Finally, London

LONDON, ENGLAND: “When a man is tired of London, he is tired of life” that’s what English poet Samuel Johnson said about this city. London, a truly multicultural city, doesn’t really need an introduction. Even if you have never visited this trendy city, I am sure, you have seen it many times in the movies or heard about its history and culture in books or news. And of course England’s Queen and the Royal Family members are always in the spotlight for their affairs and businesses too…over the centuries, they have added much to the London scene for today’s traveler.


London, England

Before visiting England, I always had an impression that it’s just another western, English-speaking world. I knew little bit about its past centuries and culture, but as far as the tourism goes, I had very little idea about its landmarks, rich heritage, and powerful history. London can be chaotic, at the same time relaxing, and exciting. You can be taken back to the medieval time when touring Tower of London and can be brought back to your senses when up in the London Eye. London is the heart of whole England or whole Great Britain without any doubt. And I have to go back to London once again to finish visiting many other things that we couldn’t see in this trip.


Walking around in London and being mesmerized by its old buildings and narrow streets

We used to take train from Luten everyday to come to the center of London during this trip. The Tube or Underground railway and double-decker bus are probably the best way to get around and an Oyster Card is conveniently taken in all transportation in and around London. Once we were in the city, surprisingly, it’s easier to explore the tourist spots on foot. If you really want to spend big money, hire one of the famous Black Cab, though they are not always black.


London…looks like a scene from Mary Poppins or Harry Potter

TIME of TRAVEL: We visited London during the summer of 2012, when the Paralympic was going on. The streets were crowded (well, then usual), and many streets were decorated for the big event. It is always a good idea to carry a light sweater and an umbrella here, you never know when the clouds will gather together to make you all wet.


London is decorated for Olympic 2012, when we visited, the Paralympic just started

We took Euro Rail from Brussels downtown all the way to King’s Cross Train Station which goes under the English Channel for a short period of time. From there, took another local train to Luten, where my uncle-in-law and his daughter live.

EATING and SHOPPING: London is considered as one of the leading global cities and therefore, it is a paradise of all sorts of international cuisines. Curry is definitely one of my favorites and after India, this is probably the place where you can find some award winning curry restaurants. If you are looking for true English plates, go for some fish and chips, meat pasties, or scones. I had spicy hot dogs one afternoon near Tower of London and can’t remember what I had the other days.

London is one of the most fashion trendy cities in the world. Though things are a bit pricey here, but I guess it’s worth paying those big prices.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We had two full days for London…yes, I know it’s NOTHING really. You will probably need at least a month or even a year to appreciate London. If we had another day, we probably would have gone to the British Museum (it is a shame that we couldn’t visit it during this trip). Founded in 1753, the museum has collection from over two million years of human history and experience iconic objects from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Americas, and the Ancient World. Another place that you may want to consider is Kew Gardens where visitors can enjoy world’s one of the most diverse collection of rare and fascinating plants.  


Underground subway in London – Mind The Gap

Other than the British Museum, London hosts some of the outstanding collection of world-class museums and many of those museums and galleries have no entrance fees. If you are not a museum person, stop by London’s theater district around Leicester Square or Covent Gardens.


On London’s streets

1) TOWER of LONDON: Our first day in London actually started with Buckingham Palace’s Change of Royal Guard. But I kept it for later, because we couldn’t really visit the palace until the next day. So we walked towards Tower of London from there and spent about half a day inside the complex.

The Tower of London is the city’s original royal fortress by the Thames. This 900 years old royal residence was also a military stronghold in the Middle Ages. The rooms here were built and used by King Henry III (1216-1272) and King Edward I (1272-1307).

This is a perfect place to discover what life was like in the luxurious Medieval Palace and explore the stories of Henry III and Edward I. The historic White Tower exhibition celebrates the 500th anniversary of Henry III with displayed artifacts over 3 floors. Some of the world’s rarest arms and armors here have been selected from the treasures of the Royal Armories. Also enjoy the surprising serenity of the Chapel of St. John…a unique survival of an 11th century fortress chapel.

Beside of being one of the historic royal palaces, Tower of London is a powerful fortress that protects the Crown Jewels. 23,578 gems make up the Crown Jewels, including the dazzling Imperial State Crown which alone has 2858 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies. The astonishing collection of priceless Coronation Regalia has been an unmissable highlight of any visit since the 17th century, with only one attempt to steal them.


A Royal Guard in front of the Crown Jewel tower in Tower of London

It is also considered as one of the most haunted grounds in the world. Visit the infamous Bloody Tower from the 1220s where two little princes were murdered mysteriously. The Tower also held many famous prisoners and the Prisoner’s exhibition can be seen in the Beauchamp Tower with some extraordinary graffiti done by the prisoners. You can see some medieval instruments of torture in the Lower Wakefield Tower. Get a wonderful view of Tower Bridge and whole London while walking over the old stone walls of this complex. You can see some great live costumed enactments on the South Lawn. The famous Bell Tower is from 1190 A.D.

