Over November and December I
skipped lectures took some time off school to travel to a few other cities near Bristol: Salisbury, Bath, Cardiff, and London. These 4 cities are less than a 3-hour coach or train ride from Bristol, which made it great for weekend trips.
Little pro-tip for anyone going on exchange to the UK: I’d recommend purchasing the 16-25 railcard for 1/3 off your train fares if you’re going to be traveling to other UK cities like I do. It’s £30 for a year, and it pays itself off pretty quickly especially if you do longer and more expensive trips to Scotland or Wales. This post is not sponsored by 16-25 Railcard.
So here’s my review of the 4 cities.
TL;DR: Mostly touristy, but worth going at least once in your life ⭐️⭐️⭐️★★
Salisbury is famous for its one attraction: Stonehenge. As a result, there really isn’t much to the city aside from being a pitstop for tourists heading to Stonehenge. I found that the beauty of the city lay outside the city itself though. En route to Stonehenge you see lots of quaint little villages and green pastures, as well as the occasional cows and sheep.
Stonehenge itself is very iconic and very famous for its conspiracy theories, but I do agree with most others that it’s also very overrated. It’s a prehistoric monument, so that makes it impressive in its own right, but I find that much of the hype surrounding Stonehenge stems from the conspiracy theories more than anything else. They also had replicas of neolithic houses on display, which I found more interesting – it’s always eye-opening to see how the common folk across time and space live.
TL;DR: Charming old town with really good bread ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I adore the city of Bath. The architecture is Bath is absolutely gorgeous, and I’d recommend dropping by for a day trip for anyone heading to England. The highlight of Bath, unsurprisingly, would be the Roman Baths. The Roman Baths are natural hot springs used by both the Celts and the Romans. The Baths have now been converted to a museum where you can get a glimpse of Roman society – how they used the springs both as a social and religious site, and the different kinds of people who visited the springs. The place was actually very well-preserved, and I’d say it’s definitely worth a visit.
Another interesting thing about Bath is the multitude of tearooms. Tea is so iconic in the UK that it’s become a meme, so of course, we had to try a traditional English tea. We stopped by Sally Lunn Eating House, the oldest tearoom in Bath and the birthplace of the Sally Lunn bun.
Definitely very touristy, but that aside, the bun was actually mouth-wateringly good. I don’t usually rave too much about food, but it was just so fluffy it would be a sin to not write about it.
TL;DR: Wales, so it’s slightly different I guess ⭐️⭐️★★★
Cardiff is actually outside England and in Wales, so now I can say that I’ve been to Wales. It’s a university town, so I didn’t find it very much different from Bristol – you have your campuses, lots of student accommodation, and a city center with a mall. There are also a few pretty parks and nature spots in Cardiff which might be gorgeous in summer, but they’re fairly deserted at this time of the year. I did manage to pick up some Welsh cakes though, so that was nice; they’re like a cross between a shortbread and a pancake. Here I have a Welsh cake filled with lemon curd:
TL;DR: So many things to do! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Gosh, where do I even start with London? There are just too many things to do and see here, and I feel like I could go back over and over again and still be wowed every time. The sheer number of museums, the Victorian architecture, the food – it’s insane. I’ve been to London twice so far, and there are still so many things I’ve yet to see. I think I’ll need subheadings for this, so here we go:
I’ve only been to the British Museum and Natural History Museum so far, and both have been very interesting experiences. The British Museum has massive collections of artifacts from different countries and cultures, and it’s both a little funny and a little uncomfortable – it really shows you the extent of colonial rule in the 19th and 20th centuries, and the sheer amount of pillaging British archaeologists did in that era. I found the Natural History Museum more likable – it’s mostly, as the name suggests, natural history, so you see exhibits on biology and geology and so on. The dinosaurs are the NHM’s selling feature, but I really enjoyed the other exhibits as well; the carefully preserved specimens across different phyla of animals were absolutely stunning, and really makes you contemplate the evolution and eventual speciation of different animals.
The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, the Buckingham Palace – super touristy, but beautiful nonetheless. It’s the kind of buildings you’d never see outside the UK – not even in Europe – and all these buildings have their own interesting bits of history. If you’re vaguely familiar with British history I’d really recommend a trip to London; it makes all the stories of the kings and lords and wars and trials come to life.
Musicals and Gigs
I was lucky enough to catch Wicked in both London and Singapore, and it really isn’t the same. I wouldn’t say that one is inferior to the other, but the quips are actually audience-specific and I found that pretty adorable. I also managed to attend a gig (King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard!) in London, and it was a crazy experience – the audiences here go absolutely insane with the dancing and moshing. It’s probably not for everyone, but I had a ton of fun.
Ah, yes, the highlight of my trip to London. Seriously, there’s just so much good food in London – I have lists of recommendations from friends.
Borough Market is one of the most iconic markets in London, and the oysters there are iconic, for good reason – you don’t often come across oysters the size of your palm. Oysters aside, there’s a lot of fresh seafood in Borough for seafood lovers, as well as other interesting treats such as artisan cheeses, various varieties of mushrooms, truffle oils infused with spices you’ve never heard of, and so much more. There are other markets in London – Camden is a popular one too – but I’d still rank Borough Market at the top.
Other than markets, London also has a plethora of fancy (read: expensive) restaurants. Not gonna lie, eating in London is super pricey, but food of the same standard in Singapore would be much more expensive, so you really do pay for what you get. A personal recommendation would be Flat Iron if you’re a steak lover, and if you go to the Covent Garden outlet, you get a free ice cream cone after your meal as well! Deal of the century right there.
I suppose my only and biggest gripe about London would be the Tube. The Tube is London’s version of the MRT, except it’s also double the price, double the stuffiness, and 10 times the screeches. Yes, screeches – you actually hear annoyingly grating screeches as the Tube moves through the tunnels, and just the thought of it is giving me a migraine. Singaporeans complain about the MRT all the time, but it’s really such a blessing compared to so many metros around the world. Sure, we probably can’t compare to Tokyo, but for all its flaws the MRT is actually not too bad – it’s clean, it’s safe, there’s air-conditioning, and best of all, it doesn’t screech.
So that’s all for my reviews of Salisbury, Bath, Cardiff, and London. The next log will be about Scotland and Ireland, so stay tuned.
Belated disclaimer: These are entirely personal opinions, as you can probably tell, so please don’t take it too seriously as a legitimate travel guide.