A Travellerspoint blog

A Look Back

Finally, some photos of Julie's summer adventure!

Hi everyone!

I am so sorry that I have been neglecting my blog! After that last entry in Europe I barely had the time to get to a computer, never mind write a quality update. Now, back in Canada, it seems that I am busier than ever and STILL haven't written about my adventures! So, to make up for it, I've created a short movie (about 20 or so minutes) that includes some of my favourite pictures from my summer for you to watch and enjoy. Making this movie has been an adventure in itself: as much as I love being back in Canada, these pictures create an almost unbearable nostalgia for me!
So enjoy the show, and I promise, I'll write more soon!


Posted by jns885 10:57 Comments (0)

Julie's Summer Journey, Part 1

Sweden to Germany, May 26 to June 17

It's been far too long, and now I've got 4 countries and 6 cities to tell you about!! This has been an incredible few weeks, and I'm thrilled that I get to keep up with this lifestyle for the next 2 months!!
So now I will try to give you the whirlwind tour of my last few adventures. Let's start at the beginning, Stockholm!
It was an incredibly sad goodbye to Turku, but Monica and I packed up and we were off sailing in no time. Our boat toook us through the beautiful archipelago all the way to Stockholm where we arrived at the very early hour of 6:30 a.m. Although it was rainy and a bit cold the whole time we were there, Monica and I loved wandering through the tiny tiny streets of Stockholm, laughing at the castle guards, and sleeping in our fantastic hostel, an old fishing boat!! The greatest thing in Stockholm though was probably the VASA Ship. It sank on it's maiden voyage hundreds of years ago and it has been perfectly restored. I hadn't realized how HUGE those war ships would be!! It was so so cool to see it. It was very ghostlike to me, as it sat there in the museum, undisturbed by the thousands of people gathered in awe about it. I loved it.
After a couple rainy days in Sweden, we hitched a ride on a plane to Warsaw in Poland! Again, it rained. And rained. And rained some more, but Monica and I are troopers so we powered through the rain, enjoying the sights of the city. The crazy thing is that about 75% of the city was left as rubble in 1945 after the Nazi's bombed the heck out of it, and now it's a mega city with a totally rebuilt old town. It is amazing how they have rebuilt so quickly. Another interesting thing about Warsaw was that when we arrived, we found out that the hostel we had booked was out in the middle of nowhere and there was no other hostel at all with any room for the nights we planned to stay for. So, a frustrating hour of phone calls later, we decided 'to heck with it', and booked ourselves a hotel room in a four star hotel! It sounds pricey, but since we were in Poland where you can drink half a litre of beer for under a Euro, it was the most inexpensive 4 star hotel I'll ever experience!! It felt a little like a James Bond movie when every night when we got back there would be some kind of black tie event going on in the lobby, or a chamber orchestra giving its all in the restaurant. There would always be a couple of stray backpackers like us walking around looking stunned too and it was great! We ended up spending a lot of time there one afternoon that the rain was so heavy that 5 seconds out of doors would have soaked us to the skin.
From Warsaw we took a train to the beautiful citz of Krakow! Unlike Warsaw, it was practically untouched by the war, so the Old Town (our hostel was right on the main square!!) is still brilliantly original. It was so beautiful there! Monica tasted Pierogi for the first time, and despite my allergies to wheat, I had to have just one of those delicious dumplings. They were sooooo good. We had a lot of fun sampling the delicious varieties of Polish beer, and generally just wandered around the old town, and the castle. One of the most moving experiences I had though was just outide of Krakow in Auschwitz. Monica and I toured the remains of this Nazi extermination camp for a day. It was really really difficult, but I am glad I went. It's hard to describe the emotions that take over when you are out there.
It was hard to say goodbye to Krakow, but we boarded a plane excited for Berlin!! At this point my innocent cough had turned into something a little more ugly, so the details of Berlin are still a little foggy for me. We made it to our hostel in, you guessed it, more rain. haha. We spent a day wandering the downtown area around the Brandenburg gate, checking out what's left of the wall, and having a blast in Madame Tussauds Wax museum! It was pretty cool to stand next to the Beatles, Elvis, Einstein, and even Barack Obama, haha. Berlin was a pretty cool city, but it felt odd to me. It has soooo much history, but you can't see it anywhere because the city is so new! Since the wall fell, Berlin has had an incredible building boom, so the city barely looks 20 years old.
With Berlin also came the time to say goodbye to my dear Monica. We has such a great time traveling together and I can't wait to see her again in Mallorca!! One of the great things about traveling with Monica is that we ate really really well! Both of us are eager to try new things and we did our best to find the best cheap food in every city we were in! Sushi was always a favourite, and we had some fantastic Indian food a couple of times too. Not to mention the incredible local foods we had too! Delicious Herring in Sweden, lots of lovely garlic-y dishes in Poland, and of course, Wurst in Germany!
After parting with Monica, I got on a train to Prague, marking the beginning of my solo travels for the summer! Riding through the countryside was incredible; I finally have an appreciation for the beauty of Bohemia! Low mountains, millions of leafy trees, and crumbling castles lining many cliffs and peaks. It was gorgeous. And that was only the beginning!! Prague was absolutely amazing. The entire city is old! I hardly saw anything built in the last century it seemed! I absolutely loved to get lost in that city, discovering so many cool places. The food was great, the beer was better, and my hostel was fantastic! I met some really great people there and we had a blast enjoying the nightlife of Prague together. I had a great afternoon in the Royal gardens just reading, writing postcards, enjoying the sunshine, and getting a bright red lobster burn on my shoulder. It was such a nice city. It ranks right up there with Barcelona in its magic.
One really long train ride later, I arrived in Munich! This was an especially exciting stop for me as I was able to meet up with a friend of mine from Saskatoon whose European adventures happened to cross paths with mine! I met her and her 3 friends on my first night here, and we made some dinner together and went out for a couple of beers before splitting up again for the night. The next day we were up early at the train station where we causght 3 trains and a bus out to a small town near Austira called Fussen, where we saw a couple of really cool castles! It was super fairy-tale like with the castles settled in the beautiful mountains with clear blue lakes and rolling green fields surrounding it. In fact, the one castle we saw was apparently the inspiriation for the Disney Castle!! It definitely felt like a disney movie, that's for sure! We got back to Munich and found ourselves a big Beer Garden where we drank Augustiner beer from mugs that seemed to be bigger than me!! It was a lot of fun. The waitresses are all in their little german beer wench outfits and the men have their leiderhosen on for good measure. haha. I thought it was just in the touristy places that they did this, but apparently they do it everywhere in Munich! Allie and her friends left early the next morning and I was off again exploring on my own. Munich's old town is prettz cool too, with the giant Glockenspeil definitelz being a highlight. I seem to have made a habit of not really rocketing around the cities I'm in, but seeing one or two major sites, wandering a bit, then sitting in a park somewhere with a picnic. It's a great life I live :D

