I turned twenty-nine on July 20, somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Turning a year older when you’re single is never fun, but this year I didn’t care. I was still on a high from the best vacation of my life—my first, and DEFINITELY not last, trip to Europe.
Rather than take you through the specifics of each day, I’ll share with you the highlights:
-Our hotel in London was right near King’s Cross Station. There was a long line to take pictures at Platform 9 ¾, so I didn’t do it, but I got a picture of some random girl there:
-We went to Harrod’s, a department store so fancy you can only dream of buying anything there. Like, there’s-an-opera-singer-in-the-stairwell kind of fancy.
-I kind of surprised myself with my reaction to Westminster Abbey. Erin, the history major among us, was getting excited over all the kings and queens buried there, and I was like, Oh, monarchs, that’s cool. But then we got toward the end of the tour, and I realized that Geoffrey Chaucer and Georg Frederick Handel are buried there as well. And THAT excited the English major and choral singer in me—I love The Canterbury Tales to the point where I voluntarily took a class on Chaucer in college and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sung Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus—I think I’ve memorized the soprano part.
-We wanted to see the changing of the guard but couldn’t get there in time. Next time, I guess—and there WILL be a next time! But we did swing by Buckingham Palace. We kept wondering through the whole trip if the royal baby would show up while we were there, but little Prince George was waiting for us to leave, I guess.
-The Tower of London was kind of morbidly fascinating. Here’s a picture of where Anne Boleyn was beheaded:
-Julie had suggested having tea at Fortnum and Mason, so we did. I think this was my favorite part of London. The food was so good- scones, little cakes, little sandwiches (ones I didn’t think I would like but really did), and, of course, tea. The waitress asked us if we wanted a slice of cake afterwards, and we were too full!
-File under “you make it too easy, England.” Also under “I’m twelve”
-I was glad we got to take a double-decker bus on this trip! We took it to the train station and then took a train out to Windsor Castle. No pictures from inside because they weren’t allowed, but it was really cool to see. And the queen was there when we were!
-If you waved a wand and turned Boston into a European city, I think it might look something like Dublin.
-At the pub where we had lunch the first day in Dublin, they had a Boston Strong sticker hanging up, which was nice.
-My last name is super easy to spell, but you would not believe how many people think it’s spelled “Haze.” Which is a word, not a name. As it turns out, people even do that in Ireland—you know, the country my ancestors came from.
-My favorite part of the whole vacation was the day tour we took to the Cliffs of Moher. There was a walking tour in Galway first, which was interesting. I think I’d spend more time in Galway if—WHEN—I go back to Ireland. Among the interesting things I learned on this tour was that Jane Eyre may have been named after a real person commemorated in a Galway church—although that Jane Eyre, ironically, is described as an “obedient wife.”
-London and Dublin are great, but it’s easy to imagine that big cities are ANY big city. When we went out to the countryside to see the Cliffs of Moher, that was when I really felt like I was in a place different from anywhere I’d ever been. It was so beautiful—I was just standing at the cliffs thinking, “This view? THIS is why I wanted to go to Ireland.”
-Our third day in Ireland, we went to Christ Church Cathedral and Dublin Castle and did a bit of a literary walking tour. We also found a pub whose name was Erin’s last name, so of course we had to drop everything and get a drink there!
-Also on that last day, we were at a café called Queen of Tarts and the actor Andrew McCarthy, whom I know as Blane from Pretty in Pink (he’s also been in St. Elmo’s Fire, Weekend at Bernie’s, and the TV show Lipstick Jungle), was sitting across from us. I remembered how once at a meeting at work, we did an icebreaker where we went around the room and talked about if we’d ever met someone famous. I thought that if we ever did that again, I could say, “This one time when I was in Dublin, the guy from Pretty in Pink was sitting across from me at a cafe.”
-And then it occurred to me that now I can start stories with, “This one time when I was in Dublin...”
-Did I mention that we did not see a drop of rain in either country the whole time we were there? It was amazing! London was having what it called a heat wave- uh, I'll take low-to-mid-eighties with no humidity over the actual heat waves we've gotten this summer in Boston any day, thanks. And in Ireland, on the day we went to the cliffs, even the tour guide was like, "It's never this nice out here." Sometimes, apparently, there's so much fog you can't see very well at the Cliffs of Moher, but we had an absolutely gorgeous day.
-Now that I'm back, one kind of weird reaction I'm having is that I want to watch every British movie ever. I've already seen Mary Poppins and Notting Hill since returning.
I want to go back so much! I’m already thinking of all the other things I want to do in both England and Ireland. But I also want to see ALL the places, as Allie Brosh would say. If only I had unlimited time and money!
In any case, I have now been to Europe, and it was as much fun as I always dreamed. I was lucky to have two awesome friends to share it with. If I had to have a birthday at the end of the week, I took comfort in thinking that age twenty-nine might be even a fraction as fun as the last week of being twenty-eight was.