I’ve been in London since the end of term, and I’m not going to lie: I’ve spent most of my time sleeping. However, my parents arrived on the 22nd, and since then we’ve been having a jolly old time…kind of. See, when my parents said they were coming for the holidays, I thought it was a grand idea. I have systematically been proven incorrect. If they had gotten here a week earlier, it might have been a good idea, but because they came so late and are leaving so soon we have been faced with disappointment.
My mother had grand plans for the few days that we would be spending together in London. She wanted to go to (1) the British Museum (2) the Victoria and Albert Museum (3) the Tower of London (4) Stonehenge (5) the London Eye and (6) Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, they arrived relatively late on the 22nd, and so our options were limited. Furthermore, almost every tourist attraction in London is closed from the 24 through the 26th. We essentially only had one day to visit all of the London attractions. We only made it to the British Museum and the London Eye. We got to the Tower of London a few minutes after the final entry time, so we were out of luck.
We did manage to get a mass tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath on Christmas eve. Windsor castle was beautiful–the splendor was a sight to see. The grandeur displayed in the State Apartments was fascinating — the works of art alone made me want to stay for hours. The architecture itself was incredibly varied, as the different monarchs added or modified the castle grounds. Unfortunately, St. George’s chapel within the castle grounds was shut for Christmas eve mass. It was the part of Windsor castle that I most looked forward to because it is the final resting place of King Henry VIII, whose reign is my favorite part of history.
Stonehenge was closed, so we couldn’t go all the way around the stones, but we could stand outside the fence and take pictures while our tour guide yelled miscellaneous facts at us. I have personally been to Stonehenge before, so I was not as disappointed as my mother was, but the sight was just as breathtaking on the wrong side of the fence as it was on the right side.
Bath was charming, as it always is. The town carved from ‘bathstone’ (a lovely yellow limestone) features a beautiful (neo) Gothic cathedral called the Bath Abbey. Inside and out it is one of the most beautiful and artful buildings I have ever seen, and I have seen my fair share of historical buildings. The trek through the Roman baths was fun too. We drank water from the spring after learning how it was found (according to legend) and harnessed by first the Celts and then the Romans, culminating in a fusion of cultures and the creation of the temple to Sulis-Minerva, the goddess of water and wisdom.
On the bus back to London, we ate pasties and listened to the dulcet tones of our tour guide Russell Nash as he delineated the country’s history. We also dropped by Sally Lunn’s and bought her famous buns to eat on Christmas morning.
For Christmas Mass, we went to St. Paul’s Cathedral for their 3:15 pm Evensong mass. I have never had the pleasure of sitting such a beautiful service in such a beautiful place in my entire life. We thought about going to Westminster abbey for Christmas mass, but that may be an experience to save for later.
A piece of advice — if travelling to London for the Christmas season, be sure to leave enough time before and after Christmas to be able to properly see the city. It is such a disappointing experience to arrive at an attraction only to find it unavailable. If you have to choose between the Christmas holidays and a Summer holiday in the UK, I would recommend that you go with the latter. If you must go away for Christmas, go to some exotic locale and soak up the sun. Then in Summer go somewhere mild with breathtaking history around every corner.
Signing off for 2012! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!