Sorry for the really brief update, but when you have to pay to use a computer, it's all I can do!! If you have Facebook, you can check out a few of my pictures there, otherwise I think I'll have to wait for a while to get some pictures up on here. They always seem to take a lot longer than necessary on this website.
Anway, I had better get going so I can grab some dinner before i have to pack up and get ready for my train to Vienna tomorrow!!! Hopefully I'll be able to get on here a little more often in the future, but until then,
live, laugh, and love always,

Posted by jns885 08:47 Comments (0)

Saying Goodbye to Finland

A difficult goodbye to my home away from home


When I signed up for this exchange, I had no idea that it would be this hard to leave. It's taken me ages to pack, and I think it's because I don't want to leave! I'm really really excited to leave today for Stockholm, but at the same time, I find myself wishing I could stay just a little while longer! I've fallen in love with Turku. It has such a unique and friendly vibe to it that's allowed be to feel totally comfortable in it. And now that the spring has officially arrived, the snow is gone, and everything is green (which is more than some of you back home can say, or so I've heard!), it's a really beautiful city too! But it's not just Turku that I'll be missing; I've made so many fantastic friends again that have been leaving day by day. I said goodbye to my lovely tutor/incredible friend yesterday and it was really difficult! She was the first person I met here, and like all of the other amazing people I've met here, she's made a definite impact on my life.

