Updated: Nov 6, 2020
I love the UK and London is where I envision myself living and exploring. The past decade I have visited the UK over a half dozen times and I am ashamed to admit the big cities have been a magnet for me with Dublin, Manchester, and London being the places where I “run the streets”. The UK is treated in the same manner as the cities where I have lived. The main attractions are the shows, restaurants, shopping, and bars, yet since I know it will not be my last time visiting I tend to neglect the historical and cultural aspects. This time I decided to change things up.
Luck would have it I have a friend who currently calls Cambridge home and it is where I was invited to celebrate Christmas 2018. It is only a 45 minute express train from London, yet it feels worlds away. The town revolves around the university that bears its name.
The University of Cambridge dates back to 1209 and some of the greatest minds have called these hallowed halls home. Graduates include Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Stephen Hawkins, and actor Eddie Redmayne who won an Academy Award for his portrayal of Hawkins. Over 100 Nobel Laureates and 15 Prime Ministers have been either a student or faculty. In addition, modern royalty, Prince Charles, (aka Meghan Markle's father-in-law) attended. What can I say I’m still pumped from my visit during the royal wedding in May). You get the picture. Cambridge is very prestigious.
Not to miss: The 16th century King's College Chapel has impressive stain glass windows and the largest fan vaulted ceiling in Europe. I recommend the guided tour. The chapel is located in the heart of town so take a stroll to shop and eat afterwards.
Nearby is the Corpus Clock located street level outside of the Taylor Library at Corpus Christi College. It is a pure gold plated time piece and the monster atop the clock is the Chronophage (Time-Eater).
This UNECSCO World Heritage site of mysterious stones in Wiltshire needs no introduction. Dating back to 3100BC Stonehenge is approximately 90 miles west of London. The surrounding landscape is dotted by fields with pastures of sheep and small villages/towns.
Things to note:
There are extremely limited sunrise or sunset tours to the Inner Circle of Stonehenge and typically there is a long waitlist. If you know in advance you will be traveling to the UK here is the link to learn more about how to apply for the tour. Be warned if you choose the Sunrise tour you will required to depart London around 5:30am.
Many of the organized day tours to Stonehenge and Bath offer a stop at Windsor Castle. Personally I would not select these options. Stonehenge is approximately 2.5 hours from London, therefore, at a minimum, 5 hours of the tour will be spent driving. That leaves little time to sufficiently explore three locations. Plus Windsor is not far from London.
If you traveling with 3 or more people it may be beneficial and just as cost effective to select a private tour. The big bus tours require you to wait for your large group and it is hard to hear at times.
There is an option to walk the trails from the visitor center or take a bus.
The temperate is about 10 degrees cooler than London.
The city of Bath, England is a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is most known for its Roman Baths built in 60 AD, due to the proximity of Britain's only thermal hot springs The museum on the site of the Baths is well preserved and artfully curated. Live animations on the walls fill in the gaps and depict what the baths would have looked like in ancient times. The Pump Room at the Roman Baths offers high tea in a beautiful modern room.
Though the city is also filled with beautiful architecture and cobblestoned streets, I could not visit Bath without actually partaking in an actual "bath". The Thermage spa is steps away from the Roman Bath House. I prefer the Korean and Turkish style bath houses yet this is a nice retreat after pounding the ancient pavement of Bath. The entire facility is co-ed including, the pools, steam rooms, and changing areas (stalls for undressing). Swimwear or robe is required in all areas.
London - It only takes ten euros to bring the century old macabre tale of Jack The Ripper to life on a nighttime walking tour. Our guide Steve was fun, knowledgeable and animated. A young woman began vomiting at the first stop while he was describing the gory details of the crimes! We were assured that has never happened before!
UK I will see you again soon! Next time I will explore the British Museum, Buckingham Palace State Rooms, and the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum.