TRAIN: London Paddington to Cheltenham Spa (1 transfer at Swindon)
Travel Time: 2h 18min
Total: £118.42 (for 3 people)
Total per person: £39.47
We took the early morning train from London Paddington Station because it was going to be a long ride to the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is located in the English countryside and exactly what my dreams were made of. I was obsessed with the Great British Bake-off for years and was always stunned at the kindness and sweetness of the contestants on the show that I thought it couldn’t possible be real! And then I arrived to the Cotswolds and literally entered this alternate dimension where everyone is helpful, kind, and just refreshingly lovely. Literally the one word I would use to describe the Cotswolds is lovely. Continue reading “The Cotswolds: First Edition”→
We could not travel to England and not visit Stonehenge! A prehistoric monument consisting of a ring of standing stones, Stonehenge has been on my list since I was a kid and when I was interested in archaeology. As a British cultural icon, we had to make a day trip out to Stonehenge.
London Waterloo to Salisbury
Travel Time: 1h 30min
We took the train from Waterloo to Salisbury. There is no direct way to get to Stonehenge by train. The best way to get there is either by a guided tour bus from Salisbury or taking a taxi to the Tickets Information Center at Stonehenge. There is a flat rate of £40 roundtrip for a taxi that fits up to 6 people. We actually managed to find three other Americans on the train that were also planning on going to Stonehenge so we shared the cab and split the fee together.
Stonehenge Entrance Fee: £16.50
You can book tickets online in advance here
There is actually also an opportunity to visit Stonehenge during sunrise or sunset but only during the summer. You can actually enter the stone circle while watching the sun rise. We visited in October so this tour wasn’t available but you can still check the dates and see if any are available here. When you get your ticket, you take the bus to the stone circles. There is actually a rope surrounding Stonehenge so you can’t get too close but you can learn more about the monument as you circle around it.
DID YOU KNOW?
The most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric stone circle in the world, part of Stonehenge is speculated to have been used as talismans for protective and healing purposes
It’s best to visit as early in the day as you can to avoid the crowds. It gets more packed in the afternoon due to the guided day tours. We were at Stonehenge probably around 45 minutes to an hour so it’s an easy morning.
We took the taxi back to Salisbury and decided to go to the Salisbury Cathedral. The reason why this 13th-century Gothic cathedral is so special is because it is home to the world’s best preserved original Magna Carta 1215. It is also home to Europe’s oldest-working clock. To see the Magna Carta, there is a small queue to enter the tent where the old document is protected by heavy duty glass. Photography is not permitted inside the tent, mainly because they want to protect this historic document for future generations (as the sign says). However, one of the Americans we were with decided that this rule didn’t apply to her and took a few photos of it and posted on social media. (And this is why American tourists have a bad reputation).
Salisbury to Bath Spa
Travel Time: 1 h
After the cathedral, we split up from the Americans and we took the train to Bath. Bath could really have been a day trip on its own – there was so much to do that there are still items on my list that I wasn’t able to cross off! We first went to Sally Lunn to get some food. Sally Lunn is known for the original Bath bun and for being one of the oldest houses in Bath. There is actually a museum downstairs that you can visit once you’re done eating. I ordered the Queen Victoria’s Tea (£7.68) so that I can get tea with a lemon curd bun, another bun with Milk Jam (£4.28) which is also known as Dulce de Leche, and the Steak and Mushroom Trencher (£12.98). It was a pretty large meal for one but I ate every last bite! The buns are quite large and you only receive half a bun (which side you get is completely arbitrary) and they were so delicious. They paired perfectly with the tea! I highly recommend getting here a little earlier than 13:00 because at that point the queue became quite long. You can view their menu here.
Roman Baths Entrance Fee: £15
Bath Abbey Tower Tour Fee: £6
Once we finished our lunch, we went to the Roman Baths. It is a well-preserved Roman site for bathing and you can learn about the Roman history when England was under the Roman Empire. There is even a small water spring where you can taste mineral water for free. I’ve had mineral water before in the famed Ashland, Oregon and this one was much better but I definitely don’t think mineral water is for me.
There is also Bath Abbey that is right across the street from the Roman Baths. Bath Abbey is a church from the 10th century and another example of Gothic architecture. One interesting fact about the church is that it is in the shape of a cruciform – so from the top down, you can see a cross. If you like to climb towers as much as I do, there is a Tower Tour (you are not allowed to enter the tower on your own) where you can have the best vantage point of the city and see right into the countryside. It is only 212 steps up the tower so it isn’t too strenuous!
Our last stop of the day before heading back to London was Alexandra Park. It’s a good alternative to the Skyline Walk (which is actually a 6.5-mile hike) and I highly recommend it. It’s a steep walk up the hill but it provides a great view of the city and we managed to see the sun set from the vista point.
Bath Spa to London Paddington
Travel Time: 1h 27min
THINGS WE MISSED
The Royal Crescent:
30 terraced houses in a crescent shape and is one of the best examples of Georgian architecture from the 1700s
The Bridge in Bradford-on-avon:
Bradford-on-avon is only 10 minutes outside of Bath (there is a local bus)
The Bridge is an afternoon tea place and their menu can be found here
Our final day in London was spent exploring the landmarks in the city and eating our way throughout different neighborhoods. The first stop was to go to the National Gallery. They were showing a Caravaggio exhibit, which is the first major exhibition in the UK to explore the influence of Caravaggio. The gallery has a free entrance and is fairly large – I spent about 2 hours in there alone trying to find all the masterpieces. They have Vermeer, Monet, Seurat, Cézanne, Rembrandt, van Gogh’s “Sunflowers”, Michelangelo’s “The Entombment”, and more. They also have a da Vinci panel and Raphael’s “The Madonna of the Pinks”, which are both must-sees. Continue reading “Walking and Eating Our Way Through London”→
We had to start out our day with breakfast at Sky Garden. It’s a three-story glass dome with the highest public garden that provides a 360° panoramic view of London. There are couches and bar seats throughout the floor but we made reservations at Darwin Brasserie. I highly recommend reserving a table in advance because it is pretty popular – after all, entrance to Sky Garden is free so the place gets pretty packed. You can book a table in advance here. Continue reading “Towers, Jewels, and Markets”→
FULL ENGLISH TIP:
Regency Cafe is known for their cheap, full English breakfast
You can find their menu here
Originally, we were going to start the day off with breakfast at Regency Cafe, since they open really early (7:00am) but we ended up going to King’s Cross Station to see Platform 9 3/4 before getting a quick breakfast at Aux Pains de Papy, a quaint French bakery that served fresh bread and pastries. I ordered an almond croissant and a brioche with my cappuccino and wow, the brioche was like eating a cloud! It was so soft! They serve coffees with little biscuits and fresh meringue as well. I’m not a huge fan of meringue but theirs was the right amount of crisp to lightness. Continue reading “The British Library, the Guards, and Claridge’s”→
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