This last weekend I went on the IFSA organized day-trip to Stonehenge and Winchester. My morning started out bright and early at 3:30. Since the group was leaving from London and I’m in Leeds, we had to first travel there and arrive before the buses were departing. I caught a cab to the train station with two other IFSA study abroad students who are at the University of Leeds. We live far enough out of town that it’s not feasible to walk (especially at that time of the night) and the buses aren’t running at that time, so the cab was our only option. We had a 2 1/2 hour train ride to Kings Cross station in central London. We arrived in time to freshen-up a little and catch breakfast, then we had to catch another cab to the IFSA-England office in Notting Hill. From there, we hoped on a bus with the other students who were going on the trip–there were probably around 100 in total from university across England.
I think the trip to Stonehenge took about 2 hours, although I slept most of the time. Stonehenge is in the middle of the country west of London. When we got there, it was absolutely freezing! No snow was falling, which was fortunate since the forecast had called for “severe weather” all day. We actually didn’t end up getting any snow until we were back in London, so we were really lucky.
Stonehenge was beautiful! A lot of people were there, besides us, and the area around it was obviously catered towards tourists. You are able to walk along a path that winds around the circle, getting close at some points then stretching farther out at others. We snapped quite a few good pictures, but once we got what we wanted, it was back to the bus. Our hands were absolutely frozen! I did make a quick stop at the souvenir shop to buy a postcard, but sadly I lost it sometime during the day. I’ll have to go back and get me another one when the weather is a little warmer! :0)
Next we traveled about an hour south-east to Winchester. There, we were given free-reign to explore the city for about 3 hours. It was past 1:00 and we were starving, so our first goal was to find food. We ate at No. 11, which had great food but was really busy, so it took us quite a while. That gave us only about an hour and 1/2 to see everything we wanted to…and by-golly, we did it! :0)
First we went to Winchester Cathedral, where many famous people are buried and the cathedral itself holds a lot of historical items and is just gorgeous. A high school orchestra and choir were in the main area performing, which sounded amazing with the acoustics of the building. My favorite author, Jane Austen, is buried there, so it was really special to see the exhibit about her life and death. I was awe struck by the amazing architecture inside the building. The Cathedral itself and the various religious items it held were so artistically constructed. After we had spent about 45 minutes going throughout the building, we decided to book it to the Great Hall in time to see King Arthur’s Round table. To be honest, I don’t know much about King Arthur, but it was really awesome to see such an iconic part of history.
On our way back to the buses, we took the time to stop at a genuine “sweet shop” along the way. It was absolutely adorable and perfect! I couldn’t decide on one thing, so I ended up buying a grab-bag of mixed sweets. Some of the others bought fudge and chocolate goodies, which they said were delicious. On the way back to London, I passed out again. I think my little power naps were the only way I survived the day on such little sleep!
From Notting Hill Gate, we took the tube back to Kings Cross and thankfully had time to catch dinner before we headed back to Leeds. It was a long day, and once I got back to my room a quickly collapsed on my bed and was out. I was so grateful to IFSA for organizing everything for us. It has been wonderful to be part of an actual study abroad group instead of being completely independent. They really make transitions feel much smoother and plan so many events that make the whole experience easier!