London, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Oh my!
February 23, 2013
This weekend was a time for another IFSA adventure – this time to Stonehenge and Salisbury. Stonehenge is pretty well known, but the gem of Salisbury is something I had never heard of…we’ll get to that in a bit, though!
Our IFSA excursion was on Saturday, but Friday was a no-class day, so my friend Tasha and I couldn’t resist heading into London to do some exploring. We’d been dying to just do a walking tour of London, so we arrived early and started walking in the snowy weather. Tasha had a great walking tour book that gave routes and everything – there’s so many of these books out there, so it’s worth grabbing one if you’re ever heading London’s way. We started the day walking in Hyde Park, one of London’s famous greenspaces. It has a pond, gardens, the usual, and even a cottage in the middle of it that looks like only Hagrid could live there. Adjacent to Hyde Park is Kensington Park, which is my favorite of the two. Here, there is a huge fountain area dedicated to Princess Diana, one of my favorite icons of all time.
We moved on and headed toward Oxford Street, one of London’s most famous shopping areas. They have store in the UK called Primark that is my absolute favorite. Picture the styles of Forever 21 and H&M with prices that are pretty much as low as you can get for fashion items. Granted, the quality isn’t always the best, but when you spend $7 on shirt, wearing it just once gets your money’s worth. Anyway Primark is the best, and Oxford street has TWO. In other words, Oxford street is a very dangerous street to walk on…for the wallet, at least.
After stopping for lunch, we headed toward another must-see in London: Picadilly Circus. With its big screen advertisements, stores, and restaurants of all kinds, it’s considered the Times Square of England. It definitely has a lively feel, but I must admit it’s a much quieter, calmer version of New York. Here, however, lives my favorite place of all of London: a store called Fortnum and Mason. Official grocer to Her Majesty herself, Fortnum and Mason is the Tiffany & Co. of grocery/candy/coffee stores. Walking immediately turns you into a 7-year-old in a candy shop. Picture huge chandeliers, counters for bakery, coffee, and teas of pretty much every kind you can imagine. They even have a shelf of chocolate bars that is arranged by shade of chocolate – I didn’t even know that many types of chocolate existed. Downstairs from the ground floor is the grocery section, but here you’ll find exotic fruits only fit for a queen – and her budget – one fruit we found was selling at around $14 a pop!
As you walk upstairs from the ground floor, things switch gears and you’ll find a department for fine jewelry and accessories (think HUGE fancy hats), followed by houseware, a bakery, and a tea room that was dedicated to the Queen for her Jubillee last year. I fell in love. I want a tea set from there so badly, but they aren’t cheap – starting at $120 and up.
I made myself get out of there before dropping any pounds and we headed toward the center of Picadilly Circus. The rest of the day was just spent exploring, and the more time I spend in London, the more I love it. It’s perfect to just walk the streets and realize where things are in relation to each other. For instance, it wasn’t until this trip that I realized Picadilly Circus is right behind the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square. That probably means nothing, but just know that there’s so many things you see in London and it usually takes at least two or three trips to realize that are only a street over from one another. Once you get the basics down, London’s not too bad to navigate.
The day was over and it was time to head back to our hostel. It was tricky finding it, but we survived the night and it wasn’t too bad (I’ll share more details on hostels later on).
The next day we met up with our IFSA crew and headed to Stonehenge (it’s about a 2-hour drive from London). It’s neat to see, but it’s funny because it’s legit in the middle of a random field off the main road. It’s one of those things you have to get out and stand next to, but once you do, you’re like…“Okay, back on the bus”. I’d never heard of Salisbury, but when we arrived, I was definitely impressed. The funny thing about it was that it reminded me so much of Canterbury. Salisbury is just a quaint little town with a cathedral (sound familiar?) and cute rows of shops with an outdoor market. Salisbury’s cathedral was definitely gorgeous, and I just loved the entire feel of the town. If you go to Stonehenge, head to Salisbury for the rest of the day – half a day at each place is plenty, and they are both worth seeing in my opinion.
We headed back to London, said goodbye to our IFSA staff, and had dinner at a trendy restaurant called James Oliver. They have these in New York and other locations, and it’s a really neat restaurant because they offer cooking lessons! Dinner was great, but we lost track of time and had our first experience of spritining through the Tube station to make it to our bus. This may or may not have involved me faceplanting on an esclator, but hey, you’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.
We missed the bus, but things like this are huge learning experiences for me. I’m usually able to run to where I need to go and get there right on time (okay, or a little late), but being here has really shown me the importance of punctuality. Buses scheduled to leave at 7:00 leave at 7:00. No exceptions. No waiting for latecomers. I’m still working on my timeliness, but it helps to always give yourself way more time than you think it will take to get you there. With public transporation, there will be delays, you will have to wait, and it’s always better to be super early for your bus than to not make it at all.
Speaking of waiting, you’ll find you have to get used to it when you live in a place that relies on public transportation. It’s not always the easiest, especially when you’re at a bus stop in the middle of winter and you can’t feel your feet. But here’s some tips to get you through the waiting game…or at least help distract you from the from your cold, wet shoes:
1. Music cures all. Always have a pair of headphones with you – you have no idea how much being able to listen to music lightens the mood and makes waiting a bit more bearable.
2. Carry a book with you at all times. Even if it’s a little one, having some reading to pass the time is a huge help when you need a distraction.
3. Chocolate doesn’t hurt. Typically, if your bus or train is running late, you’re going to be stressed out and the cold makes you want to just curl up into a miserable ball. Luckily, almost anywhere you find public transport, you’ll find a shop with candy nearby. Hot drinks typically served at these vendors don’t hurt, either.
* Please note that these rules for making it through the waiting game have not been tested by research. Please exercise caution and consult your doctor before playing the waiting game or any other non-physical activity.
Until next time,