This is my ninth post about our family's first trip to Europe. You can find the first post from this trip here and links to all the educational US travel we have done here.
The Sapphire Princess docked in Southampton on Tuesday, April 16. We disembarked bright and early. My sister booked an all-day tour for us that picked us up at the dock at 8:00 am and delivered us to our hotel in London at 6:30 pm. The tour was fantastic.
Our first stop was in Salisbury. We had a short walking tour through town, passing by the Salisbury Cathedral.
She encouraged us to visit Roly's Fudge Pantry. You don't have to ask me twice to visit a fudge shop.
We tried two flavors of fudge (Hot Cross Bun and Butterscotch) and both were delicious.
Roly's is also known for Fudgehenge. Our guide had told us about it, but the fact that it was decorated with bunnies for Easter was a delightful surprise. Turns out it changes seasonally.
We popped into a bunch of little shops, each more charming than the last. Salisbury is such a neat town. One shop had a bunch of stuffed foods for sale, including this adorable avocado. If there was ever any doubt that avocados are trending, seeing an anthropomorphic plush avocado in a small English village where avocados don't grow and aren't part of the cuisine should erase that doubt.
Poundland. That name didn't mean anything to me at first.
The store was sort of like a small Walmart, filled with a wide variety of things. I focused on the food, which should come as no surprise. I'm pretty much always focused on food. If I hadn't been concerned about how to get them home, I would have bought Salad Cream and Daddy's Favourite Brown Sauce, if only to satisfy my curiosity. (Affiliate links here and below, in case you too are curious.)
Trevor was most interested in the candy. (OK, me too.) It was only after taking this photo that I realized everything in the store cost one pound. None of us had realized that Poundland was Britain's version of our Dollar Store. Duh!
We left Poundland with a few treats for later, including Rhubarb & Custard (made by "The Kings of Boiled Sweets)." We could have spent all day exploring the shops and restaurants in Salisbury, but we wanted a little time to check out the cathedral.
But first, a phone booth. Trevor only, then Steve and Trevor.
OK, now the cathedral. We didn't see their famous peregrine falcons, but you can watch them on the cathedral's Nest Cam.
You don't see hands-on history education in cathedrals very often. Good job, Salibury. Very cool.
All too soon, we said goodbye to Salibury and headed to our next destination, Stonehenge. Steve was thrilled. Stonehenge was a bucket-list item for him. Here are Timothy and Allison with the stones in the distance.
Timothy (18), Trevor (12), and Allison (6). I love these three so much.
The actual rocks were what I expected, but nothing else was. I didn't expect the acres of open space, nor the sheep grazing nearby. I didn't expect the rocks to be far enough from the visitor center to have buses running between them. I expected to be able to get closer to the rocks than the path allowed. But mostly, I did not expect thousands of visitors on a rainy Tuesday morning in April. Fortunately, the roped area blocking off the stones is very wide, so it's not too hard to find a place to stand up against the rope and get unobstructed photos of Stonehenge.
This charmer was the highlight of Stonehenge for me. Her name is Gertie (Gertrude) and she a Great Bustard. No one knows why, but she leaves her flock in April and May to hang out alone at Stonehenge.
After viewing the stones, we tried to enjoy the visitor center, but it was so crowded it was impossible to see much. I hate crowds, so I gave up rather quickly, which is a shame because it looked like there were some interesting exhibits past the wall-to-wall people.
Our next destination was Windsor Castle. It turns out that Stonehenge was not the only popular destination on April 16. Windsor Castle was insane. Our group waited over an hour to get in. We were behind, in front of, and next to huge groups of French teenagers. Apparently the entire country of France had sent their teens to England to tour the castle. Once we got through the gates, the outdoor areas weren't bad.
Indoors was another story altogether. Pictures were forbidden, which was fine because the only things we could see in any direction were hordes of French teenagers.
We learned that when the flag is flying, the Queen is in residence.
Naturally, Brian got out his phone and began waving like crazy as he had a one-sided conversation. It was pretty funny and pretty much sums up Brian's personality.
I loved all the little crowns everywhere. And the flowers. So pretty.
After we'd seen everything, we left the castle and browsed in Windsor.
This portrait was really cool. I understand congratulations are due to these two.
We left Windsor and headed into London, a 25-mile drive. Remember when I said our Italian driver apologized for the protest in Rome that delayed us two minutes? We were not prepared in the least for the protest-related delays in London. Our bus crawled along through hideous traffic as our guide tried desperately to find streets that weren't blocked off. It took 45 minutes to go the last two miles to our hotel. If our luggage hadn't been locked up underneath the bus, we would have just walked.
We finally reached our hotel, the Amba Hotel Marble Arch and got checked in. Although they didn't honor the request that our three rooms be together, our rooms were large, clean, and comfy... and everything in the minibar was free and replenished daily. Woo hoo! I'd definitely recommend staying at the Amba, as long as there isn't a huge protest going on down the street.
Tomorrow I'll tell you about our adventures in London.