I hope you all had fabulous holidays. I personally stayed in on Christmas Day – except for a few hours where my sister and I went to see Les Miserables, which is so good – and made sure to watch Queen Elizabeth’s Christmas message.
Finally, we come to the end of my London trip. I had the time of my life, and I certainly look forward to the opportunity to go back.
Another feature of the London tour that we booked was a day trip out of the city. We chose one that took us to Windsor Castle, Bath, and Stonehenge, as we were not fans of passing up the chance to tour another castle.
Our first stop was Windsor Castle, only 30 miles away from London. It was interesting to see the more “suburban” areas of London, away from the hustle and bustle of Central London and the more “touristy” areas. In fact, it wasn’t until we were almost on the motorway that we finally saw a gas (petrol) station.* We didn’t have much time at Windsor after our tour guide showed us around the grounds, but we were able to see Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House (which has real, working plumbing and electrical fixtures, and tiny bottles of real wine) and tour the State Rooms. (The staff are all very knowledgeable and personable, so feel free to ask if you have a question. One such gentleman explained sedan chairs to us and how they gave us the word “cheerio.”) Because Windsor Castle is so old (building on the site began in 1070, making it the oldest inhabited castle in the world), there is a lot of history on and in the walls. I greatly enjoyed seeing St. George’s Hall, which is full of heraldry in the form of the coats of arms of Knights of the Order of the Garter, which has its spiritual home at Windsor Castle.
We ended our tour of Windsor by visiting St. George’s Chapel, where ten monarchs are buried, including Henry VIII and his third and favorite wife Jane Seymour, the executed Charles I, and Queen Elizabeth’s parents (George VI and Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother) and grandparents (George V and Queen Mary). I wish we could have spent more time at Windsor – we barely had a chance to take in St. George’s – but we had a schedule to keep, or else we would have had to figure our own way back to London!
After we left Windsor, we drove across the English countryside to Bath. I really enjoyed looking out the window, seeing cars drive on the “wrong” side of the road, and watching England go by. My part of California can be rather on the brown side, so it was kind of fun to see some browner parts of the countryside right next to the green I’d associated with England.
When we arrived in Bath, we toured the Roman Baths next door. While most of the museum’s structure is from the Georgian Era, the baths themselves and the ruins are from the Roman Era. Cleverly, the museum is built around the ruins, allowing visitors to take them in while also protecting them from the elements. Honestly, my sister is more into Roman architecture than I am, so while Bath is very gorgeous, I didn’t have as much fun as she did. If we go back, I’d love to see more of the city.
After Bath, we headed to Stonehenge. By this time, however, the weather had turned windy and cold, so we bundled up and made the loop around the structure. I have a pretty powerful imagination, so I was hoping that Stonehenge would impress me, but it’s actually smaller than I thought it would be. It’s only about 25 feet tall. What was interesting was how close it was to the motorway. I had always imagined it out in the middle of Salisbury Plain, far away from the modern world, but the motorway runs right next to Stonehenge. In fact, a stone known as the heelstone (which lines up with sunrise on the summer solstice) is mere feet from the side of the road, and a sheep farm runs on the other side of the fence from the parking lot.
According to Google Maps, our trip covered 238 mi (383 km), and we were gone all day. It was a lot of fun, and I’m glad that we got to see more of England than just London. The next morning, we had to make our way to Heathrow Airport so we could go home.
Samuel Johnson once wrote, “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.” I agree wholeheartedly. The time I spent in London is a highlight of my year and probably one of the coolest things I’ve done in my entire life, and I only saw a fraction of everything there is to see. While I certainly wish some things about London were different (some of the street signs can be hard to find, for one), I found London to be a very tourist-friendly city. It’s accessible and welcoming, and we were able to ask anyone (that seemed reputable) for help and we would get it. It’s a city full of things that exist no where else and world-famous landmarks. If you have a chance, take it and go.
*It’s a silly request, but if there happen to be any Central Londoners who read this, please let me know how far you have to drive to find a petrol station. California has a pretty big car culture, and gas stations are conveniently located just about everywhere. Having not seen any gas stations in Central London, we wondered how far you have to go to fill the tank, though you probably just take public transport.