Written By: Maheen Khan
On February 10th, 2018 my Family and I arrived in Gatwick, England. From Gatwick my second cousin, Alizay apa picked us up in an uber and we got dropped off at Sumbal phupo’s house in London, England. We stayed in London for a week and part of the fun was that we stayed at Sumbal phupo’s house. Her home cooked meals are the BEST. Every day after walking for miles exploring London we would enter the house and instantly you could smell the delicious meal that Sumbal phupo had made that day. The first day was an adventure, we walked to churches, The Big Ben, and The London Eye. Part of what I loved about London is that it’s so diverse. There were Greek, Italian, Pakistani, and etc. restaurants. People of all cultures and ethnicity were walking the streets. Alizay apa and Ali bhai took us to ASDA and we shopped for some food and slippers, I got koala slippers! By the way, ASDA is Walmart's “sister company” but I think it's only in London. Since London is so diverse it even had a halal section in ASDA. I got two packets of halal gummy bears (my guilty pleasure).
The next day we walked around some more with Ali bhai (Alizay apa went to UCL to get some books from the library). That day we went to the Imperial War Museum. The museum was filled with so much of Great Britain's war history. I thought it was so cool how they saved the first missile to display in the museum. While mama and Baba went into a church to take pictures of the monument, Ali bhai got Zain and I a hot chocolate. I noticed that the Hot Chocolates of London are not extremely sweet, just as I like it. Next, we went to Birmingham Palace and saw the guards doing their job. As usual they were standing still, the flag on the palace was raised which means the queen was inside! At night my other cousin Elizay apa came to have dinner with us along with her husband Shamyl. It was really fun to meet a cousin I had never seen before!
On the third day, Sumbal phupo decided to walk with us to the British Museum and National Portrait Gallery, some of the biggest museums in London. Before going to the museums Alizay apa decided to show us a tour of her college (UCL). The college was so big and people from all over the world there to study. After touring the college we all went over to the British Museum. The British museum was huge and had lots of natural artifacts from all over the world. There was a Chinese room, an Indian room, and an Egyptian artifact hall but that's only a fraction of what you could see there. The National Portrait Gallery had pictures that took a while to analyze and some pictures you could be understood in a second. My favorite picture was the one of the giant horse. It looked as if I could reach into the frame and grab the horse, the fur painted on the horse looked so real and I wanted to pet the picture. Under the portrait gallery was Trafalgar Square. The square was filled with people performing their special talents. There was one man who was making rings for free because he loved to give. There was also someone who could perform any national anthem on his trumpet.
Tuesday was me and Zain’s relaxing day. Our parents decided to leave us with phupo so we watched t.v. all day while Mama and Baba went to the London bridge and other places. Sumbal Phopo, Zain, and I all went to ASDA and got some food to make dinner. I helped phupo make some Chinese soup and rice. The food was soooo good!
On the fifth day, my family and I went to all the major museums of London. We went to the Natural History Museum, it was super crowded so I didn’t enjoy it as much as I think I could have. The line to get inside was also pretty long and annoying to wait in. If I had to pick a favorite exhibit it would have to be the human body exhibit because that interested me a lot. The next museum that we went to was the Victoria and Albert Museum. This was a HUGE museum with many artifacts. The museum was a lot like the British Museum, there were many artifacts to look at. At night we went to a cafe and met with Elizay and Shamyl again. We ate a Nutella crepe, it tasted amazing.
Our last day in London was Friday. Sumbal phupo, Mama, and I split up with Baba and Zain. We went to go shopping and Baba and Zain walked to Hyde Park and fed the geese. Sumbal phupo, Mama, and I went to Harrods, Selfridges, and many other fun stores. We didn't get anything but I enjoyed pretending to be a diva! Alizay apa came home from her dorm and stayed with us for our last night. We got up at 4 a.m. and went to Kings Cross Station (were harry potter got on platform nine and three quarters.) I couldn’t find platform nine and three quarters but I wish I would have. We got on the train to the airport and waited for our flight to Faro, Portugal.
