Backpacking in the UK

Over the winter holidays last year, a good friend of mine and I were discussing our mutual desire to take a road trip to the west coast. We tentatively planned to embark on some kind of adventurous journey in the summer. Come spring, we resumed our discussion of taking a trip. Suddenly, my friend asks, “How would you feel about going to Europe instead?” I don’t remember my exact response, but it was something along the lines of “heck yes!” I then turned the tables on her and asked if we could go over spring break from university, instead of during the summer as we had planned. It was her turn to say, “Heck yes!”

A mere month later our plane landed at the Heathrow airport in London. 10 days of amazing adventures followed. We backpacked and stayed in hostels. It was my first time staying in hostels and it was a much better experience than I anticipated! Sleeping in the same room with strangers-both male and female-actually doesn’t take that much getting used to. And they have many interesting stories to tell! We spent part of our first day in London, walking around the parks near Buckingham and Kensington Palaces before catching our bus to Bath. After arriving in Bath we checked into our hostel and went out to explore the city by night. The streets were mostly empty, as there was a rugby game taking place. It was magical, seeing the tall cathedrals, winding river, and cobblestone lanes in the moonlight. Over the next couple of days we explored the city (seeing sights such as the Roman baths and the Royal Crescent), attended Palm Sunday mass, listened to street musicians, took an afternoon trip to Stonehenge, went to the Jane Austen museum, and climbed to the outskirts of Bath for a spectacular view. I truly fell in love with this city.

After Bath we took an overnight bus to Stirling, Scotland. There we encountered many pieces of interesting information relating to Scotland’s history and culture as we visited Stirling Castle and climbed up the Wallace Monument. We left Stirling in the evening for Edinburgh, where we checked into our hostel upon arriving. This hostel was much larger than the one we stayed at in Bath. It had a large lobby and restaurant on the main floor and the rooms had 30 beds and two levels. We explored Edinburgh over the next day. Here I had wanted to take a day trip to the highlands and see some of the beautiful countryside, but we decided not to because we didn’t want to rush our time in Edinburgh. (The castle there is amazing!) It was there that we first saw flags at half-mast, but we didn’t learn until the next day about the bombing in Brussels. After a second night in Edinburgh and a delicious full Scottish breakfast, we left for London-the last leg of our journey. Security was heightened because of the bombing, and tension was high on the tube as many were reading the front-page news article about the attack of terror.

We spent four wonderful days in London with too many delightful experiences to count. Here are some of them:

  • Riding the London Eye at night (many buildings were lit up in the colors of the Belgium flag)
  • Macaroons in cafes
  • Two walking tours, one hitting “Royal London” spots like Westminster Abbey & Big Ben, the palaces, and the changing of the guard, and one covering immigrants, gangsters, London’s art scene, and Diagon Alley (HP anyone?)
  • Passion of the Christ live play in Trafalgar Square on Good Friday
  • Phantom of the Opera musical
  • Platform 9 3/4
  • Sherlock museum
  • Tower of London
  • Abbey Road

After all these activities, we were exhausted by the time we flew home on Easter Sunday. Did you know that airlines hand out chocolate eggs on Easter? It was delightful. I could not have asked for a better way to spend a spring break. I am thankful for opportunities like this and a friend who will go on spur-of-the-moment adventures with me.