Trip Report! DIS Exclusive Knights & Lights/Disneyland Paris, Part 1 - LOTS OF PICS!

Discussion in 'Adventures By Disney' started by sayhello, Sep 24, 2011.

  1. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Wellp, here we go! This is Part 1 of my Trip Report for my Knights & Lights ABD trip. But this wasn't just any K&L trip. This was a DISboards/Podcast exclusive departure that had a very special add-on. Normally, if you want to add Disneyland Paris onto your K&L ABD, what ABD offers is a room, your tickets, and special Fastpasses. But you are on your own once you're there. Dreams Unlimited (DU) had arranged that our ABD would actually *extend* to Disneyland Paris (DLP). We would keep our Adventure Guides with us, and have VIP access and experiences while we were there. This was *precisely* what I wished for as I was considering signing up for K&L for this year, so when DU announced they were doing this trip, I couldn't sign up fast enough!

    Pre-Days A, B & C. Flight to London, and 2 pre-days in Winchester.

    Many, MANY years ago, I'd been an exchange student in Winchester, England. (OK, 30 years ago!) Somehow, I had never gone back to England since. (I still don't understand how that happened!) So one thing I really wanted to do as a part of this trip was go back to Winchester and check out the town and King Alfred's College, where I'd gone to school. I also wanted to do a few things in London that weren't on the itinerary. So I flew in 5 days early for the trip. 2 days in Winchester, and 3 days in London. It also gave me plenty of time to get over the jetlag before the tour started.

    Most flights to London from Central Ohio are Red-eyes (same as when I flew to Spain last year). The itinerary that worked best actually was a United codeshare with Air Canada, and was routed through Toronto. I was a little leery of the flight, because the leg from Ohio to Toronto was on a prop plane. It wasn't a teeny plane, but I was still leery. I really had nothing to worry about; the flight was just fine. BUT, it had the advantage that the Saturday I left, tons of airports on the East Coast were being closed as hurricane Irene closed in on that portion of the country. My flight was never in jeopardy, as this little plane pretty much just flew back & forth from the US to Toronto. That was a really big plus, as a lot of people whose fights that day got canceled were being told they'd be given new flights the following Friday! After all the angst I had getting to Spain last year, with the ash cloud from that Volcano closing airports all over Europe, I was really glad not to have to deal with that again.

    The flight to Toronto, and then the flight to London were pretty uneventful. The only complaint I had was that half the underseat legroom in front of us was taken up with the box for the so-so entertainment system in the seatback in front of me. Personally, I would MUCH rather have had the leg room than the entertainment system. It was not one of those you could control (except to change the channel) so you got into movies that were already started, you couldn't pause it to go to the bathroom, etc. I'd brought stuff with me, so it was really just, literally, a waste of space.

    I arrived in London mid-morning on Sunday. I'd made a reservation for a quaint little Bed & Breakfast in Winchester. It got RAVE reviews on Trip Advisor, and was in walking distance of Winchester Cathedral. So I had to get me & my luggage from London Heathrow airport to Winchester. I ended up buying a ticket for an Express bus from Heathrow to Winchester. While it wasn't bad, I still was saying to myself "Oh, yes. THIS is one of the reasons why I love ABD so much. If I was starting the tour, they'd be taking care of my luggage, and my transportation, and all I'd need to do is show up." Spoiled, I am!

    This was my first sight of England as I waited in the bus station:

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    It's a red double-decker bus!!! A very modern-looking red double-decker bus, but still! It was just *so* "London"!

    Taking the bus was pretty easy, but (and this was to become a common thread on this trip) there wasn't adequate air conditioning on this bus, and it was uncomfortably warm. But it was a nice ride, and as we pulled into "downtown" Winchester, I was struck by memories of my time there. Some parts were different, but some buildings have been there for centuries. I was really here!

    The bus dropped me off on High Street, right by the statue of King Alfred, which I remembered quite vividly. It was about a 3-block walk to the B&B (not too bad except for lugging the luggage over cobblestone!)

    The street the B&B was on:

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    The place was adorable (although a bit smaller than it looked in the photos I'd seen).

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    But it was EXTREMELY private, in a separate cottage tucked into a corner of the back garden of the main house. The only way to get back there was through the main house. I settled in, cleaned up, and then decided to head out & re-explore Winchester.

    The High Street area had way more shops than it had when I was last there, but mostly looked the same. This area (the top of the old Market, marked by the Buttercross) was so familiar it made me smile.

