My 5 weekend getaways for first-time London visitors !!
Mind The Gap !!
You must be going on a reasoned train of thought, for first-time London visitors an entire stretch of 7 days or more will go exploring the sights and sounds of ‘mind the gap’ city. Only after that comes the time to fill up our brain box for exploring the English countryside towns that almost took into one’s hand shaping down the years its indomitable heritage and history.In 2011 my spouse was working as an employee to a big four as a due diligence auditor and was awarded with a secondment program for nearly 3 months to visit his clientele site, the age-old British Gas. I tagged along with him for no other reason as such but to explore and cultivate the land of the Queen.Oh hell !! How can I miss ticking up my Bucket list was the 'numero uno' cause to enter the pound Kingdom.
Windsor - The Queen's weekend hub.
Initially we stayed outside the London metropolis, a suburb 20 miles west of central London called Slough. One weekend we hopped on to a 5 min Windsor and Eton central train from Slough station that departs every 20 mins for 5 pounds. It is like a toy-train tootle, perhaps shortest quickie ever train journey covered from one town to another.
Little did I know some great show was waiting for me there!! The train entered in a platform of a high-street market. I am not giving any hyperbolic explaination, if not as flamboyant as Milan’s shopping arcade or Paris's Galleries Lafayette. A tiny part is a railway station,the other majority area is converted into a Windsor Royal Shopping zone coming out the street facing just opposite to the Castle hill of Windsor.
- Right from the station you can get a clear view of the Summer Palace of Windsor. Before coming here I did google the location, Windsor is a unparished town area in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead in Berkshire, England. It is broadly famous for the site of Windsor Castle, attested as the summer palace of the British Royal Family. Coming out of the platform you will straight hit on the iconic round towers and the classic grey walls of the Windsor Palace.
- It was one such days when God smiled at me for no reason. We found a host of travellers and backpackers waiting outside the caste, enquiring came to know it was the right time for changing of the guards. We observed the full guard change ceremony mesmerised by the British guards full-dress uniform of red tunics and bearskins accompanied by the guard bands. Never take a hop and hop buses when can be best covered by foot on a single day. The town is marked by the Statue of Queen Victoria.
- Take a walk along the sprawling parkland of ‘Great walk park’ of Windsor.It feels like stamping on the royal footsteps on the long walk. It is no doubt a long walk yet a feeling of solace and tranquillity crops in ,trailing the lush green woodland paths and tracks.
- Do take a short coffee break sitting in one of tastefully done up cafés’ along the slopping cobbled lanes of Windsor.
- Do see the famous Guildhall and the Crooked house.
- Enjoy some retail therapy in the Royal Borough of Windsor.
- People who have a fetish for race course can take a look at the Royal Race Course of Windsor it’s certainly not my forte so I was no way close.
- The garden lovers will love the year round displays of Seville garden.
- If you don’t have a tied up schedule take a chance to look at the Thames river-side taking boat trips. Take a walk - This walk heads away from Windsor and it's dominating Castle out to open fields alongside the Thames and Windsor Racecourse.
- Across the bridge is Eton, with it's famous College. The Thames Path crosses the river on Windsor Bridge, continuing on the Eton side of the bridge.
when all your must-see attraction are ticked at the day’s end you might say to the picturesque town ‘A day spent in a round of strenuous idleness’.
Spotting the would-be Oxfordians !!
There are dotting few county towns quintessentially and unashamedly English than Oxford, a city so majestic in the first and last impression that even its nickname, ‘The City of Dreaming Spires’, sounds lifted from a classic romance novel. With its medieval skyline of church spires, cobbled streets snaking through the town center and stately gardens adding a touch of greenery, this is a city that perfectly blends old English charm with modern shopping streets, a cutting-edge arts scene and a throbbing nightlife. The word 'Oxford’ buzzes our ear identifying the prestigious world-renowned Oxford university thus Oxford always persists being a students’ town.Oxford University is the oldest in English speaking dated back to 1096.Naming the Ex-legendary icons is like calling the roll numbers of genius toppers nominated in the hall of fame. History’s most acclaimed literary, political and science stalwarts like Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Tony Blair, Margaret Thatcher and even Albert Einstein, have all flipped through pages in the Bodleian library. A mere 55 miles from London ,we have taken a train from slough which took 30 mins to reach the town, even from London it is 2 hours driving along the picture-perfect countryside of Oxfordshire.
