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On My Travels

On My Travels

There’s Something Special About London

I was fortunate enough once to be able to travel to London, Bath, Manchester, York, Cardiff and Edinburgh and all were wonderful places to visit. London however, was something special. I think a lot of it was because even though I was in a huge city that has over 9 million people living there, it didn’t seem like it. So many parts of London made you feel like you were not only stepping back in time but like you were stepping into a fairy tale. This city has a knack for blending both the modern world with the old world charm and I found it very interesting.

When I first arrived there I was just awestruck, one reason for that was that this was the biggest city I’d ever traveled to and I was overwhelmed at first. Heck, Heathrow Airport itself was like a city on it’s own. You would not believe how huge that airport is! My goodness, I think you could get lost just there if they didn’t have as good of directions on how to get out of it and hop on a train to drive you into the city!

The moment I arrived in London and opened my mouth the locals knew I was a “Yank” and they immediately tried to make me feel welcome and at home. Londoners love “Yanks”. Several I met said they felt we were their kid siblings across the pond. In a city the size of London you would think people would be unwilling to be helpful or friendly but in London that simply was not the case. Everyone I met went out of their way to be accommodating, which was really refreshing.

All of England is an incredible and interesting place and is alive with history and would take weeks and weeks to see and experience all this little island has to offer. London alone can keep you busy for days even weeks. I only had 5 days there and it wasn’t nearly enough time to see it all. However, I did see and do a lot of things that made the stay there more than worth it.

Here are some of the top attractions that I highly recommend you see if you are planning a trip to London in the near future:

•    British Museum – This is an incredible museum and one of the biggest I’ve ever seen in my life! This world famous museum exhibits the works of mankind from prehistoric times to modern times and from all over the world. It’s biggest highlight is the Rosetta Stone along with some wonderful Parthenon sculptures. They also have quite a few mummies in their Ancient Egypt collection. The wonderful news about this place, it’s free, that’s right FREE! Who doesn’t like free?
•    National Gallery – This is the crowning glory of Trafalgar Square, which in itself is worth seeing. This gallery is a huge place that houses Western European artwork from the 13th century through the 19th century. You will be able to see some of the greats such as Van Gogh, da Vinci, Botticelli, Renoir and many more. This gallery is also free!
•    Natural History Museum – Yet another free and wonderful place to see. This museum brags of having a collection of the biggest, tallest and rarest animals in the world. The architecture of this building alone is worth seeing. And again, yet another place that won’t cost you a single schilling!
•    Victoria and Albert Museum – This is a great little museum that celebrates both art and design and has 3,000 years worth of some pretty incredible artifacts that come from all over the world. There is old furniture, paintings, sculptures, textiles, metalwork and the list could go on and on. If you like artifacts of all sorts you will love this place. It also has a really beautiful courtyard and garden with tables and chairs where you can sit out and enjoy some food and beverages when the weather is nice.  And guess what? It’s free too!

•    Tower of London – Okay, EVERYONE goes there, but you have to go there. If you don’t go anywhere else, the Tower of London is a must see on any trip to London. This is one of the most famous buildings in the world and has over 900 years of history in just one place. There is the royal palace which is still used today by the Queen, a prison, place for their infamous executions, royal arsenal and even discover how the Tower became the first London zoo. What is really cool is walking through a king’s medieval king’s bedchamber, meet the Beefeaters and listen to their bloody tales, stand where heads rolled and last but not least, visit the Crown Jewels! Okay this one is not free but it’s well worth the 22£ they charge to get in for the tour.
•    Tower Bridge – I love bridges and once I first set eyes on this bridge I was in love. It’s one of the most beautiful bridges I’ve ever seen with it’s Gothic style architecture and it’s powder blue cabling and accents. It’s just beautiful.
•    Outdoor Spaces – London boasts of being one of the “greenest” capitals in the world and they wouldn’t be lying. They have more than, get this, 3,000 parks and wide open spaces right in the city! Some of the key ones to visit would be Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, Kensington Gardens, Hampton Court Palace, Eltham Palace, Syon House and Gardens, Chelsea Physic Garden, Epping Forest, Richmond Park, Crystal Palace Park, and Highgate Cemetery. These are just a tiny list to enjoy.

Whatever you do, don’t forget to go to local pubs and really get the true feel of the city. If you want to find good food and good ale, lager and beer it’s best to ask locals where they go, that’s where you will find the best.

There is so much to see and do in this great historical city I would advise doing your research first before going and to make sure that you give yourself plenty of time there to truly experience both the rich history and modern side of London.

