Random Photo for 06/22/2015


Today’s photo is Big Ben in London.  It always strikes me how sharp this photo is.  We had just exited the Tube station and were under this impressive sight.  I used the Sigma 60mm to get a closer view.

Sony NEX-5N w/ Sigma 60mm, 1/320, f/6.3, ISO 100.


Europe 2013 Trip Report Depository

This post is just a collection of all the parts of my Europe 2013 Trip Report.  If you’ve already read it, thank you; and if you’re new then welcome.



Part 1 – Beginnings

Part 2 – I’ll have a full English

Part 3 – The Bells of St. Paul’s

Part 4 – Finally some rain in London

Part 5 – A Magical End to Our Time in London


Part 6 – Wow, That’s Pretty Big

Part 7 – The View From the Hill

Part 8 – They Take Their Shopping Serious Here

Part 9 – Moms and I On Our Own

Part 10 – Where I Geek Out About French Cars

Part 11 – The Mustard Store

Disneyland Paris Resort

Part 12 – What Did I Get Myself Into

Part 13 – A 5 Minute Wait!?!

Part 14 – Disneyland Paris Gets Unique

Part 15 – A Disney Dream


Part 16 – I’ve Never Been So Scared


Part 17 – Bellissima Venezia

Part 18 – A Peaceful Walk Through the Streets of Venice


Part 19 – I Guess Tossing A Coin In the Trevi Fountain Works

Part 20 – Beneath The Vatican

Part 21 – Food So Nice We Had To Eat There Twice

Part 22 – Pain, An Accident, & Arrivederci

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 5 – A Magical End to Our Time in London

Catch up on part 4 here.



We woke up today with the sole purpose of visiting Westminster Abbey before catching our Eurostar train to Paris.  Plus, I had a surprise in store for Cuz before we left.
DSC08739 – London cab
DSC08744 – British mail box
DSC08745 – the iconic British telephone booth
DSC08757 – Abraham Lincoln statue near Westminster Abbey
DSC08763 – Big Ben
DSC08770 – playing around with the Lensbaby
DSC08764_HDR – Houses of Parliament


We queued (pardon my British) up to enter the Abbey.  The line probably took about 20 minutes to get through and I passed most of the time by wandering and taking pictures.
DSC08774 – the North door entrance to the Abbey
DSC08777 – a wider view of the North Door


Westminster Abbey is a huge part of British monarch history.  All the monarchs have been crowned here since the 11th century, many royals and national figures are buried here, as well as many royal weddings (you might remember William & Kate’s wedding being held here).  It’s kind of a big deal.  Entrance includes a free audio tour that walks you through the history of the church as well as information on who’s buried where.

We toured this at our own paces and regrouped together at the end.  Of course we had to visit the gift shop before we left.
DSC08786 – the interior
DSC08787 – a walkway leading to another part of the abbey
DSC08795 – the West entrance (which is where you exit normally)


We hailed a six-person taxi and headed back to the hotel to gather our bags.  We packed our last minute Westminster Abbey purchases and got some more cabs to take us to St. Pancras Station to catch the Eurostar.  I don’t know why, but there’s another train station across the street – King’s Cross Station.  I’m a Harry Potter fan and on my last visit to London I knew they had a “Platform 9 3/4” at King’s Cross Station I had to find.  For those who may not understand, in the Harry Potter world the wizards take Platform 9 3/4 from King’s Cross Station to Hogwarts.  The platform is hidden behind what looks like a stone wall that you just run through to access.  The real King’s Cross has a photo-op setup with their own Platform 9 3/4.  On the last trip, they were doing construction at King’s Cross and Platform 9 3/4 was hidden away off to the side and there was no photo-ops or anything.  Now the construction is done and they’ve got things in their proper place.   You take your photo pushing the trolley through to the platform and you get to choose your House scarf to wear.  Next to the photo setup they have a Harry Potter store that is full of amazing Potter merchandise.  It’s a good thing I didn’t have much money.  Cuz is also a big Harry Potter fan and he didn’t know about any of this so I kept it a surprise until the last day and he couldn’t wait to get over there and check it out.