Now, if I can, I'd like to take you on a walk through my life in Turku. I'll warn you though, these photos were not taken in chronological order :P

Welcome to my home, 3 A 27. The only Canadian flag flying in my building :P
Check out my wall of fame and mementos from home.
While you're here, check out my postcard collection from my travels!
Stop at the shop next door for some supplies, or some fantastic chocolate.
Let's take a walk along the Aurajoki river!
On the way downtown we'll walk by my favourite place in the city, the Turku Cathedral!
We'll stop at the incredible Library to read a newspaper, or find a book for my English class!
We might run into a few friendly strangers on the way, Turku is full of them ;P
Especially on the main walking street, Yliopistonkatu.
I'm hungry for some gluten-free goodies, so we'll make a stop at Kauppuhalli.
Now we'll take a bus back home, it's Wednesday and there's a party in the Student Village!
Check out our collection! If everyone keeps adding to it we'll have enough money to buy a new sofa for the kitchen!
Meet my friends!
The next morning we'll recover at Ruissalo for a sauna
Then we'll meet up with everyone again at Educarium for lunch: Rice and meat and sauce.
Let's go for another walk! We'll spot this on the way to the harbour.
Then we can marvel in some medieval glory in the Turku Castle
Careful we don't get lost though, the signs can be a bit confusing!
Laugh at some of the Finnish to English translations: Semi Burger? are the burgers as big as Semi's? or are their burgers only partly burgers...
We'll wander through Kauppatori next, maybe pick up some flowers and some fruit.
Trust me, we'll eat a lot of fish.
If we're lucky, we'll happen upon a lovely spring market on the riverbank!
Check out some Finnish traditions at Vappu!
I'll probably take another picture of the Cathedral on the way home. haha

Thanks for taking a walk with me! Hopefully these pictures help you to understand why I love this place so much! I've got to get going though, my suitcase won't pack itself!!

See you in Stockholm!
Live, laugh, and love always,

Posted by jns885 00:27 Archived in Finland Tagged finland turku study_abroad Comments (0)

Russian Tsars and Traffic and Finland`s Lovely Lakes

View Julie's European Adventure! on jns885's travel map.

Hello again!!

Well ladies and gents, I believe this will be one of my last entries from Finland! With a trip to Russia and the lakes of Finland since my last entry, time has sneakily slipped away, leaving me with a little over 2 weeks left in my beloved Turku. Already my friends are beginning to leave the Student Village for their home countries around the world. It's not easy to convince myself that I may never see them again! Even so, they've made an immeasurable impact on my life and I hope that someday we can all re-unite!

But let's get to business here! I want to tell you all about Russia! This was yet another fantastic adventure for me, and this time I got to enjoy it with a few more of my friends from Turku! The trip was arranged by the Exchange Student Network, so there were over 100 of us exchange students traveling together. The first adventure we had together was the Russian night train. We got on the train in Helsinki, greeted at the train by an angry Russian man in a gray uniform and furry hat whose sole duty was to check our passports at 3 or 4 different intervals of the journey, and walk up and down the corridor looking menacing. Four of us, Monica and Adria who I've mentioned before, and another Spanish friend, Nerea, shared a tiny cabin together on the train and had a great time for the most part. The only drawback was the excessive waiting at the borders. I didn't realize it before, but we actually had to cross two borders to get into Russia. First we cross the Finnish border where they check to see if we all have passports, then we continue through a gap of no-mans-land for about half an hour or so, then we cross the Russian border, where our passports are taken from us, we are given strict rules not to leave our cabin, and they are returned to us stamped and checked after about an hour of waiting. Then, we're finally in Russia! We tried, unsuccessfully, to sleep on the train, and by 8 am the next morning, we were awoken by our grumpy conductor "GOOD MORNING, MOSCOW!" The next surprise was the toilets you had to squat over in the train station. I hope that was my first AND only experience with them. Monica and I decided that even though it flushes, it's still worse than peeing behind a tree because they smell worse.

Moscow was an incredibly unique experience though. The city felt so different in comparison to any other city I've visited. You can definitely feel the Soviet impact on the city, seeing gray building after gray building after gray building, followed by statue upon statue of Lenin or Marx. There was an incredible energy to the city, the main contributing factor being the insane traffic, but there was also a feeling of new growth somehow, like the city was finally growing out of its shady past.