Tower of London is a UNESCO World Heritage site. During our visit the fee was £21 per adult and £11 for 5 – 17 years of children. Five different audio tours are available to go along with your journey in Tower of London. You would probably need few hours to see the towers (visitors can enter most of the towers but not all) and museums inside this historic place…be ready to walk a lot.

2) TOWER BRIDGE: Tower Bridge is London’s one of the favorite landmarks and probably the most photographed bridge in the world. We didn’t really go inside the Tower Bridge, only enjoyed the view from Tower of London and once drove underneath it by car. But I do want to share some points about this bridge.


Tower Bridge in London, the most photographed bridge in the world

Tower Bridge is recognized for its Gothic grandeur. It was built at the end of 19th century and was opened in 1894. Now the tourists can take a lift up to the Bridge’s high-level walkways (42 meters above the River Thames) to enjoy a spectacular panoramic view of both East and West London.

Tower Bridge Exhibition is a self-guided tour and lasts about 1 ½ hours. You can also visit the engine rooms along with the exhibition. Admission price is £8 per adult and £3.40 per child.

3) MONUMENT to The GREAT FIRE of LONDON: We stumbled upon this monument while walking towards St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was built to commemorate the Great Fire of London in 1666 which burned for three days consuming more than 13,000 houses and devastating 436 acres of the city. The monument is 202 ft. in height. The balcony of this monument can be reached by a spiral stairway (with admission fee) of 311 steps for a panoramic views of the city.



Monument to the Great Fire of London

4) LONDON BRIDGE: Another stop before St. Paul’s Cathedral was the London Bridge. This is a rather recent addition to the city which was built in 1967.

5) ST. PAUL’S CATHEDRAL: Built after the Great Fire of London in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral is Sir Christopher Wren’s greatest accomplishment. The great dome of cathedral is a majestic part of the city. This is a majestic architecture inside and out and a must-see here.


St. Paul’s Cathedral in London

The Churchyard and garden of St. Paul was first laid out as open space in 1878 combining the ancient burial grounds of the cathedral. We didn’t pay any fee to enter the cathedral, but no photography is allowed inside.

6) MILINIUM BRIDGE: Another photogenic bridge of London is the Millennium Bridge on River Thames. From St. Paul Cathedral, it’s only a few minutes of walking. Once we crossed the bridge we were on the other side of Thames…the drama/theater district of London.


Millennium Bridge on River Thames in London

7) GLOBE THEATER and SHAKESPEARE: After crossing the Millennium Bridge, on the other side of Thames River the famous Globe Theater in the center of what was once London’s most notorious entertainment district.

The Globe Theater is a reconstruction of the open-air playhouse from 1599 A.D. where Shakespeare worked and for which he wrote many of his greatest plays. It was burned to the ground in less than 2 hours in 1613 during a performance of Henry VIII, but the theater was quickly rebuilt. The annual theater season runs from April to October and productions include work by Shakespeare, his contemporaries, and many modern writers. If you have time check out their matinee performances.



Globe Theater in London

Although we couldn’t take a tour, the Globe Exhibition is the world’s largest and most comprehensive exhibition devoted to Shakespeare. The exhibition is house beneath the Globe Theater. The exhibition uses modern technology and traditional crafts to bring Shakespeare’s world to life. You can listen to recordings from some of the most famous Shakespearean performances, can feel the fabrics and marvels, enjoy live demonstrations and costume dressings. An audio guide is included with the admissions. The exhibition is usually open until 5pm everyday.  

8) LONDON EYE: London Eye is the world’s third largest observation wheel, situated on the South Bank of the River Thames offering magnificent view over London and its landmarks. The Parliament and Big Ben are within walking distance from here. Other than this, there are many other things to do and see in this park. You can spend a day just visiting its surroundings and doing people watch.

Be ready to stand in the line for a while, maybe more than an hour, but believe me it’s worth it.



From London Eye…view of the whole city and its landsmarks

9) PARLIAMENT SQUARE: The next day we started our day with this square. Whole London is busy and crowded and Parliament Square is no exception. An outdoor exhibition of some kind was going on during our visit. Many important landmarks surround this square, including the Parliament, Big Ben, and other official buildings. I am sure you can take tour inside the Parliament but we were there after office hours, so just admired the long building from outside.


Parliament Square in London

10) BIG BEN: Another iconic landmark of London is Big Ben. We just saw it from outside, though like Parliament, I am sure you can go inside Big Ben and take a tour.



The one and only Big Ben in London

11) BUCKINGHAM PALACE and CHANGING of ROYAL GUARDS: We came to the palace walking thru Hyde Park, adjacent to Kensington Garden, which is a quiet and serene green park amidst of chaotic London. It was time for Changing the Guard ceremony and looked like whole London gathered around the palace to see this event. The ceremony takes place at 11:30am at alternate days, weather permitting.  I don’t think this palace needs any introduction. But I will give it to you anyways.

