An American in Europe! (London, England- Part Two)

Hello, hello!

Welcome to the second part of my adventures in London while on vacation this winter. If you haven’t checked out Part One yet, go do so! Otherwise, read on… 🙂

Woke up dark and early (yup, sun hadn’t come out yet!) to freshen up, eat breakfast, and head out by 7h30 to the coach station in the city center to catch my tour bus; I had booked a day tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Oxford, which was to leave at 9h00 and return around 20h00. Unlike the day tour to the Scottish Highlands, which only consisted of nine tourists (including me), this one was packed. Like, forty to fifty tourists on the bus! We all had room, though, and so at 9h00 sharp, the bus left London and we were off to Windsor Castle.

Now, if you know anything about Windsor, then you will know that it has a long history of being tied to nobility: it was first built by William the Conqueror during the 11th century, and since then has housed the British royal family, as well as considered the “weekend getaway” for Queen Elizabeth II.

Arrived at Windsor around 10h00, and the line to get in was LONG. However, I had opted not to pay to enter the castle, as it was £19.00 and I wanted to save my money for Stonehenge later in the day (plus, the tour itself costed a lot of money already, around £41, so I wasn’t keen on spending too much more…). Instead, I wandered the town for two hours, checking out the shopping center and pubs (although I didn’t eat there). I did, however, take a photo of the outside of the castle, as it is already quite majestic:

Windsor Castle.
Windsor Castle.

The tour guide had given those who entered the castle about 75 minutes to look around (after they had spent an hour in queue to get in- unbelievable!), and so we left Windsor a bit past noon. It’s a shame that I wasn’t willing to pay for the castle, as I had heard that it was quite nice. Maybe another time, when there’s more time to explore!

Any case, we drove over to Stonehenge (or rather, the site where you get tickets to see it; the monument itself is located a mile-and-a-half away), and arrived around 14h00. Paid £14.50 to see Stonehenge, and I tell you, it was NOT worth it. All we did was take another bus to the site, take a couple photos meters away from it, and left. You can’t even go inside the circle itself, as the terrain underneath is fragile. Utterly disappointed. Really, it was just a pile of rocks. 😛

Stonehenge.
Stonehenge.

Left Stonehenge, and made our way to the University of Oxford, considered one of the oldest universities in the world, with its teachings dating back to the 11th century. We arrived there around 16h30 when it was already dark, and so the atmosphere was quite different than it would’ve been if we had gone there in the daytime. Not bad, but again, didn’t have a lot of time to explore in-depth.

In the University of Oxford.
University of Oxford.

Afterwards, we finally made our two-hour journey back to London, and arrived back close to 20h00. Although it had been a long day, I felt like we hadn’t done much. Then again, the goal of the tour was to, as our guide had told us, give us a “tapas-style” taste of each place (i.e. a small sampling, but not a full meal). Might work for some people, but for me, it wasn’t worth the £41. Oh well…

Any case, I returned to my hostel, showered, had dinner, and crashed for the night. I was up and about early again the following morning, off to explore as much as London as I could, since that was my last full day of being in the city. Took the Tube to King’s Cross, where I saw the famous Platform 9 3/4 from the Harry Potter series:

Every Harry Potter fan's fantasy!
Every Harry Potter fan’s fantasy!

Next, I ventured all the way to Baker Street, made famous by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries. There’s a Sherlock Holmes Museum there, in which I didn’t go (again, £15 was too much for my budget), but got photos of the outside:

Sherlock Holmes's Museum.
Sherlock Holmes’s Museum.

Regent’s Park was nearby, so I took a stroll through it. A lot of the flowers were not in bloom, as it is winter and everything, but the area was nice and quiet, filled with swans, frogs, and other wildlife.

On the opposite end of peace and quiet, my next destination was Piccadilly Circus, a major road junction that in itself has become a touristic place. Definitely gives off that New York, Times-Square vibe:

Piccadilly Circus.
Piccadilly Circus.

