Extraordinary England - 2012

In April of 2012 my sister took me to England. We left Calgary just a few hours after my last exam for the semester, and spent 14 days touring around as much of England and Wales as we could. We spent the first couple of days in London. We attempted to attend the organ concert at Westminster Abbey, but the London Marathon was on, and with so many road blocks we gave up trying to get there. We got tickets for the Big Bus Tour and did that, which was pretty great. The weather was reasonable so we actually got to sit out on top and see a good bit of zone 1. We walked around the Tower of London, across Tower Bridge, down past the Globe Theater to the Tate Modern (we did not actually go into the Tate because it was very confusing to get into) and then back. We stopped in to visit the Globe on our way back. We also stopped visited the British Museum, the V&A, Foyles (where we spied George RR Martin, who had randomly popped in to sign some books apparently. I also saw a monk, which was way more interesting to me than Martin.), the British Library, and of course Platform 9 & 3/4.  And then we picked up our rental car and hit the road.

We went to the White Cliffs of Dover, Canterbury Cathedral, and Cambridge. Then we headed up to Sherwood Forest, and onto to Chatsworth House, where we met up with our friend Adoree who was working on her masters at the University of Sheffield. Chatsworth House was just stunning. I'd love to go back and explore later in May or June when the gardens are hitting their peak bloom. The next day we drove through the Peaks District on our way to Yorkshire, where we hit up Thirsk, so I could visit The World of James Herriot. I was thrilled to see all of that, I've read and reread the Herriot books more times than I can count. I absolutely love them.

After the Herriot museum we stopped by the ruins of Riveaulx Abbey, "one of England's most powerful Cistercian monasteries." (Riveaulx Abbey). That was incredibly interesting. I didn't think I'd be all that interested in the ruins, but when we got there I loved it. It's awe inspiring to feel so small and wonder about how they managed to create such amazing architecture so long ago, without the current technology. After Riveaulx Abbey we headed up to York. We spent a couple of days there, exploring York Minster, the Shambles, and just wandering around town.

When we left York we headed for Bolton Abbey, another fantastic ruin in a beautiful little town. After Bolton Abbey we headed over to Conwy, which was my favourite town of the whole trip. We visited Conwy Castle and Plas Mawr and wandered around town. I think we were in Conwy for two days. When we left headed down to Trefriw Woolen Mills and then through Langollen, Stratford-upon-Avon, and through the Cotswolds. We stopped at St. Fagans Natural History Museum. They have a set of row-houses at St. Fagans, and you start on one end and tour through all of them. Each is decorated in the style of a different era starting from 1895 and going to 1985. It was really cool to see how style changed over time from very spartan and utilitarian to fancier and aesthetically more extravagant. After St. Fagan's we stayed in Cheddar. We had wanted to see a few things in Cheddar but most of them were closed for some reason or other, and it was pouring rain, so we didn't do much there. 

On our last full day we got up super early, I don't even know how early, and hit up Stonehenge for the sunrise tour. That was really cool. It was bloody expensive, but totally worth it. The group was limited to a certain number of people, and was super early in the morning, but we actually got to walk among the stones. We could touch them and we got to watch the sunrise there. The cheaper general admission to Stonehenge only allows you to walk around it on the paved paths, which are a good distance away from the actual stones. I would definitely say its worth it to do the tour where you get up close to them. The only thing that was disappointing to me about Stonehenge is that its really close to the A303, which is fairly busy, so theres constant traffic noise. I'm not exactly sure which tour we did, as we drove to Stonehenge ourselves, and then after that headed off on our own. Most of the ones I can find now seem to be bus tours that include other sites. 

After Stonehenge we went to Salisbury where we wandered around town and visited Salisbury Cathedral and then we drove down through the New Forest so I could see ponies. We visited the New Forest Centre Museum. Then we headed back up through Chichester to Gatwick, and the next morning we headed home.

Overall it was a fantastic trip. I do wish we'd waited a few days to leave after exams, I was pretty exhausted from the semester, so I was pretty braindead for quite a few days of the trip. But, England has stuck with me, and I've wanted to go back ever since. I have spent countless hours in Google Streetview poking around England, dreaming of going back again. 
One more regret is that I hadn't started shooting RAW at that point, and I apparently wasn't as photography obsessed (evidenced by the fact that there is a few days where I didn't take any photos at all). I wish I had taken way more photos.

Anyway, here's a chronological gallery of my favourite shots from the trip. Enjoy!