A Travellerspoint blog

Echmiadzin, Zvartnots & cousins

Armenia has tons of ancient monasteries and churches! The only surviving old structures seem to be churches. On Saturday, my dad’s friend drove us to Echmiadzin, which is the HQ for the Armenian apostolic church. I was sort of expecting more, it being the center of operations and all. Nonetheless, here are some pictures from that excursion.
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It turns out that just before our visit, Kocharyan’s son had wed singer Sirusho at Echmiadzin.

Afterwards, we stopped by Zvartnots, which is the ruins of a cathedral from centuries ago. All that’s remaining from the original cathedral is steps and columns.
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On the way back, we stopped in front of the house where my dad grew up. He didn’t even recognize where we were because the entire city has changed so much since he lived here. This is what it currently looks like.
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That night, we dined at my mom’s cousin’s house. I had never met the family before but Annie and I became fast friends with the little girlies. This picture is of my mom sitting next to her two cousins (Haykuhi and Susan), with Susan’s daughters standing behind them.
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Annie with her new BFs Gayane and Karine
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Posted by NatalieSLC 16:07 Archived in Armenia Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Breezing through the British Museum

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We had a half-day free before our flight so we tubed to the British Museum. For anyone planning to go, I highly recommend allocating more than 2.5 hours to spend there. There’s so much to see! It was barely the tip of the iceberg, if even that much, but some of the highlights were the Rosetta Stone (!!!)
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and an exhibit about the kingdom of Urartu, an area which was eventually ruled by the Armenians. There was an ancient coin on display, one of three which archaeologists found at the ancient Armenian site of Garni. The museum is big and beautiful and deserves devotion of more than a couple of hours.
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And for another example of London’s architectural excellence, this is opposite the museum in Holborn.
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We LOVED London. I wish I could spend some more time wandering the streets and soaking in the sights but, alas, it will have to wait for another time. I'd love to return soon.

Posted by NatalieSLC 16:02 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Stalking down the guards

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We went on a walking tour of Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guards. Annie and I suspect our tour guide, Barry, was on speed. It appeared that his main goal was to lose his followers. He’s known for shortcuts through wooded areas, leaving behind hoards of people confused about their whereabouts. He tried, but couldn’t lose me and Annie; Annie hollered, “Barry’s on the move!” and we were on his tail. Nice try Barry, but it didn’t work this time!
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Not many people from our group of 40 were as lucky and found themselves waaaaay behind

The Changing of the Guards started at Friary Court, paraded down several streets, and concluded at Buckingham Palace.
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Barry made sure we were constantly ahead of the troupe of guards to get the full effect of seeing their arrival to various locations.
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However, because of his over-zealous objectives, I found myself racing the guards, shoving through crowds, and almost being trampled by Barry’s devout followers. While our experience felt a little bit like a marathon, we were afforded great photo ops.
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We made it to the Palace.
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Since Queen Elizabeth was home, we weren’t allowed to tour the Palace. We hung out at Buckingham Palace and the angel monument to Queen Victoria, then hopped on The Original Tour bus (they have stops everywhere!) to The Tower of London.
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The Tower of London is actually several towers, not just one. An interesting feature was seeing the Tower Green and other places where famous people (Anne Boleyn, Sir Walter Raleigh, e.g.) were imprisoned and/or beheaded.
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A lot of the towers were built for storage, defense, or entrance from the River Thames. In the White Tower, the current exhibit displayed Henry VIII’s armory; he was a man of great girth, but good at many things, it seems: tennis, hunting, jousting, beheading wives.

The Jewel House stored the Crown Jewels dating back to monarchs of the 1600s. Wow! Diamonds, gold, precious stones…
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Posted by NatalieSLC 05:43 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

More London

Sorry I'm behind in posting

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It was the perfect day, nay week, for walking around London. And what a lovely city! A full one-third of London is green and it’s absolutely beautiful. We toured around the city with The Original Tour, the big red double-decker. You can hop on, hop off anywhere and spend as much time as you want at each location. Plus, they have staff members at every stop and they’re super helpful.

Our tour took us to Westminster Square, where we saw the Houses of Parliament (aka Westminster Palace), Westminster Abbey and Sanctuary, Big Ben, and cruised the River Thames.
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The Houses of Parliament is where the government is run. Such an amazing stone building and amazing detailing! We stood and just stared up at it but it was hard to take it all in.
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There’s a statue for Richard the Lionheart; Robin Hood was his biggest fan.
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…and Oliver Cromwell. The nation was transformed into a republic under him for 11 years.
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Oddly, no statue was erected for Guy Fawkes. When the flag is flying, like it was that day, it means that Parliament is in session. The talk of the town is the MPs’ expense fiasco and high profile resignations. Big Ben is on one side of the Parliament building, but it’s actually the name of the bell inside the clocktower. They say the best picture is to get two faces of the clock in one shot.
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Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament are just off of Westminster Bridge.
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Westminster Abbey is a fantastic structure as well. It's currently being rennovated.
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Next we journeyed the River Thames on a cruise boat.

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Some of London’s best landmarks are on the river. We passed: the Eye of London
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…10 Downing Street, the PM's humble abode
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…Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre
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…Sir Francis Drake’s ship
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…The Tower of London
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…and Tower Bridge (which many people think is the London Bridge), to name a few.
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We sat on the Eye of London, an amazing feat of engineering! The capsules (or “pods”) hold about 25 people and go up, up, up until you can see all the way to Windsor on a clear day. It takes about 30 minutes to rotate and gives you a bird’s eye view of London, Westminster Square (right next to the Eye), and other sights.
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And, more pictures from the day can be found here.

Posted by NatalieSLC 06:13 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Streets of London

Our first day here

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Where do I even start? We're in London and it's finally sunk in - we're not in Utah anymore. Our plane departed from Chicago at 6:00 PM on Saturday; we landed around 7:00 AM on Sunday (around midnight Mountain Standard Time, which our bodies are used to). First things first, we took a cab to our lodging - Grand Plaza Apartments. My parents posed for this picture in front of the apartments.

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We couldn't check in yet, so we strolled through the streets toward Kensington Park a couple of blocks away. We saw this eye-catching structure, extremely tall and old. It's called St. Matthews Church, an Anglican church part of the Church of England.

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The exterior looked like it might have been burned at some point. I was so intrigued, I urged the family to sneak in and explore. My mom was extremely uncomfortable trespassing.

At Kensington Park, we were taken in by the park's huge size. It's home to Kensington Palace, which we didn't tour, but here's a picture anyway.
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Annie, Dad, and I placed peek-a-boo; I tried to avoid encounters with swans; my parents lounged; and we payed homage to Queen Victoria.

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From Kensington Park, we took a road called Queensway which was lined with ethnic shops and restaurants. We saw all kinds of Middle Eastern places, Indian, Asian, and more. I dubbed one part of the street "Little America" for its offerings of Burger King, McDonald's, Pizza Hut and other American eateries.

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After breakfast at Bella Italia, we headed back. The lodging is great! We love the accommodations and its location in Westminster, a hood in London. It's a young, trendy part of town. Needless to say, we feel right at home :) There are small streets and old buildings, I really couldn't ask for more. I love the ancient architecture, tall trees, walkable roads, and its urban feel.

This is the cute corner park across from our room.

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And here's the view toward the opposite way, taken from our breakfast nook. You can see the buildings across from our apartment. Are they great, or what?

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The weather is lovely! We've experienced mid-70s degree F, and it looks like it's going to continue for the next few days. It's thrilling to be here!!!

More photos from the day here.

Posted by NatalieSLC 19:34 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

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