Monday, 30 May 2016

Traveling in Europe and with Family/Friends

 If you are studying abroad in another country, it’s always a great opportunity to have family or friends come visit and either travel with them through the country or through several countries. I’m not sure about non-British schools, but the ones in the U.K. end classes in March and start finals in May. This usually leaves either a couple of weeks in April or even more to travel without worrying about classes. For example, my mom came to visit me for two weeks in April, and it was a lot of fun. However, as a student, if was really useful for her to experience living in London and even seeing my dorm. For those who have studied in London, they know that it actually is very expensive to live in London and travel and be a tourist. My mom got a firsthand look at the cost of everything in London and the sheer amount of walking needed! Funny enough, she hated going on the Tube, especially when there were stairs, and there were a lot of stairs! But really, traveling with my mom was great, especially because she actually had the money to stay in some decent hotels instead of hostels!! (I have a horrible spring mattress in my dorm room, and I was over the moon when I stayed in a hotel!) We traveled to Edinburgh, and one of the things we found was that the travel company EasyJet was great for student traveling, but they charged for anything other than a carry-on… so they weren’t so great for actual working adults! Also, apparently, when flying throughout Europe, you are given the usual ziplock bag for liquids, but you can only have ONE ziplock bag of liquids, no more. I learned this the hard way and had to throw away my shampoo and body wash.
Mom and I at Oxford
Me inside Stonehenge
One of the best things I can recommend if you are going to look around the U.K. or even Paris, France is to take a tour. I found a pretty good tour site, Premium Tours that allowed my mom and I to visit Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon (the birthplace of Shakespeare), and even Stonehenge. By the way, those of you that really want a super cool and unique experience, you can do either a sunset or sunrise tour and actually step into Stonehenge and touch the rocks!!! I took the sunset tour and had so much fun, I took some amazing pictures! We even went on a day tour of Paris and traveled there by the Eurostar (the train that goes between London and France), and we got to eat on the river Seine, see the Eiffel Tower, and even get a guided tour of the Louvre! I got to see the Mona Lisa, which was actually a lot smaller than I expected. Also, for those who are a huge disney fan, you can take the Eurostar straight from St. Pancras Station in London right to the gates of Disneyland Paris! Its definitely a scaled-down version of Disneyland in L.A. but it's a lot of fun to see it and go on some great rides.
Raining in Paris
The Mona Lisa!
London has four airports; Heathrow, Luton, Stansted, and Gatwick. My mom flew into the country through London Heathrow, which was great because it is the only airport that has a Tube station, so I just jumped on the Tube near my school and went all the way to the train station. However, we soon found out that it was a bit awkward traveling in the Tube with luggage. Fortunately, we used a coach service called National Express that would pick you up from a variety of different locations and take you to the airport for only about nine dollars a person. Depending on the coach, you sometimes even got charging capabilities and wifi!! Given that it was usually a one-to-two hour trip to the airport, I was definitely thankful for the coach. Also, for the hotels, when needed, we always tried to pick ones that were near a Tube station, so even if we weren’t staying in the heart of London, we could get there fairly quickly. Even though I usually only saw my family during Spring Break, it was great to see my mom in person, sometimes Skype just isn’t enough. Traveling with my friends was fun, but I felt so happy to share my trip and experience with my mom!

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