Buckingham Palace is the office and the official London residence of Her Majesty The Queen, as well as the administrative headquarters of the Royal Household. It is one of the few working royal palaces remaining in the world today.



Change of Royal Guards in front of Buckingham Palace in London

The State Rooms of Buckingham Palace are lavishly furnished with some of the greatest treasures from the Royal Collection – paintings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin, and many others, exquisite examples of porcelain and some of the finest English and French furniture.

The Royal Mews is the home to the royal collection of historic coaches and carriages. One of the finest working stables and a living part of Britain’s heritage, the Royal Mews is responsible for all road travel arrangements for The Queen and members of the Royal Family. Take a closer look at the most dazzling coach on display the Gold State Coach, which has been used in every coronation since 1821 and in 2002 played a central role in Her Majesty The Queen’s Golden Jubilee celebrations.

During our visit, there was a special exhibition going on called, “Diamond: A Jubilee Celebration”. It was in the State Rooms area showing many ways in which diamonds have been used by British monarchs over the last 200 years.

Situated on Buckingham Palace Road, Buckingham Palace’s State Rooms, Queen’s Gallery, and The Royal Mew are accessible to publics usually in summer from June to October when the Palace is not being used in its official capacity. At that time it’s usually open everyday from 10am to 6pm. It will be the best idea to book your ticket ahead of time either online, by phone, or from their office. We tried to go there on our very first day, but everything was sold out. Pick up a free audio-tour to get the most of this place. You can upgrade your ticket and include a highlights tour of the famous Buckingham Palace Garden. The whole tour took us about 3 ½ to 4 hours.

12)  WESTMINSTER ABBEY: This Abbey, with its grand exterior and magnificent interior, is an essential part of any trip to London and is central to the life of the British London. The mix of rich history and a tradition of worship creates this unique place a must-see. Founded over a thousand years ago as a Benedictine monastery, and rebuilt by Edward the Confessor in 1065, the building we see today was begun by Henry III in the Gothic style in 1245 A.D. Since originally, the Abbey was built as a monastery, there are some beautiful green spaces within the precincts to relax. It is a working church and an architecture masterpiece.



Westminster Abbey…London, England

The Abbey has been the setting for Coronations since William the Conqueror in 1066 and is home to the Coronation Chair. It has witnessed countless royal and state occasions including Queen Elizabeth II’s Coronation in 1953, wedding ceremony of Prince William and Princess Kate, and many other coronations, royal weddings, and funerals. This is also the final resting place for monarchs including Edward I, Henry III, Henry V, and Henry VII. In one of the chapels contains the bodies of Elizabeth I and her half-sister Mary I (‘Bloody Mary’), and the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots. In the Poets’ Corner of this Abbey stands Chaucer’s tomb surrounded by memorials to William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Rudyard Kipling, Jane Austen, and many others. Great scientists, musicians, and politicians are also remembered in the Abbey, like Newton, Darwin, and Winston Churchill. Kings, queens, statesmen, soldiers, poets, priests, heroes, and villains – they all make up the rich historical tapestry of Abbey’s heritage.

Westminster Abbey is located in the heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament. Admission fees apply, but the day we visited, we didn’t pay anything. Taking photos or filming are not allowed inside the Abbey. Tours and audio-guides are available in different languages.

13)  TRAFALGAR SQUARE: This is the home of Nelson’s Column and the lions. With its pedestrian zone, you can say this it the “center” of London. We stayed here only for half an hour or so and left without really going around the square and exploring each corner.


Trafalgar Square in London

14)  PICCADILLY CIRCUS: From Trafalgar Square, we walked to the Piccadilly Circus. This is one of the busiest spots of London. The statue of Eros stands in the middle of the square. Many stores and cafes are lined up on all sides of the square. The square is crowded with both locals and tourists.


Piccadilly Circus in London

Reliving Some Of Britains’s Best History On Your Next Trip

One of the best things about a trip in the British Isles is just how much history you can take in. Given the size of the isles, it’s easy to organise a trip spanning all kinds of looks into the past. From looking at Stone Age wonders to places where major historical events took place, it has it all. Here are just a few of our favourite historical holiday sites for when you’re visiting.

Aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, the main purpose of Stonehenge still remains a mystery

Image by Nahid Sultana at


If you’re talking about man-made history, we have to start off with one of the oldest and most impressive. Stonehenge is the largest structure of its type in the word, containing huge rocks that travelled over a hundred and fifty miles. No-one really even knows how it was built to this day. Since then it’s played a huge role in local legends, not to mention tourism.


Image by Bernard Gagnon

The Tower of London

Skipping forward in time a bit, but with no less history. The Tower of London is one of the must-see places for a city so packed with attractive opportunities. Used as a prison, a zoo and a place to hold the crown jewels, it’s been central to English history for centuries now. Nowadays, it has tours and rather spooky themed walks you can take to get an idea of what it must have once been like to be a prisoner.