On My Travels

New Orleans – One of the Most Fascinating Cities in America

When it comes to travel, I have a lot of places on my “bucket list” that I dream about visiting and New Orleans just so happens to be one of those cities. The best thing about it is that it’s no longer on my “bucket list” because I was fortunate enough to be able to go there and have one of the most interesting and exciting times I’ve had traveling.

When I think back about all the experiences that I had when I visited this incredible city I often find it difficult to find the right words to describe this intriguing city. Not only is it one of the oldest cities in the United States but it has some of the most incredible history, some of the coolest things to do, is one of the most diversified cities you’ll ever see with its unique attitude, flamboyance, cultural differences that all flow together in harmony, from the beautiful to the outright strange, New Orleans has it all. And the people, oh my, that was my selling point, the people. The people of New Orleans are not just strong and resilient, because we all know how much New Orleans has gone through, but they have got to be some of the friendliest people you will ever meet. No matter who you are or where you are from, you will not feel unwelcome, alone or feel like a stranger. The people of New Orleans go out of their way to make everyone feel as if New Orleans was their home. And if I could have, I would have stayed.

I was not like most people when I decided to travel to New Orleans, I did not go during Mardi Gras because I wanted to experience the city with a lot less people so that I could get a more personal look at this wonderful place. So, I chose to go during the summer. Oh, yes, there were a lot less people visiting and I was able to experience the locals better, however, I learned quite quickly why a lot of people do not visit the city in August. The humidity combined with the heat was beyond words. I’ve been to places before and even lived in areas of high humidity but, let me tell you, nothing compares to what I experienced in NOLA in the middle of August. The minute you stepped outside, the humidity alone, took your breath away. However, I did not let that stop me from enjoying NOLA. I just figured out away to try and avoid the heat and humidity by staying in a car with AC and as many structures with AC and made sure that I did most of my traveling during the morning or evening hours. As for mid-day, I did my best to make sure I was somewhere cool.

Even though I didn’t go during Mardi Gras, it was no biggie because this city always finds something to celebrate. They have enough going on every day that there is no way you could ever get bored. They love to party, they even rejoice on the way to a funeral with what they call the “Second Line”. It is a beautiful celebration of the life their loved lived as they dance, sing and play jazz in a procession that takes their loved one to their place of rest. The people of NOLA impressed me with their joy of life as well as the joy they found in celebrating the life of one they lost. Incredible people to say the least.

When exploring NOLA you will never lack for finding something interesting. Everywhere you go you will find artists painting on the streets, musicians playing jazz on the corners and in parks even fortune tellers and card readers right outside the St. Louis Cathedral, which is a story in itself being the center of Catholicism of New Orleans and the state, to say the least that was interesting to see.

Some of the key places you have to see, and yes they are the biggest tourist attractions, but are a must are the following:

•    St. Louis Cathedral built in the 1700’s
•    The French Quarter
•    Jackson Square
•    The Mississippi River and its Riverboats
•    Cafe du Monde (the home of the original beignets)
•    The Street Cars
•    Local museums
•    The French Market

Much, much more. I could go on and on about places to see but there is so much that I could write a book about the things to do and see while visiting New Orleans. I’m just trying to give an overview of this great city right now and will try to get into more individual details of things in later blog posts. For instance, I could write a complete post just on the culinary delights you will find in NOLA.  Right now, it’s just the tip of the ice berg.

Before I conclude this post I do want to give you a list of some of their local summer festivals, because it’s not all about Mardi Gras. Here are some cool festivals they have during the summer months that you might find interesting:

•    NOLA Oyster Festival (June 4-5)
•    French Market Creole Tomato Festival (June)
•    NOLA Pride (June 17-19)
•    Bastille Day (July)
•    Satchmo SummerFest (August 4-7)
•    Red Dress Run (August 13)
•    Dirty Linen Night (August 13)
•    NOLA Downtown Music and Arts Festival (August)
•    We Live to Eat Restaurant Week (September 12-18)
•    Southern Decadence (September 1-5)
•    NOLA Burlesque Festival (September 15-18)
•    NOLA on Tap (September)

The city of New Orleans is a place that blends all kinds of cultures, modern day and the past all flawlessly giving it a unique flair that no other city can come close to doing. One moment you feel as if you stepped back in time nearly 300 years and the next moment you are back in the midst of modern society. One key thing about the atmosphere of this wonderful place is that no matter how hectic life can get, somehow the people of NOLA find no reason to hurry, because they simply want to enjoy and savor every moment that life gives them.