- The highlights of the County town - Gothic Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum (founded in 1683, making it the oldest in the UK), the Sheldonian Theater (designed by Sir Christopher Wren in 1664) Radcliff Camera ,Christ Church College,Divinity school,Harry Potter location settings happened in the Oxford cathedral which was filmed as the Hogwart’s rectangular lengthy hall.
- To see some of the university go to board street square or Radcliff square and get soak into the city's history and university.You might want to consider a quick look round Blackwells bookshop also on Broad Street and visiting Turf Cavern (entrance is under the bridge of sighs)
- Everyone has their own favourites. I would cross the High Street and look round the cobbled streets around Corpus, Oriel and Merton Colleges.
- Recent times other Hollywood films were also filmed on the campus of Oxford,the James Bond movies,the Oxford murders and the Golden Compass are filmed to bring on the architectural grandeur of this students town.The Literary buffs can join one of the city’s many literary tours, taking in the sights and locations that inspired classics like The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe, Alice in Wonderland, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Inspector Morse series.
- For a good view of the city head for at the top of the Carfax Towers at the top of High Street or the Castle Tower, or St Marys Church.
- Once you’re tired of staring in awe at the architecture and craning your neck to admire the many spires and arches, there’s plenty of entertainment on offer. Stroll around the many shopping streets, take a rest at one of the city’s abundant cafes and restaurants
- Wander around the exquisite Botanic gardens, the oldest of their kind in Britain dating back to 1621.Museum lovers might go to Pitt Rivers or Modern art oxford.
- If you’re there in the summer months, you could even try your hand at punting (small boats propelled along with a pole) along the Cherwell River, or head to the Oxford Castle Quarters to catch one of the many Shakespeare performances.
Whizzing all the must-do's of the place, at the end of touring university sights,getting a glimpse of students forgather near the bridge of sighs, an air of academician brilliance illuminates on the Oxford sky makes you regret a while 'why didn't I become an oxfordian' !!
There are no Bicycle thief in Oxford !!
The Tudor Town Touring upon Avon !!
In the late 16th century many writers and playwrights have headed out from this small warwickshire market town to London yet none has ever got the renown quite like William Shakespeare.Stratford-upon-Avon is a quaint looking market town with Tudor row houses,half timbered streets capes,a statue of a Shakespearean jester erected on the Henley street,provides with attestation of your right entry to the bards abode.The 100 mile journey to the playwrights home is lot quicker travelling north-west from the London cutting through idyllic countrysides before arriving the heritage site of literary pilgrimage.The word is 'upon' not 'on'just to seperate the town itself.Highlights are:
- Travel to all Shakespearean Houses: Shakespeare's Birthplace, Anne Hathaways Cottage, Mary Arden's House, New Place, Nash's House and Hall's Croft. Shakespeare's Birthplace which is a Museum now.Get a ticket for Audio-Visual show ranging the bard's life and work span.Taking a tour of the entire house, even the corner of his room where he wrote the first draft of 'As you like it.'
- The Old 15th Century Grammar School where Shakespeare was educate
- At the end of the waterside is the Holy Trinity Church where he was baptised and buried.
- Go for a Pub lunch for sure.Some amazing pubs serves good brunch.
- Stop at the village at Shottery, a mile from stratford to see his wife's Anne Hathway's maiden cottage, in the Tudor style and decor.
- You also get to enjoy a lovely drive through the scenic Warwickshire countryside, visiting Wilmcote, the village where Mary Arden's House (Shakespeare's mother) can be found.