Image by dun_deagh

Stirling Castle

When you’re talking about feudal era buildings, you just have to talk about some of the fantastic castles in the country. In our opinion, there’s none more fantastic than Stirling Castle in Scotland. Even approaching it, it dominates the landscape from up on Castle Hill. Featured are statues of famous Scottish heroes like Robert the Bruce. There are also attractions around William Wallace, making it a great tribute to these hardy, independent folk.


Image by German Federal Archive


You’ve undoubtedly already heard of the Dam busters, most likely due to a great classic film bearing the same name. It’s the tale of British pilots who used a newly developed bouncing bomb to destroy dams. A major contribution to Britain’s victory in World War II and one you can experience. Almost. There are no bombs involved but you can visit the location where the Dambusters trained, even taking a flight with Pleasureflights Ltd.


Image by code poet

The Giant’s Causeway

The only natural entry on the list and one of the most magical. Ireland has a great legacy for keeping its colourful myths and the Giant’s Causeway is no different. Supposedly built by the giant Finn McCool, the visitors centre gives an excellent retelling of the myth. However, as a natural arrangement of basalt columns created by volcanic activity, the best part is going down to see the causeway itself.


Image by Russ Harner


A gorgeous and religiously important island off the eastern coast of Britain, Lindisfarne is a serene retreat from the world. It’s quite a wonder that its biggest mark on modern history is being the first major target of the legendary Viking invaders. Whether it’s the spiritual value, historic interest of natural beauty you’re after, this island has it in spades.

Historic Cambridge in England

CAMBRIDGE, ENGLAND: I love visiting university towns…big or small, and when it’s a place like Cambridge, you can never say NO to that. Cambridge is mainly known for world’s one of the most-renowned universities – University of Cambridge. It was founded in the 13th century and since then it has produced many famous alumni like Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Jane Goodall, John Milton, Queen Margaret of Denmark, Lord Byron, and hundreds more.

A portion of University of Cambridge - King's College while punting on River Cam in England

A portion of University of Cambridge – view of King’s College while punting on River Cam in England

The city is about 50 miles north of London. And public transportation being so awesome in England, no one should have any problem getting a train from the capital. Cambridge is a city with green open spaces, fascinating Gothic university buildings, busy students, and peaceful River Cam. This is considered as England’s most unspoiled countryside with many places for leisure walks.

If I am not mistaking, this is the Queen's College in Cambridge, England

If I am not mistaking, this is the Queen’s College in Cambridge, England

TIME of TRAVEL: We were in London in the summer of 2014. That was the first time we took Euro-Star train from Brussels to London that goes underneath the English Channel. It was a one and half hour journey and by the late afternoon, voila…we were in St. Pancreas Train Station in London. First few days we covered London City and all the good stuff there. Then we headed to my aunts/uncles-in-laws’ place in Woolwich. They planned this delighting trip to Cambridge for us per our request. The town was a bit quiet since most of the students were gone for the summer holidays.

EATING and SHOPPING: We didn’t come across too many restaurants in Cambridge, I’m sure they were there…we weren’t just looking properly. Because, my aunts-in-law brought lunch from home and we had a little picnic in the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. There was a restaurant/café where we sat outside surrounded by lush green trees and small fountains in the distance.

There were some cool shops near King’s College. But we reached there at the end of our trip and everything was already closed by then.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We spent a whole day in Cambridge. Of course you need more time to explore this historic yet trendy university town. There are plenty of historic churches, interesting museums, and relaxing gardens for all ages.

1) CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY BOTANIC GARDEN: This was a one great day out for our family and an essential for any garden lover. This heritage-listed Botanic Garden was originally conceived by Professor John Henslow, the mentor and teacher of Charles Darwin. It has been open to the public since 1846. The garden’s plant collections today number over 8000 species from all over the world, all neatly displayed amongst the finest arboretum in the region. The 40 acres of beautifully-landscaped gardens and glasshouses offer year-round interest and seasonal inspiration. In the glasshouse, you can discover the plants of mountains, from cactus to tropical rainforests, and arid lands. The Winter Garden is the original master class in gardening for winter interest. The best part is that the garden is designed for both year-round interest and seasonal inspiration.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden in England

Cambridge University Botanic Garden in England

The garden is a natural classroom if you have kids. My girls got backpacks from the ticket office that contained everything a budding naturalist might need, like notepad, pencil, magnifying glass, jar, tweezers, and etc…kept them quite busy for the whole trip.

Another portion of Cambridge University Botanic Garden in England

Another portion of Cambridge University Botanic Garden in England

Admission is £4.50 per adult and children under 16 years of age are free. The garden is less than a mile from the city center and a short walk from the train station. Although cycle parking is available, car parking was a bit hard for us.

