruise holidays that I can do around the pacific region at a not-too-expensive price. Being on this short cruise gave me a rough idea of what it would be like. The cruise was around 2 hours.

Once we were given a pass for the Cruise in our tour bus, we were told that it would depart in an hour so we waited in the café and had something to eat.

We went out and had a look around for some time. It was a beautiful sunny day with a clear blue sky. Once we boarded the ship, we passed through a casino, a bar and a shop to be escorted into the big open lounge area where there were lots of chairs and tables as well as sofas to rest.

We took a seat by the window and enjoyed the outside view. Once the boat move toward France, we wandered around the ship. We found out that there was a big food court upstairs and we had some food. AS got his beer and we enjoyed the food with a  view of the ocean. It was so relaxing to look at the empty ocean.

After that, we walked around to check out the bar, casino and shopping. It was nice going through different levels and discovering different things in the ship. From there we went to the top deck and the view was great from there. We could see Dover far behind us and in front of us as long as we could see, it was all water. Also a few other P & O cruises were passing us. Even though it was a nice sunny day, it was really windy on the top deck so after a while we decide to go down to the lower deck and enjoy the view from behind the glass window.

I really enjoyed the trip and when we reached Calais, I was so excited to step on the soil of France. Finally my dream of going to (mainland) Europe had come true. There, we were escorted to our tour bus and we were off to our hotel.

London Calling Part III

Please read the Part I and Part II of my experience if you haven’t already. This is a continuation of that experience.

Trafalgar Square

Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London. It is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of contemporary art. The square is also used for political demonstrations and community gatherings, such as the celebration of New Year’s Eve.

Trafalgar Square is in the centre of London. Here you can walk along the famous Strand and go past The Savoy Hotel, or go the opposite direction and the Ancient Saint Martin-in The Field Church. Beneath it, is located a nice Coffee bar/ cafeteria/art shop set among original Tomb stones. The statues and fountains in it are beautiful.

There are lots of people sitting everywhere. Despite the number of people, it never felt crowded or overwhelming in any way, rather I found the square to have an oddly calming effect.

When you were there, the Olympic countdown clock was in display .

Covent Garden

Covent Garden is a popular shopping and tourist site, and the Royal Opera House. It’s beautiful, vibrant, and there are a lot of talents—opera, rock and roll singers, magicians, street performers, etc. very fun. There are so many things to see and do, eat and taste. We ate Paella and it was so yummy.

The little market at one end of Covent Garden is full of souvenir and little gifts. The shops themselves are more up market and you can find some more interesting stuff.

Westminster Bridge, Houses of Parliament and Big Ben 

While we were in London, we were there every day. I think we spent so much time on Westminster Bridge that I have hundreds of photos with backdrop of Big Ben, Parliament house and London eye. 🙂

 The House of Parliament looks so stunning. We got so many photos in front of it as well. The building is beautiful, inside and out with a very rich history to add character to the whole experience.

Big Ben is the nickname for the great bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London, and is generally extended to refer to the clock and the clock tower as well. The clock tower holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is the third-tallest free-standing clock tower.

 Westminster Abbey

I was really looking forward to seeing the Abbey since I really liked it when I saw in during Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding.

As we had a London Pass, we had free entry to the Abbey but normally you need to pay to get in. The architecture is impressive on both exterior and interior. It is a beautiful building.

The Abby was founded in AD 960 as a Benedictine monastery and is now part of the Church of England. Each visitor is given a map and audio device at the Information Desk in the north transept. Each room is numbered to correspond with the device so visitors can meander at their own pace.

It has the tombs of so many famous royals like Mary and Elizabeth’s tomb, Mary of Scot’s Tomb, Longshank’s Tomb as well as famous poets and writers like T.S. Eliot, William Wordsworth, D.H. Lawrence. Before I went there I had no idea that it was the final resting place for so many people; I had thought it was like a church where people go to pray.

One cannot help but step on memorials as they’re laid out on the floor. Apparently Winston Churchill refused to be buried there saying “I’ve had people walk all over me in life, why have it done in death”.

We also viewed the coronation chair which is the oldest piece of furniture in Britain still in use for its original purpose. There is a little coffee bar next to the Cloisters where we enjoyed coffee and cake.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and principal workplace of the British monarch.

As we were there just before the Golden Jubilee celebration, there were lots of construction going on but I still really liked the palace. We didn’t get the opportunity to go in but the Palace is spectacular, opulent, historical and a pleasure to see.

Thames River Cruise

As part of the London Pass., we could hop on and off as many times as we wanted in one day in the Thames River Cruise boats.