Unfurling eastwards towards the sea in the anglia side of Cambridgeshire , nearly 50 miles north of London is the Student town of Cambridge.The introduction starts as you get stuck at 'The Corpus Clock'. The fabulously terrifying “Grasshopper Clock” on the corner of Corpus' Taylor Library is a must-see for any Cambridge visitor.It is one of a kind invention in 2008.
- The city should be enjoyed the most by its 'Punting blues'.Punting is also active in Oxford but not half as this.The student organise the exclusive punting tours meandering along the the river Cam in the Backs weaving many the colleges and bridges.In the spring the Backs get the lovely daffodils and Crocoses, Its so English and good at any point of time !!
- The Trinity College,King's College,St.Johns college all seen through the BACKS are the favourite of mine.
- Fitzwilliam Museum, Bridge of sighs at St. Johns college, the Wren library at Trinity, Kings College Chapel and the Wooden bridge at Queens,University Botanical Gardens,St.Mary's Church the catholic church of Cambridge,are just a few of the sights.
- Hang out in the Tea house'Orchard' among the apple ciders.Furthermore a glasshouse added the extra charm to the place.Try the fresh scones with teas taking a chill with friends and family.
- St.Andrews Street ,it is considered as the main thoroughfare and centre of Cambridge's shopping street and hanging out district.
Brighton is 54 miles south of London .We went for a day trip by Car with my first cousin and our common friends.It took 2 hours to reach the lovely seaside town, on getting outside the Car I sniffed the fishy smell of the legendary Fish and Chips coming from the rows of Fish bars.The place was originally a fishing town which in 18th century emerged as a prosperous town with the subsequent patronage by the Prince Regent.He build a summer resort 'Brighton Pavilion' making Brighton famous apart from its rock and roll beach-side. The Highlights are:
- The flashy brashy Brighton Peer is a joy ride.There is nothing quite like a leisure walk along the prom or a stroll out to sea on the Brighton Pier.For people who have real strong nerve should muster for the adrenaline rush ride called Booster and then if you have some nerve left hop on to liitle version of London eye called Brighton Wheel. kids have a large varied choice to pick and will surely lose their decorum pouncing on the candyfloss kiosks and hook-a-duck booths.
- North laine narrow streets offers you with all sorts of shopping extravaganza clubbing with Sydney Street, Kensington Gardens and Gardner Street.You find some bric-a-brac and tad-treasure shops to attract your attention.
- Have a good lunch in the famous Bardsley's in Baker's Street.Must try dishes are Crayfish tails,Scallops,Salmon steaks and not to forget the age old Fish & Chips.
- For history buffs go to the Brighton Museum and art gallery that houses exhibitions and galleries of fine art,pottery art,contemporary art as well.It has a nice souvenir shop too.
- The Hove Lagoon offers numerous water sports,Brighton is the pioneer in Walk-board cable on the south coast.Kite-surfing is done here religiously.
- Take a break after getting exhausted in one of the 200 years old taverns.You will find all boozing features like exposed beams to kamikaze drinks.
- Brighton has the oldest Sea life operating aquarium called Sea Life Centre.There’s a rock pool where you can touch the resident crabs and starfish, an underwater tunnel with sharks cruising by, and displays of seahorses, piranhas and translucent moon jellyfish.
- So in short few stops in your walking tour - Brighton Peer,West Peer,King's House,Palmeira Square,Churchil Square,North Street,Sea Life Centre,Old Steine,Burlington street,Brighton Marina.
Brighton has a charm all of its own. It may have started life as a humble fishing village, but when the Prince Regent came here for his first ‘season’ in 1783, its status as a fashionable seaside resort was sealed.If you come in a crazy windy day,the seagulls almost fleeting by ones ear,living it up on the pebble beach,picnic gatherings,beach ball, all the frolics get clustered on this ultimate Brighton experience.
Cornburry Music Festival
1st Saturday of June
Shakespeare's Birthday Parade
The Fringe Festival