The day before our London trip, a friend of mine took Stewart and me to a football match in Ipswich. We were rooting for the Queen’s Park Rangers! Great day!
Kicking off our day in London, I took Stewart to see the British Parliament and Big Ben.
Westminster Abbey was next on our list.
I love horses, so of course I took Stewart to the Royal Mounted Guard.
Here are some pictures I took while wandering London with Stewart.
Naturally I took Stewart to Buckingham Palace. Some of the pictures are very dark since the sun set while we were walking around.
Stewart and I love playing with legos, and I wanted to show him the amazing displays at Harrods.
Stewart and I didn’t ride the London Eye together, although I did ride it with Elizabeth. Part of our study abroad program included a trip to the London Eye. It was fun going with Elizabeth and being able to take pictures from a different angle. The London Eye is like any other large Ferris Wheel.
After a wonderful day in London with Stewart, we went back to Reading. I was able to capture a beautiful sunset the day after our London trip. I just wanted to share it with you.
I really enjoyed the University of Reading campus. Washington state has a lot of forests and I love the trees. The campus has many trees and a lake. While walking around the lake my friend told me about the secret garden on campus. I had to see it, and my friend helped me find it. Here are the pictures I took.
I found a hedge maze in the middle of the garden. There’s also a circle of trees with a bench in the center, it’s a calming place to sit.
I love the little pond in the garden.
Follow Notovita on Follow
Stewart and I took a night train from Prague to Budapest. I should’ve known this train ride wouldn’t go as well as the one from Vienna to Prague. Stewart has a hard time getting to sleep and I don’t sleep well in public places either. A plane ticket cost as much as a private sleeper cabin, so I thought I’d try to save some money and get regular seats on the train. Wrong! Next time I will just buy the plane ticket. Learned my lesson.
The two of us were so tired we couldn’t honestly handle much. Time was limited also, so we decided to take a bus tour around the town. Oh I forgot to mention that we were in Budapest for Christmas Eve. This is important to mention because almost all shops and businesses are closed or at least close extra early. It was also an extra cold day in Budapest and even my winter coat wasn’t able to keep me warm. Here are the pictures from the tour.
After a couple hours’ wait we finally got checked into our flight and started the journey back to London.
Follow Notovita on Follow
Having sent my application for study abroad, I began to think about the other places I would want to visit while in England. Prague was very high on my list. It actually tied with Scotland and Ireland. I was so excited to see Prague because I had seen pictures before and since I heard about the Bone Chapel. I’ll go into more detail when I show the pictures. Since Stewart couldn’t come on the Scotland-Ireland trip, I made sure that we would see one of the other places he was interested in. To be fair to Stewart, he was interested in Prague after I showed him pictures and talked about the chapel. Prague may not have been top on his list, but he was open to going where ever I wanted to go. Lucky for both of us Prague was one of our favourite places!
Here are pictures I took while we were walking from our hotel to the Astronomical Clock. (The clock is actually more of an astrological clock since it represents the zodiac, but every time I tried researching it “corrected” to astronomical.)
I only recently discovered that I love clocks. Pocket watches have always been a love of mine, but clocks in general didn’t strike me until I saw Big Ben (which is actually the name of the bell inside the tower of the British Parliament building) in person. This clock ignites my passion in a whole different way. It’s lower to the ground, so I can appreciate its beauty and craftsmanship up closer. The clock is more artistic and colourful. As an added bonus the clock actually moves and chimes much like a grandfather clock at certain times.
The Christmas Market in Old Prague Square was in full swing. The leather market is amazing in Prague which I didn’t realize until I came across a leather glove stand. I bought myself some handmade Wine red gloves for only $15 and they are perfect. They fit perfect, match one of my purses perfect, and are super soft. Look around the local markets for souvenirs! Most of the stands, and even some stores, will haggle prices too.
Prague was the first city I’d been to where I got to see street performers. Other cities had their beggars but these people were very creative and talented. One of them looked just like my friend from home, and that confused me.
There are so many sites to see in Prague that I knew I’d have to write out a list for myself and Stewart. Even with a list I made sure to take time to just wander the city with Stewart.
Even with a list I made sure to take time to just wander the city with Stewart.
There were some really interesting shops, such as a marionette store.
Stewart and I searched for the Old Jewish Cemetery that has been built over 7 times. It has extravagant tomb stones, and is apparently really hard to find. The one that my hotel map showed me was an old Jewish graveyard but it wasn’t the one I was looking for. So we made our way to Prague Castle. We weren’t able to tour the inside because it was late but that’s okay. Next time we visit Stewart and I will have to find the proper cemetery and tour the castle.