We took a cruise from Westminster pier to the Tower Bridge pier. It was a nice sunny day so we had lots of fun. Along the way we saw many popular sites like 30 St Mary’s Axe (informally known as The Gerkin) and Shakespeare’s Globe theatre. The guide was funny and full of useful information.  The boat was full so it was not possible to move around but we were in the front of the boat so we managed to take lots of photos.

I really liked London and England overall and hope to go back to see more of England one day. Scotland is hot in my list for the next trip there. 🙂

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London Calling Part II

Please read the Part I of my London experience if you haven’t already. This is a continuation of that experience.

Tower Bridge and Tower Bridge Exhibition

Tower Bridge, which was built between 1886 and 1894, is a combined bascule and suspension bridge in London, England, over the River Thames. It is close to the Tower of London, from which it takes its name.

I had seen so many photos of people in front of Tower Bridge that when I saw it for the first time I felt that I had been there before. It was a nice summer day the day we went to the Tower Bridge. We walked along the Thames River taking photos of the bridge from different angel. Then we went inside to see the Tower Bridge exhibition. We had bought a London Pass and it was included in the pass.

The tour started in the lift while up to the top with a tour guide telling us what to expect. When the lift stopped at the top, we were ushered into a room to watch a video (which was good and informative). Then we were ushered to see some pictures of different bridges along one of the enclosed walkways inside the bridge. You can walk through the Tower Bridge exhibition at your leisure and have a self-guided tour as all necessary information was available at each point of interest. We loved reading the history of all the bridges from around the world that were displayed along with their photographs. When we saw Sydney and Harbour Bridge, I stopped to take a photo while when we saw Los Angles bridge, AS stopped to take a photo. I guess his heart is still set in the States despite living here for almost 2 years. Then we walked through the other walk way where they had pictures of cities which have hosted the Olympics over the years.

There were even free Olympic Games for the children, ring tosses, etc. As I am still kid at heart I tried the game and it was fun 🙂

The view from the top level of the tower was fantastic with views of Thames, east & west of the bridge. We both really enjoyed the visit.

Then we went downstairs to see some of the equipment used for raising and lowering the bridge.  There was a video playing with information about the history and making of the bridge. We had the opportunity to see the Victorian-era machines that kept the bridge operating efficiently from the moment it was made operational, as well as other areas of the bridge. The engineering is wonderful to see.

On the way out we went to gift shop and bought some souvenirs.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604.

St Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul’s cathedral seemed to have different opening time depending on what’s going on there. We were lucky that we checked the website to get more information and got the information that the day we wanted to visit the church; it was closing at 3pm. So we decided to go there first before going to the other attractions. We took the red bus to the Cathedral.

St Paul’s Cathedral front

You need to pay to enter the Cathedral but as we had London Pass, our pass covered the cost. As soon as we got in, we were given audio guides which guided us through the place very comfortably helping to make sure that nothing got missed. The audio guide gave me a lot of information about the history and the construction of the building. The building itself was really beautiful.

The size of the building is immense, particularly when you step underneath the 365 foot dome. Taking the 259 steps to the dome, the whispering gallery is a must climb, no matter what shape you are in, it can take a while and definitely gives you a workout.  That is when you begin to fully appreciate the magnitude and the sheer splendour of the building. It was a great experience. There is a painted line on the wall and it is believed if you whisper below that line then your words can be heard by someone on the other side of the gallery. The views down into the main church are also fantastic from there.

The dome view from the top

From the whispering gallery, you can take further 119 steps up to the Stone Galley where there is a viewing platform. Inside, I noticed along the way that there was a small window in the floor that allowed us to look directly down at the floor of the cathedral, which meant the window was right at the centre of the dome. From the Stone gallery, we can see many of the most popular sites in London. We could see the Tower Bridge and London Eye in one direction and the Millennium Bridge at other. It was a bit windy at the top but the experience was definitely worth it.

Stone Galley

View from Stone Galley

View from Stone Galley

I thought that was it when we noticed that we were not at the top yet. There are 152 more steps to go to the Golden Gallery. Even though it was tiring, we decided to go to the top as we were nearly there already.  So we went up the stairs for another hike. The top viewing area was really small but people were taking turns to take photos. It was really windy as well so in most of my photos, my face is either covered by my hair or I was trying to hold my hair. But I am so glad we went all the way to the top as the view was even better than from the Stone Gallery. You are so high up that you notice that people and cars on the street look like small dots. I was really happy to see the magnificent view.

View of clock from Golden Gallery

me on the top of Golden Gallery

AS on top of Golden Gallery

After some time there we decided to return but this time we had to take 528 steps to take us all the way down to cathedral floor. It was a great experience with some exercise along the way.

The stairs were narrow

Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus

There are lots of people I know who now live in London but I wasn’t planning to meet all of them due to the time constraint. One of my English teachers from middle school, Mr. R lives there as well. He used to be one of my favourite teachers in school. He is also my Facebook friend and always used to ask me to visit him if I ever came to London, so I asked him if he was free to catch up with us on one of the days we were there. He was happy to meet in London even though he lives in Reading. So we caught up after 15 years.