Our night train from Helsinki - probably the worst sleep of my life, haha.
Moscow train station. My first glimpse of the Russian language. From then on I gave up all hope of understanding anything.
Russia loves its war memorials. This was one of our first stops in Moscow. This was a WWII memorial, and it was massive!
See, it was huge! It was also ridiculously cold and windy that day. But then again, we were told it was a better than normal day in Moscow.
Former KGB headquarters. I'm not sure what they're using it for now.
Russia also loves clean streets in the central areas of their cities. Watch out when this mean old water truck comes after you!!
Inside the Kremlin. This is where all the main political palaces and churches are in Moscow. Our tour guide described it well saying that the Kremlin is an excellent example of how Russians are the best at building the biggest, most useless things. This bell was built in honour of a Tsarina and it weighed over 300 tonnes. Yup. A bit excessive.
The church where every Russian Tsar was crowned. It was absolutely gorgeous. And it was also the first time I've had the main ideas of the orthodox church explained to me. If you're curious I'll tell you about it sometime :D
A little excited about being in the Kremlin! Possibly a little overtired as well...
The Tsars didn't want to be crowned and married in the same church, so they built this one for the marriage ceremonies. Funny story about this one; the Tsars were allowed to marry 3 times at most, a very gracious exception from the church. However, when one particular Tsar had sent his 3rd wife to the convent and brought a 4th to be married there, the priest closed the door to him because a 4th wedding wasn't allowed. No problem! The Tsar ordered a new door to be built. It's the small one on the left.
In most places we visited, pictures were not allowed inside. But a lot of the times, the ouside was even more beautiful. The Kremlin was filled with these golden domes.
Outside the Red Square, a little bit of historical irony. A major symbol of Communist power surrounded by modern capitalism.
The Red Square! It was closed to the public that day because of some sort of military rehearsal for the arrival of a really important person in the next couple days.
So we bought some sweet hats to console ourselves :D
We managed to find a place to get some pictures of St. Basil's in the Red Square! It was breathtaking.
This is the reason we couldn't get into the Red Square; Army guys driving gray convertibles with no seatbelts.
Moscow was filled with tiny little churches like this, but they were all so spectacular to see!
This one looked like something out of a fairy tale or something, so candy-like!
One of the legacy's of the Soviet era is the underground metro system of Moscow. They wanted to build palaces "for the people", so they filled the metro with patriotic statues and sculptures and architecture. It was gorgeous. This one reminded me of Rascal..haha
In the metro again
More beautiful metro stations

Beyond exhausted, we went back to the train station around 10:30 at night to get on yet another night train. Although this one was a billion times nicer than the first, the beds were still tiny, and the train is still not a nice place to get a good night's rest. We woke up in Saint Petersburg early the next morning, a little bleary eyed, but ready for the adventure. At this point I was beginning to realize that the little tickle in my throat was more than it seemed, and I was starting to actually get sick. Not the best timing on my part.

Our first stop in St. Petersburg: St. Isaac's square. "Under the horse's ass" was to be our meeting place over the next few days.
The incredible "Spilled Blood" Church. It was built on the spot where a Tsar's father had been murdered. There's just so much history here it's hard to soak it all in!!
Next stop, Peter and Paul's fortress, where St. Petersburg was founded. This church was the tallest structure in the city. I really liked how despite the massive size and population of the city, it wasn't filled with big ugly sky scrapers and whatnot. Really different.
Peter the Great and myself. He was so irresistible! haha!
Crazy Russian signs!
On our drive out to the Baltika brewery we caught a glimpse of some Real Russia. Not palaces and churches, but worn down soviet buildings, trash everywhere, and capitalism leaving its mark.
We had a quick tour of the brewery, then we were led into a room where the tables were filled with every kind of beer you can imagine from all over northern and western Europe. Imagine 30 odd exchange students with half an hour before we had to leave. Let's just say we had a good time!
These were my favourites. The one on the left was made in the Brewery we were in, the one on the right wasn't. But if you see them anywhere back home, let me know!!
This was our first stop on day two in Saint Petersburg. Catherine's Palace in Pushkin town. Talk about overdoing it, this place was gorgeous, but holy wowzers was there a lot of gold!
Monica and I in the hall of lights
This choir sang for us in the main hall and it was absolutely chilling. The sound was perfect and if you closed your eyes you could almost go back in time :D
Golden hall after golden hall, after golden hall....
Sicker than a dog at this point, but still excited!
One of the many statues in Catherine's gardens
This is some very mild Russian traffic, most times lanes were a figment of your imagination, but I wanted to show you the crazy amount of cables everywhere for the buses and trams!
After Catherine's palace I was almost too sick to move, but decided to drag my butt to our next stop: The Winter Palace. This was the last home of Tsar Nicholas II before the revolution and now it's a part of the Royal Hermitage museum. I'm so glad I went! Not only was the architecture incredible, but the art from the worlds great painters was almost unbelievable.
The gate to the palace. Again, Russians love their monuments.
After Hermitage a few of us got back on the bus and we were on our way to the Ballet!! This is the Mariinsky theatre where I saw the most amazing Ballet of my life.
The cast of Raymonda. As one of my companions at the theatre put it, the Russian Ballet is like the Holy Grail for us dancers, and we finally got to witness it!
Day three began with a bus tour, and a slightly healthier Julie. This is St. Nicholas's Cathedral.
The St. Petersburg skyline. I love how modern buildings haven't taken over the city!
All day we played "count the brides!" I think the count came up to something ridiculous over 30
The Aurora! It was a canon blast from this ship in 1917 that signaled the beginning of the Russian Revolution!
This is the very cannon. Apparently a lot of Chinese communists make a pilgrimage here, kind of like it's a holy spot.
I was enjoying a little Titanic moment :P
An abundance of tourist traps outside of the Aurora. And our bus!
On our way to find some lunch Monica and I found the "kissing" bridge. People write their names on locks and then 'lock their love' to the bridge. It was pretty cool.
We walked by the Mariinsky theatre where I had seen the Ballet too!
Mmm..Cabbage rolls!! They were so good. I ate a lot of amazing borcht too. I think that's why I recovered so quickly from my sickness :D
Hugs for St. Isaac's Cathedral! The columns were sooooo massive!
I love this! Everywhere I've been in Europe there's always some renovations going on. The best part is they always show you what you're missing!
The Beautiful St. Isaacs. It reminds me of St. Paul's in London.

