Part II to the “itinerstory” post! may contain affiliate links.
I booked several things in advanced flight and hotel accommodations, airport round-trip transfers, and historical landmark tours. Of these bookings, I take advantage of group tours that allows me to see several different things in a span of a day. I mentioned this site before in the previous post – Viator. This website offers the traveler different types of tours in addition to traveling services at a fraction of a cost. You input the city of interest and the dates you’ll be visiting and the search engine finds you all the activities you may be interested in doing. If you sign up for their newsletter, they alert you of sales and promotions and give you a 10% discount on your first order. In addition, when you use your order and complete the visit, you get $10 back! Can’t beat that!
Our trip began with us having to depart from the hotel at 8:45 in the morning. A huge air-conditioned coach bus picked us up and transfers us to a central meeting point in Victoria. Had I read the instructions in advance, I would have been less annoyed. It turned out that I assume that the bus we were in would transport us to our tour so we stayed put until the tour guide wanted to see our ticket claim. He takes a look at it and informs me that this is not the bus and that our bus was on the opposite end of the terminal. Great! *insert sarcasm* My sister and I make our way to the end only to find out the bus we are supposed to be in is now jam-packed with a few seats scattered around. Which meant me and my sister would not be sitting together. I sucked it up and rode along with a group of quiet people-thank God.
Our first stop was the famous UNESCO World Heritage-listed Stonehenge. It is one of the world’s best-known prehistoric monuments that dated as far back as more than 4,000 years ago. Historically, visitors would be able to get a close-up view and touch the old stones, but due to preservation and I’m sure passed trespassing violations, the site only allows visitors to circle around the monument. While it was sight to see, the mysterious tone about how they got there lend to its ominous vibe.
Next stop, we continue the visit to the protected spa city of Bath. As in yes, spa!; the city were Roman-influenced style of spring baths are preserve right down to the stone tiles and its ancient elegance. The spa is within a small center of beautifully cobbled streets lined with mansions, terraces and bridges, shops and a cathedral. The only gripe was we only had about two hours to explore which was a bummer, but it was very much possible to get the most out of it. We first decided to skip the cathedral and head for the spa tour. When we finished we walked about and check out the shops while grabbing a quick bite to eat on the go. Bath is so pretty, much like how an English novel would have describe it potted flowers, cobbled stone-lined roads, and quaint cafes with sweet baked goods wafting in the air.
Our last visit took us on a journey through the gorgeous country-side of England and into Cotswolds. I would totally retire there it is a region known for its green pastures, a multitude of flowers, and stone-built villages. It is indeed the loveliest view as we make our way to the famous William Shakespeare’s birthplace, Stratford-upon-Avon. We visited the old cottage, its petite garden and town’s surrounding shops. We concluded our trip with an awesome short play production by the staff of the Royal Shakespeare Company while enjoying the traditional English scones and a glass of champagne or hot chocolate. I had both, of course 😉
Our day trip was coming to end as the moon was slowly rising. Normally, the bus would stop at the central terminal in Victoria but the tour guide was cordial enough to have the bus driver make a few stops so that everyone didn’t have to walk far to their hotels. We tipped extra for their generosity.
That day we totally woke up so lazy. We almost contemplated taking a loss on another day trip for favor of the bed. We decided to go anyways and good thing we did. I booked with Viator in advance for the Leeds castle, Dover and Canterbury tour. Much like yesterday and better prepare this time, we were dropped off at the central meeting point and found our bus. This time, the bus was nearly empty. We snagged the seats in the back and put our feet up as we napped on our way to Leeds. However, the views through Kent are amazing and I found it hard to roll back to sleep staring out the window.
We arrived at Leeds Castle grounds about 2 hours later and it was a site to see- my sister and I fell in love at its old beauty and charm. It is a 12th century castle complete with a moat and its park lands. Royal opulence encircles this whole residence from room to room and was once a home of medieval monarchs. My favorite part was indeed the outside gardens and its maze labyrinth near the guesthouses. Due to paranoia, we only got a little taste of the maze and we both discovered that our anxiety level was not worth the extra trauma. We made an exit and headed to the ice cream parlor near the garden’s entrance. I needed three scoops.
One thing I noticed was that the guesthouses are open to any travelers who are interested in staying on the actual grounds of the castle. The same can be said about most of England’s historical places. It can be costly but I would imagine if you were traveling with a group, splitting the cost for sharing the accommodation might not be a bad idea.
Our next stop took us on another lengthy drive to the ancient city of Canterbury. This site was famous for the cathedral and its bloody history where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by King Henry II’s four knights in 1170. Worth the visit, but the dark ominous presence was overwhelming for someone as sensitive as me. I was only able to visit the crypts for a short time before picking up unwelcoming energetic vibes. As much as I am a fiend for getting my spooks on, this place surely left an imprint.
We wander around the city, making sure to stop at a designated restaurant to enjoy a discounted lunch on the traditional fish and chips. We made our way back to coach to make our last visit to Kent’s south coast of Dover. This seaside town was home of the Battle of Britain Memorial and on a clear day, you can literally see the coast of France without binoculars. We wander for less than an hour before we made our way back aboard the bus back to London.
This time the bus dropped us off near Victoria’s Underground Station, about a 15 minute walk west of our hotel. We strolled along the city observing the different shops in the area. We walked past the Westminster Cathedral, admiring the medieval architecture.
Near the Westminster Underground station, we past a shop called Tesco Express. This thing is like a fast track version of a 7-11 – one line from the entrance to the front exit. The store is lined with treats and goodies- everything from fully prepared sandwiches, pizza, sushi (yes, sushi!) snacks, drinks and toiletries. Reasonably priced and super fast, I told my sis we should grab lunch here from now on rather than pay for a random dining experience.
We grab and paid our goodies and made our way back to the hotel. But before, we got there we were tempted by the ice cream truck near the bridge. We grabbed a scoop on a cone with the famous British chocolate covered wafer sticking out from the vanilla abundance. Nothing like a frozen treat in cold weather!
Stay tuned for Part III for more adventures and tips!