Stonehenge, Bath and Windsor Castle

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Tours are a great option for travellers looking to see something in particular, that might be either difficult to reach without a vehicle or if you want the detailed information a tour guide gives. I can honestly say none of the seven tours I took were a waste of time; they were all a great experience. My guides were all very knowledgeable, friendly and used the time well. As a single traveller, it was also a great way to meet people; I even keep in touch with a few of my new friends. The tour operator I used most was; they use local tour operators but it’s all booked and handled through Viator. In fact, for my next trip to Chile I plan on using them again for a side excursion. In Italy, (Walks of Italy) was my go to for tours of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel as well as Pompeii. Both operators gave me more information than I ever could have anticipated and made the experience even more enjoyable for a nerd like myself. I highly recommend tours for certain site seeing excursions, obviously if you are in a time crunch they might not be the best option, or contrary if you want to spend loads of time in one place or at one site. Do your research and see what works best for what you want out of your trip.

In England, I opted for a tour to visit Stonehenge for convenience; it included a trip to Bath and Windsor Castle also and a lunch in Lacock. We started at Windsor Castle which was very enjoyable for me as a bit of royal family lover. It was just so beautiful and steeped in history; really lovely experience. I purchased a tea cup for my mother here, which (somehow) magically made it through until I got home to Canada. Next, we travelled to Bath to visit the Roman baths. Our guide did point out other things to see if we didn’t want to do the baths, but I wanted to see them. It was a little rushed at this point because of the line up to enter the baths, but I got to see everything and sampled the famous spring water! It is very mineralized and strong tasting; some people didn’t like it at all, but I didn’t mind it in the least. Legend says the water (which comes out warm) actually makes you look younger are healthier the more you drink it so bottoms up! Truthfully, you could spend a lot more time in Bath, so maybe an additional side trip would be a better option, though for me it was sufficient. After Bath we stopped for a quick lunch at the George Inn in Lacock, where I had the best beef wellington in the whole world and a delicious pint of local Wadworth beer. We finished the long day of site seeing with the piece de résistance, Stonehenge. After a history lesson, we were allowed to just wander around by ourselves to take it all in, from every angle. It really does change as you move around and the change in the way the light hits the stones. It was almost surreal for me at this point and I was just so quiet, trying to take it all in. In the distance you can hear cars going by, and there are people talking around you; but somehow it feels like you are in a magic place, apart from the rest of the world. I definitely recommend a visit to Stonehenge if you go to England, well worth it.
It was a solid eleven hour day and while I was very tired at the end, it was beyond enjoyable! Note if you do take a tour from London, most leave from the Victoria coach station, so double check your gate prior to departure and know your tour number as it gets confusing when five different buses are all leaving from your gate.

August 26, 2013

Bruges, Belgium

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I chose this picture for two reasons: one is that I quite like it, and two is that I quite enjoyed meeting those guys in it. I had just come from Amsterdam and was feeling pretty sick (a theme on this trip, unfortunately). I had just heard so much about Bruges from friends that I squished in a two day stop. I tried to do a bit of sightseeing the first day and wandered around the city centre. I was so drained though and didn’t last too long, before stopping to eat. Afterwards I decided to go back to my hostel and rest a little, but it was so sunny and warm, I opted for a beer on the patio. That’s when a slightly creepy situation occurred with a drunken customer talking a bit too intently with me, made me move inside where I felt safer. It was that move inside that led me to meet a new friend, a young local guy. I ended up chatting to him and his friend most of the night and we made plans to meet the next day. Early the next morning, we met at the hostel and spent the whole day together with two of his buddies. It was rainy and grey but we still had a lot of fun; they showed me around town and gave me lessons on local food and beers. I also got them go up the Belfry clock tower which, despite them living there, they had never gone up. We also went to the Saturday market where one of them bought a live chicken! “Chicken”, as I named it, got us a lot of weird looks from passersby and a lot of laughs. This picture above was taken at the windmills, which was really cliché but probably my favourite part. We finished the day with a group dinner, and some more beers (when in Belgium…). I called it a fairly early night though, as I was headed to London in the morning and wanted to be rested. Bruges is an adorable and quaint little city and definitely worth seeing. For me though, those boys in that picture are what made it a great stop on my trip.

August 23-25, 2013