Have you ever loved the idea of something and built up the image of it in your mind? Then, has it never lived up to your imagination? That is exactly what I did with England. Something amazing happened, though, I was proven wrong. It did live up to my insanely high expectations. It was even more perfect than I had imagined. It was my perfect place.
I am a huge Anglophile. I love anything to do with England. I love British accents, British movies, British actors, British books, Harry Potter, William Shakespeare, Queen Elizabeth I, the Globe Theatre, etc. I have always wanted to go to England and because I had built it up in my head for eighteen years, I was sure it was not going to be able to live up to my expectations. However, it did. It was everything I had hoped it would be.
The new was seamlessly blended with the old. The thousand years of history thrived within the city of London. The architecture was traditional and quaint, but it did not look out of place to see an apartment that looked like a cottage next to a new, steel construction. There were cobblestones on the pavement and trees creating a shadowed path. It looked like my perfect, European fairytale. London had so much history. It was obvious in the Houses of Parliament, the Tower of London, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and more. Yet, it also had the sights where the Harry Potter movies had been filmed in London. The old and the new were not at odds; they complemented each other.
It is a big city. However, I did not like the big cities of New York or Paris, but I did like London. Yes, there was cigarette smoke, garbage, and the occasional sewer smell. These were all downfalls, but the Tube was wonderfully accessible and manageable even for a directionally challenged person like myself. There were lots of people and the roads were congested. However, it was a public transportation friendly city. The Tube got me anywhere I wanted to go. A bit of walking took me from the station to my destination.
There was a mix of cultures, but also British accents to be heard all around. The pub I went to on my first night made a change to a dish on the menu, on the fly, because I am vegan. It was a traditional English dish that they altered, as well. I found that the people were friendly and kind. I was offered help and one very kind man walked me to where my map on my smartphone was failing to lead me.
However, when I did not like the city, there were always smaller places. There was Bath and Oxford. Plus, the English countryside and Stonehenge. I wish I could have spent more time in both Bath and Oxford. Sadly, I was only in each town for one day, respectively. This was due to my decision to take a bus on a day tour to these cities. I would have gladly spent the night in either of them.
The Roman Baths were unique and interesting, but the city was also charming. I went to a vegan restaurant for lunch and wondered the cobblestone alleys in search of Jane Austen's house. It was lovely and if, and when I go again, I will spend the night. Oxford was very much a college town. Yet, it also did not lack the vibrant history that the rest of England has. I had thought that Oxford was only one university, but it is actually made up of many colleges within the city. The city was quaint and I would have been happy to explore it for longer.
Stonehenge was incredible. The history there was simply awe-inspiring. It evoked a certain spiritual reverence at the mystery of how it was built and it was beautifully surrounded by the English countryside. There were rolling hills of lush, green grass and a mist of fog in the distance. It was quintessentially English. In fact, all of the English countryside in the Cotswolds was beautiful.
There are few places that have lived up to my lofty expectations. However, England is one of them. I loved London, Bath, and Oxford. I also admired the English countryside. The country is absolutely amazing. It is a must visit travel destination. I cannot wait to go back.