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London, England

I was afforded the opportunity to visit Europe again and next on the list was London! Finally, I could visit a country and not have to worry about the language barrier. Yes, an accent, but at least I could understand what was said if I listened closely.

London is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, so jet lag was in full effect when I arrived. I thought I would be able to sleep on the 7-hour flight and hit the ground running, but that definitely wasn’t the case. I arrived in the morning, which was in the middle of the night at home so I had to take a nap when I arrived. I found a nice little studio apartment through “Apartments of London” in Westminster which is Central London, close to some of the main attractions, such as the Buckingham Palace, Eye of London, Big Ben, etc.

The first day the weather in London was a bit chilly and raining off and on but I still got out to see a bit of the city. The first stop was Buckingham Palace which is where Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family lives. It was cool to see the guards in their huge top hats standing stiffly at attention.

Per usual, I got a hop on off off bus so that I could see the key attractions of the city. The bus has free wifi too, so its definitely a benefit to check into the outside World (back home) if you don’t have an international phone plan.
It was amazing to see all of the beautiful buildings including Big Ben, Tower of London, the London Eye, etc. Of course I had to take a photo in the iconic red telephone booth and have fish and chips at a local pub.

Thankfully the next day turned out to be beautiful with sunny skies. I planned to tour the inside of the Buckingham Palace, but unfortunately it was sold out because of it being the last day of a feature exhibition they had (of her clothes over the years). However, I came at the right time because it was right during the changing of the guards, which was an actual mini parade.

I didn’t make the same mistake of waiting to buy tickets at the door and ensured that I had tickets for the Tower of London before arriving. (Free bus Wi-Fi came in handy!) The Tower of London is one an internationally famous monument and of England’s most iconic structures. Everyone got a guided tour by the Beefeaters who are ceremonial guards of the Tower of London. One of the main things to see at the Tower of London is the Crown Jewels which was utterly breathtaking and amazing. There are 140 royal ceremonial pieces worn by British King and Queens at their coronations. The entire room is heavily protected in a vault and the jewels in an enclosed glass. Unfortunately, they do not allow cameras or video so you will just have to go yourself to check it out ?
I had an amazing view of the London Bridge and the Shard from the Tower of London which was right along the Thames River. A mini cruise was included in my bus tour and I enjoyed being on the water and seeing a different view of the city.

Next up was the London Eye, one of the largest Ferris Wheels in the world. Las Vegas couldn’t be outshined and built one only 107ft higher. (I’ve been on that one too) The pods are able to fit 25 people at time and continuously moves so you have to hop on and off quickly. Of course, the view was spectacular. I’ll let the photos and video speak for themselves.

That night I ventured to the Camden district of London (recommended by a friend) and found a cool spot called the Blue’s Kitchen that had BBQ and Cajun food with live blues and rock music. It was such a popular spot that there was over an hour wait for a table. Lesson learned once again about making reservations in advance. I ate across the street at a pub that served smoked burgers…no not smoked like on a grill, but actually engulfed in different flavors of smoke of your choice (hickory, apple, whisky, etc.). It was a cool effect to bring the burger covered in a glass lid with the smoke inside to seep the flavors into the burger. It was pretty good.
I was able to get my table at the Blue’s Kitchen for dessert and music. It was a nice atmosphere and the dessert was pretty good.

Time was limited so the trip was only on the weekend, but I’m glad I was able to visit to hit the main attractions. The actual reason for going to Europe was for work purposes to visit my German corporate office for a Global meeting, so London was only a pit-stop, but definitely a great one!

Until next time,

Cheers!

When In Rome

I got the opportunity to visit the oldest city in the World and a place of great significance for Christianity! It was amazing to walk among the same streets as people in the Bible days and see the amazing architecture and beautiful art around the city.

Rome is six hours ahead from my time zone in the USA, which is eastern standard time.  Luckily, I was already used to the time difference because I was in Dusseldorf, Germany for a week for work. I attended an international tradeshow called Drupa for the printing & packaging industry. That was an amazing experience as well, meeting people from all over the world that work for my company and other organizations in the printing and packaging industry.

In Rome, as usual, I found a cool apartment from Airbnb within walking distance from the train station hub Termini Station, which is one of the main stations located in the middle of the city. (Click here to sign up and get an Airbnb discount from me!)

A great way to see all the major sites and get around the city was to purchase a 3-day Hop on Hop Off Bus Tour which definitely came in handy.

Roma Termini
One of the most popular hubs in Rome
Italian Flag
Amazing Magician
It totally looked real
Artists at work
Musicians
Artwork

My first stop was to Vatican City, where St. Peter’s Basilica is located. It is one of the largest churches in the world and Catholic tradition holds that it is the burial site of St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles. Since this is such a revered place, they have guidelines on attire. There are no sleeveless shirts or short length short-pants allowed inside. So, what do you think I had on? A sleeveless shirt and shorts. Smh. Before going in, I didn’t think I would be able to go inside because the Vatican museum was already closed. I didn’t realize that the actual church was still open and for free! It was later in the afternoon, so the lines were not long and I decided to give it a try since I was already there. I had a light sweater with me, so I tied it around my waist…but no, it didn’t work, I was not allowed in because of my sleeveless top. I stood on the outside taking pictures for a while, then I noticed other women with scarves around their shoulders and waist. And they got in! A nearby street vendor had all types of souvenirs which included scarves, so I found my solution! I bought a pretty scarf that I thought my mom would like and lo and behold, I was able to go inside St. Peter’s Basilica. It was more beautiful than I imagined! Everywhere you turned it was beautiful artwork and statues. The floor, ceiling, everywhere, was a photographers dream.

