Sorry for the delay in posting! Things got crazy when I got home with the holidays. We had an amazing time in London, Paris, and Prague.
My mom, aunt, and cousin arrived in London on the morning of December 12th and I took a coach from Leicester to meet them at Heathrow. We then took the Underground to our hotel, which was not an easy task with all of my luggage. We finally arrived and checked in before setting out to see the Westminster Abbey. Even though I had already been inside, it still took my breath away and it was great seeing my family’s reaction to its beauty. Since everyone was exhausted from their long flight, we headed back to the hotel and went to bed early.
On our second day, we went to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guards. The band played Christmas songs, getting everyone excited for the holiday season. Next, we headed to Trafalgar Square and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We climbed the 500 plus stairs to the top for the stunning view of London. My mom was apprehensive of the edge but I think everyone was glad they climbed to the top. We stopped by an outdoor ice rink to watch the skaters and marvel at the huge Christmas tree on our way to the London Eye. We had a nice pub dinner before calling it a night.
The next morning we visited the Tower of London and walked across the Tower Bridge. We also took the Underground to Abbey Road to attempt a replica of the iconic picture of the Beatles crossing the street. We spent the evening walking up and down Oxford Street, enjoying the lights and the crowds of people shopping for Christmas.
The next day we headed for Paris. Our flight didn’t leave until the evening so we spent a few hours in a pub at Heathrow. When we arrived it was pretty late so we found our hotel and headed right for bed. The next day we went to Sacré-Cœur, climbed to the top of Notre Dame, visited the Eiffel Tower, and went to the Pantheon. Everything was decorated for the holidays and the weather was great.
The next morning, we visited the Louvre. Since I wasn’t able to see it last time, I was really excited and it definitely didn’t disappoint. I could have spent all day walking through the rooms filled with beautiful and historic artwork. It was pretty amazing to see some of the painting and sculptures that I’ve heard about my whole life. After spending a few hours at the Louvre, we walked towards Champs-Élysées, stopping at the Christmas market for some crepes and souvenirs. We walked all the way to the Arc de Triomphe and back down the other side of the street before making our way to the Eiffel Tower to visit the top. After seeing the city lights from the summit, we returned to the place where Drake proposed. I felt blessed to be able to show my mom one of the most important places in the world to me and to see it one more time for myself.
We headed for Prague the next morning early. When we checked into our hotel, we were surprised to find that it was an actual apartment, complete with heated marble floors and a Christmas tree. It’s interesting to see what the same amount of money will get you in each country. After getting settled in, we walked down the charming streets to a restaurant called Lokál for some authentic Czech cuisine. I got their speciality, a fried square of cheese with some baked potatoes and a beer. We then walked across the beautiful Charles Bridge towards Old Town Square where the Christmas market was. We saw the famous Astronomical Clock and the Church of Our Lady before Týn. There was a magnificent tree in the center the square that looked like it was dripping light. We spent some time enjoying the market before heading back to our hotel for the night.
On our second day in Prague, we visited the Prague Castle. We went into St. Vitus Cathedral, which was stunning. We walked around the castle grounds for a while, enjoying some hot wine and the Christmas decorations. We continued on towards St. Nicholas Church, which was beautiful. It was completely embellished with gold designs inside and an impressive painted, domed ceiling. We spent the evening wandering the streets, taking in the beauty of the city. We went back to Old Town Square and climbed to the top of the Astronomical Clock Tower where we got a bird’s eye view of the Christmas market.
We spent our last day in Prague doings some last minute sightseeing and packing for our long day of travel starting at 4:00 am the next day. Our first flight on December 21st was from Prague to Heathrow where we spent a few hours waiting for the long one (9 hours) to Chicago. Customs in Chicago were very busy so we had to run to make our next flight to Fargo. We were successful and arrived safely back in Park Rapids around midnight.
I spent the two days prior to Christmas Eve doing laundry, baking, and preparing the Christmas gifts I brought back from Europe for my family. We headed up to my grandparents’ on Christmas Eve and enjoyed our time with family. I haven’t had a lot of time to reflect on my truly amazing experience but I’m looking forward to letting it sink in over the next few months.
I’m planning to make a list of things I would recommend for future students who plan to study abroad in Leicester so check back soon! Thanks for reading and for your support during this experience. It really meant the world to me!
“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart will always be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”