England Calling

This year, our fall break took us to England.  The first three days of our trip were spent sightseeing in London.  We walked all over the city from our apartment south of the Thames. The second half of the trip was spent venturing in a radius of a couple of hours outside of London.

On our first day, we arrived so early that our apartment wasn’t ready for us.  This meant that there was time for an English breakfast from a nearby restaurant.

After getting checked into our apartment we made a 45-minute walk along the Thames to the House of Lords and Big Ben (which we found out is actually the Elizabeth Tower; Big Ben is the bell inside).

Around the area is also Westminster and Scotland Yard as well as the Calvary Museum, all of which we took a brief look at.

We decided to walk farther north into Trafalger Square, the West End theater district and Picadilly Circus as well as some of the shopping streets and past the Ritz Carlton with its smartly dressed doorman before finding lunch at the Albert pub.

Now, at the Albert pub we had three things that we continued to enjoy several times on our trip.  Rather than detail them for you every time we ate them, I’m going to give you a collage of all of them now.  And the most eaten food in England award goes to: Fish and Chips, Sticky Toffee Pudding and beer.


After lunch we went to Westminster Cathedral (not to be confused with Westminster Abbey) and were quite impressed with its architecture and the pretty mosaics all over the walls and ceiling.

Then, we had a quick stop outside Buckingham Palace before making our way through Battersea Park to find dinner near our apartment at a nice little tapas restaurant.

As the start of our second day was a bit wet, we took a Hop On and Off bus around the city as we made our way to St. Paul’s Cathedral.

After a quick look inside, we walked over the Thames to Tower Bridge.  We toured the museum inside the bridge including a sky walk over the Thames.  We viewed the engine room to learn how they raise and lower the bridge and then after leaving, we got to see the engines in action as the bridge was raised for two large boats.

After the bridge, we entered the Tower of London, which is one of the castles built by William the Conqueror in the 1000s.

The Tower houses a lot of history including the site of the beheading of Anne Boleyn, the Bloody Tower where Walter Raleigh was held captive and one of the young kings of England vanished and was thought to be murdered by his uncle, and the apartments of the former kings.  We also enjoyed going in to the one remaining original building from the 1000s holding the armory, the torture chamber and the chapel.

But the best part about the Tower of London has to be the Crown Jewels.  They are a symbol of opulence and a complete waste of riches that could be used in so many better ways, but nonetheless, they are beautiful and steeped in lots of history and tradition. You can’t photograph anything inside the Crown Jewel exhibit so the best I could do was a picture of the outside.

After the Tower, we went to the Globe Theater of Shakespeare fame.  It’s not the original theater as that burned down in the fire of London in the 1600s; however, it is very near the original site, and it is a very authentic replication.  We took a guided tour and learned a lot about the theater and the productions that occur there (which are also kept authentic).

After the theater, we were five minutes from getting on the bus when the sky opened, and a torrential downpour drenched us and the dozen other people waiting under an extremely skinny overhang at the bus stop.  Our dripping selves tried not to be too miserable as we rode the bus for a while to a location for dinner and then walked home.

On day three we grabbed some cheddar and chive scones and some pastries on our way to Westminster Abbey.

After waiting in a very long line, we made our way inside where we got to see the resting places of some very notable people such as Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and authors like C.S. Lewis, Charles Dickens and Lewis Caroll among others.

There were also a few monarchs buried there: perhaps you are familiar with Elizabeth I, her sister, Bloody Mary, and her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots.

It was also interesting to see the coronation alter and coronation chair, both of which will be used when Charles is crowned next year.

After the Abbey, we went by Buckingham Palace and caught the tail end of the changing of the guard.

From the palace, we walked through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens to Kensington Palace for a peek from the outside.

We had lunch in a pub in Kensington before going to the National Gallery which houses a lot of works by very famous artists.  My favorite might have been The Water Lily Pond by Monet.

After the gallery, we ventured into Hambly’s Toy Store-more of an emporium really with seven floors all boasting demonstrations of various toys and merchandise by employees. The pandemonium inside was a bit much, so we made our way out and on to dinner.

On the fourth day, we got out of the city on a day tour to Leeds Castle, Dover and Canterbury Cathedral.  Leeds Castle featured a movie about all of the lady owners of the castle which was sort of interesting.  The castle itself was not all that interesting on the inside, but the outside and the grounds were quite pretty.

After the castle, we made our way to the cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle for a quick stop.

Canterbury Cathedral was the final stop.  The Cathedral was nice, and we saw the site of the murder of Thomas Beckett which then inspired pilgrimages to the cathedral and ultimately the story The Canterbury Tales.

After viewing the cathedral, we stopped at a pub in town to have a Kent beer and a cask beer as well as a lentil potato Shepard’s pie and a goat cheese and sweet potato tart.  We also tried a caramel biscuit tart for dessert.

The highlight of the day though (and maybe for me, the whole trip) was after our return to London.  We got some last-minute tickets to see the Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theater, the site of its debut in 1986.  The show was so good!

Day five was another day tour-this time north to Stratford upon Avon, Shakespeare’s home.  Here we saw the home he was born in and where he lived before moving to London to work in the theater.

We also saw the building where he attended school as a boy.

We took a walking tour of the city with our guide which ended at the cathedral where Shakespeare is buried.

The next part of the tour was in the Cotswolds-a very picturesque area with rolling green fields and stone homes.  We drove through several small hamlets and stopped in a few for a look around.

We even saw a door to a cathedral that inspired Tolkien’s Gates of Mordor.

Finally, we made our way to Oxford for another walking tour which began after a quick stop at the pub where C.S. Lewis and Tolkien used to meet and where they formed a literary society.

The tour of Oxford included several of the colleges and the library as well as the site of one of Bloody Mary’s executions.

We stopped at a well-known student pub, the Turf Tavern, before heading back into London.

We got a few pictures on our nighttime walk back to our apartment.

We had one final day tour on our sixth day.  The first stop on this tour was Windsor castle.  We made our way through the State Apartments which were very opulent, and then we went to St. George’s Chapel.  This is the burial place of Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.  In addition, it is where Queen Elizabeth II was recently laid to rest next to Prince Philip, so we walked by her tomb.

After leaving the chapel, we watched the changing of the guard procession into Windsor.

We grabbed a quick cheese and onion pasty before returning to the bus and heading to Stonehenge.

Here, we walked around the monument and enjoyed it from all angles and observed the burial mounds.

The final stop of the day was Bath.  We opted not to go into the bathhouse but to walk around the city instead.  The city had some lovely spots, and we went into a cathedral which was nice.

With a little time to kill, we ventured into a small pub to have some English beer and some apple cider (the liquor kind!).

Back in London, we went to dinner in an incredibly busy pub, but the food was good.

On our final day, I walked with the kids to get some scones and coffee at a bakery while my husband had a work meeting.  After packing up and heading out of our apartment, we killed some time in a pub called the Victoria before taking the train to the airport.

All in all, we had a good time.  London is a nice city with lots of things to do including a ton of free museums, so it would definitely be a good place to head back again some time.  Until then, Cheerio!

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