From here we went to the Yusipoff palace, which is where Rasputin was murdered! The palace was incredible! Again, no pictures were allowed, but to be honest, I felt like a Russian princess in there! I can`t get it through my head how someone comes up with the designs for these places and then actually builds them. So crazy. This palace even had its own private theatre. They could bring the best performers of the day to give them private performances. Too cool. The tour finished with a descent to the basement to the very room where Rasputin was murdered. They actually built the basement in the way that it was purely for the purpose of his murder. It even had one room where the walls were covered in about 8 mirrored doors so that if he escaped he would get lost and they could corner him. It was pretty intense.

That night was definitely a unique experience as well. Who needs to go out to a bar when you can rent a limo for really cheap, shove an international hodge-podge of 16 people inside, add a little Russian vodka, and you've got all you need! Our driver was great, stopping at all sorts of cool places for us to take pictures. It was a lot of fun!
We even managed to catch some fireworks over Hermitage! I kept thinking the whole time "I'm in Russia! In a limo! This is soooo cool!"
A plethora of Russian dolls! I bought one for myself and she's beautiful :D
Our last day in Russia, we just walked around for the morning before getting on the bus for the incredibly long journey home. I just loved the way the streets looked.
Everything is just so elaborate!
Another giant cathedral, the Kazan.
Another thing about Russia, army guys are EVERYWHERE! And for the most part, they really do wear those fuzzy hats!
Placing some postcards in the care of the Russian postal service. It took a lot longer for them to get to Canada than I thought it would!
Our awesome hotel. It looks small from the front, but it's actually a massive complex complete with a mall inside.
Driving home from Russia, I couldn't help but notice that things looked a little familiar...minus all the trash everywhere though.

We made it back to Turku exhausted and carrying an abundance of duty free goods from the Russian border. The border was crazy. Again, we had to go through two of them, but the Russian one was crazy! You arrive, someone gets on the bus and checks to see that everyone has a passport, then you wait, then you're ushered into a small waiting room where one by one you go to get your stamp, then you wait, then you're allowed back on the bus, but not before another angry Russian checks that you all have stamps. Phew. It was insane! All we wanted to do was just go home! But now at least I can say my passport is a little more exciting. I've now crossed borders by plane, train and car! Now I just need the boat stamp!

Russia was a really cool experience with an entirely different culture and a history so rich you couldn't escape it. I really really liked it there! Even so, I found myself breathing a sigh of relief driving into Finland again! It really has become a home away from home. I'll really really miss this country!

In order to experience our Finnish home a little more intimately, a group of 10 of us decided that we'd take on a 5 day motorhome trip through the lakes district! And what a trip! The lakes are so gorgeous, and this area of the country is more like a freshwater sea spotted with islands than land spotted with lakes, it's incredible. So, 9 Spaniards and 1 Canadian rented 2 caravans, bought a huge amount of food and a couple of maps and we were off!

