Born in the Wrong Country

Have you ever felt as if you were born in the wrong country? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed living in a few places in my lifetime. I lived 30 years of my life in the Pacific Northwest; it’s a gorgeous area with snow-capped mountains, sparkling waters, and lush greenery, but I have never like I belong there.IMG_4229

When I ventured across the Atlantic as an 18 year old on an overnight layover on the way to Africa, I spent the night in England. I never had an education of the land or an urge to explore Europe, but as I walked through the many streets I became enamored. IMG_4225The more time I spent there, the more I felt as if this country is what I had been missing my whole life.IMG_4216

England has the greenery, the water, and the rain I always had be accustomed to, but there’s a magic to the area I can’t fully explain. The first time I soaked in a London city evening, I felt as if I were walking through a historic fairy-tale.

IMG_4224I love the detailed and historic architecture, the culture, the people and their accents, and how you can travel the rest of Europe at ease. I just feel more European than I do American.

Maybe my love of England awakens something historic in my
blood, or maybe I truly do just belong in my long lost land. But all I do know is that England feels like home.IMG_4388

Has anyone else had such a stirring that they are living in the wrong country? Feel free to comment below!

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One Last Stop

Once I left my hostel on my last full day in London, I made my way wandering across Egyptian ArtifactsLondon at a slow pace, but with one final destination in mind: the British Museum.

Egyptian MummyI spent a good long time viewing the many floors of artifacts, sculptures, pottery, and etc. Each wing dedicated it’s space to a region of the world. I found the Egyptian wing the most fascinating due to my life long interest in their regional history. Since I hit my double digits as a child, I loved to hear and see about anything thousands of years old from that part of the world.

While searching the Museum, I came across artifacts that I had learned about in my Art History class in college; such as the Lord of the Dance statue. I enjoy art, so upon findingLord of the Dance pieces I remembered from class, I was quite excited. However, one wing held many pieces that I have grown up seeing all over my homeland: totem poles. If you grew up in the Pacific Northwest, I guarantee you have seen these Native American Indian art pieces many many times. So, when I saw this section I passed on by the huge crowds of people who appeared in awe of these poles – apparently not everyone has heard of this type of artwork that I am so accustomed to.

After several hours soaking in history and art, I felt that I really was far from home and I must really be a nerd for spending more than several hours of my day in a museum.

How to be an Obvious Tourist in London

When visiting another country, there can be some dead give-a-ways that you are a tourist.

Step 1: Carry a big camera around your neck all day – if you want to distract people from the camera, wear a 20 lb backpack as well.

Step #2: Have your picture taken in front of anything that screams “London!” (As these pictures demonstrate).Overlooking Tower Bridge

In a British phone booth

3: This goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: Take photos of everything you see, London Busfrom random buildings to Tower Bridge. I’m sure the locals think you will be a bit on the crazy side for snapping shots of general transportation and the like (imagine someone taking a picture of a city bus in the U.S), but I’m a tourist and proud of it!

#4: Almost getting run over in the streets because you can’t figure out which way to look for cars. Then you realize the instructions are painted on the street, “Look Right.” Why thank you concrete floor!

Step 5: Snap a million pictures of Big Ben or be one of many in the crowds swarming the area. The citizens of the British Isle see the clock everyday on the news or some other outlet. Tourists love the detailed architecture, but locals maintain unfazed by the landmark.

Big Ben 1Big Ben 2Big Ben 3(Can anyone tell me what that says under the clock?)

Number 6: Ask at least 4 people which train to take to get somewhere that sits just a few miles away.

Step 7: You get lost, but since you traveled the area for a few days, you actually pretty much “know” where you are located. Also, giving directions to any poor soul that asks you – I gave opposite directions to Westminster Abbey while standing directly behind the building.

8: Order fish and chips. You just gotta do it! I consider eating this food a requirement when visiting London, you shall not pass unless you devour this well known meal.

Number 9: Being appalled by having to pay to use the bathroom.