We got our pictures taken before doing some shopping.  Cuz bought the entire collection of books with the British covers as well as his photo and some other stuff.  I didn’t buy much, just a keychain and a cell phone case that looks like a Hogwarts Express ticket.
DSC08806.jpg – King’s Cross Station
DSC08807 – just heading to Hogwarts
DSC08813 – the Sorting Hat with representatives from each house
DSC08816 – the Tri-Wizard Cup
DSC08818 – wands here, get your wands here
IMG_1446 – St. Pancras Station (this is actually the station used in the films since it’s not as modern as King’s Cross)


By the time Cuz & I finished getting our geek on, it was just about time to catch our train.  We all stopped in a deli and got some sandwiches and I got a cupcake from a bakery, because I was on vacation.  Plus, I really like cupcakes.
DSC08822 – my strawberry cupcake – twas delicious
2013-11-04 13.41.16 – I was the only one who didn’t bring a carry-on bag.  It didn’t take long for Nina and fam to realize they were gonna need a bigger bag to bring their souvenirs home.  This was what they found.
DSC08823 – a soda I found in the newspaper store.


With that our time in London came to an end.



London is a fantastic city.  It feels like a modern metropolis, but they understand that until kind of recently they ruled a large portion of the world and they embrace their history.  Old and new blend well here.  As an American there’s definitely some culture shock, but it still kind of feels like home.  I didn’t get any this time, but last time I fell in love with meat pies and I just can’t be mad at any place with something so delicious.


Next up the City of Lights.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 4 – Finally some rain in London

Part 3 can be found here.


The plan was to take a break before heading back out to Piccadilly Circus.  Cuz is a big Lady Gaga fan and she had just released an album which he had, but there was also an international version with some extras he wanted to get.  Being a Sunday, the stores were closing early so we cut our break short to head to the HMV inside of Selfridge’s before they closed.  We made it with like five minutes to spare and me and Cuz practically ran to HMV.  They ended up not having the CD he wanted and we looked around as we slowly made our exit.


DSC08666 – I can only imagine how much this set of Beats headphones costs
DSC08671 – these suitcases were really popular amongst our group and there were some regrets to not making the purchase


We hopped back on the bus for the short trip to Piccadilly Circus.  Piccadilly Circus is a bit like New York’s Times Square.  There are lots of shops, it’s a busy intersection, and has some big electronic billboards.  We people watched for a minute before heading into a very British souvenir store.  Everybody pretty much went their own way and we came out with a lot of goodies.
DSC08699 – this guy’s job was to take photos next to a Union Jack Mini Cooper because what’s more British than that?  James got in line for a picture with him too.
DSC08704 – I’m very mature


When we came out it started to rain lightly.  I had brought a couple packs of rain-sleeves for my camera and distributed them out so everyone could keep their cameras dry.


Being Sunday pretty much everything was closed, so we headed back to the rooms to start packing since we would be leaving London tomorrow.  We ended up eating in the hotel’s bar and it was pretty good.
DSC08735 – I got a club sandwich, but didn’t get my membership card
DSC08737 – someone ordered a bread basket
DSC08738 – roasted potatoes are always good


Our time in London was coming to a close, our plans for the next day involved the word Abbey, before catching the train to Paris.


Continue to part 5 here.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 3 – The Bells of St. Paul’s

Back to part 2.


We gathered up our souvenirs and decided we’d head to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  I read it was closed to visitors on Sunday, but we figured we’d check out the outside and make our way to Millennium Bridge afterwards.  So, we hopped on a bus to the nearest Tube station.



After exiting the Tube we could see the dome of St. Paul’s.  While on the way we spotted a Starbucks first.  Since I’m not a full adult yet, or a young person who wants to act old, I don’t drink coffee; so I wandered around taking photos while everyone else got some warm drinks.  The wind was blowing mightily still and it was uncomfortable cold for us Arizonans.  I ended up in a convenience store where I bought something even better than overpriced coffee.  Candy bars.  Foreign candy bars I’ve never eaten before.  I ended up only eating one at the time and saved the rest for later.
DSC08587 – these are light and fluffy inside and I love mint so that made it even better
DSC08588 – I honestly don’t remember this one
DSC08589 – this one was good


St. Paul’s is closed to visitors on Sundays and is only open for worship.  It seemed like that just meant you could go inside, just not the main tourist areas.
DSC08597 – you’re not allowed to take photos inside the cathedral
National Firefighters Memorial – the National Firefighters Monument is just to the side of the cathedral


We passed by this British pub on our way to the Millennium Bridge and decided to give it a shot.  Nina ordered fish & chips because we were in London and you know you’ve got to eat them at least once.  Moms and me ordered bangers and mash because sausage and mashed potatoes are just awesome.  Jules ordered roasted chicken, and I don’t recall what Uncle D & Cuz ordered.  I’m used to ordering food on vacation and taking a moment to document my meals, but some people’s appetites were just too ravenous to wait.  So if you’re wondering why I only have a couple food photos for each meal, that’s why.  The food was enjoyable and soon we were back on our way.
DSC08609 – The Centre Page
2013-11-03 15.28.25 – fish & chips
DSC08610 – roast chicken
DSC08612 – bangers and mash


