Two years ago, after graduating from high school I took the year off to work. All my other friends went away to school and I stayed back and was determined as hell to travel. I worked my a$$ off. Seriously, I had two jobs 1 full time, and another working night shifts at a hospital. That alone helped me save heaps of money and I knew exactly what I wanted to do with it. It was only after high school that I began to suffer from wanderlust, the travel bug- whatever you call it, I had it bad.
I’d always had this huge longing to go to the UK. It just seemed so foreign, so inviting and so, well lovely. I told my Mom what I wanted to do, I said I’d do it alone… mind you I was 17 and she wasn’t too keen on it so she said she’d join me. After high school things between my Mom and I just clicked, we became a lot closer and didn’t butt heads as much. Travelling with your mother – hell ya.
Day 1 and 2 – London
We flew bright and early from Ottawa, Canada to Heathrow International Airport. It was a long flight but I had butterflies the whole time. I remember my Mom just beaming and saying ‘I can’t believe were doing this’. I instantly thought, why did we never do this before? Why can’t I feel this all the time? And I instantly knew I was in trouble, this anticipation, this happiness boiling over, I would never get used to it.
We touched down and made it to our hotel in the heart of London… it was a beautiful hotel with trim gardens, doormen, and once we got to our 14th floor hotel room, I knew I was in heaven. The view says it all.
We ventured out a bit, checked out our neighbourhood and got set for an amazing few weeks ahead.
The next day we woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to explore the city; I simply couldn’t wait to get out. We mapped out a little walk we wanted to do and were off. Everything seemed so… historic. I couldn’t blink I was in awe and didn’t want to miss a second. We ventured out to:
- The Royal Albert Hall
- The Natural History Museum
- Hyde Park
- The Serpentine
- Princess Diana Memorial Fountain
That night we went out to Daquise, an adorable little restaurant right in the heart of a market area nearby downtown. It had so many bakeries, patisseries, and intriguing stores. We had an exquisite dinner, and sat and talked about the amazing day we had had. Then to finish the night we had a celebratory ice cream and headed home for tea.
Day 3 – London
We woke up ready for an adventure. Put on our sneakers and headed out. We had mapped out some must see areas and partook in a tour of the downtown London. We visited:
- The Royal Albert Hall
- Her Majesty’s Theatre
- Oxford Street
- Westminster Abbey
- The Jubilee Walkway
- Lambeth Bridge
- Trafalgar Square
- Big Ben
- The Changing of the Guards- so neat, they really don’t crack a smile though… at all
- Buckingham Palace
- The Tower Bridge
- The London Bridge
- The London Eye – yes we rode it, yes it was freaking awesome
It was such a whirlwind of amazing places. We then ended the day in a local pub with ‘bangers and mash’ and a Guinness beer. We walked home through the Mayfair district and then through Soho. I loved the old architecture, the cabs, the buses and everything about London.
I understood why London was so posh, it was such an iconic place. Every corner was beautiful ornate metal picket fence, with brightly painted doors, neat door knockers, flower baskets overflowing with bright blooming foliage. It wasn’t just a house – it was a place with history, a story, and so much character.
Day 4 – Stonehenge – Bath – Cardiff
This morning we woke up, had a huge cappuccino and headed out for the open road. First stop, the magical Stonehenge. I was in awe, the actual magic and history was really something. It was built 5000 years ago and erected in the 2500 BC. Some of the rocks come from as far away as 160 miles. It’s honestly in the center of a field surrounded by sheep. It was pretty magical nonetheless.
We then headed to the beautiful city of Bath. Bath is named after its natural hot springs. The natural hot springs brought people from around the world to ‘heal’ them and bring good things. People also used it for selfish ways – it was believe you could curse people as well. It was a popular belief it was a magical bath connected to the gods. This beautiful city has 18th century architecture and stole a part of my heart. Everything about Bath was magical, from the cobblestone walkways, to the arches and hanging baskets to the history and large cathedrals on every corner. We had a beautiful pasty for lunch in a local café… I still crave that chicken pasty to this day. We visited some really amazing gift shops, tea stores, fudge stores (I got a block, or two… oops), bakeries, and clothing shops.
