Mari Goes To…Part I

London! That’s right. After years of dreaming about traveling to Europe as a vacation, I was finally able to do just that. The trip was a graduation present to myself (I’ll talk about that later). It took some months of saving but it was so worth it.

Since I’ve wanted to do this for so long and had the resources to do it, I figured what the heck, I need to do this now while I can. This meant that I’d have to do it on my own since it just wasn’t an option for any of my friends at the time. So I planned my trip through Contiki Tours and Trips and traveled on my own.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought I would meet some people but would end up spending most of the trip on my own…but boy was I wrong! I met some amazing people and I was never alone. There were people from all over the world. My roommate was from Australia. She had a super strong accent and reminded me of Rebel Wilson; it was great. I had connected with some of the people traveling through Contiki prior to the trip, but the connection in person was so much greater. Getting to experience these new cities with new friends changed the entire trip for me. It was no longer about being in London or Paris and doing all the tourist-y things. It was about being together and getting to know each other better, being there to keep each other safe and make sure no one got gipped by all the gypsies in Paris, and just having a good time.

London was everything I hoped it would be. I can’t tell you what it is because I don’t even know, but I’ve been in love with London, or the idea of it, for years. Being in that city made my heart sore. I loved the accents, architecture and simplistic beauty of it all. Maybe it has to do with all the British artists I like listening to (looking at you, Lawson) but it was all just absolutely perfect. I loved how simple the metro, aka tube, was to navigate. And just the streets in general. I felt safe there, almost completely at home. London is the kind of city I would move to on my own without hesitation.

Buckingham Palace was nice, but my favorite part of it was the palace gift shop. Yeah, I didn’t know that existed either but it does! And it was glorious! I couldn’t resist and bought a pair of Swarowski crystal earrings that were modeled after Kate Middleton’s engagement ring. They’re the kind of earrings I can really only wear for very special occasions, so chances are those bad boys are going to be sitting on my vanity until my wedding day. They’ll be my something blue, whenever that happens! But they were by far my favorite purchase of the entire trip. I enjoy just looking at them, that’s how pretty they are.

Stonehenge and Bath were beautiful as well. I loved the old history and mystery of it all. We were very fortunate to have decent weather while in London, which I was not expecting at all but it was a lovely surprise.

I spent most of the day in London exploring with one of the awesome guys I met through the tour. The first night we met, I thought his name was Ben. I was wrong, it was Dave. So he was dubbed Ben-Dave for the rest of the trip and he became my trusty sidekick and bodyguard in the streets of London. Shoutout to him for dealing with me the whole day. Takes a special kind of man to be able to manage that 🙂

On our last night in London, we went to the West End to see Mamma Mia! on Broadway. It was a good show. I found it so funny how one of the actors was playing a man from Vermont and was doing an “American” accent but he sounded Southern. It made me realize that that’s probably exactly what we sound like to English people when we try to talk with an English accent, but I digress. That night we went out for drinks and karaoke at Covent Garden, a popular shopping and nightlife area in London. A couple of hours and Long Island iced teas later, we got lost in the streets of London and had to find our way back to the hotel without really knowing where we were. We ended up right in front of the Australian Embassy, which was the location of Gringotts Bank in the Harry Potter films. We found our way back eventually, but that added a nice little touch to our London adventure. The next day, slight hangover and all, we packed up and made our way to our next destination…Paris!

But more on that next time! For now, here are some pictures from London!

Stonehenge!
Stonehenge!
Typical tourist selfie with Stonehenge!
Typical tourist selfie with Stonehenge!
Some of the lovely girls I was fortunate to meet and spend time with
Some of the lovely girls I was fortunate to meet and spend time with
View of Big Ben and Parliament from the London Eye!
View of Big Ben and Parliament from the London Eye!
Ben-Dave was so done with me
Ben-Dave was so done with me
My beautiful earrings from the Buckingham Palace gift store!
My beautiful earrings from the Buckingham Palace gift store!