The Millennium Bridge is a pedestrian only bridge that spans the River Thames.  You might remember this bridge as the one the Death Eaters destroy in Harry Potter & the Half-Blood Prince.  We only went about halfway across the bridge before heading back since we were too tired to really explore the sights on the South Bank.
DSC08621 – The Shard
DSC08632 – Tower Bridge (this has a really good shot of the upper walkways)
DSC08643 – Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
DSC08652 – we got the roasted almond guy to take a picture with James


We’d been out all day and decided to take a break back in the rooms for a bit.  This was our last night, so we knew we wanted to check out Piccadilly Circus when it got dark.


Part 4 here.

Europe 2013 Trip Report: Part 2 – I’ll have a full English

Here’s a link to part 1.

When I last left you we had spent our first full day in London.  Today is day 2 of our trip November 3, 2013.

We needed to start the day with some nourishment and Jules saw an ad for a place nearby that looked encouraging.  None of us bought any sort of internet plan for the trip, so we wouldn’t be able to rely on any mapping service to get us where we needed to go.  It was okay though, we had maps that were printed on some sort of papyrus you could fold up, as well as a cage full of pigeons to send out in case we had need of any correspondence.  In reality my phone was set to airplane mode but had the wifi on and I used an app called “London Travel Guide with Offline Maps” by tripwolf.  This has an offline map and with wifi on, we could still pinpoint our position on the map, making it easy to navigate without a data plan.  I’m pretty good at reading maps so this worked out well for us this trip and they had an app for each of the cities we were going to.

DSC08335 DSC08336 DSC08351_HDR.jpg

We found the restaurant we were looking for and it was closed, I think because it was a Sunday.  Being a Sunday morning there wasn’t much open, but we just happened across a little restaurant called “Ponti’s Italian Kitchen”.  This place was a hit for all of us, probably in our top 3 meals of the trip.  Sometimes the stuff you stumble into on a trip ends up being the greatest.

Untitled DSC08373
DSC08363grape & vanilla cooler, this was an amazing drink (from the menu: Juicy red seedless grapes with a splash of vanilla, a dash of lemon juice & cranberry juice)
DSC08366 – eggs florentine
DSC08368 – Special Breakfast, Ponti’s version of the full English

Bellies full we waddled onto the tube and got off next to the Tower of London.  Moms and me visited this last time and while it is a great place to visit, our destination this trip was the Tower Bridge.  Tower Bridge is the iconic bridge of London and most people tend to call it London Bridge, but it’s not.  That’s here in Arizona, or one of them is at least.  Tower Bridge has a walkway at the top between the two towers that gives some nice views of the city.  Originally this walkway was supposed to be used by citizens of London so they wouldn’t have to wait to cross the river when the big ships sailed through and the bridge was raised.  Apparently, the citizens of old London were a bit lazier than the designers thought, because most people preferred to wait and watch the ships pass rather than haul their shopping up and down the stairs.

I am deathly afraid of heights so I was unsure how this was going to go down for me, but the walkway is enclosed and I didn’t really feel the height.  The windows can be a little dirty, but there are portholes for an unfettered view.  There are two walkways and each has photos and info on other famous bridges in the world.  They play a couple of videos about the construction of the bridge and your ticket gains you entrance to the engines tour to see the huge machinery that raises and lowers the drawbridge.  Even if you don’t pay you can walk across the bridge for some great views still.
DSC08395.jpg – Tower of London
DSC08405_HDR.jpg – Tower Bridge
DSC08432 – River Thames
DSC07829 – Moms made these cut-outs of the newest family member to take with us so he could enjoy the trip ala “Flat Stanley”.  Here I am holding him.
DSC08501 – this guy asked Cuz to take his photo and I was taking some other photos and when I turned around he was doing the Gangnam Style dance; it was such an odd moment
DSC08510 – Tower Bridge sign
DSC08518 – engine room
DSC08531 – Tower Bridge

The Tower Bridge engine rooms end like a Disney ride and exit into the gift shop.  This was the first real souvenir shop we encountered so everybody was excited to buy their London merchandise.  I bought some things and headed out to take some photos.

More to come, St. Paul’s Cathedral, more English food, and Piccadilly Circus yet to come.

Continue with part 3 here.