We then spent the night in lovely Cardiff. We then had dinner at a pub with some good company and great atmosphere. Of course, had an unreal sticky date pudding with caramel and ice cream. The perfect way to end any day.
Day 5 – Cardiff
The beautiful Cardiff was brought to light by Cardiff Castle. This stop was such a delight. It showed so much character and history. I’m not a real history buff, but this trip really made me realize how much I loved history. It wasn’t like history in school where you flipped through your old textbook and zoned out when your teacher was talking, this was history in colour. It brought to light a story, clarity of the past and why it should be preserved. The castle had such an interesting story it was hard to not get excited and involved.
We then walked around Cardiff and visited the worlds largest love spoon. A love spoon is a wooden spoon you give to someone to show them how much you love them. Very funny and cute store.
We then drove to Pembroke a small town with a famous castle. Pembroke Castle is a large beautiful castle and is quite the spectacle.
Day 6 – Alnwick & York
Driving through the countryside of Northern England along the coast was so amazing, it was so dramatic and beautiful. I wanted it to last forever.
Our first stop of the day was Alnwick. Alnwick was such a cute little town though, and of course had to grab a little pasty for the road. We visited Alnwick Castle and gardens. It is owned by the Duke of Northumberland and was built in the 11th century. We walked the vast gardens and stopped to smell the roses.
Next up was York. York is a picturesque city with such a wonderful and dark history. We did a walking tour, and ended up in the Shambles. This historic walkway is lined with wood framed buildings and is full of small boutiques, art galleries, and teashops.
York Minster is a beautiful church and is known as one of the largest churches in Northern England. We walked inside and the stonework was so striking and the stained glass windows were so captivating and so detailed.
We ended the day by doing a ‘ghost walk’ with one of York’s finest. It was very comical, and gave a light hearted look at York’s dark past. Finally we had dinner at Ye Old Sun Inn and had a classic York dinner. My mouth waters thinking of it. We had a huge feast of fresh baked bread, fresh corn soup, roast beef, Yorkshire pudding (of course), mashed potatoes, peas, carrots, turnip, and the most exquisite gravy. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, or I couldn’t get anymore stuffed they brought out a huge array of desserts. I had the crème brulee with a rhubarb compote- heavenly.
We started the day by starting off visiting the St. Michael Cathedral. It has a dark history, as the church perished to the bombing of the Second World War. The history and haunting past really gave us some perspective and we shed a tear or two. So many lives were lost in this area, so tragic.
We then headed to Stratford to take a look at the birthplace of Shakespeare. We walked through his small thatched home and got to look at his entire life in a flash.
I then visited a magic shop called the Creaky Cauldron and Magic Alley – an entire magical store filled with Harry Potter paraphernalia. It was heavenly and I didn’t want to leave… I did buy some Bertie Bott’s Jelly Beans, and a chocolate frog. Geek alert.
We made a quick stop at Warwick Castle, a large castle with vast gardens and a story to tell.
Day 8 – Oxford
We had a wonderful chance to visit the charming Oxford. The city is known as the city of schools because its covered in colleges and universities and is so student friendly. We walked the remarkable streets and school campuses. We went to the Sheldonian Theatre at the University of Oxford. We walked up the numerous stairs, and went to the lookout up top to get panoramic views of the tremendous city and its beautiful architecture.
England for me was such an eye opener. It really brought to light the importance of preserving history, whether it is buildings, roadways, or gardens. Everything about my time in England seemed picture perfect, it was a whirlwind of ice cream, gardens, palace’s, fine cuisine, and history. These memories are still so clear because I treasured every moment. I would go back in a heartbeat no doubt. I cant wait until I can do this all again, hopefully for a little longer.
“All the pathos and irony of leaving one’s youth behind is thus implicit in every joyous moment of travel: one knows that the first joy can never be recovered, and the wise traveler learns not to repeat successes but tries new places all the time.” – Paul Fussell