Day 6: Wednesday (Castles and Cathedrals)
No trip to England would be complete without a tour of an ancient castle. On Wednesday morning we made our way to Victoria Station to catch a morning train to Arundel, a beautiful little town in the south of England boasting a medieval castle. When we got off the train, it was pouring rain. Umbrellas up, we made our way down town towards the castle, which was on a little rise above the town. By now, the wind was blowing so hard that it kept flipping up the top of the umbrellas, rendering them mostly useless. I managed to angle mine like a shield against the wind, which helped a little, but we were both nearly blown off the stone bridge that ran over the river Arun. Wet and hungry, we piled into a little restaurant, where we were able to get some delicious traditional English breakfast items… for lunch.
I would normally turn up my nose at runny eggs, as I tend to have issues with certain textures in food, but I was trying to be a more adventurous eater on this trip, and found to my surprise that the eggs were actually really good! The bacon, while it looked nothing like what we Americans would call bacon, was also delicious.
After finishing our lunches, we made our way all the way up the main street of the town, only to discover that we’d missed the entrance to the castle, and had to back track a bit. Our train trip and trudge through the rain turned out to be well worth it, however, because the castle was absolutely stunning. It has two parts: the medieval keep and a more modern part inhabited (for part of the year) by the family of the Duke of Norfolk. We were able to visit both parts of the castle, including some areas used by the family when they stay there.
When we emerged from the depths of the castle, the gloomy clouds had rolled away, leaving a beautiful sunny day behind. We took a little walk around the castle’s extensive grounds, before hurrying back to catch our train home.
We’d put off our visit to Westminster Abbey on Tuesday, so today was our last chance to explore it. The line to get in wasn’t too long, and the visiting hours were extended on Wednesday, so we got inside in plenty of time and had a nice stroll around the Abbey. There were plenty of monuments and mementos to famous people, and plenty of memorials to those who had actually been buried there. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, but I did get a few shots of the outside of the beautiful building before we headed home for the day.
Day 7: Thursday (Museums, the Magna Charta, and Camden Market)
Thursday was our final day in London, and we were planning to pack in a lot. As with our entire trip thus far, things didn’t turn out exactly as planned…
We started our morning by visiting some Egyptian statues and mummies in the British Museum, and getting a glimpse of the famous Rosetta Stone. Surprisingly enough, the Museum allows photography, but there was a large group of excited tourists gathered around the stone’s big glass case, and we couldn’t even get close enough to really see it, much less snap a photo.
We took a leisurely stroll through the museum, stopping to examine various Grecian urns and artifacts, including a massive pot that had, apparently, once been used for burying people in. We also paid a quick visit to the Anglo-Saxon and Viking exhibit, where there were plenty of shields and helmets and ancient weapons to look at.
Our next museum was a bit smaller, but just as interesting. We took a short bus ride and walked a little ways up a street until we reached the Dickens Museum, which was inside a house where Charles Dickens had lived for three years. It was surreal to see the table at which Dickens had dined, the steep staircases he’d climbed and descended everyday, the desk where he’d sat.
After exploring every floor of that tall, narrow house, we hurried over to the British Library to peruse its collection of ancient illuminated manuscripts, massive old Bibles, letters from the likes of Queen Elizabeth I, and… handwritten Beatles lyrics. Yes, there was an entire section of the displays dedicated to the Beatles. I haven’t listened to a lot of the Beatles songs —I promise I mean to; I just haven’t gotten around to it yet— but it was actually really cool to see the original, handwritten lyrics by some of the most famous musicians on earth.
One of the big draws of the British Library was that it had an original copy of the Magna Carta. While most of the other exhibits were in a big open room, the Magna Charta had its own little chamber off to one side, making it seem extremely impressive and important (as it certainly is), but it was really a little bit of an anti-climax to go inside and see only a single piece of old parchment on display in its own room; just one of many copies sent out to noblemen across England. But, then again, maybe it isn’t always the showy things that make the biggest impact on history.
And maybe I’m just being a picky tourist.
It just so happened that we were in London on the same weekend everyone’s favorite British comedy YouTubers, Dan and Phil, had set up a pop-up shop in Camden Market. My lovely blogger friend Hannah introduced me to these YouTubers back in late 2017, and I thought it would be nice to pop down to Camden Town and pick up a little surprise for her from the shop. My mom also wanted to pay a visit to a market, so it was decided that we should finish off the day with a trip to Camden.
In order to even reach Camden Town, we had to take the dreadful Northern Line. The Northern Line is a Tube line deep, deep underground, traveling a narrow tunnel that snakes beneath London’s streets. Unlike with most lines, where there are two trains in one tunnel, here there was one tunnel for south-bound trains, and one tunnel for north-bound trains. We were very far underground, which added to the sense of claustrophobia, and the trains were extremely loud, being enclosed in such a small space with nowhere else for the noise to go. Every time a train arrived at a station, it sent a massive gust of air through the tunnels, creating huge underground winds.
We emerged from Camden Town station, and immediately ran into trouble. We weren’t exactly sure where Camden Market was actually held. I was pretty sure that the address has been ‘the Old Art Gallery’, but without internet there was no way we could check and make sure, or even find out where the Old Art Gallery was located. So, we just started walking.
When we finally found the marketplace, we weren’t even sure if we were in the right location. We spent nearly 45 minutes wandering around Camden Market, in and out of endless tiny shops, searching for the one pop-up we’d come to find. Finally, when we’d just about given up, I spotted red neon lights across a courtyard. I’d been on the look out for red and white lights, as somewhere it had been stated that they would be part of the decor of the pop-up shop, and I was absolutely thrilled to find that we’d reached it at last. It was less thrilling to realize that if we’d just gone in the opposite direction when we’d first entered the market, we would have reached the shop in about sixty seconds.
After snooping around in the shop for a bit and purchasing some possibly overpriced merchandise, we stopped to have some delicious English fish-and-chips from a friendly food vendor in the market.
It was getting late now; too late for a boat ride in Little Venice, which we’d planned on doing, but not too late to get tickets for Thames river cruise to close out our trip. After heading back to central London on the dreaded Northern Line, we grabbed our tickets, which were included with our London Passes, and got in line for the boat. It took a pretty long time for the boat to actually show up, but the cruise was definitely worth it, and the perfect way to finish a wonderful week in London.
Thanks for sticking with me to the end of my adventures in London! It’s been almost two months since I actually went on the trip, but I’ve finally finished writing it all up, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my experiences. I know I haven’t been blogging regularly at all for the past two months, but now that this big project is over with I’m hoping I can get back in the groove again. Don’t hold your breath, though. 😛
See you again soon!