2) PUNTING on CAM RIVER: Punting on River Cam is a must when you are in Cambridge. It’s a traditional way to relax and get around few campuses of University of Cambridge. The water is very shallow here and our guide/punter pushed a long wooden pole against the bottom of the river and took us around on a long boat. It was a pleasant ride no doubt. I don’t remember the cost exactly, but I think, it was something like £20 for an hour ride for maximum 4 adults.

A man punting on River Cam in Cambridge, England

A man punting on River Cam in Cambridge, England

3) KING’S COLLEGE and CHAPEL: We saw mixture of styles in architecture here, since colleges of University of Cambridge were built over many centuries. Most of these buildings/colleges are worth a look. We only visited King’s College and Chapel but if you have spare time try visiting Queen’s college, Trinity College, St. John’s College, St. Catherine’s College, and University Library.


Elegant building of King's College in Cambridge, England

Elegant building of King’s College in Cambridge, England

Since we had very little time, we only roamed around King’s College. This is one of the most visited spots in Cambridge. This portion of the university was built by King Henry VI in 1441. Construction of the chapel started in 1446 and took about a century to finish. This chapel is considered as a greatest example of Gothic English architecture and an iconic landmark of Cambridge. The chapel was already closed for the day when we arrived there but at least got to see its grand exterior and famous towers. The choir of King’s College Chapel is supposed to be very well-reputed too, but…next time.

We walked around the large ground of King’s College close to the sunset time and enjoyed looking over medieval architecture taking the footsteps of many famous people who once came here as students and contributed so much to the world we live in now.

Shakespeare’s home in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

STRATFORD-UPON-AVON and GLOUCESTER CATHEDRAL, ENGLAND: One of the greatest poets and playwrights of all time William Shakespeare’s home, Stratford-Upon-Avon is a historic town on the River Avon. Rich in culture and heritage, history of Shakespeare can be found at every corner in this town. Many old half-timbered houses make this medieval town a cozy tourist destination. Come in summer to see beautiful blooms around here. Center of the town is very attractive and well-preserved.

Old town of Stratford-Upon-Avon where the Birthplace of Shakespeare is located in England
Old town of Stratford-Upon-Avon where the Birthplace of Shakespeare is located in England

The city is very compact and easy to cover all the major sites on foot. Parking is easy here too. There is a big parking structure only 2-3 minutes of walk from Shakespeare’s Birthplace.

TIME of TRAVEL: We took a Baltic Sea cruise from Dover, England in August 2013. This gave us a nice opportunity to visit some of the outstanding places of this country. It was a nice day when we went to Stratford-Upon-Avon to walk around the old town and be charmed by Shakespeare’s legacy.

EATING and SHOPPING: Stratford-Upon-Avon has tons of shops in the old town. You will find many boutique and souvenir stores all lined up in the pedestrian zone close to Shakespeare’s Birthplace.  Many cafes and restaurants are there from quick snacks or meal to some sit down nice places. For our lunch, we picked up some pastries and meat pasties from a local vendor while walking towards Hall’s Croft. I am not so much into fish ‘n chips, I would rather have an English meat pasty anytime of the day.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: It was kind of a weird day for us the day we visited Stratford-Upon-Avon. We stayed at my husband’s old school friend in Cheltenham and both of our girls decided to not come with us and stayed back in their house (even my 3 years old baby). I was a bit worried, since I knew we will be gone for good few hours. But after many years, I finally remembered again how it was to travel without a stroller and little kids…it was nice not to constantly think about if the children are tired from long walk or that we have to sit down for even a small meal. I did miss my girls though, but nice to be just by ourselves and enjoying a worry free day. For this reason, we were actually done visiting the following places within just couple hours, which was fantastic.

If you can manage and have time make sure to enjoy a Shakespearean play in prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company or any other theater in the town. But be sure to buy the tickets ahead of time, they are in high demand.

1) STRATFORD-UPON-AVON: Explore the birthplace and family home of the world’s most famous writer William Shakespeare in this little lovely town and wander through beautiful Shakespearean gardens. Then take time out to enjoy a chapter from the remarkable stories of William Shakespeare, the greatest playwright of all time. Complete the trip with a visit to the childhood home of William’s mother at Mary Arden’s House and the neighboring Palmer’s Farm, to the first home of Williams’s wife at Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, to his daughter Susanna’s married residence at Hall’s Croft, and to the site of his final home at New Place and Nash’s House next door.

