ENGLAND! So, England is another place that I visited while traveling across part of Europe a couple of years ago. It wasn’t until I was writing this blog post though that I realized I never ended up posting about England on here which is kinda crazy since it’s one of my most favorite places I’ve ever been.
I am incredibly thankful for one of Noveltea’s long-time readers, Hannah, for the amazing help she was with writing this chapter of the story. She lives in England and helped me out magnificently with figuring out where Annie should travel and what all she’d see. Thank you, Hannah!
And now, for the seventh segment of my fictional story, Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks:
Around the World in Fifty-Two Weeks
Week Seven: England
I couldn’t help my squeal of delight; this was very nearly too good to be true. I tried to compose myself as we continued walking down the street… I didn’t want to come across as a total tourist.
“That’s Big Ben.” Hannah, the daughter of some of my parent’s long-time friends and my personal tour guide for the week, pointed ahead of me. “Actually, the tower is officially named the Elizabeth Tower.”
I stopped walking and turned all of my attention to the iconic clock tower. “Big Ben is just a nickname?”
“Yes. For years the real name was just The Clock Tower, but they renamed it in 2012 in honor of Queen Elizabeth.”
Pulling out my notebook I jotted down the information. “Was there any special reason they changed it?”
“The Diamond Jubilee.” Hannah gave me an incredulous smile.
“Right, right, that makes sense.” I continued walking. A week before I would have probably considered the day a bit windy, but after my sojourn in the Netherlands windy had taken on a new meaning.
We meandered down the street, stopping every minute or two for me to snap another picture or take more notes. In my teen years I had been a serious reader of the classics and to be in the same country of some of the worlds most famous authors left me feeling slightly breathless. The summer I turned twenty I’d gotten in a WW2 Historical Fiction kick and had read about twenty books that were set (at least partly) in London. Seeing the streets, buildings, bridges, and other sights that had been described with such vivid detail made the books spring alive to me.
I closed my eyes for a moment and I could almost hear the wail of bombs descending from Nazi aircraft and the panic surrounding me as mothers raced for bombing shelters, dragging their small children along behind them. I sucked in a mouthful of cold air and felt the race of antiaircraft men running to patrol their stations. Time stilled as I tipped my head back and searched the sky for the deadly planes.
“Let’s ride the London Eye.”
Hannah’s voice jerked me back to reality. I opened my eyes and shook my head, trying to clear the scenes that had seemed so real from my brain. “Sounds good to me.” Somehow my voice came out calm.
It was less than a ten minute walk to the London Eye. I was surprised at how large of a crowd there was in line.
“We are going to be in for a long wait.” I craned my neck to try and see the price for a ticket. “Yikes, and it costs a lot.” I looked at Hannah a bit askance.
Hannah laughed, “You don’t know how the London Eye works, do you?”
“What do you mean?”
“First of all, we shouldn’t have a very long wait because twenty to twenty-five people ride in each capsules. Second of all, it’s not like a normal ferris wheel. Instead, this one goes around really slowly so people can look out over London. Some people even rent out a whole capsule and set up a table to eat a romantic dinner while seeing the sights.”
“Now that sounds legit.” I wondered how much that would cost.
“Yeah, sometimes people even get married in them.”
And Poof, just like that I had my dream wedding planned. “How long of a ride is it?”
“About 30 minutes.”
Definitely enough time to perform a wedding. I was so coming back one day.
Once we got in the London Eye the view was incredible. We were right near the Thames River and could see for what felt like miles on either side of it. I only took about five hundred pictures and I also had Hannah film me as we shot a few segments that I would eventually send off to my video editing team to make into a vlog.
After the London Eye we visited the Tower of London where there are over 23,500 jewels, including the Crown Jewels. I read a plaque there that said each evening at 9:53 pm, a ceremony takes place to lock the Tower of London. This is how it works: an armed escort of the Queen’s Guards go along with the Chief Yeoman Warder to lock all the gates. One of the sentries call out to the escort and says, “HALT!, Who comes there?” and the Chief Warder replies, “The Keys.” Next the sentry asks “Whose keys?” “Queen Elizabeth’s Keys,” is the reply. After this the sentry allows the escort to pass by saying, “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys, and all is well.” This has happened each and every day for hundreds of years; it is the oldest military ceremony in the world. Craziness.
When we were done with the Tower of London we went to Westminster Abbey. There are 450 tombs and monuments in Westminster Abbey, including the tombs of Jane Austin, Charles Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. It was quite mind boggling thinking of the literary talent represented at the Abbey.
One of the coolest facts I learned while there was that the original church was built on an island more than a thousand years before. Over time the Thames changed enough that eventually Thorney Island no longer existed.
Another neat snippet of history that we could actually see was an oak door that is near the Abbey’s Chapter House. It’s supposedly the only Anglo-Saxon door in England and was recently dated to around 1032 AD. Now that’s impressive.
Next we found a cute little restaurant where we ordered steak and kidney pie for a late supper (not my favorite meal ever…) then headed back to our hotel where we crashed into bed for the night.
The next day we went on a whirlwind tour of museums: the Art Museum, London Museum, and Science Museum. (The London Museum was my favorite.) After that we grabbed a quick lunch on the go of fish and chips (how much more English can you get?) and headed out on the two hour drive to Stonehenge. Thankfully Hannah had a car so we didn’t have to take public transportation which Hannah informed me would be a bit of a trek.
Stonehenge was really cool. We paid to have an audio guide on headsets and they did a fantastic job of explaining the history behind the famous landmark. I had no clue that Stonehenge was so old. People, it’s older than all the pyramids of Egypt! Yikes. It’s such an iconic English place that I knew I had to visit it, but I hadn’t been exactly thrilled about the prospect. After we got there though, I was really glad I had went. (It was even nice and windy which reminded me of the Netherlands.)
Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Hannah and I stayed at her parent’s house (Hannah is a student and had the week off for half-term), and spent each day traveling around to different villages. They were so quaint and I pretty much decided then the English countryside must be one of the most beautiful and fetching places on earth.
“There’s literally so much to see that you’re going to have to just soak in as much as you can and not worry about the rest,” Hannah told me when I started off Thursday morning at a fast pace. “Why not just relax and enjoy each moment? These villages are so wonderful that they’ll send you into raptures of delight… As long as you aren’t constantly moving on to the next thing.”
What Hannah said made sense so I took a couple of deep breaths and calmed down. The next few days were packed full of indescribable beauty. They even have stone cottages with thatched roofs. For real. Who knew those actually existed?
The village of Castle Combe was literally so cute and gorgeous that I had to wipe tears of joy out of my eyes. You have got to visit it. One day I want to go back and curl up with all the old English classics and deliciously hot tea (which every. single. place. serves), and read for several weeks straight.
The village of Lacock was amazing cause part of Pride and Prejudice as well as several other well-known movies had multiple scenes shot there. And also Bath. Bath got it’s name because of some Roman baths that date back to when the Romans inhabited England a long time ago. (Who would have guessed?) Do you have any clue how many well-known classics talk about Bath? It’s a very literary place. After Bath we visited Stratford-on-Avon where Shakespeare was born, and the Lake district up north where Beatrix Potter lived. (Growing up I was a huge Peter Rabbit fan; much more so than of Shakespeare.)
A lot of the week was gloomy and gray, yet for some reason that didn’t bother me. There was so much to do indoors, exploring and reading and of course drinking tea, that the gray weather almost seemed to add to the charm.
On Sunday we went to church then had tea together one last time before Hannah drove me back to London where I spent the night in a hotel close to the airport. England was going to be an extremely hard country to leave and the most probable one for me to come back to. It was incomparable.