My Family’s Visit to the UK

I’m sitting at home two days removed from taking my mother and brother to London’s Heathrow airport.  Saturday was the end of their eight-day trip to England.  It marked the end of a whirl-wind pace that began last Friday when they arrived.

My family arrived Friday morning on the 20th.  To avoid jet lag, I kept them up throughout the day by visiting Cambridge, a drive to Huntingdon and some other locations.  After a light dinner, we prepared for the trip.  The taxi arrived at 5:50 AM Saturday morning and we headed to the local train station for the trip to London.  When we arrived, we waited to board the Eurostar train for the two and a half hour trip to Paris.

Eiffel Tower

When we arrived at our hotel, the rooms were not ready.  So, we placed the bags in storage and headed to see the sights.  We boarded the Metro train and exited at the the Trocadero station.  This is a special stop as it takes you to the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine.  It is a fabulous piece of architecture.  However, the significance of the building quickly fades away as you walk around the corner and see the impressive view of the Eiffel Tower.  I knew how beautiful the structure looked from this view and I wanted to capture my mother’s expression when she initially saw it.  She was moved to tears and that moment was greater than anything she could have said.

The next two days included walking, walking, and more walking.  In between the walking, we rode the tour bus and took the Seine River Cruise both allowed us to get off and on for two days.  Our last full day in Paris was hindered by rain.  Due to the storm, we decided not to go into the Eiffel Tower—although I already bought tickets (oh, well).  The tower does not provide much rain cover.  Instead, we boarded the boat, cruised the river, and got off once the rain subsided.

We visited several French restaurants and we were never disappointed.  However, during our last night in Paris, my mother longed for something familiar.  So, we headed to Pizza Hut for dinner—not exactly ideal French cuisine.

The next morning we headed to the train station for a day of traveling.  We took the two and a half-hour train ride to Paris and another four and a half-hour train ride to Scotland.  The ride to Scotland was truly scenic.  This is what a person envisions during a train ride.  The natural beauty left us in awe.  Small villages nestled against the North Sea provided many photographic opportunities.

Edinburgh Skyline

We arrived at the hotel, checked in and began to visit the city.  Bagpipe music filled the downtown area as it was blaring from various stores and musicians on the corners.  The juxtaposition of natural and medieval beauty was impressive with the cliffs and gothic-styled buildings.  The next morning we ate and decided to walk towards the shoreline.  After a few miles, we arrived at the industrial side of the ports instead of the beaches.  We visited the mall and did some light shopping.  The only unpleasant experience we had was with a bus driver who told me the fare amount but proceeded to drive away while we were counting our money.  Fortunately, the next bus was less than two minutes away and we quickly hopped on and rode to our hotel.

We walked around the area and prepared to enter the Tattoo Festival.  We entered the festival several minutes before it began.  Although we were packed like sardines, the view was great and we were able to get great shots of the participants.

The next morning we made our way to the train station and went to London.  This was the last leg of the trip and the pace of the vacation began to wane on my mom and I.  We arrived at our hotel to find that our room was not ready.  Therefore, we headed to Westminster and rode the London Eye.  Afterwards, my mom wanted to visit Buckingham Palace.  As we walked through James Park, it began to drizzle and the rain became more substantial.

London Aquarium

We found the nearest Underground station and made our way to the hotel.  After grabbing a quick bite at Subway, we called it a day and checked into our room.

Our last full day caused us to combine the bus and boat tour.  We rode the Big Top Bus around downtown London.  Next, we took the boat cruise up the River Thames to Greenwich.  We visited the Royal Observatory and took in the beautiful London Skyline.

We concluded the day with a trip back to WestMinster, a Big Bus ride to Marble Arch, and a walk to our hotel.

We concluded our last night with a wrap-up of the week’s highlights and stuffing the various gifts and mementos into our luggage.  Additional photos are available on Facebook.