The flight was about three hours on Easy Jet, but as soon as my Family and I got to Faro the warmth hit me like a punch to the face. London was in the 40’s but it seemed as if Faro was in the 70’s so it was an upgrade. Right after we got our rental car we drove to Fortaleza de Sagres. Fortaleza de Sagres is the edge of a tectonic plate which is super cool in my opinion! The viewing point was about one hundred feet from the ocean. It was so beautiful to look down and see the giant waves crashing on the rocks. There was a path from the standing point that led to a small hut. We decided to take the path and to get into the “hut” you had to walk thru a maze type of enclosure. When you got to the small enclosure there would suddenly be a gust of wind that would blow you away, by a gust of wind I mean a GUST of wind. The “wind” turned out to be the air that was produced when the waves crashed into the rocks. So you could tell that we were standing just above the ocean.
The next day we drove to Sintra and Lisbon. In Lisbon, we walked around and discovered the streets. We walked along the graffiti-filled walls of the city. While we were at a cafe getting some local snacks we met this nice lady by the name of Ines, she worked for a travel company and offered to take us to Sintra-Cascais Natural Park and the Pena Palace.
There was so much to see at the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, you could walk into caves carved in the bright green hills, there were deep wells that you could see and go into. At one point there was a waterfall, in order to see it from the inside of the hill you had to hop from one stone to the other. The reason you had to jump was because the stones were resting above an algae-filled pond. As we walked along we came to a duck pond, I tried to feed the ducks. When I threw a chip in the pond, the ducks seemed to ignore me. In my anger I reached towards the chip to grab it from the water so I could throw it too the ducks again. I didn’t realize that my jacket pocket was unzipped so I leaned forward. To my surprize my tablet fell from my zip pocket into the pond. I couldn’t do anything about it since the pond was filled with plant and algae, plus it was super dirty and kind of deep. I guess that's karma for annoying the ducks. Despite losing my tablet the scenery was beautiful and totally worth it!
Our next stop was Pena Palace. Pena Palace is on the top of the Sintra mountains, on a clear day it can easily be spotted from Lisbon. This palace is a super brightly colored architecture with many rooms that you can see from the inside. The rooms were all connected, there were many many rooms… From the Music room to the Ballroom, any room you could think of was in that palace. The view from the Palace ledge was incredible and you could see the whole Natural Park of Sintra.
On February 18, we drove to Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. We walked through a trail to get to to the palace on the top of the mountains. The trail was filled with plants and brightly colored flowers. We took the Mexican trail and found huge cactuses and other desert-like plants. When we got to the palace that was resting on a steep hill we decided to lay down and relax. Zain and I ran up and down the hill and climbed some trees at the bottom of the hills. As we drove farther we came across a mountain filled with autumn colored flowers. The mountain was beside a vast body of clear blue water. This place was called Colores which means colors in Spanish. The name made sense since the hill was filled with so much color.
Then we drove to Espanha (Spain).
Our first stop in Spain was Cordoba, because we arrived at night we checked into our hotel right away. The hotel we stayed at was named “Eurostars Palace.” This hotel was very nice and the name definitely fit its description. That night, we ate at a restaurant named “Lahori kabab.” It was a Pakistani restaurant so we enjoyed it a lot.
The next day we walked around Cordoba and found many great restaurants, shops, and monuments. Baba realized that nothing was open on Tuesdays in Cordoba so we just walked around that day.
On Wednesday (FEB 20) my family and I visited all the mosques and churches of the city. We saw the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. The reason it is both a mosque and a cathedral is that it was once a mosque but Christians took it over and renamed it as a cathedral so now it's both!