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    I decided to get some lunch (I'd bought a ham & cheese sandwich in the bus station, but I decided that really didn't count as my first meal in England! ;-) ) I settled on a traditional Cornish pasty, sold in a shop right next to the Buttercross. It was fresh & hot & delicious!

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    I didn't realize it when I made my plans, but the next day (Monday) was a Bank Holiday in England, which meant the whole weekend was a holiday weekend. It was both a good & a bad thing. It was bad because King Alfred's College (which is now the University of Winchester) was closed for the weekend. It was good, because there was a festive atmosphere going on in downtown Winchester. Impromptu musicians, people walking around, enjoying the High Street, but it was *not* crowded! I walked around, took tons of photos, and just absorbed the fact that I was back after so very, very long.

    This is the West Gate, which is one of the few remaining pieces of the Medieval wall that used to surround Winchester.

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    One of the things I really wanted to check out again was the Great Hall. Winchester used to be the Capitol of England. Winchester Castle (built in the late 1000's) is mostly gone nowadays, except for the Great Hall, which had been rebuilt in the early 1200's, and renovated by Henry III during the latter parts of that century. I almost didn't recognize it, as it used to be a free-standing building by the side of the High Street. It now is part of a courtyard with several buildings built in a similar style, that *almost* looked as if they'd always been there. They contained various city offices. It was a little disorienting, but I *knew* those buildings hadn't been there 30 years ago... The Great Hall is in the middle, in the back of this picture.

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    One of the features of the Great Hall is the Round Table of King Arthur hanging on one of its walls. Its authenticity as the actual Round Table is open for debate, but what is indisputable is that Henry VIII had it painted in its current form, showing Arthur and spots around the table for all of his Knights. So it's a nice piece of history, no matter what its origins really are.

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    After checking out the Great Hall, I decided to head up the road to the area near King Alfred's College. I found this lovely road I remembered (St. James' Road) that ran along the northern side of the railroad tracks that cut through Winchester (my dorm was on the southern side of the railroad tracks).

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    It was a beautiful road, with *lovely* townhomes. I can't imagine how much these homes would cost. I then walked down to the area where the off-campus dorm I lived in was. I still remembered the address, and I'd Googled it to verify it was still there, and that I accurately remembered where it was. (I did!)

    Heaven knows how old the building is, so I was not surprised it was still there, although it had been re-painted from grey to a pretty yellow. It kind of looked like it had been re-purposed back to a private residence, but it was hard to tell for sure. I have some fun memories of taking pictures of my dorm-mates on that little balcony area above the bay window.

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    On the walk there, I went past the Gate to the cemetery that contained the short-cut from our dorm to King Alfred's College.

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    For a while, when I was living there, I refused to cut through the cemetery. But the first time I was late for class, I gave up on that, and cut through. (It was a *really* steep hill, and a long way, to go around the cemetery). Now, it wasn't like I was walking between the graves; it turned out there was a wide, well-lit path from the gate up to the college. During that semester, I developed a real appreciation for historic cemeteries, and they've become something I love to check out when I visit a new place.

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    I walked up to the (now) University to check it out. I knew it was going to be closed up (the students had not showed up yet, except for a few who had stayed for the Summer). But I figured I'd wander the grounds, see what looked familiar, and what didn't.

    Unsurprisingly, there was a new entrance to the University.

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    As I wandered around, there was some vague familiarity, but most of it was foreign. I was beginning to worry, but then I turned a corner, and there was the old Main Building of the campus.

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    It looked pretty much just as it had my first day in England 30 years ago. It houses the administrative offices, some Student areas, etc. It was, of course, locked up tight. But it was cool to finally feel I was somewhere I remembered. I walked around some more. A lot of the buildings were unfamiliar, but I *did* remember the on-campus dorm buildings, where the upper-classmen stayed. I was, however, having difficulties finding a bathroom. The buildings really were all locked up tight. Finally, I came across this building, the John Stripe Theater.

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    When I was attending King Alfred's, one of my friends asked me to give a talk to her Comparative Religion class (as a Jew, I was pretty much a minority at King Alfred's in those days). I of course agreed. Imagine my surprise when I saw *posters* up all over campus, announcing my talk on Jewish customs! The funny part about it was, at the bottom they said "8:00pm JST". I was quite surprised that they knew about "Jewish Standard Time"! Well, of course, it turned out it actually meant "John Stripe Theater". D'oh!