Also checked out Leicester Square and Covent Garden, the former where I got some overpriced fish and chips for lunch (really, they should not cost £14!), and took in the fast-paced, urban life.

Trying to be British...
Trying to be British…

My next two hot-spots after lunch were Harrods (super large, super chic, super expensive department store) and St. Paul’s Cathedral (which I found much more attractive that Westminster Abbey). The former was incredible in its “posh-ness” (like, exuberantly so), and the latter was just towering and majestic. 😛

Harrods.
Harrods.
Inside Harrods- so posh!
Inside Harrods- so posh!
St. Paul's Cathedral.
St. Paul’s Cathedral.

By that time, it was 14h00, and I still wanted to hit two museums before the day ended, so I booked it all the way to the Courtauld Gallery (in Somerset House), having saw an advert in the Tube station for its Impressionist gallery. I adore Impressionist artwork, and so I was interested in going- plus, it’s free!

Got a bit lost trying to find the Courtauld Gallery, but arrived there in the end. Not only did I satisfy my Impressionist cravings from the works of Monet, Manet, Cézanne, and Degas, but also saw works from the Renaissance and contemporary eras. Quite a rich collection in a relatively small, intimate museum.

"A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres" by Manet.
“A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres” by Manet.
"Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear" by van Gogh.
“Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear” by van Gogh.
"The Bridge at Courbevoie" by Seurat.
“The Bridge at Courbevoie” by Seurat.

Left the museum in a hurry to make it to the British Museum, the major museum for London (also free admission) that contains just about everything from all classical civilizations, from Persian to Japanese to Chinese to that on Easter Island! Contains the Rosetta Stone as well, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to see, due to the fact that I had arrived relatively late and doors were closing then. Another time then!

The British Museum.
The British Museum.

Finally, after almost ten hours of being out and about the city, I just wanted to return to my hostel and rest. Took the Tube back, arrived at the hostel, and crashed for the night. Ahhh…

…and so concludes the second part of London! While I did do a couple more things the following day, I also left that day for the last leg of my trip during the winter holidays. More on that in my next (and final) post! Stay tuned. 🙂

P.S. Definitely posted a ton of photos this time around. Pretty sure that I took up at least ten percent of my media file space on WordPress! 😛

— The Finicky Cynic

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18 thoughts on “An American in Europe! (London, England- Part Two)

  1. Pingback: An American in Europe! (London, England- Part Two) | Blog of Things:

  2. I work in London, so i’m glad to see you had fun in my part of the world!
    You got robbed paying that for Fish and Chips though – I can tell you, the best fish and chips are in the North of the country or by the coast – i haven’t had any good fish and chips in London. Next time you want fish and chips, try any Wetherspoon pub – it’s cheap (it’s still not proper fish and chips, but it’s cheap!).
    I’ve never been to Stonehenge though – i didn’t know they charge you entrance! That’s so tight! I think i’d just look at it from the outside!
    Courtauld Gallery is fab though!
    I’d recommend Bath as a day trip or overnight stay from London. It’s gorgeous there!

    1. Hey, thanks for your comment! Always nice to have a local who knows the ins and outs of the city! I’ll definitely have to give Wetherspoon pub a try the next time that I’m in England.

      Well, one can only access Stonehenge by bus, and from there you have to pay for admission. However, I have seen people walk the whole two kilometers from the admissions center to the actual site, so maybe one can get away with paying for it??

      …and I will have to return to England someday to visit Bath and all of those other gorgeous places! I’m also interested in Wales, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Grasmere in the Lake District (where Wordsworth, one of my favorite poets, used to live). The possibilities are endless!

      1. Yes, do come back! Next time you’re in London try Primrose Hill for great views over the city, a Thames Clipper boat ride down the river and hanging out in Borough market for lots of food delights!
        England is an expensive country, as you’ve found out, but there is lots to sight-see that can be done for free 🙂
        I’ve been to Wales for a day – they have amazing landscapes! Never been to the lake district though yet – I must get myself out there.

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