This trip with my mother and brother was a dream come true.  During my years in college, my mother sacrificed her money, time, vehicle, and other personal benefits to see me through college.  She did it without asking for anything in return.  At times, it caused her grief, but she always did her best to help me.  I asked her why did she sacrifice so much to help and she told me, “RJ, your college education is an investment.”  That statement stayed with me and it motivated me to make certain she received some sort of return on her investment.  When we moved to England, I knew I wanted her to come and visit.  However, she was hesitant to fly.  When my family moved back to the states, I stayed for a few reasons.  One reason was I still wanted to my mother to visit.  She finally decided to come after much urging.  I quickly helped her book her flight.  Afterwards, I made all the hotel and train reservations.  The culmination of this effort was realized when she saw the Eiffel Tower for the first time.  It was truly an honor to provide someone who gave and continues to give me so much a lifetime memory.  She nearly wept out of sheer joy to see and finally realize that she was in Paris, France.

We all may not get the chance to take our parents, guardians, loved-ones overseas.  However, we should make the effort to honor those who enriched our lives and motivated us to strive for our dreams.


My Weekend Excursion around Canterbury and Dover

The days are getting shorter and so is my time on the Island.  Yet, I’m attempting to visit as many places as I can while the weather is permitting, my schedule is open, and my finances are available.  My fellow Road Warrior, Ashanti, and I traveled to Canterbury for an overnight trip.  We photographed the local area which includes the famous Canterbury Cathedral.

Canterbury Cathedral

We wanted to visit the Red Sands Sea Forts.  Unfortunately, two charter services called and canceled our trip two days before our arrival.  Instead, we travel to Whitstable and photographed the local area.

Boats in storage at Whitstable

The next day included a “Full Day” tour with a local company that arrived at our hotel and took us to several places.  We visited Leeds Castle then we traveled to Dover.  We visited the Battle of Britain Memorial.  The memorial is similar to our Vietnam Memorial with a wall commemorating those who gave their life in WWII.

Battle of Britain Memorial

The next stop on our tour was a boat ride explaining the history of Dover and a display of the famous White Cliffs of Dover.  Unfortunately, the weather was extremely foggy.  Therefore, we could not clearly see the distant cliffs.  Yet, their immense size was something to behold.  The boat remained within a protective barrier that keeps the choppy waves of the English Channel from crashing the port.  However, that didn’t stop the various swimmers practicing for their attempt to swim the channel.  People spend at least six hours in the water to train for the 21 mile swim from England to France.

Practicing to Swim the Channel

Dover is England’s closest point to the European mainland.  This makes Dover a popular port with plenty of traffic coming to and leaving from England.  The Chunnel (English Channel Tunnel) leaves from this point and allows you to arrive in France in approximately 30 minutes.  Within Dover, we visited other sites providing historical accounts of Britain’s battles.  The next and most challenging stop was a walk along the top of the Dover Cliffs.  The cliffs are very famous and EPMD mentions them in their ’92 hit “Crossover”.  I have issues with heights.  So, it was an experience knowing the cliff’s edge, a few feet away, separated me from the cliff’s bottom a few hundred feet down.  That didn’t stop Ashanti from getting that unique perspective near the edge.

Know the Ledge

The last tour stop was a trip to Dover Castle.  This is an impressive fortress sitting atop the Dover Cliffs.  The elevation and proximity to the shore made any approach easily spotted.

Dover Castle w/fog

As you view the images in Flickr, you’ll see a feature on the right side indicating where I took the image.  I purchased a GPS logger that records my location every five seconds.  This device is great because it allows you to merge the location data into your photo.  When you upload the image or view it in Picasa, it shows where you were at the time.  It also creates a route showing your traveled route.  As I prepare for my next trips, this will be a great new feature.

Lastly, I prayed for a sunny day during our visit.  Normally, my weather requests are honored.  However, you can see the fog present throughout our day.  I left disappointed that the sunny images I wanted didn’t happen.  As we left our last tour stop, the sun broke through the clouds, burned the fog away, and a sunny day arrived.  That’s when I realized I prayed for a sunny day.  However, I didn’t say when I wanted it to arrive.  Be specific in your prayer requests and keep shooting!