    So seeing this familiar place was nice. Not only that, but people were going in and out, which meant I could use the bathrooms there! This was when I learned the easiest thing to say was not "Where is the restroom?" (I got blank stares. "The restaurant?") They *did* understand "the Ladies' room". So I started calling it "The Ladies'" and had no issue with people understanding that. For some reason I just couldn't get into calling it "The Toilet" as is common there. Well, imagine my surprise when I walked in, and the BATHROOM felt totally, completely familiar! I'm sure it had been repainted (the same color!) and upgraded in the last 30 years, but the odd architecture & detailing on the walls in the stalls was so familiar to me! Totally took me by surprise! There you go...

    After I was done on campus, I eventually made my way back down towards High Street. I ended up at the Cathedral, but it was too late to go inside. I walked around it and took several pictures, as the weather was still gorgeous. As was the Cathedral.

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    The flying buttresses of the Cathedral.

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    I then headed on to High Street, and took pictures of the King Alfred Statue and the Guildhall across the street.

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    I stopped at a fancy pizza place and bought a delicious salad to take back to my room. I got a plate and silverware from the main house, and settled in for the evening to use the free WiFi to catch up with the rest of the folks coming for the ABD, who hadn't left yet. I was updating with my iPad, so it was slow going. But I *do* love my iPad. What an amazingly useful thing! Not only internet access, but backups for my photos, map apps, etc.

    The next day (weather was still GORGEOUS!) I decided to check out the Cathedral. Winchester Cathedral always makes me think of that old novelty song by The New Vaudeville Band. "Winchester Cathedral, you're bringing me dow-own. You stood and you watched as my baby left town. You could have done something, but you didn't try. You didn't do nothin'. You let her walk by."

    http://youtu.be/y-Ijo_ZthDI

    As I got ready that morning, I had the windows open, and could hear the bells of the Cathedral pealing and playing for a very long time (well over an hour). I'm assuming this was probably because of the Bank Holiday. As I walked up the road from the B&B to the Cathedral, the bells were still playing. That sound was *really* familiar to me!

    Click here for a video of the bells & the Cathedral.

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    Winchester Cathedral is truly beautiful. I remember that well from my previous time there. It's amazingly light and airy for such an old, large place. Unlike a lot of the other Cathedrals I visited later in this trip, Winchester Cathedral had no restrictions on taking pictures, as long as you didn't use a flash. I'm SO glad, as it was just an inspiring place, and I loved photographing it. And it was bright enough that most of my pictures turned out!

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    Continued in next post.
     
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  3. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    When I got inside the nave of the Cathedral, a tour was just starting up. (Free!) I joined in, and I'm *so* glad I did! This elderly gent knew *so* much about the Cathedral and its history, and told it in such an interesting way.

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    LOTS of people are buried in the floors and walls of the Cathedral. This is fairly common in Europe (or at least in England & France!).

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    Winchester Cathedral has a wealth of beautiful Stained glass and incredibly delicate & detailed stone and wood work.

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    Look at this ceiling!!! It was designed to draw your eyes up towards the Heavens.

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    Saint Swithun's bones have been interred in this area for a *long* time. The entrance to the area is very low & small, and you can see the centuries' worth of hand oils deposited around the stone opening, from when people stooped down to enter.

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    When I was in the Cathedral 30 years ago, the only part you could visit was the main nave area. I was absolutely thrilled to find that pretty much the entire Cathedral is now open to the public. This area, behind the altar, is the old, original Norman area, which I never even knew existed. You can really tell the difference in the quality and style of the stonework.

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    The detailing was so spectacular.

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    Because of the Bank Holiday, they had someone come in and play the Cathedral's amazing pipe organ. Since he was up in the balcony area, they had a screen showing real time video of him playing.

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    Having the organ going while wandering this gorgeous space really, really added SO MUCH to being there. I fell in love with the Cathedral again.

    I also managed to catch a tour of the Crypt under the original Norman area of the Cathedral. It was pretty cool. They had this modern sculpture down there. None of the rest of my pictures turned out, as it was too dark. But it was interesting, seeing the evidence of various floodings over the years, and how bits & pieces of stonework & old statuary were stored down there.

