Hey, wasn’t Charles Dickens BORN in England? How apropos that I would use his theme here…

Best of Times–and oooooohhhh, there are many!

*Traveling alone. This may seem odd, but I really liked being here by myself. I could have my own, selfish agenda and walk or rest as much as I wanted to. It would have been nice to have Mark around to spoof on the accents and ceremonial-ness of everything, but if he couldn’t be there, being alone wasn’t such a bad option. And I’ve never traveled alone, so I thought I would be more nervous, but I wasn’t!

*Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. Oh man, this was hilarious and fun and so much better than I thought it would be. The dudes in red with giant hair helmets just look so…..ridiculous, and yet they are so serious about it all. And, I suppose it is a serious business to protect the royal family, but really, what’s with the outfits? I had a great spot for the whole spectacle and maybe, if you are really lucky, I will re-enact for you how these guys walk and shuffle. HILARIOUS!

*Breakfast. I mean, this is the home of the English breakfast, so I just had to partake. It was oh so good, especially coming from Bulgaria, where breakfast is hardly eaten at all. Oh, and you should know that if you order a cup of tea, it is gigantic. And black tea is black, but if you want milk in it (like I do) then you order it “white”.

*Tower of London. This was surprising. I almost did not pay the entrance fee. But I did want to see the crown jewels, and there are so many historical tales from here that I just decided to do it anyways. When I entered, it just so happened that there was a free tour with a yeoman starting right then. I figured what the heck? So I went along. This guy was so funny. He kept getting all the kids up front and then when he would talk about execution, he would say it all dramatic, like “execuuuuuuuuuuuuution”. They ate it up. Oh, and my other favorite line of his: “If you Americans had just paid your taxes, all this could be yours!” My sides hurt by the end of the tour, which I really needed because this was the day after I heard that a friend of mine had died. So…if you visit London, go to the Tower of London and take the tour!

*Parks/Gardens. Beautiful, really. I can’t say it enough. The flowers were huge and colorful and everything was so neatly arranged. I had lots of peaceful walks through the gardens and often stopped just to inspect the flowers.

*Churches. Both of the churches I visited–Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s superseded my expectations. I am Epsicopalian (the American version of the Church of England…also called Catholic Lite), so I really enjoyed visiting my mecca. I checked out all the little nooks and crannies, lit candles for my mom and my friend’s mom who recently passed away, and even saw a wedding! St. Paul’s is SO huge that there is room for a wedding AND tourists! Next time I visit I will go to Mass. I didn’t have decent clothes this time. And you know how those Brits are….

*Thai Food. Believe it or not, I had the tastiest Thai dinner of my life in London–thanks to the recommendation of my brother which was confirmed by my bible, Lonely Planet. If you ever visit, go to Busaba Eathai in SoHo. It’s worth it!

*Double Decker Bus. I had great weather and a live guide, so this was fun, and the best deal in town–you can get on and off as much as you want in 24 hours and it included a short boat ride on the River Thames.

*The Underground. Besides its incredible efficiency, I love all the little sayings, like “Mind the Gap”. I used it a lot, so I grew to really love the thing. And I could imagine the terror of when it got bombed. In many places, there is literally only inches between the tracks and the tunnel wall, and it is dark and hot, and people had to crawl out of that…

Worst of Times (if I must say anything bad about this place…)

*Bad News. I found out my friend from church died suddenly and unexpectedly while I was in London. This came just days after hearing that my best friend’s mom had finally lost her battle with cancer after way too much suffering. So it was hard to “be on vacation” here. I had to make a conscious choice to enjoy the last few days despite such sadness. Chances are I will never get to London again and I was really strongly feeling like life is just too short and you have to live it while you can. The bad side to all that is that as soon as I got home, I was indescribably woe.

*Early flight out. My flight out was very early and since it was out of Stansted Airport which is way out of the city, I had to catch the coach bus at 3:30 am, which also meant I had to take a taxi to the bus station and it cost more than both the bus rides to and from the airport. Grrrrr!

*Accents. This will sound odd, but I was looking forward to getting to London and FINALLY understanding a language 100%. Well, that’s not quite the way it went. I had the hardest time adjusting to the accent. And several times I had people tell me I had the accent. One dude even told me that he can tell Americans because we talk through our noses. Whatever. Like I have a tongue in my nose. Darn Brits!

*Not enough time. You need a good week here. Really, you do.

There are MILLIONS of photos of London in the gallery—go check them out, but get a snack first, it will probably take you a little bit to get through them all.

This concludes my Amazing Race/European Adventure.  Tomorrow–back to our regularly scheduled programming of life in Bulgaria and us preparing to begin our trek back to the States (woooohoooooo!) with a few stops on the way—Spain and Canada!