It was a long drive to the ferry station. I ended up sleeping when we drove through the Somme, but I was awake when we drove past the Vimy Ridge Memorial. Although it was on the horizon when we drove past it, I still tried to take a picture of it -- and it didn't turn out half bad!
We had to go through security again to get onto the ferry, much like we did when we first entered mainland Europe. On the ferry I had a few bloomers and watched the remaining Japanese tour members try fish-and-chips for the first time. After, I went onto the deck and took some pictures of the Cliffs of Dover, something I tried to do the first time but failed because of the fog.
We arrived in London and all decided to go out for supper together around 7. It was Flip's idea, actually, although she won't be joining us. We learned at this time that her real name wasn't Flip either: it was Jannelle. And Muffin? Roan.
When we arrived at the Royal National Hotel a tour representative came onto the coach. She told us that the meeting spot that was under repair when we left on our tour, was now open for business and we could go there to get discounts to go around the city and for a tour of Stonehenge.
I got my luggage, and after saying goodbye and hugging those who weren't coming to supper, I walked down the street, turned the corner and didn't see many of the tour members ever again.
I got to the Imperial, checked in and went to my room. I'm so used to staying in different hotels every night that it seems weird I'll be spending three nights in the same bed.
Well, 7 is approaching now and I have to get ready for dinner. I feel awful for missing last-nights at O'Sullivans, although from what I heard, had I gotten up at 2 instead of going back to sleep, and headed down the street, they would have still been there.
I'll talk to you later.
So ends the tour. I met up with my fellow travelers outside the Royal National Hotel and we walked down the street to Nando's and had chicken with different levels of spicy sauce on it. I had the less-hot one, but Tom had an extremely-hot one and we all watched his face become a dark shade of red and tears roll down his cheeks. I also had a bottomless coke for £2.25, which is pretty reasonable! The meal was really good, but I only recommend it for people who like spicy food.
After dinner, we walked down the street and went to The Marquis Cornwallis, a bar with a really fancy name. The bar was a very happening place. There were people on both floors, and outside on the street, all dancing and drinking. I didn't check out the alcohol but judging by the regular beer, raspberry beer, apple cider and sprite at the table, the bar sold many types of drinks. We sat around for a couple hours and discussed out favorite city on the trip and what we planned to do once we got back home. Flip said the feelings we were all experiencing was called "Post-Contiki Depression" which is a feeling of dread towards going back to our boring 9-5 lives. Speaking of Flip, both her and Muffin came to the bar. They said they have a 10-day vacation between tours and were thinking of going to France during it.
Around 9:30 I grew tired of the noise and drinking so I said goodbye to the group of people with hugs and handshakes from all around and I left with just a single glance back.
I was a bit lonely knowing I was on my own again so I called my parents when I got back to the hotel. It cheered me up a bit. It's sad to know that you may never see the people who you just spent two weeks with ever again.
And thus, so ends my journey with the tour group. Of course, I'll still record tomorrow's events around London and the next day's plane-ride home, but my Contiki trip around Europe has come to an end. If you have read all of this, thank you for your time. I hope I inspired and entertained you with my stories. Thank you for traveling with me.
I hope I do something exciting tomorrow to end my trip off with a bang, instead of a tearful goodbye, but for now, I am exhausted and may just sleep.
Goodnight Journal. Tomorrow may be boring, but it could also be an exciting trip to Stonehenge too! Only time will tell!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
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Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania shut its doors in 1970. A year later, in 1971, it would briefly reopen and house inmates from Holmesburg Prison after a devastating riot. After the prisoners were returned to Holmesburg, Eastern State would sit empty for over two decades. It would rot, decay and collapse. Trees and shrubs would grow into the structure and a clowder of cats would take residence. These hallowed halls would sit empty, the only noise being the chatter of startled birds and the trotter of feline paws.
The following decades would see various discussions of what to do with the building. Eventually, it was decided to preserve it and turn it into a tourist attraction. Although it officially opened for tours in 1994, attendants would have to sign a waiver and wear hardhats before entering until 2008. They had 10,000 visitors the opening year, a number of tourists not seen in the prison since 1858.
From 1829 to 1970, Eastern State Penitentiary underwent a variety of changes and transformations. This massive, sprawling, 11-acre complex was founded under the belief that solitary confinement was the cure needed to prevent criminals from committing future crimes. It was believed criminals who served in solitary confinement would turn to a higher power to reconcile with themselves for their crimes – hence feeling "penitent". To assist in this process, each cell was equipped with a slit window on the ceiling nicknamed "The Eye of God". It would be the only light source available to the inmate.
For many of us in Saskatchewan, summer means it's time for an Alberta road trip. Although the endless stretches of prairie have their appeal, there is nothing quite like seeing the mountains rising over the horizon.
One challenge that comes with taking a summer road trip is the heat. Much like on this side of the border, it isn't uncommon for summer temperatures to get to the extreme. I know a few people who have had car problems in the heat, and my family is one of them. Nothing ruins a trip more than an unexpected visit to the mechanic.
Thankfully, Alberta has a myriad of places to go swimming, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding or fishing. This not only gives your vehicle time to cool off, but also gives you a chance to escape the heat as well.
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.