Hey, all! Drake here to talk about a killer day we spent traveling around some cool places near London (not to mention a lovely evening in London itself). This day really embodied why England is the perfect place to finish our little trek: there was something here to summarize every part of the adventure. The ancientness of Rome, the college-town comfort of Bologna, the royalty of Versailles, the sheer size and scope of Paris–we experienced a reminder of and a conclusion to each, along with the special gifts London itself had to offer (which are many!).
Of course, the only way to get all of these great places in one day was a bus tour! A lovely Ghanian driver and British tour guide from Golden Tours led us to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford. Windsor Castle was first up! As one of the largest and most grand of Queen Elizabeth II’s many residences, Windsor provided the “royal” element of the day. The main building contained many joys, the most notable being the State Apartments, grand room after grand room full of weapons, furniture, artwork, and other decoration suited only for a monarch. My favorite part, however, was the gallery of photographs celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee! (That’s right, folks, she’s been reigning for sixty years. Wowsers.) It was a pictorial history of Her Royal Highness’s entire life. Odd to watch a person age in real life, but extremely odd to watch them age through a room of pictures. After a quick stop through the local chapel (GORGEOUS) and a quick lunch, we made it back to the bus just in time!
Our next stop provided the “ancientness” fix (the first real one we’d had since Rome). Stonehenge, the legendary monument built for a mysterious purpose by an unknown civilization, was (for me) the most pleasant surprise of the day. Don’t get me wrong: I expected to enjoy Stonehenge. I just didn’t expect to find the history and legends surrounding the stones so intensely fascinating. In fact, I listened to the audioguide all the way through. Byron (being himself) and Sarah (having seen it before) still enjoyed the monument (probably just as much) but also enjoyed the nice bit of sunbathing they experienced while looking at it. Though not nearly as interesting (nor as well-documented) as Roman history, Stonehenge has a certain magic due to all of the unknowns surrounding its creation and purpose.
Then there was the lovely wrapup to the original purpose of the whole trip in Oxford. As the only truly significant piece missing from the From Bologna to Bologna course we finished earlier this week, it was a real privilege to spend a couple of hours in the town of the world’s (debatably) most famous university, which, in Oxford, is basically spending it on the university’s “campus” (or the closest thing it has to a campus). Oxford had a wonderful vibe. If we had spent a good deal of time there, I have no doubt it would have been another indispensable Bologna experience defined by that incredible collegiate spirit that feels so natural and comfortable to students from all universities. As it was, Sarah and I (as much as we love UK) both had this gut desire to transfer right then and there. This was a perfect stop to make.
Possibly my favorite part of the day, however, happened after we returned to London. Byron took off to go climbing (much to general amazement), and Sarah and I headed back to our little neck of the woods in Kilburn. We found, for the third city in a row, marvelous Asian food to eat. This time, the location was the Speedy Noodle (a name perhaps even more epic than Bologna’s Golden Dragon), where we both reveled in the culinary abilities of our Far Eastern brethren. Good stuff. This was London’s special offering: a unique urban experience and diversity unmatchable even by Paris. We struggled to choose between Chinese, Indian, Persian, Lebanese, classic British, Italian, and (yes) American food, and this only scratched the surface of one street.
It was a whirlwind of a day, embodying everything wonderful about our excursion and everything captivating about London and its surrounding areas. I’m getting ready to come home, but can I live here, too? Stay tuned for more!