Hey Mate! Several months ago, I took a trip to visit a cousin and an aunt of mine who lives down South of England. We’ve been dying to see each other for years, in fact, I haven’t seen my aunt for 15 years and my cousin for 10 years. They’ve been asking me to visit them for a long long time, and me asking the same, but for some reason, life happened and years had passed without us seeing each other. That is until finally, I decided to make the move and travel down to Southampton.
My trip to the UK was probably one of the most exciting trips I’ve ever done in my life. That’s because it was my first time setting foot in the Land of hope and glory, not to mention finally seeing my relatives after several years. Coming from the Land of the free, I first took a connecting flight to the Land of the Maple Leaf (Canada) and from there I took the 5-hour flight to London Heathrow. I didn’t really plan to see a lot of places on this trip since I only allotted a few days to stay in the UK. I have also made plans to go to Spain right after that, so I wasn’t really sure whether I would be able to see some tourist attractions in London or not. My goal was mostly to see my relatives. Right after landing in Heathrow which was almost midnight, I took a cab straight to the Hilton Ageas Bowl in Southampton. It’s a hotel with a stadium attached to it and it’s one of the few hotels near my cousin’s place. While I was in the cab, I remember being shocked at the Brit’s “left-hand side traffic” way of driving and how weird and different it was compared to the US. I also remember falling asleep in the cab several times only to wake up and realize that I was still in the cab and that it was really dark and scary out there. We’ve passed by a lot of looming woods, vast lands and whatsoever, and I thought “this is so far away” but my cousin told me that it’ll only take about 30 minutes drive to the hotel without traffic, and yet there was no traffic around that time but the taxi was still going and going. It seemed like forever. Oh well, anyhow, It took me about 2 hours to arrive to the hotel and it was nice but I didn’t have a nice view of the Cricket stadium, instead, I had a view of the parking lot with a small golf course around it. It was too dark for me to see things around when I arrived, so off I went to sleep immediately.
Bishop’s Waltham, St. George’s Square & St. Peter’s Church
The following day I got a better view of what was around me, the Hilton Ageas Bowl is a nice and quaint hotel with good food and is a great place to do some sports. I saw men with their golf accessories and some other people who looked like they were into sports or something. The weather was gloomy and kind of windy that day but I loved it. It makes for the perfect South England atmosphere. My first impression of Southampton is very interesting. It felt like I was in this magical place, kinda like The Lord Of The Rings vibe, somewhere down in Middle Earth, LOL. The grasses are lush green, the pines look healthy and vibrant, it’s quiet, it’s peaceful, it’s rural, it’s relaxing, it’s so quaint and so dreamy. I freaking love it. I saw some farm animals, like goats, cows, fat pigs and chubby sheeps, along with some very beautiful horses. My cousin lives near the ruins of Bishops Waltham Palace, which was once a residence of the richest Bishops of Winchester but was badly damaged and abandoned during the Civil War. Now it has become an open field Farmhouse Museum. After a few exchanges of Hi’s and Hellos, a hearty seafood lunch (which they are big on, especially shrimps and crabs) and lots of jokes and laughs, we drove a short distance to the ruins of the Bishop’s Waltham together with my aunt and her husband. Here are some photos.
Afterwards, we walked to the St. George’s Square nearby, which is full of quaint shops and houses. Then we strolled towards St. Peter’s Church, a parish with a small cemetery close to it. The view was absolutely beautiful.