We both knew what was going on with each other’s lives thanks to Facebook. We introduced AS and his wife and all of us went for a nice evening out at Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus.

Leicester Square is a pedestrianised square in the West End of London, England. The Square lies within an area bound by Lisle Street , to the north; Charing Cross Road, to the east; Orange Street, to the south; and Whitcomb Street, to the west.

In the middle of the Square is a small park, in the centre of which is a 19th century statue of William Shakespeare surrounded by dolphins. The four corner gates of the park have one bust each, depicting Sir Isaac Newton, the scientist; Sir Joshua Reynolds, the first President of the Royal Academy; John Hunter, a pioneer of surgery; and William Hogarth, the painter.

Piccadilly Circus looked like a mini version of Time square. It had a similar feeling with lots of lights, the union flags everywhere and big digital advertisement screens. It is surrounded by cinemas, a wide range of eateries, pubs and clubs.

It is also near China town so after the Square, we walked along China town. While we were walking we noticed that one of the restaurant was a dual restaurant, Japanese as well as Nepali. We decided to have our dinner there.

We had bara (Newari version of lentil pancake), our favourite momo and chhoyela. Mr. R and AS also had Chhayng (homemade Nepali alcohol, made from rice). It was a great night out and chatting with my teacher and his wife.

The post is getting too long so I will continue on next post. Please click here for more photos. 

London calling – Part 1

I was really excited to go to London as I had heard so much about the city. As we had stayed with AS’s cousins we caught a train from Hove station to take us to London. The train was full so we had to stand near the doors with our luggage. After a while I was so tired that I sat on the floor :).

A lady came with a trolley selling tea, coffee, biscuits and cake like in an plane. This was something I hadn’t known would be available on the train. I guess that is good business as many people will need tea and coffee to wake up in the morning. The train dropped us at Victoria station and from there we planned to go to our hotel, which was near Hyde Park.

Experience with London tube

At Victoria station we bought the London pass as well as a day pass for the tube. One thing about the tube station we hadn’t know beforehand  was that in most of them, there were no lifts or escalators but there were plenty of steps everywhere. Both AS and I had a big suitcase each, a hand carry and I had a small bag as well so going up and down so many stairs was a nightmare. When we got on the tube from Victoria we meant to go to Notting Hill station to change for our next tube that was supposed to take us to our hotel but unfortunately something was wrong with the tracks and we had to catch another tube which meant we had to go through more stairs with our luggage. Poor AS had to go up and down several times with the heavy luggage as I couldn’t carry my suitcase up and down the stairs. After one more tube change we finally managed to get to Queensway Station which was near our hotel and were done with the tube for the moment.

We were booked into Central Park Hotel which was close to the city and next to Hyde Park. When we checked into the hotel, I was very disappointed with the size of the room. It was literally just a bed with a side table and a bathroom. It didn’t look very good either with plain white sheets and plain looking curtains but as we didn’t plan to stay inside much, it worked out OK.

We were really hungry so we went out for a stroll and to have some lunch. In Queensway Street, there were lots of restaurants as well as many shops. We choose to try some Thai food. We ordered Thai curry and Pad See Wee. The food was ok but the portion size was huge. After lunch we went back to the hotel, freshened up and were off to explore London. London tube was excellent when you were not carry luggage and we made the most of it.

Ride on London Eye

The London Eye is a giant Ferris wheel situated on the banks of the River Thames, in London, England. The entire structure is 135 metres tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres. It is the tallest Ferris wheel in Europe, and the most popular paid tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, visited by over 3.5 million people annually.

We had pre purchased tickets to go to the London Eye but we had to go and exchange out e-tickets for proper ticket from the counter. It was really fast as they have a special line for online tickets. From there we went and saw a 4D film presentation that showed London through the eyes of a child on the London Eye. It was quite interesting but I and AS were having fun watching people’s reaction to the 4D effects. There was a man in front of us who ducked every time a seagull seemed to come flying out of the screen towards us. It was a nice short movie overall.

From there we went to join the queue for advance ticket holders going up on the London Eye, moved pretty quickly.

We were lucky that we chose an afternoon with very little cloud and went early. We could see the whole city from the London eye and the view was magnificent. There weren’t many people in the pod we got into so we could move around and take heaps of photos from various angles. There was a lady in our pod who was scared of heights but she did manage to stand for a few photos.

When your pod reached the top, the view was breathtaking. Being an avid amateur photographer, this was a great way to see a bird’s eye view of London. The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben along with the Millennium Bridge looked just amazing from the top.

