Waking just moments before my roommate’s alarm sounded, I began getting ready for today’s “Tour of England.” I left the hostel and made my way to the tube station. This far away from the city, the London Tube was less of a subway and more of an elevated tram, but before long I was underground and headed towards the city center. Having only a building address and a crude map, a part of me worried if I would make it to the pickup point on time. Luckily, aside from a short stroll in the opposite direction after leaving the station, it was easy to find and I arrived with a few minutes to spare.
The tour guide was a tall Brit, bald and looked to be in his late fifties, with a slight resemblance to Patrick Stewart. Obviously not new to this tour, he had a wealth of knowledge that I feared I wouldn’t be able to retain.
The first stop, Windsor Castle, was a magnificent place and very architecturally interesting from the outside. In the distance, from on top of the palace, a flag was waving, and for a moment we all thought Queen Elizabeth might be inside but our guide soon realized it wasn’t her flag, but probably that of one of the princes.
As we toured the grounds, the guide provided some of the castle’s history, mentioning how it was one of the new styles of fortifications built by William the Conqueror after the Battle of Hastings in 1066, marking the last successful invasion of England.
Inside the castle, there were numerous photos and paintings of the queen, spanning her 80 years of life. Our guide told us how, were it not for the king abdicating his throne in 1936 to become a Bostonian woman’s third husband, Queen Elizabeth would never have been crowned.
Our bus pulled away from the castle and departed the town of Windsor. As we made our way into the English countryside, our guide listed off a few more facts about England, most notably that 77% of the country was farmland, with the average farm roughly 240 acres in size, costing roughly £3,500 per acre.
A few miles from Stonehenge, we stopped at a small bed and breakfast for lunch. While inside, rain began to fall outside, disturbing a girl and her mother. As we left the inn, I loaned them my umbrella, but once we arrived at the site, they felt bad for me, and returned it, spending £20 to buy one for themselves.
Telling us how the stones had come on rafts from Wales, over 300 miles away, the guide mentioned how, during the Dark Ages, many of the stones had been pillaged, leaving only the few remaining structures left today. We were given some time to wander around the site and I marveled at the contrast between the bright green grass and the dark grey skies. And in the middle, the series large stone slabs.
After another hour and a half long drive, our group had reached a place built by the Romans around a hot spring and used as a thermal spa, considering the springs a gift from the goddess Minerva. Later, the Normans built a cathedral which, combined with the healing powers of the spring, attracted large numbers of ill to the town, now known as Bath. Disease, along with the abolishment of the roman church, would destroy the town, only to see it rebuilt in the 18th century.
A full day of touring behind me, I slept as we began the long drive back to London. Following a dinner in town, I headed to the train station, ready to take the metro back to my hostel on the outskirts of town. While I waited, I decided to take the time and book a ticket back to the mainland, something I wouldn’t have had to do if I had paid attention during the planning stages and not missed my flight.