The whole group of us ready to leave the Student Village!
We drove clear across Finland in one day, almost all the way to the Russian border!
We arrived in Imatra really really late, so we enjoyed a parking lot midnight lunch!
We woke up to a beautiful scene in Imatra. I really fell in love with the lakes.
We realized in the morning that we had parked beside a great mini-golf course with a picnic table; the course wasn`t open, but we sure got some funny looks from the passers by!
We found a `scenic rest area` on the map, and this is what we found. I guess even Finland can be dirty.
Again, because I was traveling with 9 Spanish people, we arrived late to our next campground. We had a great barbeque that night.
Day three was incredibly cold and windy so we spent most of our time in the caravans playing cards. I`ve learned some great Spanish games to teach all of you when I get back :D
Our little hut where the BBQ was. It also served as a great refuge from the wind!
Day three was also the day of mis-haps. We lost a cable, bent a key, and spent far too much time at a gas station buying food!! We finally did arrive in Lahti though to find a great campground waiting for us!
The next morning I was up early for a shower and then spent almost an hour wandering around the campground taking pictures. The morning fog was so pretty.
This is my favourite part about the lakes; the little islands that are everywhere and covered in trees.
I watched this guy row his boat from the town all the way to a little island, where he got into his wee little cottage. What a life :D
Hanging out on the caravan was a favourite activity for these three.
Zeltia and I
A classic look for Pulga, haha. He was also our brave and talented driver. I`m going to miss hearing his accent; he can`t say Julie so I`m Yoolia to him, haha
Silvia and I
The always cheerful, most times singing, Sandra
Monica and I. You`ll be seeing more and more pictures of this lovely girl as the summer rolls on, she`s coming with me for the first few weeks of my adventure!
My long red hair that stands out so brilliantly against the dark hair of my Spanish friends. This is the last you`ll see of this though, I got a lot cut off today! But don`t worry, not soooo much Gramma!
We drove over to another part of Lahti for a picnic lunch. It was gorgeous.
As you can see, we had fun :D
The whole group of us, don`t we look good!
Our lovely picnic
We managed to rent a rowboat for a couple of hours that afternoon! Hooray!
My rowing buddies, Anna and Monica
From the rowboat
Anna was so cute, she couldn`t row unless she was sticking out her tongue.
The island we attempted to get to but the wind was getting pretty strong.
The boat!
The great thing about being in Finland this time of year is that the sunset lasts hours! These next few photos were taken around 10:30 or so.
This one was taken near midnight. It was incredible. It never truly became pitch dark, around 3 the sun starts coming up again!
We left bright and early the next day to get back to Turku on time to return the caravans. We had to stop for the essential tourist picture with the Moose sign :D
We never did see an actual moose though. haha

This trip, although frustrating at times when it takes a little longer to do everything than I`d like, was a truly incredible adventure. I got to travel with my friends, see Finland`s natural beauty, and have a great time. I will really miss this country`s pristine lakes, tiny red cottages, and exquisite beauty. Finland has stolen a little piece of my heart!

Now, I`ve just got one last essay to finish and I`ll be done all of my classes! Then I`ll have a little over a week to get things booked and prepared for the summer and Monica and I leave for Stockholm on the 27th! From there we`ll be seeing Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, and parts of Germany together! It`s going to be fantastic! I`ll make sure to write here at least one last time before I go, then once I`m backpacking I`ll keep updating, but I`m not sure how easy it will be to get the pictures on here, but we`ll see.

Until next time!

Live, Laugh, and Love always,

Posted by jns885 03:18 Archived in Russia Tagged lakes moscow finland russia lahti st._petersburg Comments (0)

Blossoms and Bricks

A beautiful Easter holiday in London

View Julie's European Adventure! on jns885's travel map.

I think I'm setting a record here; a blog entry mere days after an adventure!

To begin today, I just want to thank Amie once again for being my wonderful host and ultimate tour guide while I was there! It was so nice to be able to stay at her place and have such a knowledgeable guide in such an amazing metropolis of a city. Thanks Amie!! Kiitos paljon!

So! Here we go on another adventure! I embarked on this journey by train to Tampere, a city just north of Turku, where I went to the tiny tin box of an airport to get on a plane to London. Within a couple of hours, I was welcomed into Amie's house, desperate for some sleep and thrilled to be in Londontown! On Wednesday we did what Amie likes to call "the whirlwind London tour" starting with St. Paul's Cathedral, and seeing the London Eye, Big Ben, Westminster Abby, Buckingham Palace, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Trafalgar Square, and the National Gallery among about a zillion other things that made me gasp with awe and disbelief. These are the things I've read about in books or seen in movies, and then I was seeing them with my own eyes! I had to pinch myself almost every time, making sure my mind was really comprehending the amazing-ness of the situation! All I could think was "Holy shit, I'm in LONDON!" and that feeling never wore off! The best way to share this with you is through pictures, so here goes!

