But then I just wanted a cheeseburger. Simple enough, right? It was more like greasy Salisbury steak.

Everything else that was different: Lasagna had a cream sauce instead of ricotta cheese and little tomato sauce, bacon was more like ham (or Canadian bacon), order pudding and you won't get a Jell-O pudding snack and you can't order water at a restaurant and expect free tap water.

Order roast beef and Yorkshire pudding from a little inn in rural England, however, and you'll have the best meal of your life.

It's hard not to be taken aback by all the history.


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Like my mom often says, old here in America can mean 50, 60, 70 years old.

A house that's more than 100 years old? Forget about it. It's practically ancient.

So growing up in a culture that doesn't really have anything left standing more than 225, 250 years old and standing next to statues that are twice as old is kind of crazy.

The two places that affected me the most were Notre Dame and the Tower of London.

I visited Notre Dame in high school on a trip with some of my classmates and since then has held a special place for me.

This time around my mom, brother and I climbed up about 300 winding steps to the towers. It was amazing.

"The people who have been here," my mom said. "Can you imagine?" I really can't.

My favorite thing was touching the gargoyles — through a wire fence, of course — that have sat on top of those towers for 700 or more years.

I won't be able to forget that.

Then the Tower of London, a castle, a fortress and a place where hundreds of people died, including Queen Anne Boleyn.

It was incredible to see where these important pieces of English history happened and not just read it on the Internet or see it in a movie.

Finally, being with family.

I'll admit, I was glad to not be around them once I got home after being with people 24 hours a day for almost two weeks.

But it was great hearing stories of when my mom and aunt lived in Paris and visiting my mom's old high school.

I even appreciated my brother slipping into protective older brother mode and making sure I was OK when he could tell I was tired or stressed.

I'm incredibly thankful that my mom was so generous and invited me along on this trip.

It was worth the millions of stairs and gross cheeseburgers and everything else.