14.95 GBP pass includes Shakespeare’s Birthplace, Nash’s House and New Place, Hall’s Croft, and Shakespeare’s Grave. You can add Mary Arden’s Farm and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Garden in this list for 22.50 GBP. We took the first package which took us about few hours to visit everything leisurely. I heard the garden with Anne Hathaway’s Cottage is very romantic and serene. She lived here until she was married to the poet. I would recommend taking the whole package if you have a full day in your hand.

a) BIRTH PLACE of SHAKESPEARE: This is where the journey of Shakespeare – his Life, Love, and Legacy starts. After passing a statue of “Jester” we reached the entrance to his house. We saw 3 videos before entering his house, giving a brief story of him and his family. The design of the house where he grew up followed a traditional plan with ground floor being his father, John Shakespeare’s, service shop area and a central hall. You can see William’s father’s workshop here where he earned a living in making designer leather gloves and purses. Above were bedchambers and attic rooms. Kitchen and brew-house were separate from the house.

The house where poet Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
The house where poet Shakespeare was born in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

The birth-room window which was formerly in the birth-room of Shakespeare’s birthplace, became a place for the pilgrims to etch their names into the glass as a symbol of their visit. Princess Diana visited this place in 1992 along with many other royal pilgrims at different times like Queen Elizabeth II, King and Queen of Nepal, Princess from Japan.

We discovered the bedchamber and birth room of William Shakespeare upstairs of this house. Thick clothe wallpapers cover all the walls of this house giving the whole house a rich look. His birth-room gives a nice view of the garden in front. This house later became a guesthouse.

Birth room of Shakespeare in his house in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England
Birth room of Shakespeare in his house in Stratford-Upon-Avon in England

Go down the old stairs and get out to the garden. There was a play of Shakespeare going on with few audiences. If I am not wrong, I think you can request a play to the artists and they will do a specific chapter from Shakespeare’s book and perform it in front of you instantly. To my surprise, I found a bust of famous writer Rabindranath Tagore in the garden. Tagore was another world-renowned poet/writer and Noble-prize winner from Calcutta, India. He wrote most of his poems, novels, and songs in Bengali which were later translated in many different languages. Bengali being my mother tongue too, it made me feel pretty good seeing this familiar face in the garden where his bronze bust was the only one sitting boldly.

Bronze bust of Nobel Prize winner Bengali poet/writer Rabindranath Tagore in the garden of Shakespeare's house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
Bronze bust of Nobel Prize winner Bengali poet/writer Rabindranath Tagore in the garden of Shakespeare’s house in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

The house is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 – 4:30, Saturday from 9 – 12:30 and closed on Sundays and Tuesdays.

b) NASH’S HOUSE and NEW PLACE: This half-timbered house was owned by Thomas Nash from the early 17th century, who was married to Shakespeare’s only granddaughter and last direct descendant, Elizabeth. The house later was passed on to her on Thomas’ death. The big room in the lower level contains some fine pieces of furniture of the kind that would have been seen in Williams’ home next door. These include a richly carved dining table and the open shelved court cupboard with floral pattern displaying some early ceramic jars and jugs. This is a nice place to see some outstanding furniture and paintings, a fascinating exhibition of archeological finds from New Place.

A chair inside Nash's House which is originally from Shakespeare's mother's place. So, the poet probably sat on this chair in his lifetime
A chair inside Nash’s House which is originally from Shakespeare’s mother’s place. So, the poet probably sat on this chair in his lifetime

The house next to Nash’s House was the site of New Place which was bought by Shakespeare in 1597, before he was halfway through his theater career. This was one of the largest houses in town at that time. It was during this time that Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works. Here he lived with his family and later died under this roof in 1616 in 52 years old. His daughter Susannah inherited this house after William’s death and later Elizabeth. When Elizabeth died in 1670, Shakespeare’s direct family line ended with her, leaving no one to inherit New Place.

We finished this visit by exploring the beautiful garden outside, called The Knott Garden. It truly is a beautiful place with many flower beds and bronze statues depicting different characters from the writer’s famous plays.

A statue depicting Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in the garden of Nash's House and New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
A statue depicting Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in the garden of Nash’s House and New Place in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Nash’s House is about 5 minutes of walk from his Birthplace.

c) HALL’S CROFT: About 10 minutes of walk from Nash’s House and New Place, this is the house where Shakespeare’s daughter Susannah lived with her husband Physician John Hall. The house dates from 1613. It’s furnished to reflect the taste and affluence of someone of John Hall’s status in those days. A finely carved 17th century armchair and draw-leaf dining table, stone fireplace, a group family portrait are some of the outstanding displays of this house.

d) GUILD CHAPEL: The Guild Chapel, founded in 1269, is a chapel and school behind Nash’s House and New Place. This chapel has played an important part in the life of Shakespeare and was without doubt one of the buildings particularly familiar to him. It is believed that he studied in the grammar school of this chapel for a while at early childhood ages.

e) HOLY TRINITY: This is William Shakespeare’s burial site and also where he was baptized. It’s an ordinary small church but lots of admirers of the writer come here to see his final resting place. The poet died at 52 years of age in 1616. William and his family’s tombs can be found in front of the high altar of the church and you can see the stone bowl where he was baptized from along with the registration of his birth and death.

