Welcome to LONDON

The captain of the A380 landed the plane gracefully at Heathrow airport. He did a good job with such a huge aircraft there was only a soft thump when the wheels touched the ground. I followed the throng of passengers in front of me to passport control (immigration). It took me about an hour to get through as there was a long queue in the ‘other passport’ section. There is a separate section for UK and EU passport holders. The difference between us is that they don’t have to fill out a landing form while we had to. I heard someone yell “Next” and I was pointed to an available officer in the counter. She asked me a couple of questions and then stamped my passport and let me through. My luggage was waiting for me when I went to the designated baggage carousel.

Airbus A380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jet airliner manufactured by Airbus

I had nothing to declare to the customs so I got out quickly and followed the signs that said ‘Underground’ — it was a long way from Terminal 3 to the Piccadilly Line, the travelators (similar to an escalator except its flat) were such a big help as I didn’t have to drag my suitcase along. Just prop it beside me and off we go.

I bought an Oyster card. It’s a plastic smartcard about the size of a credit card which can hold credits to pay for travel on public transport in London. It’s a handy piece of plastic as you can use an Oyster card to travel on bus, Tube, tram, DLR, London Overground and most National Rail services in London. I paid £5 (refundable) for the Oyster and put £15 credit on it. The person that manned the counter at the underground station was very helpful.

I promptly tapped my new oyster card onto the machine, got through the barrier, and waited on the platform, there was a train coming and I was inside the train in about 2 minutes! It was the start of the line so not many people yet.

Underground trains referred as “Tube” by the locals

It took 45 minutes to travel from Heathrow to Green Park Station where I got off. The train ride cost £3 at off-peak rate. Green Park station was very busy. I took the lift to the ground level and hailed a taxi from there. The taxi cost £7 from Green Park to my accommodation close to Trafalgar Square. The research I did paid off as it saved me some money compared to taking the Heathrow Express (£21.50 single trip). I got off at Green Park as I had read that the closest station to where I’m staying (Charing Cross) has no lifts and has lots of stairs which would be difficult to manoeuvre with a big suitcase in tow.

I saw these buses parked in front of where I was staying.

Once I had dropped my suitcase in my room, I went for a walk and captured the London Eye against a clear blue and white sky. A great start to my London holiday!

London Eye

 

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TRAFALGAR SQUARE at night -London

Text & Photos by Alicia Davis

Travel Photo of the Week 5

This is a customary photo when in Paris. I can confidently say that almost everyone can recognize this iconic landmark. But you may not know that those pointy pipe things immediately behind me in this photo are called the Fountains of Warsaw, more like water cannons than a fountain as it can create columns of water up to 12 meters high.

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Midnight at the EIFFEL TOWER – PARIS

Text & Photos by Alicia Davis

The beauty of YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

It was still fairly dark when the alarm went off. I slowly opened my eyes and found myself looking at an unfamiliar white ceiling. I looked around the room still half-asleep and wondered where I was. It took me a few seconds to realize that we were in San Francisco. I sleepily dragged myself off the comfortable hotel bed. With one last look at the inviting covers I forced myself to stand up. We had to get ready as the bus would pick us up at the hotel in an hour. The hour seemed to go so quickly. I glanced at my husband’s watch and noted the time. I did not know how we managed to get organized but we were sitting in the bus by 6.30. We were on our way to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite, located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, is about 200 miles (320 km) from San Francisco. The brochures say it takes about 3 hours to get there. I settled into a comfortable position in my seat next to the window. We had a couple of stops along the way so it was about mid-morning when we got off the bus at the parking lot of Yosemite.

This view that greeted us (called Tunnel View) was so worth the long bus ride, with El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the centre, and Bridalveil Fall on the right.

Tunnel View of the valley

The glacial valley of Yosemite is often referred to as the “heart of Yosemite”, this is where most of the visitors congregate. I stood savoring the view shown by the photo above. It looks like the valley is enveloped with soaring high peaks with very steep walls. It seems that the mountains shoot up vertically out of the ground. Some of the peaks soar to 3000-4000 feet (900m-1200m) from the main valley floor which is already 4000 ft above sea level. Some sections of the park are as high as 13,000 feet above sea level. The Yosemite Valley is only about one percent of the park area and is accessible most time of the year.

Steep granite walls

What is even more amazing is that there are people who actually climbed those peaks from its vertically steep walls. I was going to write more about the climbs here but decided to write a separate post because it is so fascinating.

In the meantime let me show you more of the beauty of Yosemite.

Yosemite National Park has 21 waterfalls, ranging from as low as 25 feet (7.6 m) to the highest at 2425 feet (739m).

Yosemite Falls with the Upper portion highly visible

The highest one is Yosemite Falls which has 3 sections:

Upper Yosemite Falls – with a drop of 1430 ft (440m) is among the 20 highest waterfalls in the world

Middle Cascades – between the two obvious main plunges there are five smaller plunges known collectively as Middle cascades. Taken together these smaller plunges account for a total drop of 675 feet (206m). The Middle Cascades are rarely noted because of lack of public access.

Lower Yosemite Falls – a 320 ft (98m) drop which is adjacent to a viewing area provides the most used viewing point for the waterfalls.

It is difficult for me to visualize how high Yosemite Falls are so let me give a comparison. The total height of 2425 feet (739 m) is higher than the highest occupied floor (level 163) at 1,918 feet (584 m) of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and higher than the total height of any other building in the world (as at 2015). How amazing is that!

A green meadow with soaring high picturesque mountains

After walking around the valley for a few hours and taking lots of photos we got back on the bus for San Francisco. It was about 9 o’clock in the evening when we were dropped off at our hotel, we were very sleepy by then but we had such a wonderful day.

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Text & Photos by Alicia Davis