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Day 7, Monday July 21

Trip Information

See my general trip page for an overview of what this post is about.

“Always look on the bright side of life”
— Monty Python, Always look on the bright side of life

This being my last full day in England I decided to take it easy and try a tour. Little did I know it would be far from easy going.

I hadn’t ever done a bus tour before and I wanted to see Stonehenge and my host recommended this tour company.  So I signed up for the Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge tour (with lunch in a pub in Lacock).  Because we were hitting 4 sites total and we had to get to Stonehenge before it stopped allowing buses in we had to keep a brisk pace.  We wound up spending about an hour to an hour and a half at each site.  That was fast but we got a taste of the site.  You could spend a day at any one of these.  The tour guide Danny was excellent. He was going to be on the History Channel soon with a show on the Tower of London.  He knew a lot and was able to give us a well-rounded history lesson as we went.

The bus departed from Victoria bus station — not Victoria station — at 8:15AM.  There is a difference and luckily I figured that out ahead of time.  They’re only a few blocks apart but it could have been confusing.  Picking the right bus was confusing if you didn’t pay attention.  There were several tours by this company departing from there so you had to know which tour you booked — they have several similar ones (all the others had fewer stops!).

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle is where the Queen likes to spend her weekends (this is more her home whereas Buckingham is her work address) and she was still there from this weekend.  According to our guide it was opened up to the public after a 1992 fire damaged some of the castle.  The repairs were costly and the Queen decided to open it up to the public (of course I’m sure the tourist revenue is nice).  Luckily most of the valuable items were off-site since renovation was being done other wise the impact would have been far greater.  You could tell this was actively used as the police guarding the gate appeared to have automatic weapons — you don’t see many guns in England.  You had to go through security screening to get in too.  There is a rail station there that was built to get the royals there.  I heard the Queen takes a helicopter these days.  The grounds and the castle are beautiful.  There was much to see there but we didn’t have the time.  Again, you could spend a day here.  Right as we were leaving they did a changing of the guard.  They close off the street outside of the castle and the exit to the castle.  A small band processes with the new guards.  Impressive.  We had a departure time and had to stay on time to get to Stonehenge.  We wouldn’t leave until everyone was aboard.  They really need a system to text everyone on the tour when there’s 10 minutes before departure.  We had to wait for one family and the bus let them know we were not pleased.  The subsequent stops had people being more punctual.


Next we were off to Bath. Along the way I caught some views of the countryside and the approach to Bath.

Bath has Roman baths and was a popular destination during the Georgian era.  It became forgotten for a while and now is a world heritage site and a big tourist destination.  The buildings in the city are amazing.  The city is very well laid out on the hill.  Our guide gave us a brisk walking tour that was just great.  There were a lot of tourists in the city centre but fewer as we walked through the streets on his tour. Again, you could spend a day here.  Gorgeous.

I noticed a couple of the people had these metal poles that I wasn’t sure what they were.  Once we got going it became clear — selfie monpods. I hadn’t seen such a thing before.  Strange.


Next up was lunch – at 3 in the afternoon! Luckily my host suggested I pack a sandwich which saved me from buying an overpriced snack in Bath and I could eat on the run (remember the backpack?).  You might think why stop at Lacock?  It’s a real authentic English village which has been used for Pride and Prejudice and some Harry Potter films.  Here we ate at a little pub.  This was a feat of planning — a bus of 75 people arriving and all wanting to eat at the same time.  They did it.  We had pre-ordered hours earlier.  We occupied almost the entire place.  After a speed lunch we walked to the bus park which is across town (it’s small) but we got a nice tour from Danny along the way.  Great stuff.


Our last stop, Stonehenge.  We were on our own here so I rushed down to the buses.  The visitor center is about a mile from Stonehenge proper and they run little buses between.  You can walk it but there wasn’t time for that. They have very nice information signage and marked pathways.  You can walk all around Stonehenge at your own pace.  Remember to keep the sun behind the photographer when taking pictures.  I saw a bunch of people trying to get their pictures taken in front of it with the sun behind them.  Those will never turn out well.  It was a clear sunny day so the views were amazing.

And that was the end of the tour.  Back to London we went.  After a few tube rides and a train ride I was back in Harold Wood.  I decided to walk back instead of the bus to take in the last time I’d go this route.  My trip was ending and it was time to go home.

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