By serendipitous accident, we walked into the annual pillow fight celebration! Apparently every year (the date isn’t actually set in stone) hundreds gather in Old Prague Square and have a massive pillow fight when the Astronomical Clock goes off at a specific time. When researching it later I realized how special the event was, because it isn’t always on the same date. Stewart and I just happened to be so lucky as to go to Prague during the same time, and to walk in on the celebration! It was the 22nd of December 2015 at 8pm. A local explained that the celebration was just for fun and that it draws a lot of tourists due to its strangeness. I loved it! I honestly believe that you should go and attend this celebration! Bring a feather pillow! It was too dark to take pictures and it was hard to capture the white feathers looking like snow as they fell onto Old Prague Square.
Day two was kicked off by waking up early to go on a tour through Kutna Hora. Being only about an hour out of Prague Kutna Hora is the home of the Bone Chapel! I was so excited to finally see it for myself.
The chapel is made of the bones of the victims of the plague. Since the chapel and graveyard surrounding it were becoming overloaded with the bones, the landowners hired artist František Rint in 1870 to do something with the remains while still honouring the dead. After Rint said that his sculptures remind all who look at it that we all are the same in the end.
We wandered Kutna Hora after the Bone Chapel. Our tour guide was amazing! She has been giving these tours three times a week for the last five years!
I’m glad that Stewart and I didn’t take the tour that only took us to Sedlec Ossuary because Kutna Hora is beautiful. The tour we took included a three course lunch and admission into all the sites we visited. The whole tour only cost $11 per person (in U.S. dollar conversion) and it was a great deal! Lunch was amazing and it wasn’t the end of our tour.
Saint Barbara’s Cathedral is one of my favourite cathedrals. We were free to take our own pictures, and we were the only group in the building at the time. The artwork was stunning and it was so bright. Not many cathedrals I’ve visited are brightly lit.
I especially loved that I was able to take nice pictures of the stained glass.
Follow Notovita on Follow
Lucky for me I have a friend from Vienna, Benedikt! On multiple occasions he told me that he’d be happy to show me around Vienna if I wanted to visit. I’d hear so much about the beautiful city that I wanted to see it for myself. Benedikt kindly helped me find the hotel, Hotel Mercure Josefshof Wien, and showed me where to meet him.
The hotel was lovely! It was tucked away just off Auerspergstraße street on Josefsgasse street. Away from the noisier street but still close to the sights we has in mind, it was perfect. The room was spacious, comfortable, and clean. The staff was exceptionally nice too. I would highly recommend you stay there if you go.
Anyway, when we first arrived we had lunch and then started our tour around the city. Since it was late December it got dark rather fast but the whole city was lit with Christmas lights and decorations. I loved the Mozart stores. We saw a street performer playing an electric broom.
Benedikt lead us to Saint Stephen’s Cathedral. What I love so much about this cathedral is all the intricate work and design that went into every single piece of it. The roof tiles, the carvings in the stone, and the fact that it was lit up at night. We did go inside but, since mass was in session, we couldn’t walk very far in to see all the artwork. This cathedral is a must see when you visit Vienna!
We continued to wander around the city, looking at all the decorations and shops.
Benedikt is a history buff and on top of taking us to all the beautiful sites around Vienna he taught us the history of the glorious city that was once the center of one of the biggest empires. Our tour led us to the Hofburg Palace.
Also a big lover of holiday time celebrations, Benedikt took us to the Rathaus (city hall) for the large Christmas market. The market was full of wonderful souvenirs but I had to contain myself, so I got my sister an aqua dream catcher. She collects them and I knew she’d love it! We had some wonderful mulled wine and got to keep the heart shaped mugs it came in.
We walked just down the road from the Christmas Market to the Museums Quartier. It was lit with colour changing orbs in the trees and projections against the buildings. Next time we visit I would love to visit all the art museums here.
Benedikt took us to dinner at a wonderful traditional restaurant, and after he took us to his favourite bar in Vienna. The bar is in the attic of the 25hours hotel and it is beautifully decorated to embrace this. All manner of things you’d expect to find in an attic are strategically placed around the bar. The service and drinks were great. Another must see when you go to Vienna. It offers an outstanding skyline view of the city.
Day two was dedicated to Schönbrunn Palace. Honestly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. The Christmas market set up in front of the palace was sublime. I bought myself a mini quill and ink set and a miniature parchment notebook to go with it. Stewart bought his mother an authentic hand crafted nutcracker for Christmas. She collects them and we both knew she’d love it!
Touring the Palace took hours but was well worth the money and time. The palace is modeled after Versailles but is still very unique. I actually liked Schönbrunn Palace more than Versailles, because it didn’t feel so forced. The palace was stunning and didn’t have to prove it to anyone by being flashy. There was more modern art and the rooms all looked very different from each other. It was set up to feel as though I was walking through the daily life of the last emperors of Austria, Franz Joseph I and Charles I. We weren’t able to take pictures during the tour so you’ll have to check it out for yourself. We walked around the grounds after our tour and took pictures of the Gloriette among other things. Also on palace grounds, is the oldest zoo in mainland Europe!
