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I’m back again to share about my second full day in Norway. A week has passed, and looking through the photos again really makes miss Sarah. I guess I just need to go back again some time!

Saturday started with another delicious breakfast to fuel for the first hike of the day: Prestgaardssetra.

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This hike, like the first, followed along a waterfall.

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It was the perfect hiking temperature. Cool enough that we didn’t get too sweaty, but warm enough that a few layers were enough.

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I was feeling a little sore from the previous day’s hike and needed to take a break about 1/4 of the way up. I don’t look tired at all… right?

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Sarah and I had extra company on this hike. Her dog, Koda, joined the ranks. He was one curious dog, smelling anything and everything.

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Isn’t he beautiful?

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He’s friendly, too.

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This trail was wetter and more covered with pine needles and leaves than the first.

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It was exciting once we were able to begin to look over the trees.

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From the top of the mountain, we could see Sarah and Aug’s tiny little town below.

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When Sarah and I were on our first hike together, she called Aug when we were about to turn around and mentioned that we weren’t going to make it “to the book.”

PA292222Being the novice that I am, I though “the book” was hikers’ talk for the top of the mountain.

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Low and behold, at the top of every hike in their area, there is a post box that literally contains a book.

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Everyone who makes it to the end of the hike signs their name into the book.

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As you can imagine, I was quite proud to sign my name.

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I made it to the top!!!

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A beautiful morning for an invigorating hike.

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I call this photo: Two friends on top of the world.

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Even Koda was excited to take in the view.

Ok, maybe he was more excited to be cuddled.

Once we made it back down to the car, we went back to Sarah’s to freshen up for lunch.

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Sarah took me to an adorable little cafe which is next to an equally cute shop.

We both had a pasta salad which came with arugula, kidney beans, red onions, mozzarella and croutons. The dressing had a very mind curry flavor which pulled the whole thing together. PA292254

This lunch was light, fresh and delicious!

I tried to recreate this at home, but my dressing wasn’t spot on.

After lunch, we headed back to Sarah and Aug’s home. We relaxed for about an hour then changed back into our hiking boots for the second trip of the day.

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The weather was a little dreary for our hike to Innerdalen, but the conversation was great.

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We had to walk through a tiny farming community to get into Innerdalen. PA292260

On the way through, we bumped into this farmer and his flock of sheep.

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This hike was a lot easier than the first two. There were still several big hills, but most of the way incline was pretty gradual.

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I was really surprised when Sarah pointed out the glacier between the mountains above.

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Apparently Aug has noticed a dramatic change in this glacier since he first arrived in Norway. It’s heating up up north!

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The walk to Innerdalen was really beautiful. PA292278

Lots of rushing waterfalls and Autumnal colors.

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Innerdalen is a beautiful valley between huge mountains.

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As beautiful as ever!

 

 

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The lake water was crystal clear and ice cold.

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Sarah said that this little cabin community is packed with tourists during the summer, but on the day we visited, we were absolutely alone.

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While it was beautiful and serene in autumn, I can imagine Innerdalen to be a fun center for hiking activity in the summer.

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Fishing boats just waiting for the summer sun. I was so amazed that these cabins were quite literally balancing on stones.

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So peaceful and calm.

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After walking around the deserted summer camping grounds, Sarah and I went back to her place for another delicious dinner.

Following three strenuous (by my terms) hikes in 24 hours, I was so grateful to soak my weary muscles in the hot tub. The rest of the evening was spent relaxing in front of the TV before I could no longer keep my eyes open.

Saturday was such a fun day. I felt so accomplished and proud of my body for taking me on two wonderful hikes. It was a great day spent talking with Sarah about life and futures.

Never would I have imagined that my own future would hold the blessings and opportunities that it has. Praise the Lord!

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Sunrise from my flight’s gate in Amsterdam.

After one very early flight from Cologne to Amsterdam, another flight from Amsterdam to Oslo, a four hour wait in Oslo and a five hour train ride through Norway, I finally arrived at the train station to be greeted by Sarah and her husband.

I was so happy to see them that the exhaustion from traveling over 14 hours was instantly wiped away.

Thursday was practically over by the time we arrived back at their home, but we made the most catching up over a traditional Norwegian evening meal before calling it a night.

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Friday morning presented the opportunity to follow Sarah through her school day. We ate breakfast, she packed a lunch, then we met with her two neighbor boys to take the bus to school.

