This weekend I took two separate day trips in different directions outside of London; both called for early mornings! On Saturday, my tour group with International Studies Abroad took a bus to Canterbury. I am currently reading The Canterbury Tales for the third time and taking a Chaucer course, so I was especially excited to see this historical city. The day started off with a flat bottomed boat ride. The boats were really tiny holding only twelve people each with one rower in the front who also served as our tour guide. The boat was rather rocky and we also went under some seriously low bridges in which we had to duck to go under!
The tour itself was really relaxing and informative and a fun way to see the city from a new perspective!
After that we went to see the Canterbury Cathedral, which was so massive and absolutely gorgeous. The stained glass windows and architecture was stunning! None of the photos I took actually compare to what it looks like to in person.
After the Cathedral, a couple of us went to an adorable little tea room that we saw advertised called Tiny Tim's Tea Room. It is one of the oldest and allegedly most haunted buildings in Canterbury! We enjoyed scones called "the plump pilgrim" with raising, sultans, and cherries. It was so cute and definitely one of my favorite tea rooms ever!
After that, it was off to see the Dover Castle and the Secret Wartime Tunnels. The castle and the tunnels are unique in that are up-kept as if people were still using them. For example, the trip through the tunnels was complete with an "expected air raid." The lights flickered and even went off for a few seconds...all while we were in a tunnel deep underground! During part of the tour we visited the operating room, complete with manufactured disinfectant smells. We weren't allowed to take photos during this tour.
The castle itself was gorgeous. We climbed to the tower, which consisted of way too many steps! My legs were shaking the rest of the entire day! It was worth it though, as we could not only see the castle grounds, but over the White Cliffs of Dover to the English Channel and even the distant coastline of France!
On our way back to London, we drove past the White Cliffs so we had the chance to see them in all their glory! Sunday called for an even earlier morning: 5 AM! This trip was with the International Students House in London and any student from any university can join their travel club. This trip had students from all over the United States, China, Canada, Austria, Germany, and Belarus. It was really cool to travel with new people and explore the English countryside together. Our first stop was Cadbury World. We were clearly the oldest group there, as everyone else there seemed to be part of a family with small children! Our journey began in the Aztec Jungle, went through a replica of the town of Bournville, through the packaging factory, and yes, there were free samples. Each person got three full size bars, but got to sample some warm chocolate out of a cup with our choice of mix-in. They beat Hershey's Chocolate World in that department, though their chocolate store is a lot smaller than Hershey's. There was a also a little ride with personified cocoa beans, complete with a Christmas section and hieroglyphic cave and stars section. It was great! I loved the chocolate teapots they had in the store!
Then it was off to the Severn Valley Railway. The railroad is a steam engine train that does between the tiny towns of Bridgnorth and Kidderminster, with stops at some little stations along the way. All of the trains date from the 1920s-1960s so it was like stepping back in time. I absolutely loved it! We passed the rolling hills of the countryside and lots of farms with sheep, cattle, and horses.
I watched White Christmas the other night (yes, I know it is only September, but it is never too early to start watching Christmas movies!) and felt like I was on the train they took from Florida to Vermont.
There was also an odd moment when we spotted elephants amongst the landscape of farm animals. A few confused moments, we realized that there was a safari park beside the train tracks.
I loved the little town of Kidderminster that we ended in. It was so small and quaint! For some reason, I've been drawn to the idea of small towns and farmland lately. London is lovely and a great connecting point for the rest of the UK and Europe, but it is just so massive and busy!
I got in late last night and now have a lot of reading to do this week!
Do you prefer large cities or small towns?
I've had quite a busy week here in England! My classes started this week. The school system is quite different here, but I'll save that for another post!
On Wednesday, I got to go to Harrod's for afternoon tea! It was so formal and proper with the servers pulling our chairs out for us, calling us "madam," and saying things like, "here is the green tea for the lady." The terrace at Harrod's is gorgeous with ornate architecture and a piano player.
They brought a selection of finger sandwiches, little pastries (my favourite was the fruit cake), the best scones ever with clotted cream, jam, and lemon curd, and a Harrod's Trifle.
Afterwards, we looked all around Harrod's. That place is massive! They have everything imaginable including: designer baby clothes, formal evening wear, furniture, perfume, and groceries. My favourite section was the Christmas and holiday area. There were so many British Christmas items that I was relatively unfamiliar with like Boxing Day chutney. When I saw a Christmas tea advent calendar, I knew that had to be my souvenir! Each day of December there is a different type of Christmas tea with flavours like Spiced Pumpkin, Candy Man, Gingerbread Man, Silent Night, Sleigh Ride, and Christmas Night. I also found canned pumpkin for the first time since arriving so I bought a can to make some non-American friends their first pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!
On Thursday, I went to the movies to watch Box Trolls, which was adorable! Before the movie started, they showed some British TV commercials, which seemed infinitely nicer than American commercials, mostly because they were wittier.
On Friday, I went to the British Library, not really knowing too much about it. Sadly, we weren't allowed to take photos within the galleries. I saw manuscripts by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy, and many, many others. There were Bibles and prayer books illuminated by Medieval monks, Indian and Chinese texts, and letters of historical significance. It was so neat! There were also a lot of tables and quiet corners so I want to go back to study!
Afterwards, I walked about forty minutes along Regent's Canal and back to Camden Town. The walk was gorgeous and there are so many options at the stalls on Camden Town that I could just window shop all day!
After Camden Town, I went to Borough Market. Borough Market is a really nice farmer's market with a ton of options. Some things were really inexpensive, like the five oranges I bought for a pound. There were tons of bread and cheese stands, pastries strands, and a Turkish Delight stand. Turkish Delight always makes me think of Narnia so I had to try it! I got a mix of pomegranate pistachio, orange cream, and cherry.
I have much more to say about my recent adventures, but I have to be up at 5 AM tomorrow so that's all for now. Check back tomorrow for tales of Canterbury and Dover, plus all the places I am going tomorrow!
Hi, I’m Crystal! Just like you, I love to travel. You’ll get all the best tips and insights from my experiences as a former ice-skating coach in Iceland and former study abroad student. Of the 24 countries I have visited, a type 1 diabetes diagnosis has been the strangest land yet. Type 1 has not slowed down my travels and you'll learn how to take type 1 with you on the road! You can connect with me further on Instagram @CrystalChilcott, or send me ideas of where I should travel next via email: firstname.lastname@example.orgHappy Travels, Crystal
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