For our second weekend in Cambridge, we booked a day excursion to Windsor, Bath, and Stonehenge. Emeline and I are huge Austen fans so Bath was a must. Hannah was dying to go to Stonehenge because of her Pagan faith. And I really wanted to see at least one castle.
We left Saturday morning at 5:30 and took a cab to the train station, got off at King’s Cross in London, took the tube from KC to Victoria, and then walked a block to the Victoria Coach Station which is like a mini airport for coaches (single and double-decker buses).
I was very proud of us for navigating a foreign transportation system by ourselves, but it was a lot easier since we’d had our professor take us up to London the previous weekend.
Our first stop was in Windsor. The excursion included admission to the castle and optional visits to Queen Mary’s dollhouse exhibit and St. George’s chapel. We opted to skip Queen Mary’s dollhouse because we wanted to have more time to thoroughly peruse the castle and we were cutting it close by visiting St. Georgie’s chapel.
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. It was founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century and has since been the home of 39 monarchs. The Queen still spends most of her private weekends at the Castle.
In the castle, we saw the state apartments including the china museum–the matte blue and white jasperware was my favorite.
There was an impressively intimidating marble statue of Victoria (that looked nothing like Emily Blunt, cough cough).
There were suits of armor everywhere, most of them so decorative it seemed a shame to wear them into battle! One room’s walls and ceilings were literally covered every inch by a coat of arms–pretty sure my dad would’ve cried at the sight.
In fact, the ceilings got more and more amazing as I we went that I got a huge crick in my neck. 😛
There was one room covered in gold. Just gold everywhere. Everything. Like Pinterest OG. There were no pictures allowed or trust me I would be winning at Pinterest right now.
St. George’s Chapel really is a must. I was completely in awe. The stone statues over the tombs reminded me of Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings. It seems so strange to see things in real life that I associate with bygone eras and movies.
Walking on the slab over the vault where Jane Seymour, Henry VIII, Charles I, and an infant child of Queen Anne are buried was unnerving. Our tour guide said that Charles was the only king they ever beheaded and Henry exploded from the heat while being transported, so they had to stuff & stich him back up. It seems like the rejects’ tomb, which is sad for Jane and Anne’s baby.
[P.S. Our guide told us this en route, leaving us to our own devices while exploring which I prefered to being coddled.]
After buying a few postcards and an incredible framed coin collection for my father that had outdated coins like a shilling, a farthing, and a sixpence, we boarded the coach again to head to Bath.
Admission to the Roman Baths exhibit was included with our tour.
It felt as if, with each stop, we were going further backward in time–first 900 years, now 2,000 ago to when the Romans colonized England and built the famous baths for which the city is named. It’s easy to simply associate the city with Austen and her regency era lifestyle–and it was even her 200th anniversary–but seeing the steam rise off the green bath water two millenium later while Roman statues loomed overhead really made me feel the deep roots of history. Especially since just about every single thing in England is already 100x older than anything in America.
We had wanted to stop at the Jane Austen Centre, but we didn’t have time because construction on the roads had slowed down our tour. So off to Stonehenge we went, another 3,000 years back (5,000 in total).
To be honest, Stonehenge was the site I was least excited to see (though it’s all relative because I was still pretty psyched). But it really blew me away in person. The stones are towering and the way English Heritage has managed the site really preserves the majesty of the monument. It’s mind-boggling to see what Stonehenge was supposed to look like and imagining just how enormous it would have been. Not to mention the mystery of how and/or why they got there.
I only wish we could’ve touched the stones. I know Hannah was especially disappointed. I want to go to Scotland one day though and I know there are standing stones there which I hope aren’t roped off.
All in all, it was well worth the money and a great way to navigate the English countryside with little to no experience driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road!