Vatican City
Guards

The next day it was a MUST to visit one of the most famous landmarks of Rome…the Coliseum! It was amazing to see such a historical place. It was the largest amphitheater ever built, taking ten years to construct from 70-80 AD and able to hold 50,000 – 80,000 spectators at its peak. It was used to watch gladiatorial games, public spectacles, executions, and animal hunts. I also learned that there used to be a cover on top to provide shade to the patrons, like the same material of a ship sail. The lines were ridiculously long of course, so I was content to view it from the outside so I could explore more of the city.

Peeking inside
Crazy lines, no thanks
Crazy lines, no thanks

A lot of the ruins and landmarks were within walking distance so I walked from the Coliseum to The Roman Forum and then to Piazza Venetia to view the National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first King to a unified Italy. The architecture was very beautiful and I got to see the changing of the guards. I was also able to go to the top of the building to see an amazing view of the entire city. I felt very blessed to be there.

I visited the Pantheon, which was originally a Roman temple. It is one of the best-preserved buildings of all Ancient Roman buildings mainly because of it’s continual use throughout its history, including being used as a church since the 7th century. The Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome after almost two thousand years after it was built.

Gigantic Door
The Dome

Rome has lots of beautiful fountains, and the Trevi fountain is popular because there is a legend of guaranteeing your return to Rome if you do one of two things. The old method was to take a drink from the fountain, but as you can imagine that is no longer the case because of health reasons, lol. So the method I chose was to turn my back to the fountain and throw a coin over my shoulder. The fountain is really beautiful with lots of intricate designs. I have visited Las Vegas where one of it’s coolest features are the replicated cities from all over the world. It felt great to be in the actual city where the landmarks were real and not replicas.

I did lots of walking and came across so many beautiful and historic landmarks, including the Spanish steps in which the Trinità dei Monti church is located at the top. I also visited Leonardo Da Vinci’s museum, which was about his innovative and engineering background instead of his artwork. I didn’t realize he had a hand in many different inventions for tools to build and make things. I also learned that one of his most famous paintings, the Last Supper, was painted using materials that weren’t used often during that time in order to make the colors look more vibrant. Unfortunately, it also caused the paint to fade and peel more readily and over the years it had to be retouched several times.

One of the main questions I have been asked when I visit different places is, “How is the food?” My answer for Rome is…delicious!!! I’ve always loved Italian food (though I try to lay low on the carbs from pasta, lol), but having the true authentic food was superb. From the fresh pasta and sauces to the flatbread pizza (nope, not NY deep dish lol) it was all delicious and the prices weren’t bad. Don’t worry, I burned off all of the calories walking 20,000 steps a day!

Suppli

It’s great to have connections all over the world. For example, one of my friends from home connected me with a woman who lives in Rome and she was nice enough to take me to dinner with her friends. We took the train to the more “modern” side of Rome, in the EUR district. Modern refers to the 1940s, which I suppose is pretty modern when downtown Rome is over 2000 years old, lol. Some of the buildings are in the same Roman style with arches and columns. They even have a “Gay Village” (that’s the actual name) which had a sign up with the American flag intertwined with the rainbow in a ribbon form which said “We stand with Orlando” because of the Orlando, FL shooting at the gay nightclub that took place around the same time.

It was the night that Italy played Germany in soccer, or shall I used the proper European term, “Futball” so I hung out with the locals at an outdoor restaurant called The Burgher Bun. The food was good and I got to try a dish that Rome is known for called Suppli, which is fried on the outside and the inside has rice, cheese, and meat. Everyone was really nice and what made it even better was that Italy won the game. Everyone was in good spirit. I thought it was interesting that most people don’t tip at restaurants (or in general) because the waitress is paid enough to compensate. If you really like your meal it’s okay to leave a couple euros, but not necessary. Our total bill for the table was €166 and we only left a tip of €2, which the Romans said was good. The whole time I was there I was leaving tips and I didn’t even realize it wasn’t customary!

Going to Italy meant that I was going….SHOPPING! I dedicated my last day to put the camera down and get in the stores to check out the Italian fashion and the Italian leather that is so famous. There are many shopping districts that range from the really expensive brands like Gucci, Cartier, Montblanc, Jimmy Cho, etc., to the everyday fashion like Zara, H&M, and other small Roman boutiques. Some of the streets to shop on are Via del Corso, Via Condotti, Via Cola di Rienzo, etc. I was very happy with my purchases and even had to buy an extra bag to bring it back to the States. Once I saw the World map on the bag, I knew it was the one for me.

I also visited the markets which had all types of food items for sale and beautiful artwork, some of which I felt compelled to purchase. Overall, my trip to Rome was well worth it and I look forward to going back someday. I threw my coin in the Trevi fountain so I believe it’s going to happen!

Okay as you probably know by now, not everything is perfect when traveling…what you didn’t know is that I actually was sick the entire time but I didn’t let that stop me. I developed a cold at the end of my trip in Dusseldorf and it hit me the first day in Rome. I had to go to a pharmacy to get cold medicine but the people didn’t understand English very well to know what I needed. Finally I had to act out my ailment by saying “Aah-choo!” like a sneeze and they quickly knew and said that’s the universal language for a cold, lol.

I walked around every day in Dusseldorf and stood on my feet most of the day at the trade show so every day I had swollen ankles and coming to Rome walking around wasn’t any different. My steps were off the charts those couple weeks in Europe lol.


Until my next adventure, Arrivederci!