One of my first glimpses of London, and I must admit, one of my favourite places in the city. It's actually the very same church that Mary Poppins describes as the place where you go to "feed the birds, tuppence a bag", so from then on, I was singing songs from that movie. All the time. :D
The next 'pinch me!' moment; the parliament buildings and Big Ben!
It's really quite shiny!
"The London Eye" An incredibly giant ferris wheel that I got to go for a 'flight' in on Friday morning
As you can tell, we had beautiful weather for the whirlwind tour of London. This is Westminster Abby, right behind Big Ben. This is where British royalty has been crowned and buried since 1022. It was absolutely breathtaking inside.
Buckingham Palace! Unfortunately the Queen wasn't home for tea.
I was trying to figure out who you'd need to be in order to get a job here. I'd even be satisfied being the guy in the tux who was there just to open a door for all of the important people that were coming and going!
After Buckingham Palace Amie and I had a lovely picnic lunch in one of London's many beautiful parks. That was one very surprising thing about London; I expected smog and smell, but with all the parks filled with daffodils, tulips, and zillions of cherry blossoms, I actually fell in love with the smell!
Amie showed me this great memorial for Princess Diana. Instead of a giant shiny statue that most royals get when they die, she got this wonderful fountain. It's almost 'interactive'. People can actually enjoy it, and it's really pretty.
This was Diana's last home: Kensington Palace.
This is what I mean about the giant shiny statues! This is me and Prince Albert. Queen Victoria may have gone a bit overboard with honouring her late husband!
Classic tourist picture! I had to! However, I found that it's impossible to breathe inside them - they're like little red ovens in the sunshine.
Another typical London photo! There aren't many of these old buses around, but they're just so cool!
Amie and I in Trafalgar Square!
The crowd in front of the national gallery at Trafalgar Square. See if you can spot the redhead!

After wandering through the national gallery among beautiful Monet's, Van Gogh's, and a plethora of other fantastic artworks, we went out for some pub grub supper and headed back to Amie's to get to bed early. We were both beat after such a long day of being Super-tourists! I think I should make myself a superhero cape for my next Super-tourist adventure :D

Thursday morning we started in the West End to get our tickets to a show! We ended up getting great tickets for a show called "Blood Brothers" and it was soooo good! This photo is just an example of how the theatres in that area look!
Then we were off to Buckingham palace for the changing of the guard. However, this is all we saw. There was no changing that day.
The crowds at the palace!
These signs were great! So many wonderful choices!
Westminster Abby again, this time I got to go inside! So incredibly moving.
Westminster Tube station, I spent a lot of time riding the underground!
Greenwich Royal Observatory. That clock has the EXACT time. So cool!
Me on the Prime Meridian of the World! Longitude 0-0-0, standing in both the Western and Eastern hemispheres!
The Royal Observatory
We think this is Henry the Eighths Winter Palace!
Beautiful cherry blossoms in a Greenwich graveyard. It was sooo beautiful!
We went to a little Greenwich pub for dinner, and we saw something strange on the Beer menu: Sierra Nevada. Amie was quite excited that we could 'possibly' be drinking our own Barley! Good ol' Prairie Malt. haha. Actually, it was really good! Delightfully fruity in fact, :D

From Greenwich Amie and I found our way to the Pheonix theatre to see Blood Brothers. I had never heard of it before, but it was truly amazing. It was funny and charming, and in the end, heart-wrenching. I haven't cried that hard because of a play in a very long time! I'm still singing the songs in my head now and then.

Friday morning I started out on my own, embarking on a walk that was longer than I could have ever anticipated, but it was so worth it! It began at the London Eye where I got to fly above London for some spectacular views, then all the way down the South Bank to the famous Tower Bridge, to the Tower of London, to the Bank district, to St. Pauls, and finally, to meet Amie at Shakespeare's globe theatre. I had a fabulous time wandering the streets of London!