The next day, my cousin and her family took me to a two-hour drive to see the world famous Stonehenge. My cousin told me that she wasn’t really impressed when she first saw the Stonehenge. For her, it looked just like a pile of large stones. But for me, it was really impressive when I first saw it from afar. As we get closer and closer, I thought the stones were beautiful and the way they were arranged was interesting. My cousin also said that they were able to touch the stones before, but now it has been fenced and you have to pay the entrance fee at the Visitor Center in order to see it close enough. Once you park your car in the designated parking lot and pay the entrance fee, you will need to get into one of their buses which will then take you close enough to the Stonehenge which is just about a few minutes ride. You’re will then walk around it and see its majestic grandeur together with the rest of the mesmerized tourists. Curious about the Stonehenge? Here’s what I know. Stonehenge is a circular pile of large stones (monoliths) that was thought to be constructed by the prehistoric tribes around 3000 and 2920 BC, which is basically the Neolithic period. The people that constructed it left no trace of what it was meant for and why. However, archaeologists found bones and other fragments in the area, which led them to believe that Stonehenge served as a ceremonial and burial site, but apart from that, Stonehenge’s real history and purpose still remains a mystery up to this date. After circling around the Stonehenge, I then took the bus back to the Visitor Center and I saw some replica of the houses of the tribes that built the Stonehenge. There was also this depiction of one of the large stones that showed how the tribes managed to haul it to the site. As far as I know, it would take about 100 people to pull that one big stone in the picture. Now that’s impressive!
After the Stonehenge adventure, we planned to go to Portsmouth but my jet lag was kicking in, so I decided to just go back to the hotel and rest. I had to go to Gatwick Airport the next day to catch a flight to Spain, so you can imagine my relatives’ sadness knowing that I basically only had to stay three days in the UK, but at least we saw each other, that was all that mattered. I asked her if there’s a way for me to go and visit London from Gatwick, and she said that I could take a train to London Victoria. So off I went to Gatwick Airport early the next day and my gosh, it felt like another two long hours in the cab, so I was so tired by the time I got to Premier Inn, a transit hotel in Gatwick Airport. I honestly do not recommend this hotel, it’s cheap and it’s basically right in the airport which is good, but it’s also small and it’s uncomfortable to walk around with its tight spaces, plus it’s really dusty and dirty. I didn’t like how basic, and clinical-looking the bathroom was, and it looked really unsanitary. The AC was mediocre as well. There wasn’t much inside this hotel room but a single easy-to-dispense liquid soap. Oh well, at least I didn’t have to stay that long. Next time I’d probably find another place somewhere to stay.
From Gatwick Airport, I took a one-way ticket via the the Express Train to London Victoria. I couldn’t remember how much I paid for it, but I think it was close to £20 and it took me around 40-45 minutes to get to London Victoria. The trip was pleasant, and there weren’t a lot of people on the train. I kinda felt like I had a “Girl On The Train” vibe during the trip, passing through tunnels, houses, and buildings. It was almost dark when I got to London, so I decided to take the Big Bus Tour. It took me a while to find the waiting spot since the streets are not really well-signed. Somehow I did manage to find it and I waited and waited a long time for the bus to arrive, but apparently, they had some maintenance issue going on at that time, so I basically wasted a lot of my time and was really annoyed that I may not be able to see much of London. I decided to just go and take a cab close to the London Eye or Big Ben. I swear, I love the cabs in London, they’re so comfortable compared to the ones we have here in the US, you can have a lot of legroom plus it’s a cab suitable for when you’re carrying your luggage. Anyway, I really didn’t get to see much of London, which is kind of a bummer. It was so dark by the time I strolled along the popular tourist’s spots, but I could tell that the architecture and the entire view is nice. It would have probably looked very different during the daylight, but at night it’s also really beautiful. Anyway, here are some photos of my short stroll in London. My apologies for the dark photos.
Overall, my short stay in London and Southampton are, as what I have said before, one of the most memorable trips I’ve ever done. It’s a lovely place and it’s different and unique. It sort of reminds of the old vintage America, complete with its clean bricks and quaint houses, along with some beautiful and grand architectures. I definitely would love to come back, there were a lot of things I wanted to see, like OMG how could I miss Bond Street? Hopefully, I won’t be rushing again by the time I’m back, and that I hope it won’t take another ten years for me to see my relatives again.
FYI: When visiting the UK, it’s always a good idea to bring your three-pronged adaptor plugs if you’re coming from the US or some parts of Europe and Asia. But if you’re from Hong Kong, you’re all set.
To learn more about Bishop’s Waltham, click Here
To book a tour to Stonehenge from Central London, click Here
To see a lot of London if you’re time-constrained, I definitely still recommend the Big Bus Tour, click Here