Now, let me introduce you to little miss 16-year-old me… yes the awkward, shy girl with the braces, with no sense of fashion, who is always beside her mommy and who I would kick the ass off for being so unadventurous! But my 26-year-old self thanks the 16 year old me for having such great patience for writing in detail her thoughts and experiences in her travel journal, which makes it so easy for me to remember…
London (May 17, 2004)
One of my sisters lived in Bournemouth where we stayed for most of our trip. Dad, mom and I wanted to see London so we took the 2-hr bus ride and stayed in London the entire day. You can do a lot in a day! We practically saw most of the sites; Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, London Eye, Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Tower Bridge… you name it, I most definitely think we saw it.
We had an entire week of catching up with my sister and finally, the mastermind (our eldest sister) for this entire trip arrived from Sydney. And so the more exciting part of the trip begins. My sister is a genius when planning a trip — we never find the need to go on a tour or hire a guide because she has got everything ready. We rented 2 cars and we were off to a 1-week road trip around England. If you wish to do the same, here are the places I recommend.
Day 1: Stonehenge and Salisbury
Who doesn’t know Stonehenge? This world-renowned rock that was built over 5,000 years ago! One of the world wonders! Well, 16-yr-old me certainly didn’t! Dad was so giddy telling me we were driving to Stonehenge and there I was thinking “meh…bunch of stones.. big deal!” But when I saw it from afar, it took me by surprise. I didn’t know it was THIS dad was talking about. I was star struck by stones – if that is even possible. I’ve seen it in Discovery Channel a million times but never did I think I would actually come face to face with it.
The Stonehenge was standing in a vast field of nothingness but green, green grass beside the freeway and its size wasn’t as massive as I thought it would be – it was surprisingly ordinary for what it is. That is the beauty of it! Its reputation is extraordinary, with history that goes far beyond our time, legends and stories that’s written all over it and the fact that it’s still standing today is what makes this monument the most famous, not only in Europe but, in the entire world.
We took a pit stop in Salisbury to see their Cathedral, which was built in the 13th century. It’s also has the tallest Spire in all of England and also houses Europe’s oldest working clock – in short, it’s a very, very old cathedral worth seeing.
My sister fell in love with these Thatched Houses. We saw these houses in just about every corner while driving. Dad called them “Nipa Huts”
Day 2: The City of Bath
The reason why the city is named “Bath” is because this place has natural hot springs and the Romans considered it a sacred place for a goddess. I admire the city for preserving its medieval setting which makes the city so beautiful that it has been designated a World Heritage site.
In Bath, they take pride in their architecture; just look at how this building was designed! They call this the “Royal Crescent”, a residential apartment building for the locals. This is one of the things you see walking around the city of Bath.
Another very interesting building is the Roman Bath; this structure goes back in Roman time. Here you discover how people in that era loved bathing so much that they would call the city “BATH”
Day 3: Shakespeare’s Birthplace – Stratford-Upon-Avon
I was studying William Shakespeare in Literature class – we reenacted his plays, wrote essays about him and we had to read his books. Naturally, visiting this city was another surprise to me. I couldn’t fathom the idea of me actually being in the birthplace of a literary icon. The excitement was too much! To see the house where he grew up in, to be standing in the same room where he could have had possibly thought of “Romeo and Juliet” and to see the neighborhood was just over-whelming. To be honest, I learned more things about him in our one-day visit in his hometown than an entire semester reading about him.
It was also here I found out William Shakespeare married a lady named, Anne Hathaway. The photo below is the house of her family where she grew up in.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a small town but very rich in history and significance. Walking along the streets of this charming little town is fairly easy to do and it makes you feel like you have gone back through medieval time. The mixture of modern sports cars amidst the old-fashioned architecture is a very interesting site to see.
Day 4: Cotswolds and Oxford
I love how the English name the little towns especially in the Cotswold area such as Stow-on-the-Wold, Bourton-on the-Water and Moreton-in-Marsh. The Cotswold is undeniably such an enchanting place to live in – just imagine living in a storybook-like village and waking up to a very peaceful and serene environment everyday.
As said – “The Oldest Inn in England” is the Royalist Hotel located in Stow-on-the-Wold. Built in 947 AD! It’s almost as prehistoric as the Stonehenge!
After being enchanted by the Cotswold, we drove to Oxford… Immediately, I thought, “Yey! We’re going to Oxford University” but little did I know that Oxford isn’t only a name of a school but an entire city that is home to a number of universities. Oxford is known to be the center for the education industry; the best schools in the world are found here. We visited only three: Balliol University, Trinity College and the best of the 3 was Christ Church University –only because it was the set for Harry Potter (a die-hard Harry Potter fan right here!
Here I am sitting on the “Grand Staircase” in HP and the Philosopher’s Stone and the photo below shows the “Great Hall” where the students in Hogwarts did the Sorting Hat. I remember I was so over the top happy to be here.
Day 5: Windsor Castle
On the last leg of our road trip, we were finally complete. We drove to Windsor to see the Queen’s second home but to our dismay, the castle was closed because Queen Elizabeth was inside- so much for our luck! We decided to have some coffee and cake instead at the Crooked Tea House.
5 days on the road to see different cities, towns and villages in England was definitely a learning experience for little miss 16-year-old me, one that she has kept for a decade and now I am sharing it with you. Hope you enjoyed my trip down memory lane as much as I did.
(May 25, 2004- May 29, 2004)