Just a little recap from my pre-SAS travels.
I decided to take advantage of having to go to Eurpoe before embarking on Semester at Sea and my mom also decided to take advantage of the oportunity and leave North America for the first time in her life! I am so glad that she was able to come along and that I got to experience travelling through different cultures with her.
London, United Kingdom
We started our travels in London, England where we packed all of the must-see sights and experiences into 4 days. A walk around Kensington Park, Kensington Palace, the Natural History Museum, Buckingham Palace (which we did a tour of and had coffee and scone looking out over the gardens), Westminster Abby, the London Eye, and Parliament; a road trip to Windsor Castle, Roman Bath, and Stonehenge; sight seeing at the London Tower, Tower Bridge, Paddy Sark; and finally explored Greenwick. It was a busy trip but I quickly fell in love with London. It’s a busy city filled with people and commotion – and it was all perfect.
I was quite happy just to walk around looking at all the buildings with the year they were built on them, seeing dates in the 1800’s, 1700’s and even earlier. Back home in Alberta we don’t have that kind of history in our city structures. We also got a chance to take in even more history when touring the castles in and around London. Listening to the stories behind every detail of the castles from the type of stone used, the reason the colour of a room, the paintings and decor, to the type of music played was mind boggling.
One of the highlights from the trip was a night out at Gordon’s Wine Bar. Established in 1890, it is thought to be the oldest wine bar in London. It is a small bar and the sitting area is in a small tunnel lit by candle light. The floor isn’t even and the tables are rocky but it has so much character that has lasted over a century. If you are ever in London I highly recommend checking it out! Gordon’s Wine Bar.
My favourite day was spent touring see Windsor Castle, Roman Bath, and Stonehenge. I would have prefered being able to spend an entire day at each location however due to our time constraint we had to do it all in one day. I was most suprised with the Roman Bath as I had no idea there is a whole city called Bath (that I wish we had more time to explore). The most memorable location of the day though was Stonehenge. This was the reason we booked the tour in the first place and now it is another thing checked off my bucket list. Stonehenge facts; it is 5000 years old (older than the great Pyramids), took 800 years to build, were used for 1500 years, and were built in 3 stages by the Druids; 1. The Great Curses, which is the big ditch that surrounds the stones; 2. The Aubrey Holes, thought to be from wood pillars possibly used to lift the stones and were dug out by deer antlers or oxen sholder blades; and lastly 3. the Stones. There were origionally 30 arches in the outside circle made from sarsen sandstones found 320 miles away; and 5 arches in the middle of the circle forming a horseshoe shape made from bluestone. Only 40% of the origional structure remains today. They are unsure as to why they are built due to the fact that they were erected before written text was used. Some theories are that they were used as a temple, graveyard, or calendar. Although not as big as I was expecting, it was humbling to stare in awe at them (listening to the sheep in the surrounding fields “baaaaa”).
I loved London more then I thought I would! Hopefully I can return again soon.
Never had I thought about planning a trip to Hamburg nor did I know much about the city before learning that it was the port of embarkation for SAS, but I am happy that I was able to visit and would recommend it to others. The port city is full of character and charm with never ending bridges (fun fact: Hamburg is home to more than 2500 bridges) and beautiful views. We stayed in St. Georg area only a few blocks from central station and spent most of our time walking through the streets and just enjoying.
Hamburg is the second largest city in Germany, and one of the world’s largest ports. We did a boat tour through some canals and saw the world’s largest historical warehouse district built between 1883-1927, with the first building finished in 1888. It was built on a canal for small boats to access cargo to take to larger ships, and the structures are used today for many different things from carpet, coffee and spice warehouses, museums and music halls, to appartments and offices.
We also spent some time awing at St. Nikolai church, originally a small chapel built in 1195 that was slowly built up over the next few millennial until 1657. During the ‘Great Fire’ of 1842 the church mostly burnt down along with about 1/3 of the entire city. The reconstruction of the church started in 1844 and was not finished until 1882. In 1943 during WWII St. Nikolai being the tallest structure in the city was the target for the bomber planes, and like much of the city, the church was destroyed. Only the tower remains, and it has been left as a memorial to all of those who lost their lives during the war. The black building stands out from the rest of the city and its bells ring for miles as a reminder of the ruins that once surrounded it. A visit to the site is quite powerful and humbling.
My top site while in Hamburg was the concert hall, Elbphilharmonie, which is a beautiful building that seems to moves like the waves. Out of the warehouse bottom the glass errupts into the sky above. I could (and did) look at this single building for hours.
And of course we had plenty of beer, schnitzel, and pretzels!
As I board the ship today I am looking forward to the future adventures that are going to be had over the next four months. I will be keeping you all updated as often as I can!