April 29, 2011

Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath

London, May 2010 - We were in London, spending a couple of extra days before the start of our Contrasts of Europe train tour with Trafalgar Tours. Today we were taking a full day Evan Evans tour to three of the country's most popular sights: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.

A shuttle bus transferred us from our hotel to Victoria Station, where we boarded our tour bus and met our guide for the day, who was both knowledgeable and entertaining.

Windsor Royal Shopping

April 25, 2011

London - The Adventure Begins

London, April 2010 - The day had finally arrived. We were on our way to London to begin Trafalgar's Contrasts of Europe train tour through England, France and Italy.

Fortunately, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland had stopped spewing ash long enough for our flight to safely cross the Atlantic to Heathrow Airport. The air traffic situation had been changing hourly in recent weeks, so we weren't sure that we would reach our destination until we actually touched down on the tarmac.

Big Ben, London

Europe, Then and Now

When the movie The Bucket List came out, it prompted me to put together a list of my own. That list quickly turned into an itinerary of travel destinations, and a reminder of what had been missing in my life.

For the past 20 years I had been an armchair traveller and I didn't know where to start. But fate intervened, first in the form of a fortune cookie which said "Stop waiting!  Buy a ticket and take that trip today!", and then in a lucky lottery ticket that made the dream a reality.

I hadn't been to Europe since the early 80s and lots had changed. Back then, I travelled with a Eurail Youthpass and a copy of Europe on $20 a Day. I made reservations at pensiones by mail, and paid in francs and lire. Now, communication has been revolutionized by the Internet and the Euro is the new currency. The Chunnel connects Britain with the Continent, the Iron Curtain has fallen, and a modern glass pyramid has risen in front of the Louvre.

Louvre Pyramid, Paris

And $20 just might buy you lunch.

I dug out my old travel journal, and what a disappointment it was. I had naively thought at the time that I would remember everything, so I didn't need to be detailed in my notes. But not only are my old photographs beginning to fade, so are the memories. Lesson learned.

Gone are the days when you had to carry rolls of film, and choose your shots carefully so as not to waste any. I vowed that my next European adventure would be fully documented in a journal and accompanied with lots of photos and video. So that's exactly what I did when I embarked on the Contrasts of Europe train tour with Trafalgar Tours in May 2010.

Next:  London - The Adventure Begins