Want to know another example of what a great human being Sarah is? She learned and then taught Braille to the younger brother who has become blind. Yeah, she’s awesome like that.

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It was such a privilege to be welcomed into Sarah’s schools and get to learn about the Norwegian school system. One of the interesting differences is that the children have a short break time between each and every lesson. I imagine every child I’ve ever taught could benefit from a short break between lessons.

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I spent the first lesson of the day in Sarah’s 4-5th grade English lesson before heading across the school yard to the preschool.

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After playing in the preschool and gymnasium with the little kids, we all had a nearly identical lunch of bread or crackers with either cheese or sliced meat. Sarah got all fancy and even packed us vegetables and hard boiled eggs. Apparently, Norwegians like to eat alike.

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The school day ends early in Norway so as Sarah carried on with after school supervision, I walked back to her home, taking photos along the way.

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When I arrived Thursday night, it was too dark to see the landscape, but in the light of day, I felt absolutely dwarfed by the greatness of the surrounding mountains.

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Sarah’s school is probably about 1km away from her home. It was a bit drizzly and overcast on the walk back, but the atmosphere was peaceful and calming.

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Lucky for Sarah and Aug, they were able to find a beautiful home right beside the water.

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As if waking up every day to this amazing kitchen wasn’t enough, check out the view!PA282134

Sarah and Aug have done such a wonderful job creating a warm, cozy, welcoming home. A lovely home to accompany their lovely personalities!PA282131

Once Sarah returned from school, we appropriately dressed for my first ever “real hike.”

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What I’ve been calling hiking all my life is a walk in the park compared to the hiking Sarah does in Norway.

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See that big waterfall coming down from the mountain? That’s called Haremdalen, and it was our first hike.

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Did I mention that Sarah is 29 weeks pregnant? After working all day, this lady was hiking up mountains like a goat. As Sarah put it, she was active before she became pregnant so it has been easy to have an active pregnancy.

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We climbed through mossy trails and even had to cross the rushing waterfall at one point, but Sarah expertly guided me along.

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The trail was very steep, but she encouraged me the whole time.

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A few times along the hike, I had to ask my pregnant friend to slow down so I could take a breather.

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Sarah kindly obliged each and every time.

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As we climbed higher and higher, the view became more and more amazing.

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Before I knew it, we were able to look into the valley at the miniscule town below, and take in the massive mountains rising in every direction.

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Although the sunlight started to fade and we needed to head back down before reaching the book at the tip-top, I still feel proud to say that on my 26th birthday, I climbed a mountain with the most fit soon-to-be-mama in Norway!

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After our hike down the mountain, Sarah made a delicious traditional fish dish for my birthday dinner.

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This baked dish was so yummy, I plan on making it with Sebastian later in the week!

After dinner, we relaxed in their hot tub, watched How I Met Your Mother, then ate cake. A great way to celebrate the day of my birth!

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Surprise! I know I’ve been absent from the blog a lot lately, but life has just been too great to sit in front of a computer.

Want an example of how lucky and blessed I am?

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I spent the last four days visiting my friend Sarah in Norway.

Sarah and I lived on the same floor freshman year of college, and then lived together the following summer. I have always admired her positive, encouraging, seize-the-day attitude and am so very grateful to know her.

Since I’ve lived in Germany, Sarah and her husband, Aug, have lived in Norway. We’ve been saying we need to visit each other for over three years. Recently, Sarah announced that she and her husband are expecting their first baby, so I figured I’d better get over there and see her before the baby arrives.

I am so glad I did.

The trip was a bit last minute, but that actually added to the excitement.

I am so thankful I got to spend this time with my wonderful friend. I cannot wait to visit again to meet the lucky baby boy who is about to be born into this loving family.

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I’ll be back with more…

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Yesterday and today it rained.

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Steady, unrelenting, cold rain.

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Although we only made it out to wander the grounds and speak with the owners, the few moments of clear skies and fresh air were much appreciated.

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Two cold and rainy days on a summer vacation may seem terrible to some, but I’ve really enjoyed napping, reading, eating and relaxing.

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Eating has consisted of potatoes, pasta, butter, cheese and bread for the last two days.

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Being forced to stay inside has given Katie and me plenty of time to plan our two days in Paris, clean up and pack.

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Tonight is the last night in the country.

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We came to see the countryside, hike, relax and breath.

That’s just what we’ve done.

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Now we’re heading to the big city for action, energy, crazy-busy sight seeing and limited sleep.

