For Your Friday Entertainment: A Vacation Slideshow

It’s picture time, y’all.

I promised a post with photos from my Christmas and New Year’s adventures, and here it is!  I won’t be telling as many stories today because there are rather a lot of photos to share.  I also can’t speak for the quality of the photos that I took (considering that most of them were taken on a nearly five-year-old phone with a cracked screen), but some of these were taken by my friend Ceri, and those are much prettier.

This is a long post, with lots and lots of photos.  I just thought I should prepare you before you get started.

Before I jump in, let me give you a quick summary.  Just before Christmas, I spent a few days in Paris visiting a friend from California who now lives in France.  I spent Christmas, Boxing Day, and several days post-holiday with a friend and her family in the Southampton area of southern England.  And finally, that same friend and I spent a week playing tourist in London over the new year with two other friends who flew in from other countries.  And now that you know what we’re going to cover, let’s get to the pictures!

First, Paris.  Or more specifically, the areas in which Jeannette and I wandered.

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If you have ever pictured Parisian suburbs as white buildings, narrow streets, and parks with perfectly straight rows of trees, then you know exactly what this part of the city was like.  It was gorgeous.  Parisian.  And posh – we only actually walked into one shop because we felt like we couldn’t even afford to step inside most of them.

I think my favourite part about my trip – besides seeing Jeannette, of course – was the feeling of freedom from the clock.  One night, we took the train into Paris after dinner and went wherever we wanted, with no agenda, until nearly midnight.  It had been several years since I last went on holiday and felt the same sense of freedom to forget about the time while we explored – usually because my companions and I are trying to fit many activities into a short amount of time.  (Also, that was the night we visited both the Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame, which are always highlights of a holiday in Paris.)

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We also visited Sacré-Cœur in the famous Montmartre area of Paris, where we listened to a busker entertain a large crowd of tourists by singing everything from French children’s songs to the Oasis classic “Wonderwall“.

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And we walked down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées and browsed the largest Christmas Market I have ever seen.

On an unrelated note, all of my meals in France were made up solely of ham or bacon, cheese, egg, potato, and some form of bread . . . but they were all completely different.  And they each were the most amazing meal I have ever eaten.  French food, y’all.  Seriously.

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Okay, so that was Paris in a nutshell.  Moving on, I have a few photos from my time in Southampton, mostly from the visits that Ceri and I made to various National Trust locations in the area.

But first, Christmas.  I don’t have any actual photos from Christmas with Ceri’s family, but they welcomed me into their home and made the effort to give me a proper British Christmas (according to an online list of the top ten elements of a proper British Christmas).  They shared their food (which was delicious) and their chocolate (which was also delicious) and their Christmas music (which was fun to hear), and I enjoyed my time with them so much that I had to mention it, even though this is supposed to be strictly a post about photographs!

Southampton is in the county of Hampshire, which is beautiful.  We drove through green fields and quaint stone villages, past pubs with brightly colored signs and groves of trees that hung over the narrow lanes in exactly the way that Americans imagine roads in England to look.

Unfortunately, I only took one photo while we were driving around in the lovely countryside, and it happened to be raining.  Why I chose to take a picture right then instead of waiting for the rain to stop, I’ll never know…

In spite of the rain and cold, we visited Jane Austen’s House Museum, where her great-great-great-great-nephew (or something like that) made a little lavender sachet for me.

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We also used my new National Trust membership to visit Mottisfont, which was once a medieval priory before Henry VIII removed the Roman Catholic Church from England and forced the owners to turn it into a house.  I didn’t take any actual photos of the house, but I did snap this one of the Kitchen Cafe where we had tea – at guest tables, in an actual (non-working) kitchen:

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We also braved the wet and mud to visit The Vyne, a Tudor palace where they now exhibit a ring said to be a potential inspiration for J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional One Ring.  I didn’t take any photos from inside The Vyne, but I did capture the lovely Christmas garlands outside…

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Still with me?  Good.

I wish I had taken a photo to commemorate the pantomime that we saw in Winchester, but as I didn’t, I’ll satisfy myself with simply mentioning it.

A few days before the end of the year, Ceri and I were joined in London by Carri and Sarah.  We had all spent time in London previously, so we bypassed the obvious tourist things – like the Tower of London and Buckingham Palace – and spent our week in slightly lesser-known pursuits.

…Such as visiting Postman’s Park in the City of London, which commemorates the courageous sacrifices made by ordinary people in the attempt to save others, often total strangers.

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We also visited the Geffrye Museum, which is set in 18th century almshouses and tells the story of home decorating and the way that people lived in London from the 17th century on…

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…and we found the exterior set for 221b Baker Street from the BBC show Sherlock

Ceri photo - Sherlock

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

…and we took an early evening drive out to the extremely windy Box Hill, which we all knew about through the adventures of Jane Austen’s Emma

Ceri photo - Box Hill

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

…And we toured Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, a reproduction of the way it would have looked in his day…

Ceri photo - Globe

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

…And we wandered through part of Kensington Gardens to find the iconic Peter Pan statue, where we got to listen to Peter Pan invite us to join him in Neverland…

Ceri photo - Kensington

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

…And we found the also iconic Abbey Road crossing (of Beatles fame), where Sarah graciously stood in the queue in the middle of the road to get a picture of the rest of us for a friend who couldn’t be there…

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(all three photos courtesy of Ceri Webb)

(That last photo was mostly just for fun, but also to indicate the amount of time we spent waiting on platforms for trains or the Tube.)

We rode the London Eye twice – once during the day and once at night – and took many, many photos because it was a gorgeous, sunny day.  But you’re probably nearly photo-d out at this point, so I won’t share them all.

Ceri photo - London Eye

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

On our final day, we drove to Oxford, where we wandered rainy streets, browsed in bookshops, toured the Bodleian Library, and ate at The Eagle and Child pub, famous for being a favored meeting place of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and their friends.

Ceri photo - Oxford pub

(photo courtesy of Ceri Webb)

Annnnnd . . . that’s all.  You have officially made it to the end of my pictorial description of my Christmas break.  Thanks for sticking to the end, and come back again soon!

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