Our palace tour tickets included admission into the zoo so of course we had to visit! I loved the tropical animals exhibit but I couldn’t take any pictures since my camera kept fogging up. We got to see so many animals!
Having seen the zoo, we met back up with Benedikt and had a cup of tea before it was time for our train to Prague. Vienna was wonderful and I’m so happy we went. Thank you so much Benedikt for all your help and for showing us your beautiful city!
Follow Notovita on Follow
I apologize ahead of time for the lack of photos. My camera lost a good portion of the photos I took before I was even able to try to put them on the computer. Here is what I do have though.
We visited the Anne Frank House which was both depressing and uplifting. Anne Frank was an inspiring person but the tragedy surrounding her life can be overwhelming. Make sure that you are mentally prepared when going in to the tour. Well worth the time and cost, just be prepared.
Follow Notovita on Follow
Our second day of travel we took the coach to Brussels. When we arrived, we put our luggage in our room in Meininger Hotel. The hotel was amazing! Yes it’s set up like a hostel so that there are six beds to a room, but each room has it’s own bathroom complete with a shower. The whole place was spacious and spotless! 10 out of 10 I would recommend the Meininger Hotel! From there we walked down Quai du Hainaut and turned right onto N9.
The N9 turned into Rue Antoine Dansaert and that turned into Rue Auguste Orts, and it was a straight walk that us straight to La Bourse and the Christmas Market surrounding it. Stopping to have dinner at Old Wild West Steak House, before shopping at the market stands in front of Saint Nicholas Church.
We continued down the right hand road of Rue Henri Maus. Taking a left at Rue du Midi and then a right down a smaller unnamed road just before standing in front of Saint Nicholas Church. I was able to take a picture of Le Comptoir de Mathilde, where we had bought our chocolate from earlier in the day, as we passed by.
Daytime picture courtesy of TripAdvisor via https://www.tripadvisor.fr/Attraction_Review-g656144-d4754535-Reviews-Le_comptoir_de_Mathilde-Tulette_Drome_Rhone_Alpes.html
To finish off our day in Brussels we watched the Christmas Lightshow in the Grand Place and took a long trek to the Delirium Cafe for some drinks. The cafe has a pink elephant on its signs and the bar hosts 2,000+ beers on sight! It currently still holds the world record for its selection.
I had a great time in Brussels. One of my friends actually told me that Brussels would be boring but I found it to be the contrary. Going during Christmas/holiday time also helped since there were so many new seasonal things to see. I would suggest you go during the holiday season as well since there are so many great gifts available. I got my mother a hand beaded leather bracelet for example. I hope you enjoyed the tour and that you share your stories as well. Thank you for following my journey!
Follow Notovita on Follow
Elizabeth and I went on a three country tour through one of the programs Reading Uni offered. The first leg of our four day journey is to Paris France. I was a tad nervous because it was just months after the terrorist attack in late 2015. To add to my concern, my French flatmate Pauline warned me that the day we’d be in Paris was election day and that riots may break out.
After a long coach ride and a ferry, we finally made it to France. With our bags dropped off at the hostel our program booked, we made our way to the iconic symbol of Paris.
We needed to refuel so we went to Brasserie de la Tour Eiffel. The small but wonderful restaurant is on the corner of Quai Branly and Avenue de la Bourdonnais. I ordered salmon on toast which was perfection.
Fueled up, Elizabeth and I followed Avenue de la Bourdonnais and took a right onto Rue de I’Universite. This short road put us back in front of the Eiffel Tower for a few more photos.
Although Paris is beautiful, Elizabeth was very excited to see Versailles. Naturally, I went with her to Versailles. I had no idea how much I’d love Versailles.
Here are some of the photos I took while touring the inside of Versailles. Some call it a chateau and others a palace, since I cannot find a definitive answer I’m simply calling it Versailles.
These are the remaining photos I took while touring Versailles. It was getting late so we couldn’t stay as long as we wanted to.
To be honest, I was not interested in going to Paris. France I wanted to see, but Paris has never stuck a cord with me. I enjoyed my time wandering Versailles with Elizabeth, although the Eiffel Tower was not particularly interesting to me. I still took plenty of pictures and I very much enjoyed my trip. If you were to ask me I would say that visiting Versailles was much more interesting and fun.
Follow Notovita on Follow
Warning! This post contains hundreds of images from Warner Brothers’ Harry Potter Studios London. If you feel as though seeing photos will ruin your experience at the Studios do not continue! The photos are not set up in the “tour” style of the Studio and are not chronological.