Eurotrip: England

I recently recovered a little gem (pictured below) from my childhood. When I was thirteen, I went on a trip to England and France with my mother. Looking back, it was a real privilege and I am really glad that I embraced it as such. I saw so much and learned a lot about another country. My mother and I still talk about that trip from time to time. England was first and we spent an entire seven days there.

 Almost every day, we took a bus tour to somewhere in the country. As I was a teenager with a hormonally damaged circadian rhythm, we developed a routine. I have never been a morning person but in my teens, it definitely got to ogrish levels. So, my mother would roust me from bed and I would shower. I would then go down to eat a breakfast of mostly sausage. We would climb aboard the bus where I would fall asleep for a mid-morning nap. I would wake up fresh as a daisy at our destination.

Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire, England

One of the most amazing day trips that we took was to Stratford Upon Avon. As a young bookworm, I was a fan of William Shakespeare. I had already studied a little bit of Shakespeare in school. Primarily, we read Romeo and Juliet. Fun fact, the first bare breasts I saw on screen were in Franco Zeffirelli’s film adaptation. I was enamored with Shakespeare’s iconic verse and had seen a lot of stage and film adaptations by this point. Visiting the birthplace of William Shakespeare was a little bit spiritual for me. The same goes for Anne Hathaway’s cottage. It was also educational, teaching me about how gross life was back then. For example, canopy beds were partially invented to shield those in thatched roof cottages from falling rodents. 

Here, I purchased the above-pictured text of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. I had it memorized at one point and it hung in my childhood bedroom along with many other trophies that are now probably lost to time. I was amazed that my mother found this little reminder of my love of the written word and theater which I had long before I became a theater professional myself. I also purchased a red on black tie with Shakespeare’s signature repeated on it which I treasured until it fell apart. We would have visited The Globe Theater but it was under construction at the time.

The Roman Baths in Bath, England

We visited other places. I fondly remember visiting Bath although we were not there long enough to experience the titular luxurious baths. The architecture was amazing and I remember the feeling of being there at the Roman Baths. It was funny to me because it was definitely an amazing place but it also reminded me of spending childhood vacations at Hot Springs, VA at the Homestead.

The Magna Carta at Salisbury Cathedral

We visited Salisbury Cathedral where I got a little bit of a headache from being hungry. Still, we bought some chocolates from the gift shop and I bounced back bit by bit after probably being more than a little hangry. It was there that I laid eyes on something that meant a lot more to me later but probably meant a lot to my mom at the time. One of the four remaining original copies of the Magna Carta is stored and displayed at the cathedral. This document inspired modern law and represented what few rights the lower classes have snuck out of the hands of the rich.

Stonehenge

We visited Stonehenge which was interesting but honestly a little anticlimactic. The engineering feat was amazing. The contradictory conspiracy theories connected to the monument prepared me for being let down in the future when mysteries have no conclusive answer. Sometimes it is alright to accept a cool story when the truth would probably not really change things. In retrospect, Stonehenge is really nice. It is quiet there and the surrounding verdant fields are beautiful.

Warwick Castle in Warwickshire, England

We visited Warwick Castle. The castle was originally built in wood by William the Conqueror only to be rebuilt in stone centuries later. It is a popular tourist site when it comes to castles because it was owned by Tussauds Group when I visited. The popular tourism and attractions company was able to restore the castle more extensively so I saw it in great condition while still being historically accurate. I have always loved castles and knights so this visit was amazing. The castle also boasts an enormous collection of weapons and armor from various periods in medieval history.

We also visited the famous Oxford University and a Friends School since I attended Friends School of Baltimore. Oxford had great architecture but I think some of the context was lost on me at the time. I was way more excited to see another Friends School like the one I went to. It connected me to this foreign country I was in and also made me feel a little less foreign.

The “cursed” Koh-i-noor Diamond

We went to other places in London and the surrounding areas. I really liked The Tower of London with all of the ravens, foreboding architecture, and the crown jewels even though you have to stand in line to view them. I did enjoy the ghost stories and learning about the Koh-i-Noor diamond. In retrospect, the British deserved to be cursed for what they did to India. We also saw the Changing of the Guard while extremely jetlagged.

The Sherlock Holmes Public House and Restaurant

The trip was meticulously planned by my mother but we did have downtime to relax or do whatever we wanted. I was given an opportunity to pick and plan one activity. This ended up being dinner at The Sherlock Holmes Public House & Restaurant. Leave it to me to want to celebrate a fictional character amongst all that real history.

Westminster Abbey, London, UK

In light of recent events, I have to relate the one time as an American that the monarchy actually had an effect on me. We were on the bus tour that would take us to the standard London sights of the Tower of London, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey. As the bus turned toward the final stop of Westminster Abbey we were informed that the royal family was in the middle of an impromptu visit to the abbey and that we would not be allowed to visit. We were disappointed, of course.

To make it up to us, the tour company (Frames Rickards) took us to the Tate Museum which I enjoyed a lot. I love art museums and the Tate is a great one so it ended up being a bonus. My mom and I visited Westminster Abbey later on our own time and it was good. Still, it’s not every day that a queen changes the plans of an American. At least, not since colonial days.

Real Fish and Chips

I remember a few other fleeting miscellaneous moments. I can still hear the tour bus guide yell “Frames Rickards!” in my head to summon us back to the buses. I remember having real fish and chips. I remember visiting a pub and having real English pub food. Our hotel was right next to a stop for the Underground and we spent a lot of time “minding the gap”. I also remember our tour guide pointing out the real 100 Acre Wood that inspired AA Milne while writing Winnie the Pooh. I was so lucky to have gone and I cherish those memories still both for the experience and the time spent with my mom.

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