St. Paul's from the London Eye
Buckingham palace! It's right behind that huge park
Parliament again
The glass eggs that you ride in :D
Big Ben and Westminster Abby
It looks so moody and mysterious in this picture, I like it!
Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's
Believe it or not, this is London's City Hall! It looks like it was put through mom's egg slicer...
The magnificent Tower Bridge!
The Tower of London (where Henry the 8th chopped all his wives heads off and a number of other atrocities were committed) with the crazy looking Gherkin
Tower of London again. It was built as a prison fortress.
A picture of a picture of the Tower in its prime. As you can see, there was no easy escape!
One of the hundreds of Black Cabs you see everywhere.
St. Dunstan's in the East church. I stumbled upon these ruins on my way from the Tower. The Church had been destroyed in the Blitz in the Second World War, and now they've made it into a beautiful garden. I would have sat in there for hours if it hadn't been raining!
"The Monument" - It was built in the late 1600's by Christopher Wren (he also built the cathedral!) to commemorate the victims of the Great Fire that swept through London some years before. Apparently you can walk up to the top of it for some great views..Another thing on my list of things to do next time in London!
One of the many impressive buildings in the old Banking district.
The Bank of England
The beautiful St. Paul's Cathedral once again. It was so beautiful with the spring flowers!
However, some renovations were happening on the back of the Cathedral. I thought it was strange to find stone religious figures in a pile out back!
The steps of St. Paul's! For those of you familiar with Mary Poppins, this is where 'early each morning, the little old bird woman comes'. I couldn't stop singing, "feed the birds! Tuppence a bag!"
The Globe Theatre!
The stage inside the Globe.
It's almost an exact replica of the first Globe theatre, which unfortunately burnt down after a blunder in special effects..a cannon blast started the thatched roof on fire! This version of the theatre is equipped with sprinklers! It was really special to be able to go inside, especially for me being such a big fan of Shakespeare!
The London Bridge! It was the first bridge to be constructed across the Thames. Not this exact one of course, London Bridge has indeed fallen down many times!

My last day in London was a unique experience for both Amie and I. It was a kind of pilgrimage into both our family history and into popular culture. Gramma Sapsford had given Amie the address where Great-Great Grampa and Gramma, Ernest and Alice Sapsford, had lived during the 1901 Census so we were determined to go find it! However, our curiosity got the better of us before we left the house that morning; we also looked up on Gramma's history website the place where Great-Grampa Charlie was born, according to his birth certificate!

This is Pleasant place, the street on which Ernie and Alice lived for a time
Dawlish House!
Amie in front of Dawlish house!
The address Gramma gave us was "9 Dawlish house" so we figured they must have lived up in the loft
Next, 264 Caledonian Road where Great Grampa Charlie was born.
Both houses were actually just a short distance away from each other in Islington
After walking in the footsteps of our Sapsford ancestors, we went over to Kings Cross Station where we walked in the footsteps of millions of other crazy Harry Potter fans, trying our luck getting through the magic platform that would take us to Hogwarts school.
We tried, but alas, no luck.
The last little pop-culture pilgrimage was to the infamous Abbey Road Studios.
Trying to recreate the magical moment when the Beatles walked across this very crosswalk.
Abbey Road! Oh it was so much fun!

After another wonderful day in London, we made our way back to Amie's place where we roasted a chicken, and had ourselves a marvelous Easter dinner together! By 5 am the next morning I was in a cab and on my way to Stanstead airport. I had a short stop in Frankfurt, Germany where I enjoyed some lovely German chocolate eggs, then I was off again to Tampere. Absolutely exhausted, I wandered around the city for a couple of hours while I waited for my train to take me home and I even was mistaken for being Irish at a little pub I stopped at for tea. Maybe a week in London fiddled with my accent a bit or something, because the barkeep was sure convinced I couldn't possibly be Canadian. All I could think of was "just you wait until I spend a couple weeks in Ireland this summer and THEN you can tell me I've got an Irish accent!"

London was truly a breathtaking city. It was so big, but so pretty too! I got to check so many things off my bucket list! A West End show, St. Paul's Cathedral, and Big Ben to name a few, while I discovered many other places that will remain pretty high on my favourite places list! Greenwich was incredible, and seeing where my family lived in London 4 generations back was so amazing. I had such a great time!

Now, after a couple days back at home in Turku, I've finally finished Finnish class! And now, I've used the joke, so you can't! So there! haha! Now I've just got 2 more classes to complete, and in the meantime, I'll be going to Moscow and St. Petersburg next week!! I've actually been thinking lately, with all of this constant excitement and stimulation in my new European lifestyle, it will take a serious period of adjustment going back home! Prepare yourselves for a more than occasional call from me asking you to come on an adventure with me!!

Well I think that's enough for now, I'll hopefully be doing another update when I get back from Russia on the 26th. I can't believe April is almost over!! From now on I'm past that halfway point of my travels and there will be less days in Europe ahead of me than days that I've spent here!

Live, Laugh, and Love always,

Posted by jns885 12:21 Archived in United Kingdom Comments (0)

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