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    I went out back to the Garden area behind the Visitor's Center. They had a nice little cafeteria there, where I had some really delicious home-made soup and rolls. This statue is back in the gardens. In the early 1900's, this man, William Walker, spent years diving into the water that was flooding in under the Cathedral, to shore it up with bags of cement so that it wouldn't collapse when the water was pumped out (so that the foundation could be shored up). He is credited with saving the Cathedral. Diving equipment was relatively primitive back then. It's an amazing feat!

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    After I was done at the Cathedral, I decided to follow the suggestion of the owner of the B&B, and take the Riverwalk from the Cathedral area through the watermeadows to St. Cross Hospital. I was pretty sure this was the river walk that I and a few of my friends had taken one day when I played hooky from my class (I just needed a mental health day!) And it was! The Riverwalk along the River Itchen is quite lovely, and it was a beautiful walk.

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    So pretty!

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    Winchester College (not to be confused with the University of Winchester). Winchester College is a Public Boys' School. But "Public School" in England is what we would call a Private School. Got it? ;-)

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    One of the things I remembered about this area from 30 years before was this: St. Catherine's Hill.

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    Local rumor has it that the top of St. Catherine's Hill was the site of Camelot. No-one knows for sure, but it makes for a nice legend!

    After a lovely walk along the River and through the watermeadows, I came up to St. Cross Hospital in the tiny village of St. Cross.

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    St. Cross Hospital is not what we normally think of as a Hospital. The name comes from the same root as "Hospitality". St. Cross is a charity almshouse, and a wayfarer's station. It houses poor, ill elderly men, and also served as a way-station for people traveling through. If you are there when it's open (it wasn't when I was there) you can still claim the "Wayfarer's dole" of bread and ale.

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    After I finished taking tons of photos of the Hospital, I started heading back to the B&B. There was an alternate route back, along the main street that ran from St. Cross back to Winchester, so I started walking back that way. As I got a few blocks on, a city bus started to come past. I decided that I was a bit more tired than I thought, so I hopped the bus, which took me on a mini-tour through the surrounding area, and eventually ended up at the Winchester Bus Station, right across the street from King Alfred's statue and the Guildhall. I went back up to the High Street to find some dinner (the B&B included a wonderful English breakfast, but no lunch or dinner). Most of the pubs had stopped serving food, so I finally ended up at The Old Vine, a fancier "pub" that was actually a *very* nice restaurant.

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    I don't remember exactly what I had for dinner (except that it was *very* tasty, and *not* the Sea Bass, because they were out of that!) But I *DO* remember the dessert. I only rarely eat dessert, but they had bread pudding, and it's one of my weaknesses. This bread pudding (they called it bread-and-butter pudding) had apricots, prunes and sultanas (raisins) in it. It was DELICIOUS and worth every carb!

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    After dinner, I walked back to the B&B in the Twilight.

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    I spent the rest of the evening watching bad British TV (they only had a couple of channels in the cottage) and packing up, because I was leaving the next morning for London.

    Continued in Part 2. -- My pre-days in London.
     
  4. mkmommy

    mkmommy DIS Veteran

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    Something wonderful to read.:cool1:

    I just finished my trip report from DLP/Magic trip and I was thinking what will I do with my free time, now I can drool over your pictures.

    They are lovely and I look forward to reading the rest of your report.
     
  5. mhmcduff

    mhmcduff mcminnie

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    Very cool trip so far and great pics!
     
  6. jedijill

    jedijill <font color=red>Chiefs fan living in Bronco countr

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    Great start! How cool you were an exchange student and got to go back. Looking forward to the rest!

    Jill in CO
     
  7. Tink rules

    Tink rules <font color=teal>The kids in my family sometimes t

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    I'm in!!!
     
  8. minniebeth

    minniebeth <font color=green>I count on y'all to keep me up t

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    Sayhello, I'm so excited to be reading your trip report! It sounds like it was a wonderful trip! How special it is to have an opportunity to be able to go back to Winchester~your photos are beautiful! You have a talent for writing and photojournaling. Thanks so much for sharing, I look forward to reading about the rest of your trip!
     
  9. Becx N Gav

    Becx N Gav DIS Veteran

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    Thanks for posting this Tobi :thumbsup2 I've never been to Winchester although we used to drive past it when we lived in Bournemouth. I'm pleased you got there ok and found somewhere good to stay - that can make or break a trip!

    I'm exited to see what you got up to in London! I'm sad we didn't get to meet you.
     
  10. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Thanks, mkmommy! I'll have to check out your report! More of mine coming soon.

    Thanks, mhmcduff!