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(Photo of Katie and the car from our first day here.)

Wish us luck as we travel back into Paris with our tiny little navigation-free car.

Prayers are always welcome.

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Today was another gorgeous day in the French countryside.

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We started off a bit late today after sleeping in and talking all morning.

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We arrived at our first stop just in time to witness everything close up for the three hour lunch break.

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Crap.

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Katie and I made the best of the pause by wandering the streets of Évron and photographing the famous Basilica of Nortre-Dame-de-l’Epine.

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The Basilica was built between the 11th and 16th centuries.

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The architecture of the building is both Romanesque and Gothic.

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The Basilica was very quiet. Peaceful and quiet.

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At 1:30, the tourist information office re-opened and a very friendly English speaking French girl was happy to help us find things to do.

Just not in Évron.

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We still had another half hour to wait before the bank that supposedly exchanged traveler’s checks was reopened.

When we asked what else there was to see in Évron, the girl just laughed and said, “only the Basilica.”

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Long story short, we were sent from place to place regarding the traveler’s checks. Emotions were high. Katie and I both lost our patience, then miraculously, the post office exchanged a small amount of Katie’s infuriating fake currency.

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A note to any and all travelers, regardless of what your parents, guide books or bank tellers say, NEVER rely on traveler’s checks for your European vacation.

Just use your debit card. The fees are minimal and ATMs are everywhere.

Simple. Done.

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After that, we moved on- figuratively and literally.

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We moved on to visit the Medieval city of Saint Suzanne.

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Like any tourist trap, Saint Suzanne was beautifully maintained and provided plenty of photo opportunities.

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From the tower of the old castle, I was able to enjoy spectacular views of the land below.

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I wish Katie wasn’t afraid of man-made heights, because the climbing structure that was in place in the tower was really cool.

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I can’t image defending a castle.

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Before leaving Saint Suzanne, Katie and I popped into a little shop that sells soap and perfume.

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Although the welcoming party was a bit creepy, everything smelled fantastic.

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We had an easy drive back then kicked up our feet for a bit.

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Back at the gite, I made a simple dinner while Katie posted pictures on facebook.

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We had baked camembert cheese with jam and warm baguette along with an arugula salad with carrots and tomatoes.

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I love the look in the lady’s eyes on the cover of the cheese. That’s the same look I have when a dinner of cheese is involved.

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Right now it’s sprinkling rain outside. The fresh smell coming through the windows is working wonders to settle my soul. I have a feeling tonight will be a very restful sleep.

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Much to my ignorant surprise, July 14th just so happens to be the French National Day, Bastille Day.

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Thanks to the friendly graphic designers at Google, I came to this revelation after pulling myself from a much desired sleep only to discover that everything is closed on Bastille Day.

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After sharing the news with Katie, she researched our options as I made scrambled eggs for breakfast.

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All sight seeing and traveling would have been a waste of gas, so we decided to stay around the rental property and have a relaxing day.

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In our case, Bastille Day may as well have been called “Be Still Day.”

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Once we had no place to be at any certain time, Katie went back to bed and I made a pot of black tea.

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The property we are staying on has a lovely little bridge where the owners have positioned a table for two.

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The morning and majority of my afternoon were spent drinking tea, reading Julie & Julia and listening to the sound of the babbling brook while the sun shined on my face.

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Around 3pm, Katie emerged from her cocoon of sleep and we made a very late lunch, or early dinner, depending on how you look at it.

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She made the pasta and I made the garlic cheese bread.

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Together, we enjoyed our meal back out on the bridge and planned the remainder of our day.

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The owners provided us with a booklet of hikes in the area so after lunch, we tidied up, put on our hiking shoes, and set off on our first official hike.

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The Sentier de Bel-Air foot path has an average incline of 75% and is 11 kilometers long, beginning and ending in the town of Saint Germain-de-Coulamer.

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The national hiking trails are well marked in France.

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Once we were on our path, we simply needed to follow the yellow marks.

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The path markers were even kind enough to show where we were meant to turn and paths that are going the wrong way.

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Looking for the yellow slashes was sort of like a treasure hunt. With every found mark, we were gifted with the satisfaction of knowing we were heading the right direction.

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Although we had the map, we didn’t need it as the marking was undoubtedly clear.

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The path took us past farms, fields, sunflowers, cows, forests, crumbling old homes and tiny villages.

