Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath

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In March I had a bit of time up my sleeve in between jobs so I decided I ‘d use it to undertake a few tourist activities within England. While I’ve travelled to a number of places in Europe I hadn’t really left London to see other parts of the country.

I was really keen to see Stonehenge and many people had told me that Bath was really nice so I booked onto a tour with Evan Evans tours that went to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath all in a day. Sounds a bit rushed I know, but I thought if there was anywhere I particularly liked I could always come back. That’s the beauty of England, everything is relatively close.

The Evan Evans Tour bus

I jumped on the bus at Victoria station where our guide Mark introduced himself and our bus driver Andreas, who according to Mark was ‘exuding boyish enthusiasm’ for the day ahead (although the next time I saw him he was dead to the world, snoring his head off while we waited to get on the bus after visiting Windsor!) This was just the first taste of Mark’s vivid descriptions of the sites we were visiting, the surrounding areas and the people involved in the stories of each place. He was a riot!

Our first stop was to be Windsor Castle, the largest and oldest continuously inhabited castle in the world. It wasn’t quite what I expected. For some reason I thought it would be out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rolling green countryside. However it is located smack-bang in the middle of the town of Windsor (funnily enough) with the buildings and shops situated right next to the outer walls.

The outer castle wall with the town of Windsor in the background

Some of the gardens inside the castle walls

A courtyard inside the castle walls

Inside it was utterly spectacular. The rooms were so elaborately decorated that every time I passed into a new chamber my mouth would just drop open. A gorgeous array of artworks, furnishings and fixtures were combined in each room to give each of them a different feel and a unique richness. I could easily imagine ladies in gorgeous gowns being swept around the floor of the elegant ball rooms and lords sitting around the ornate fireplaces, discussing state affairs. Unfortunately you’re not allowed to take images inside so you’ll just have to use your imagination.

I also saw the changing of the guards, which wasn’t quite the spectacle of the Buckingham Palace ceremony but pretty cool nonetheless.

Changing of the guards

Being a bit of a myths and legends nerd I have always been fascinated with the mysteries of Stonehenge. It amazes me that there is still so much we don’t understand about Stonehenge. The half-ruined ring of colossal stones are located on the Salisbury plains a couple of hours south west of London. Construction began at Stonehenge about 3000 BC and consisted of around 160 stones, some of them 8 metres tall and weighing up to 50 tonnes. No one really knows why it was built, what purpose it served and how the larger rocks were moved. The stones used to construct the inner circle are blue stones which come from the south of Wales 150 miles away and weigh about 7 tonnes each.

It was a similar feeling to seeing Machu Picchu for the first time; you’ve seen it a million times on TV or in magazines but seeing it for yourself is something entirely different. It doesn’t take long to wander around the outside of the circle of stones and take it in from every angle, but it was still impressive I thought. Particularly when you think about the huge amount of manpower that goes into constructing something like this and how they managed to do it 5000 years ago.

Next up was the gorgeous town of Bath. I could spend quite a few days in the city of Bath however we only had the afternoon which meant a quick trip through the Roman Baths and a stroll alongside the river was about all we had time for. The baths were a sight to behold with the golden limestone contrasting beautifully beside the green water of the baths. It was really interesting wandering through the different rooms and reading what each was used for, including my favourite, a room with ancient under floor heating. Nice!

The town itself is quite quaint with lots of small boutique shops and cozy cafes. The walk alongside the river was very pleasant and once again I was blessed with brilliant weather (for that time of year) for the entire day.

I know there’s quite a few things I missed out on in Bath such as the Jane Austen centre so let me know if you think there’s something I must go back and see 🙂

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London Calling

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Okay, okay, I know I’ve been very slack and have let the blog fall way behind. Sorry! I’m going to try really hard to get it back up to date and keep it that way. Alrighty, here we go…

So after the three most exciting, crazy, adventurous, amazing months of my life, I boarded a plane from Rio de Janeiro to London in order to start the next instalment of my overseas experience.

The plan: get a job, find somewhere to live and enjoy all that England has to offer.

First off though I checked into a hostel in Piccadilly Circus so I could get to know the city that I’ll be calling home for the foreseeable future. After three months of staying in pretty damn good hostels all around South America I had such high hopes for Piccadilly Backpackers. Surely London hostels would be of the highest quality considering it is the home of some of the grandest buildings in the world.

Boy, was I bitterly disappointed! Piccadilly Backpackers was the worst hostel I had ever stayed in!

Horrible dorms, horrible beds, horrible staff and the most hideously horrible bathrooms I’ve encountered. They gave the hole in the ground toilets on the Inca Trail a run for their money in terms of disgustingness! I’m not even sure if disgustingness is a word, but it should be!

Anyway, let’s just say I didn’t stick around for too long, after a couple of days I decided to try another hostel out near Notting Hill called Hyde Park Hostel. Sounds nice doesn’t it? Wrong again! It was even worse! The rickety old stairs I had to cart my backpack up for three floors felt like my foot would go through them at any step.

Anyway, enough of the bitching and moaning. Apart from the below standard hostels, London is absolutely amazing!

And you won’t believe it but it was actually sunny when I arrived. I jumped on the tube which is so easy to navigate (although I’ve been told I will learn to hate the tube and everyone on it once I start the peak hour commute to work!) and when I jumped out a Piccadilly Circus it was such a relief to finally be able to ask someone for directions in English!

After checking in to the previously mentioned hell-hole, I got out and explored this amazing city. I did a walking tour that visited some of the most famous sites including Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. It wasn’t long before I experienced the dreaded London drizzle but it certainly wasn’t enough to dampen my enthusiasm for seeing some of these amazing buildings and sites that I have heard so much about and have always wanted to see with my own eyes. It’s just incredible hearing the history of the different places and the beauty of the architecture is just stunning. I just can’t believe how old some of the places are here, it’s so different to back home in Australia.

Wellington Arch – Hyde Park Corner

Serpentine Lake – Hyde Park

Buckingham Palace Gates

Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard – Buckingham Palace

Changing of the Guard – Buckingham Palace

Guard outside St James’s Palace

National Gallery – Trafalgar Square

Nelson’s Column – Trafalgar Square

Big Ben – Houses of Parliament

Big Ben

Houses of Parliament 

London Eye across The Thames

Westminster Abbey

St Paul’s Cathedral

I also wandered around Kensington Gardens and saw Kensington Palace, explored the Museum of Natural History (really cool), visited Notting Hill and checked out the city nightlife.

Kensington Gardens on a gorgeous autumn day

Kensington Gardens

Kensington Palace Gardens

Royal Albert Hall

Central Hall at the Natural History Museum

Portobello Road – Notting Hill

After about a week of being in London I realised I had been procrastinating on my original plan of finding a job and a house so I decided perhaps I hadn’t quite finished with travelling. It was about that time that I got two amazing offers from some friends. First, my friend Matika who I met in Argentina said that her and a friend were going to France for the day because they had signed up for some amazing deal to get the ferry from Dover over to Calais. “Would you like to come, we’re going on Thursday?” Mitika says to me on Tuesday, “Um, yeah I would!” (We actually ended up going to Bruges in Belgium in the end, but more on that later).

The next day I meet up with my friend Rebecca who I’ve known since uni, “I’m flying back to Budapest on Friday and travelling south through Eastern Europe, would you like to come?” says Rebecca, “Um, yeah I would!

So that was that, a week and a half after arriving in London I was off again, but I’d be back again soon, well eventually…

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