The stone bowl which was used to baptize William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
The stone bowl which was used to baptize William Shakespeare in Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

Historically, there has been a church on this site since the time of Saxon from 713 AD. The present building dates from 1210, with the oldest sections being the tower, transepts, and nave pillars.

There is a cemetery surrounding Holy Trinity Church. It’s a quiet place to relax and sit down. Another 10 minutes of walk from Hall’s Croft will take you to the entrance of this church. It is an active church where services still take place, so it is advisable to be respectful when any event is taking place. Entry is free here but donations are accepted.

Shakespeare's tomb inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England
Shakespeare’s tomb inside Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England

2) GLOUCESTER CATEHDRAL: This cathedral was suggested by my husband’s friend who lives in Cheltenham, U.K. The cathedral is in Gloucester County, mainly known as one of the locations where the movie Harry Potter was shot. Historically, this is a 1300 years old cathedral and an active place of worship. This used to be a monastery once where monks lived and prayed many centuries ago. Beautiful stained glass windows, pretty cloister, typical English style altar, grand organ, pattered ceiling, and floors with biblical pictures are all part it. East Window of it is as big as a tennis court and is about 700 years old. Among many others, King Edward II was buried here inside the cathedral.

The hallway near the cloister where few scenes of Harry Potter were shot inside Gloucester Cathedral in England
The hallway near the cloister where few scenes of Harry Potter were shot inside Gloucester Cathedral in England

There are no information boards but the hallway/corridor near the cloister was the exact place where small scenes of Harry Potter were shot. We missed the “Harry Potter” tour in the morning that gives all the details on how the movie and this cathedral are related. It’s free to enter the cathedral but have to pay 3 GBP to take pictures inside. Visitors can climb the towers with a guide few times a week.

Cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in England
Cloister of Gloucester Cathedral in England

Mysterious Stonehenge and the ancient city of Bath in England

STONEHENGE and BATH, ENGLAND: Both of these places were on our to-see list for a long time. Last time we were in England in August of 2012, we couldn’t manage leaving London and visiting other places, because London itself is too much to handle at first visit. So this time we came to the great country of England and squeezed some awesome places to visit during our stay.

Stonehenge is an ancient miracle that has been standing on its current spot for the past 5000 years or so. It is indeed a place to visit in England and go “wow” how is it even possible. From Stonehenge our next spot was the ancient Roman city of Bath.

Stonehenge and its surrounding plain in Salisbury, England
Stonehenge and its surrounding plain in Salisbury, England

Located by River Avon, the Georgian City of Bath is a wonderful place to visit with many fine buildings, riverside walk, small squares, and of course the Roman Baths. Bath is the birthplace of famous writer from the 18th century Jane Austen (of Pride and Prejudice and many other). Situated 100 miles from London, it’s a gorgeous city mainly famous for its hot springs, medieval heritage, and Georgian architecture. It’s the oldest town in England that has been attracting tourist for many centuries. No wonder the whole city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

2000 years old ruins of Roman Baths in Bath, England
2000 years old ruins of Roman Baths in Bath, England

TIME of TRAVEL: We took a cruise to the Baltic Sea on the 1st week of August 2013. The cruise started from Dover and we were back in the port of Dover after 12 days. This gave us a wonderful opportunity to add some extra days to our vacation and roam around this part of England. We stayed in Cheltenham in a friend’s house. Good thing we had our car with us. We drove to Stonehenge and Bath the day after we docked at Dover port. It was a nice day overall, may be little rain while driving…otherwise, a good day for tourism.

EATING and SHOPPING: Stonehenge has no real restaurant once you are inside its perimeter. There are few snacks and sandwich places with a big souvenir shop. The place is trying to add some more facilities for its tourists, may be in the future people will have more options for meal and shopping. I saw many families bringing their own lunch from outside or home and enjoying them in the parking lot in the back of their cars.

Bath definitely has lot more options when it comes to eating and shopping. Of course it’s relatively a bigger city and more spread out. There are many cafes and shops in the same square where Roman Baths and Bath Abbey are located. Some of these stores sell products hand-made in Bath…may be some exclusive and expensive stuff.

PLACES WE’VE VISITED: We visited Stonehenge and Bath on same day.  Started with Stonehenge first and reached Bath in late afternoon.

1) STONEHENGE: The ancient stone circle of Stonehenge, means “Hanging Stones”, is an exceptional survival from a prehistoric culture who lived here 5000 years ago, making it older than the pyramids in Egypt. We could actually see the standing stones from highway while making our way to get there.

Aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, the main purpose of Stonehenge still remains a mystery
Aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, the main purpose of Stonehenge still remains a mystery

This Bronze Age monument wasn’t built all at once; it’s a creation by generation and generation of people. Built between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C., the exact purpose of this monument still remains a mystery. It is aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset. Some say it was a temple to worship, some say a place for celebration, while some say an ancient observatory, and in others opinion it was a burial site. The giant block of stones those are standing there are from Wales, about 250 km away. So, the question that archeologists still ask is that how they brought the stones all the way from Wales and how they made them stand up right.

