London: An Introduction to Europe

My hope for this blog is to inspire young people to see the world. For them to get out of their comfort zone and realize that you do not have to go to the beach or an amusement park to have fun on vacation. Since young people cannot buy their own plane tickets, hopefully this will encourage them to ask their parents to take them abroad or sign up for the study abroad programs offered at their schools. So, Open the Map! Find a place to go!

Out of the 16 countries I’ve traveled to, England was my first. My parents took our family on an extended trip to London. It was the best introduction to Europe since I spoke the language and recognized the sights from childhood movies such as Mary Poppins and Peter Pan. London was first founded by the Romans and was known as Londinium. Now, it is the biggest city in Europe and boasts many famous attractions. For those a bit wary about going to a foreign country, London is the perfect introduction.

When I was first told at the young age of 5 that I was going to London, I was thrilled. England sounded so exotic. I couldn’t wait to embark on my first journey. I was so happy, that even the long 9 hour flight was fun to me. The little TV screens in the airplane seat were the coolest thing my five year old mind had ever seen! My parents had booked the trip through Adventures by Disney. They thought this would allow our trip to be informational, but also fun to keep my sister’s and my young mind engaged. Driving through London to our hotel, my eyes were glued to the window. Watching the old buildings and castles go by enchanted me. I would love London so much, I would return multiple times.

During my times in London, I got to see iconic Big Ben, the changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, ride the London Eye, tour Westminster Abbey, and have high tea at Harrods among many other things. Even riding in one of the famed red double-decker buses was a treat.

One of the first things I saw in London was the Tower of London. The Tower of London first began construction in 1078 under the rule of William II. The complex was originally built as a fortress to protect London. However, in 1100 the Tower of London held its first prisoner and would continue to work as a prison until 1952. This makes it one of the worlds oldest prisons. I was amazed at how old the structure was. There is nothing this old where I live! I got to see the guards at the Tower of London, which are known as Beefeaters. I also saw the ravens that live at the tower. As I walked through the old passages, my young mind was imagining all the things that happened there.

It’s hard to go to London and not see Buckingham Palace. The palace was built in 1703 but didn’t officially become the royal palace until 1837 when Queen Victoria took the throne. Outside the palace you can see the changing of the guard at 11am daily. However, be prepared to be in a large crowd when you go to see the changing. You can even go inside Buckingham Palace, but only between late July and late September. You’ll get to see the beautiful interior of Buckingham and even go into the garden. The garden is so big you’ll be shocked that it’s in the middle of the city. The queen even has her own bees to pollinate the flowers.

Kensington Palace was built in 1605. Kensington Palace is currently the home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Kate Middleton. Most of the public areas of Kensington Palace are empty, but there is a display of some of Queen Diana’s dresses. A funny memory I have of Kensington is when my sister and I were walking through Kensington Park. As we were strolling through the grounds, a man on his bike who was also talking on his phone came barreling towards us. With only one hand on the bike handles, when he tried to go around us he completely wiped out. My sister and I fled the scene. Even today we still laugh about the incident. So cell phones aren’t just a problem for those driving cars.

England is known for its love of tea. On my trips to London, we always have high tea at Harrods. It’s on the top floor of the iconic London store. You will need a reservation but reservations can be made online. You can have just scones and tea, or you can have the full high tea experience with champagne, and little sandwiches. And if you don’t like tea, then you can be served hot chocolate. While there is no official dress code, you don’t want to be dressed in a T-shirt and shorts as the tea room is upscale.

The British Museum has a collection of old artifacts from ancient civilizations. The most famous piece of the British Museum’s collection is the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone dates back to the 196 B.C.. It has two languages written on it which are Greek and Egyptian. The Rosetta Stone is the reason archeologists can read hieroglyphics. However, the British Museum has lots more to offer. Whether your a history buff or just curious, the British Museum is a fascinating place to see.

Westminster Abbey was very cool to see as a child but only as I have gotten older have I realized the significance of the beautiful structure. The throne that every British monarch since William the Conqueror has been coronated in is there. Those buried there include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Dickens, Chaucer, Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots.

When I went to London for the first time, my parents booked our trip through Adventures by Disney. Adventures by Disney is great for families with young children. The tour guides know how to make it fun for children but not make it childish for the adults. You don’t have to worry about Mickey Mouse joining you for the tour. I even remember my tour guides Andy and Ronnie. I would definitely recommend Adventures by Disney to any family with young children who want to travel. They take the burden of planning and organizing your trip off so you can just enjoy seeing London and time together as a family.

On one of my trips to London, I stayed in a town home in Kensington instead of in a hotel. London Perfect is a website where you can rent townhomes in London to stay at. You get to experience London like a local. You can choose a home just for two or you can take your family. There are some places that don’t allow children under a certain age, but they will always advertise that on the rental. The rentals are in nice areas of London.

Don’t let the stereotypes of rainy weather and bad food dissuade you. I have been there when it’s been sunny all week and have never eaten a bad meal. Pub food is the most delicious- fish and chips or shepherd’s pie can’t be beat!

So Open the Map! Find London on it and make that the first of hopefully many stops abroad!

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