Hello! Thank you to everyone who has expressed kind, encouraging words over the loss of my Europe photos. I wish I could say I’m over it, but, clearly, it’s taking me a while to get these out. I wrote about our first day in the UK before the dreaded factory reset, and I keep meaning to write about the rest of our trip, but every time I start to compose another recap, I think about a lost photo that I want to include, and then I feel sad, and angry, and then I don’t feel like writing anymore. It’s a pointless cycle that must end. So, never fear, Day 2 (Day 1 of our official tour) is here! I can share my experiences on this trip without an endless photo reel. Let’s work with what I’ve got…
After spending the night in London, we found our bus tour easily in the morning. I felt nervous and excited, but also relieved knowing we were in the right place. We started talking with fellow passengers on the bus, and Bret and I were delighted to discover that we were the ONLY Americans in the whole group. There were a few Canadians, but everyone else was from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Hong Kong, the Philippines, …all over. And there was a huge age range as well: 17 to 74! When the bus started rolling, I couldn’t help but smile because our adventure was officially underway!
After only a few hours on a bus with 40 complete strangers, I felt like I was surrounded by friends. We all introduced ourselves, which was kind of awkward, but actually wonderful because then we had conversation starters. I told Bret, “this is like summer camp for adults who want to be world citizens!” and I that’s exactly how I felt the whole time.
Aside from a few service station stops (which were great – honestly – we bought water and tea and snacks and met new friends), our first [real] stop was Cambridge, England. I was overjoyed to discover that our first activity was punting along the River Cam! We sat on blankets, essentially, and were pushed up and down the river. We learned about the Cambridge University system and a lot of history. It just was beautiful.
That’s the only photo I have because I instagrammed it but I do have video footage of this experience which is amazing. Here are a few screen shots:
Then, we just explored on our own for a while. We walked through the town. Bret bought a jacket from TK Maxx (like TJ Maxx but better). We stopped in for a snack at Cafe Rogue. I had a croissant and a coffee. I loved where we stopped in to eat because it had such a local coffee shop vibe. It wasn’t a big tourist area – most people were using the wifi and just working and going about their days. This was definitely the first time I was aware of my American accent because whenever I spoke, there was a reaction: either a smile or oh-one-of-you sigh.
We saw “Pound World” (like the Dollar Tree) which I thought was adorable. And we walked through a greenway area that was really nice. After exploring for a couple hours, we were back on the bus with the rest of our group. I really loved Cambridge and immediately decided that I could live here.
We drove on for a while and then made our evening stop in York which was described as a “mecca for history buffs and lovers of architecture.” After settling into our hotel, we went on a 3 hour walking tour of the city which may sound like a lot, but the walk felt awesome after being on the bus for a while. It was a beautiful place full of old architecture and stories.
There was an optional part of our tour that included walking along the wall that used to provide a border for the city. I was nervous about this because I didn’t realize how wide it would be, but it ended up being a really cool experience.
And the music… there was beautiful music playing that just echoed off the walls so perfectly. The acoustics added to the beautiful, peaceful but still city-like vibe. Bret was sure he wanted to live in York. I still liked Cambridge, but I liked York a lot, too. Spoiler alert, we loved pretty much everywhere we visited.
Oh, and we had a great dinner in a traditional English pub called Crosskeys which felt special because that is also the name of the vineyard where we got married. I had fish and chips! And we had great conversations with some of our new friends from The Philippines and Australia. We talked mostly about politics (everyone breathed a sigh of relief when they confirmed that we are NOT Donald Trump supporters) and gun laws (Australia hasn’t had a mass shooting since their gun laws went into place in 1996 unlike the United States who, well, you know
). We also talked about medical school in different countries which was really cool. We had plenty of time to talk because the service was really slow, but we didn’t mind. We were in an English pub with new friends!
Getting to this restaurant was no easy feat. We walked quite a distance from the hotel to the restaurant… I’d say it was a 25 minute brisk walk with a lot of different turns and crosswalks. And after dinner, our tour guide said “OK does everyone know how to get back?” I definitely didn’t, but fortunately Bret has an incredible sense of direction. He led a huge group of us back — over 30 people! Amazing. We were all grateful.
Thanks, Bret for taking that picture of the York Minister Gothic Cathedral at sunset. I took one, too, but as you can probably guess, it didn’t survive.
We got back to our hotel at 11pm! It didn’t feel that late because the sun had just set which was one of my favorite parts of this trip — the sun rose around 4:40am and set at 10pm! It was magical.
But when we realized we had to be up at 5:30AM, we quickly showered, re-packed our backpacks, and set the alarm. This started a series of magical, life-changing, sleep deprived days.
In my next post, we’ll journey to EDINBURGH, Scotland!