The heaviest stone is about 45 tons. Half of the original ring of Stonehenge structure till remains for our and future generation to see. Some of the stone fell off, some were taken away as souvenirs, and some were just stolen for other purposes. A ditch surrounding the site, that we still can see, was dug by hands using bones.

One of many stones of the ring of Stonehenge in England
One of many stones of the ring of Stonehenge in England

Stonehenge was abandoned after 1500 years of built. Now, this It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and part of English Heritage. Other than Stonehenge there are few other scattered structures and stones in this place which are also enlisted in WHS. Other than this, there are few more outstanding ancient structures and monument that can be reached on foot from here.

Another view of the grand Stonehenge
Another view of the grand Stonehenge

The main area of the site is fairly level and fenced. Tourist can enjoy the view from a distance and can’t get too close to the stones. Stonehenge ground is open daily except for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It’s 8 GBP per adult and 20.80 GBP per family with 2 adults and 3 kids. Ticket includes an excellent audio tour of this place. New facilities for visitors were under development during out visit.

2) BATH: We only had little more than 2 hours to spend in Bath after visiting Stonehenge. Drive between these two places were about 45 minutes to an hour. If you get a chance, try to get a view of Bath from up above….it’s absolutely beautiful with many old grand architectures on rolling grassy hills.

a) BATH ABBEY: This beautiful building has been standing on this spot since the time of the Saxons. The present façade was built on the ruins of a former Norman cathedral in 1499 and is a fine example of English Perpendicular architecture. This is the last Gothic church in England. It was somewhat destroyed in 1942 during WWII and was opened recently to the public in 2000.

Saxon and Norman memorabilia stone-works inside Bath Abbey in Bath, England
Saxon and Norman memorabilia stone-works inside Bath Abbey in Bath, England

This parish church boasts a fine collection of Saxon and Norman stonework on its walls. Stained glass windows at the East End contains 56 scenes from the life of Jesus. Don’t miss the statue in one side of the abbey “The Lady With The Pitcher”.

View of Bath Abbey from Roman Baths in Bath, England
View of Bath Abbey from Roman Baths in Bath, England

The abbey is located next to Roman Baths in the center of the city. It is open Monday – Saturday from 9 – 6 and there is no fee to enter.

b) ROMAN BATHS: This is the finest and best preserved ancient baths and temple complex in northern Europe that is still flowing natural hot water.  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the main attraction of Bath. It’s the only hot springs in the UK.

Roman Baths - one of the best preserved baths in the world
Roman Baths – one of the best preserved baths in the world

Though no longer in use, visitors can get a glimpse of past Roman life and people of Aquae Sulis (old Roman name of Bath) in the small museum in the lower level. Thanks for a good maintenance that we could walk where Romans once walked, on ancient stone pavements around the steaming pool. The hot water in the springs rises about 46 degree C each day and supplies 1.25 million liters of water a day. Roman engineers built a reservoir to supply this hot water to the baths. The first baths and temple buildings around the main spring were completed by 2000 years ago in 76 AD.

The Sacred Spring of Roman Baths that still supplies natural hot water - Bath, England
The Sacred Spring of Roman Baths that still supplies natural hot water – Bath, England

There are 2 levels to see here. Upper level has a terrace (from 1897) with a nice view of the Great Bath. Lower level is where we spent most of the time enjoying natural spring, Roman ruins, ancient temple courtyard, Gorgon’s head from the temple pediment, spring overflow and drain, Great Bath, couple smaller indoor Roman baths, and a museum with findings from the Roman town including carvings and inscriptions from the temple buildings. Romans built the extensive baths and a major temple complex around the hot spring. This was one of the tallest buildings in Roman Britain with roof 20 meters above the bath. At the end of the tour make sure to get a taste of natural “Bath” water from the restaurant for free with your ticket.

Ruins from Roman temple pediment featuring the Gorgon in Roman Baths of Bath, England
Ruins from Roman temple pediment featuring the Gorgon in Roman Baths of Bath, England

It’s open daily from 9 am to 10 pm with last entry at 9 pm. Ticket is 13.25 GBP per visitor above 17 years and 36 GBP for a family of 2 adults and up to 4 kids. It’s located right beside Bath Abbey with a great view of its tower from the lower level.

One of the indoor natural pool of Roman Baths in Bath, England
One of the indoor natural pools of Roman Baths in Bath, England

c) ROYAL CRESCENT: This magnificent semi-elliptical crescent of houses is supposed to be the most photographed building in Bath which was built in the second half of the 18th century. This is the first of the eighth original crescents of Bath. We didn’t have time to go inside but tourist can go inside its museum to see what it would have been like living in these houses at the end of 18th century.

Royal Crescent of Bath, England
Royal Crescent of Bath, England

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