10: Walking into a pub and saying out loud “this place is awesome!” Also, being the only person coughing from the smoke.

Not to mention, not knowing anything about World Cup.

Follow these steps, and you too can be an obvious tourist.

An 8 Hour Tour… Of London

By the end of my trip I developed a high tolerance for walking long distances. I could cover 5-10 miles a day, easily. I stepped off the Eurostar early in the morning, I found a small grocery store to stock up for the next couple of days, then proceeded to search for a hostel.

I just wondered around and happened upon some hostels, I didn’t have a map at all. I just figured that there would have to be hostels somewhat near a busy train station. I found a couple, but all the rooms were full, but they gave me directions to others that may give me some luck (along with a map!).

After a short search, a 19th century Courthouse/jailhouse, called the Clink78 had availability (http://www.clinkhostels.com/london/backpacker-hostels/clink78). Each floor differentiated from each other by the bright colors of the walls. I stayed in a dormitory style room made for about 14-16 for about 33 US dollars a night. When you stay at a hostel, they clean the rooms midday for several hours; but you can leave your luggage/backpack in a locked room so you can venture out and come back when they completed the cleaning.

I left my pack and meandered across London with just my camera case and a map; I floated to wherever I felt like going – wherever looked interesting or potentially rich with greenery. Lucky for me, London eludes beautiful nature in it’s massive selection of parks. I went north to Regent’s Park. Regent’s Park includes London’s largest rose garden, Queen Mary’s Gardens, in London – unbeknownst to me at the time, the first few weeks of June supply the best blooms. I spent hours soaking in the smells of each freshly bloomed roses, enjoying the sculpture of the shrubbery, and appreciating every feature of the park; I took my time to fully appreciating where I was.

Next, as I ventured closer to Oxford Street, the hustle and bustle only increased. Big designer department stores lined Oxford for miles. I took the small walkways towards Oxford Street; small businesses set up next to these roads include many cute sidewalk restaurants. I continued my carefree day by window shopping and just trying on shoes for fun.

As I approached Hyde Park, passing the Marble Arch, traffic seemed non-stop and Fountains at Hyde Parkcrossing to get to the other side proved difficult but not too hard for me. Walking for miles on the paths of Hyde, which turned into Kensington Gardens, I found myself accidentally on the street which housed many of the numerous countries’ embassy’s. The street resembled a Greek Row of international houses.

I exited the bizarre looking street, seeing Rolls-Royce and other super expensive cars Notting Hillpassing by. Turning left, I made my way into Notting Hill – thank you Hollywood for acquainting me with London geography. I walked along the rich homes lining the streets for a bit and stopped at a store to grab some food and ate at Kensington Park on my way back to my hostel.

All in all, I made my way through London on foot, without once riding The Tube. Covering over 12 miles in at least 8 hours. I exhausted myself so much (including the past month of travel) that when I returned to my hostel I slept 24 hours straight!

London: Feels Like Home

My last post continued my journey through Europe. I started my adventure in London and planned on taking a few more days at the end to soak up more of my British addiction. I traveled through 10 countries in one month and wanted to finish my time in Europe with one of my favorite places in the world: London, England.

I ventured to this large city five years prior in 2003, I first encountered this wonderful land for a one night layover. I never planned on visiting England, nor had any interest. However, England and I were meant to be together.

Walking through the city streets at night, felt like drifting through fairy tale book pages. London at DuskThe architecture, the lighting, and historical feel in this rich place cannot be compared to anywhere else I had ventured. Even though I never set foot on British soil before, somehow, England felt like home. (I must have been born in the wrong country). Therefore, when planning my path around Europe, I absolutely knew that I wanted to start and finish my time in England.

So, it was my dream to come back to my long distance love to better acquaint myself with my “hometown” a bit better. I settled in as a tourist to cover as much land as I could, while being exhausted from traveling for a month. Join me for my next and final destination (London) via Eurostar from Paris Gare De Nord to London St Pancras station.