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We walked and talked for two and a half hours before reaching our final destination.

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Waiting until later in the day to take a hike was actually very smart.

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The sun was not too hot and the scenery looked gorgeous cast in the early evening light.

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Happy Bastille Day, France.

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London

Last week, Sebastian and I were in London.

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Due to an unfortunate banking situation involving my account information being stolen and thousands of Euros being withdrawn in South Africa, I was left with almost no money to enjoy the summer holidays with. Yes, the bank says that I will get the money back; but no, this happened over a month ago and I still haven’t been reimbursed. Anyways, because of the lack of funding, I had next to no money to work with. Not letting financial burden get in the way, Sebastian and I booked a flight using “blind booking” from German Wings airline. Basically, we agreed to pay 20 Euros for a flight, chose a category of travel destinations, and were assigned a holiday destination- London.

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I was initially disappointed about the city which was selected because I was just in London last December to visit a friend.

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But knowing that this was Sebastian’s first time, I quickly became excited to see the city again with him.

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Now, London isn’t the most affordable city to vacation in, especially when you are honestly and truly broke, but with a little help from a friend, we were able to save money by renting the most adorable apartment from another traveling teacher.

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We also saved money by being very picky about where to spend admission costs. One of the places we couldn’t leave without seeing was the London Tower.

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The entrance cost entitled us to a guided tour.

P8058185 We also saw the Crown Jewels, but no photos were allowed inside. The line was long when we joined it, but by later in the afternoon, it was at least 3 times longer. Here is a photo of the snaking line. I can’t even tell where the end is.

P8058204While we waited in line, we munched on our packed lunches. Yes, another great way to save money! P8058166 Flax and soy whole grain bread, hummus, spinach, tomato, carrot and cheddar cheese sandwich.

Each year, the Beefeaters come to my school to talk to the kids about the Tower of London. You may not know, but the school I work for used to be the British Embassy Preparatory School. I find it really interesting that each Beefeater lives with his family in the Tower of London behind the blue doors.

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Although Sebastian and I chose to skip out on the dungeon and torture museum, we did get a glimpse of what life was like as a prisoner at the Tower of London. For some, it was almost luxury.

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Unsurprisingly, the best views of Tower Bridge were had from the Tower of London.

P8058197 Beautiful, isn’t it?

P8058205 Our fun didn’t stop there. If you ever visit London and want to spend as little money as possible, I would recommend buying the weekly public transport ticket. A single ride will cost you £4 where as a 7 day ticket will cost £25.

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By using the public busses, you can see the entire city at no extra cost as opposed to buying a tour bus ticket which will take you to the same places. See, tour bus looking one direction, public bus looking the other.

P8048128 We would hop on a bus (the number 15 was a good one,) ride around looking at the sites, and simply hop off when we wanted a closer look.

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You must be sure to see Westminster Abbey. I believe that churches belong to the people who worship there. By the open nature of churches, that would mean that all people have a right to worship in any church and therefore the church should be open to all people. I have always had a problem paying to see a church or other place of worship. I am happy to give a free-will offering to help with upkeep and maintenance, but don’t believe it is right to charge admission like one would for a circus. Because of this, we chose not to pay the £15 to see the inside of the church.

Just for clarity, £15 = $ 26

P8068219 Also, I don’t believe that visiting a church should be a luxury only available to the rich. God sent his son for the equal salvation of of us, not jut those with deep pockets. Ok, I’m done now. Moving on.

Oh, we saw this dreamy-looking sweet shoppe from the bus!

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And I got to hand out with this handsome guy.

P8048141 Over the course of the week, we also enjoyed traditional fish and chips and plenty of cider.

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P8068228 Our self-guided walking tour took us all over the main sights of London, but my favorite place was St. James Park. Not only because of the beautiful nature in the middle of such a big and bustling city, I liked it because of the squirrels mostly.

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Salad greens anyone?

Ready for my favorite photo from the entire week?

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Hello Handsome!

Although London is lovely during the day, it is captivating by night.

P8068255 P8068268 P8068287 Looking back, I only regret not taking more pictures. So much of what we did went unphotographed; like when we had to bargain for our Indian dinner on Brick Lane, visited Shakespeare’s Globe theatre, went the the Tate museum of modern art, and simply walked aimlessly enjoying being together and goofing around. At least I have those memories firmly in my mind.

P8078303 Thanks for such a great week, Sebastian!

And to the rest of you out there- if you can, visit London!

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