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 Time in Paris

The Family in front of the Eiffel Tower

I completed posting my images on Facebook and Flickr and I’m happy with the results. However, when I look at the number of photos I posted I see my growth as a photographer. I’m not saying that photos are necessarily better—although I think they are. However, I am more discriminating of the images I take and the images I upload. When I began shooting pictures, I spent an afternoon in downtown DC and took over 200 hundred photos. Now contrast that with a four-day Paris trip with my family. A picturesque city with infinite photographic possibilities and I took less than four hundred photos.

As I reflect on my time in Paris, there were many aspects of the trip that were memorable. The architecture was as beautiful and detailed as I imagined. The Eiffel Tower lit-up at night was simply amazing. I didn’t want to visit the Louvre museum initially. However, I was glad I went. I even purchased a book to learn more about the art. However, none of that was the most impressive aspect of the city.

I simply admire the Parisian lifestyle. They have a laid back way of life. It is a culture centered on enjoying life. Nearly every restaurant includes an outdoor section where customers enjoy dining at a leisure pace. The dizzying number of quaint restaurants littering the city makes it impossible for any one place to stand out. I won’t go into detail about the clothing stores. However, it was utterly astounding how many clothing shops were in the few areas we visited.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the friendliness. You had a few bad apples in the city or maybe apples that weren’t too pleasant. However, folks were patient with us as we attempted to communicate with our limited French vocabulary.

This leads me to the most impressive thing I saw as I compare it to the National Mall in DC. The mall is a large open area covered with grass, bordered with trees and pathways that stretch for a mile or so between the US Capitol and the Washington Monument. During the daytime, it is filled with people playing, walking, and enjoying the afternoon. However, as the day turns to night, the Mall crowd diminishes in size and it’s left with a few people in transit. In Paris, they have a similar open area that stretches a ½ kilometer from the Eiffel Tower to the Ecole Militaire (Military School). We were leaving the Eiffel Tower from a night of sight-seeing and photography. The time was approximately midnight. However, the mall area was packed with people having picnics. Groups of people were sitting on the grounds with wine and food and having conversations. They weren’t waiting to buy tickets or for any external event to take place. They were simply enjoying life. I found this very impressive and something by which to learn.

So many of us, me included, work two or three gigs to get our “hustle on”. However, how often do we simply enjoy our present situation with our family? I’m not saying we should forego our lifestyle and imitate the French culture. However, something is said for a lifestyle that enjoys the present instead of being consumed about the future or what we want to get next. As we pursue our goals, I think we need to remind ourselves the purpose for them. Every time I venture out for a photo shoot, I try to learn something to help me next time. This trip reminded me of what I already knew but, what I also needed to see.