We later drove to Granada and saw some more churches including Granada cathedral, and the Bib-Rambla. We walked to the Albanian Quarter which is kind of like a square but instead is next to the mosque on a ledge peering over the bottom of a mountain. People singing, people selling bags with intricate designs, people offering to do mehndi on your hand for two euros each. Baba and I decided to climb another mountain with a church on top while Zain and Mama stayed at Albanian Quarter. As we got to the top we noticed that people were living in little huts built on the peaks of the mountains. I thought it was very interesting how people live that way. When Baba and I got to the top, there were people sitting on the edge of the wall listening to music and dancing. It was really fun to experience everyone having a good time. At night Zain and Mama went home and Baba and I wanted to explore more so we walked along Granadas streets. I noticed that Granada really comes alive at night. All the restaurants and stores opened at night, even the drug stores open at night! Baba and I settled down in a Syrian Restaurant. We both ordered a lentil soup, the soup was super flavourful and tasted different than restaurants serve in the U.S.
When Baba and I got to our hotel we got into sbut but there was one problem. Zain and I were sleeping together and every time we opened our eyes this red light would go on. Zain and I conducted many tests and later concluded that every time we opened our eyes the light would turn red but when we closed our eyes it would go off, this happened because it was a camera watching us at night. We got so scared and didn’t sleep at all that night. When we woke up that morning we told our parents and it was later determined that the “camera” was actually a motion detector… Zain and I freaked out about a motion detector.
The next day we packed up and drove to Alhambra palace. This palaces ceilings were filled with designs of all colors. Murals were painted on the walls and water fountains lined the garden. Alhambra palace was my favorite place in Spain so far! After Alhambra palace, we drove to Ronda. In Ronda we booked an amazing hotel that was fit for a queen. The hotel had complimentary lotions and there was even a shoe shiner in the the bathroom! The bathroom in the suite was bigger that my room at home. The top of the hotel had an infinity pool and a jacuzzi, Zain and I really wanted to go in but it was much too cold to go swimming that day. We decided to walk around the city. We settled on a small hike down the Ronda mountains. The trail included ropes for us to get down, bushes of poison ivy everywhere, and slippery rocks. As much as the trail sounds horrible it also had a beautiful view, almond trees from which we ate almonds off of , and a great experience with my family. We decided to head back to our hotel and enjoy some sleep in order to wake up early for the drive to seville.
The next morning we all woke up and got ready, our next mission was to find someplace to eat. After spending thirty minutes walking around the city in search of breakfast it seemed like all hope was lost….Until Mom asked to see our hotel receipt. I noticed that on the receipt it said Desayunos...25 euros. It turned out that we had actually bought breakfast the day Baba booked the hotel and we simply just forgot. In shock we all ran back to the hotel and asked if we could eat breakfast despite the fact that we had checked out already. The problem was that we had only bought breakfast for one but since we checked out our name did not come up on the system. We had proof that we booked the hotel so the hotel staff let us eat breakfast (even if it was breakfast for one). The food was scrumptious and I think that was the best breakfast I have ever had in my life. My meal included, 1 slice of spanish omelette, 2 pieces of toast with nutella spread, 1 glass of chocolate milk and a sip of Mama’s coffee, 5 slices of pineapple with a raspberry on top, an assortment of cheeses, a chocolate cookie, and a bunch of other treats that I can't remember.
That day we went to the Cathedral of Seville witch was huge and the Tower of Seville. The view from the top was gorgeous. For lunch I went to a cafe and ordered “chocolate caliente” which means hot chocolate in spanish. Little did I know hot chocolate there is literally hot chocolate. When the waitress brang over the mug, I realized that it was a glass of melted dark chocolate. Even though the drink was delicious I couldn’t finish it all due to the thickness of the chocolate.
On February 24 our journey to home began, we flew back to Faro and ate at a local restaurant. The restaurant served a meal in which they showed us how a traditional Spanish family would prepare the meal. After having lunch we drove to the airport of Faro and waited for our flight to Gatwick. We stayed in Gatwick for a day at the Premier Inn.
In the morning we walked about four miles to the local ASDA and got a few necessities which included, gummy bears, more gummy bears, new water bottles, and water to fill the bottles. That night was our flight to Boston. The flight was about seven hours and along the way I watching some movies to keep me entertained. We arrived in Boston at around eight (with a two hour delay).
This trip was amazing and will definitely be the highlight of my 2018.
Here's the rank for this trip: