Guest Blog Post by Jenny E., Contiki traveler
For as long as I can remember, I’ve had an unexplainable love for the United Kingdom, despite having never traveled there. Then in July 2013 I made the leap over the pond for three weeks with a few friends. I did the London Explorer with Contiki, a self-guided, 4 nights, 5 days package during one of the weeks and spent the other two weeks traveling the country.
Our first week was spent exploring Birmingham and towns near there. We went to Warwick Castle – which was very informative and entertaining but also slightly gimmicky and full of tourists. We also went to Cadbury World (not worth the trip, trust me) and Stratford-Upon-Avon (very much worth the trip!). We saw Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus at the Royal Shakespeare Company, which was an amazing performance – but I wouldn’t expect anything less. As for Birmingham, there isn’t much sightseeing there, but the produce at the Bull Ring Markets is to die for, and the Museum and Art Gallery is fairly impressive.
The second week was dedicated to London. I think we were able to squeeze in a majority of the “must sees” despite being there such a short amount of time. In just a few days we saw the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, St. James’ Park, walked past Downing Street, saw Parliament, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and made a visit to the British Museum. I could have spent all day in the museum, but being limited on time, I wandered around Ancient Egypt (saw the Rosetta Stone) and Ancient Greece and Rome. We visited Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery, Tower of London (saw the Crown Jewels!), rode the London Eye (if you aren’t completely terrified of heights, I highly recommend doing this as the views of London were phenomenal), and hunted down Abbey Road as well as Platform 9 ¾ at King’s Cross Station! Side note: the Underground isn’t nearly as intimidating as it seems, just be sure to “Mind the gap.”
Other London travel included wandering around Covent Garden, where I personally chose to see Daniel Radcliffe perform in the West End play The Cripple of Inishmaan. I am a complete die-hard Harry Potter fan, so this was a dream come true for me. We spent our nights at the bars in either Camden Town or an Irish pub called O’Neill’s in Leicester Square.
After London we traveled to the Roman Baths (it was included in the London Explorer package). There is even a drinking fountain where you can drink some of the water – be warned, though, it’s warm and doesn’t taste very good. We also made a day trip to Dover to see Dover Castle and the White Cliffs. The views there were spectacular! We also ventured to Cardiff, Gloucester (the cathedral there is breathtaking), and all the way up to Liverpool.
Overall, my time in the United Kingdom was so much more than I had ever imagined. I had cider and fish ‘n’ chips probably every day and made some of the best memories! I will definitely be making a return visit (through Contiki, obviously!) this year.
Jenny was the winner of Contiki’s #CONTIKIMEMORIES hashtag contest. Her winning photo and tweet caught the Contiki team’s eye and we’re so happy she shared her London Explorer experience with us! Thanks Jenny!