    Thanks, Jill! The exchange student thing was so great, because I'd grown up, gone to school and college and worked all in the same town. Being an exchange student was *such* a change, and really good for me. And it definitely gave me a taste for travel!

    Welcome!

    Ah, thanks, minniebeth. It was really amazing to be back in Winchester, and it was just as special as I remembered it! I'm so glad you like my Trip Report and my writing style. It's so much fun for me to share my trips with folks this way! More soon.

    Thanks, you guys. I really loved Winchester. I remembered it as being a quaint, lovely, walkable place, and it still is! I highly recommend it as a place to visit. The B&B was very nice & well located. And you're right, that really affects the overall visit.

    The London part should be up soon. I'm also sad we didn't get to meet. I guess I should have asked Pete about meeting up, but I didn't want to impose on his time with you. Some day!

    Sayhello
     
  11. starrzone

    starrzone <font color=purple>Quirky with snack cakes<br><fon

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    :cool1: sayhello, I've read your past TRs (Western US, Alaska and the Med ABD), and am so glad to see this one! If there were any doubt in the past about wanting to go on an ABD, there sure isn't any after reading your TRs! Can't wait to hear how this trip went :)
     
  12. emilymad

    emilymad DIS Veteran

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    I'm in! Love the pictures so far. I love the idea of going to a small town before heading to London!
     
  13. rlduvall

    rlduvall DIS Veteran

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    Wow - your photographs and descriptions are just wonderful. I just love the Camelot/King Arthur history . . . whether it's real or not. Thanks for letting us vacation in England vicariously through you. :thumbsup2
     
  14. kristilew

    kristilew DIS Veteran

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    Sayhello, now I *really* want to go on a trip with you! You plan such great days! Love the tr so far. It feels like we're walking around Winchester with you!

    Thank you for the pictures of the cathedral. How beautiful. It's awe-inspiring to me that generations gave their whole lives to building these, knowing they'd never see the finished product themselves, but wanting to leave something wonderful to last into the future. Amazing!

    So glad you did the riverwalk. These little paths have become my favorite thing about England - and your pictures really capture the feel and the light.

    I hope the wonderful weather lasted. Can't wait to read more!
     
  15. minniebeth

    minniebeth <font color=green>I count on y'all to keep me up t

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    Yep, I'd be her travel partner any day! :goodvibes
     
  16. Diskidatheart

    Diskidatheart DIS Veteran

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    I enjoyed Part 1 of your trip. As always, great pics and a great TR. Looking forward to the rest of it. You better get busy! :rotfl2:
     
  17. princessbride6205

    princessbride6205 DIS Veteran

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    Love the TR so far! Like PPs have said, it feels like we're getting the tour with you! I'm glad you included photos and reported on your pre-ABD days. :goodvibes
     
  18. *WDW*Groupie*

    *WDW*Groupie* Mouseketeer

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    Your TR is off to a great start!

    I love all the details and photos! Amazing!
     
  19. tufbuf

    tufbuf Disney Addict!

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    Aaaaawwww.... it's a walk down memory lane! How poignant! :cloud9:
     
  20. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Thanks so much, starrzone! As you can tell, I'm definitely a fan of ABD. I'm glad you've enjoyed my TR's. I should have more of this one up SOON!

    Thanks, emilymad. It was actually a bit of a shock going to London after Winchester. I got over it fairly quickly, but it was a shock! I'm glad you're enjoying my pictures!

    Thanks, rlduvall! It makes me happy that people like my photos & running commentary. More report up soon!

    I'd love to travel with you, too, kristilew. It will happen some day! I do love Winchester Cathedral quite thoroughly. And the riverwalk was something that had stuck in my head from 30 years ago. I love those sorts of walks, too, obviously. "Off the beaten path". :thumbsup2

    Well, thank you, minniebeth. Maybe one of these days!

    Thanks, Diskidatheart! It's definitely a labor of love! More soon! (You taskmaster, you! ;) ).

    Sayhello
     
  21. sayhello

    sayhello Have Camera, Will Travel Moderator

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    Thanks, princessbride6205. :) I'm so happy you're enjoying the TR! If I've drawn you into my world & my trip, then I've succeeded! :goodvibes

    Thanks, *WDW*Groupie*! I'm glad you're enjoying it. There's lots more to come!

    Yes, it is, tufbuf, and I enjoyed every minute of it! :yay:

    Sayhello
     

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