The ride takes roughly thirty minutes for one complete rotation. No food or drink is allowed on the Eye as far as I can recall. In all honesty, the money paid to experience the Eye was well worth it. It’s a splendid way to get a bird’s eye view of the city and take a few pictures. Make sure you buy them online which makes it easier and cheaper.

The Tower of London

The Tower of London is one of the busiest museums/historical sites. It is a historic castle on the north bank of the River Thames in central London, England.

The outside area of the tower is easy to get around but inside it is really busy. It was hard to move around with visitors trying to get a glance at the  armours and other pieces. The best part of the tower is to watch a performance by Past Pleasures, a historical re-enactment and costumed interpretation company.  It was a ‘Dark Tales of the Tower’ story about an Jacobean Prisoner and the intrigue that surrounded his death.

Sir Thomas Overbury was imprisoned in the tower at the start of the 17th Century and there he was murdered.  A few years later Frances Carr the Countess of Somerset (previously Essex) and Robert Carr (Earl of Somerset) were found guilty of his murder by poisoning.  Their motive is believed to be a dislike of his attitude to and knowledge of their earlier affair (they married two months after his death).

It was a great act and the audience’ involvement made it more interesting.

The post is getting too long so I will continue  on next post.

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Bath, Somerset – England

The days we did our driving trip, we went to Bath as well. It is a city in the county of Somerset in the south west of England. It took us more than 3 hours to get from Brighton to Bath and the drive was very pleasant through green fields of English country towns. When we were getting close to Bath, we saw rows and rows of terraced houses, they looked so beautiful that I almost lost control of the car in the excitement.

As we got closer to Bath, the only thing that worried me was narrow roads there. They were so tiny that I thought I couldn’t pass through with the small Volkswagen Polo we were on. Then I saw these big tours buses going from both direction and that made me even more sacred. Once we reached Bath, after wandering around for a while, we finally managed to get paid parking and were ready to start our Bath adventures.

 Bath has elegant Georgian architecture and the major attraction in Bath is the Roman baths. The ancient Romans built huge Roman Baths because of the natural thermal springs, leaving behind traces of the largest Roman baths outside of Italy. The Roman Baths are below the modern street level. There are four main attractions in Bath: the Sacred Spring, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and the Museum holding finds from Roman Bath. The buildings above street level date from the 19th century.

From Roman Bath, we then went to Bath Abbey which is a Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul. The work on the church made me think of Westminster Abbey (which I had only seen on TV but was going to see in London the next day). It was a really nice building both from the outside as well as the inside.

From there we went to the Royal Crescent via the Royal Avenue. The Royal Crescent was really impressive and looked so beautiful with its Georgian architecture. It is a residential row of 30 houses laid out in a crescent. From the convex side the whole complex looks like one long building shaped like a crescent. It was designed by the architect John Wood the Younger and built between 1767 and 1774 and it is among the greatest examples of Georgian architecture. The houses in the Crescent are a mixture of tenures — most are privately owned but a substantial minority of the property is owned by a housing association.

Number 1 Royal Crescent is a museum, which was then being renovated, is maintained by the Bath Preservation Trust. It illustrates how wealthy owners of the period might have furnished such a house.

I really loved the idea of so many houses looking the same. When we went closer to these houses, we saw that they had different coloured door but apart from that everything else looked the same. Even after 300 years they looked solid and beautiful and definitely well preserved. In front of the Royal Crescent, there is a big park and there were hundreds of people basking in the sun. Most of them seemed to be young and having fun with BBQ and Frisbees while others were just lying around soaking up the sun and enjoying the sunny English day.

From there we walked towards the Royal Circus. It is also a place surrounded by large townhouses build in a circle divided into three segments of equal length, each of the curved segments faces one of the three entrances, ensuring that whichever way a visitor enters there is a classical facade straight ahead.

In Bath, everywhere I looked, there was a house or shops so rich with history that it made me wonder how the people who lived there must feel. Even the cobble stoned roads still had a classical look. You could see flowers decorating the road sides and in lots of small cafes and restaurants. We stopped at one of the cafés, called The Bridge Coffee Shop, to have some coffee and cake and were very surprised to see the prices. It was £ 2.50 for a coffee and £3.50 for a cake to take away while £3.50 for a coffee and £4.50 for a cake to eat in. We decide to get a take away and then went to a park in front of the Bath Abbey.

After our coffee break we passed through the famous Pulteney Bridge that crosses the River Avon. The bridge had a flower shop, an antique map shop, and a juice bar. In the river below there was a cruise boat and along the river bank, there was a walking track and beautiful gardens.

After walking around Bath for a while, it was time for us to get back to Brighton as it was a 3 hour drive. This time we took a freeway via Oxford and Reading. The sun was setting by the time we reached Brighton and AS took some beautiful shots of the setting sun.

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