Did you know that for a while I lived in England? It was during my university exchange when I was a student in an obscure and unloved little place called Preston. If you’re wondering (and many people either do or are shocked and feel sorry for me), Preston is near Manchester and Liverpool in the North West of the country and not particularly a place to visit with the best part being Avenham Park with a little Japanese garden in its midst. Now I haven’t really succeeded in bringing across how much I love England. And yes, Preston played a part in that. Let’s give it some credit here.
*The links in this article are sponsored links by The British Corner Shop who kindly freshend up my memory of good British food and supplied me with a little care package. As always, my opinion is smy own and I won’t recommend anything I won’t recommend to you truthfully, my online friends. Also, I do have a very big craving fro chocolate and Cadbury is among my top 3.
But besides awesome student times and terribly frustrating phases with big culture clashes, the time was mostly a lesson about foreign lands and strange people. And I learnt my lesson so well that I am now travelling the world to get more of it! Meetings interesting people and learning from them is one of the best parts of travel, don’t you agree? And the chocolate. I cannot get enough of Cadbury milk chocolate* and Cadbury flakes*, ever!
No need to travel the whole world, exploring a country more intensively is a great start to get there. Straight country hopping will never help you dig deeper. I for one, have travelled England quite a bit when I lived there. If you are the type to enjoy road trips and planned travels, I’ve got a great itinerary for you based on my own travels and I can give you my best tips and recommendations because my brain is wired like that. Six years back I began discovering England bit by bit and I still remember it like it was – maybe not yesterday, but – last week.
The Sunniest Spot to Start
To kick this off, why not head over to the sunniest part of England, which is the Isle of Wight. It is super cute, very old-fashioned and has a charming atmosphere with nice people. While the whole island has many noteworthy attractions, I especially recommend visiting Victoria and Albert’s Osborne House and Carisbrooke Castle where King Charles I was captured, which led to the short period that England was actually a republic. For more sad stories, check out the history of Godshill (Christianity versus heathens), but let’s move on over to Shanklin Shine, Sandown, the Needles and finally over on the ferry to Southampton. However, this little town not a particularly attractive place. All there is to see are a couple of old city walls, a casino and the harbour, so move on pretty quickly and go to Brighton.
Here, you can see lots of the quaint and typically British coastline promenades and houses. Unfortunately, you cannot see the old piers anymore (I was lucky to have seen one) as they all burnt down. Never mind that now as the actual highlight is the Royal Palace, which looks very much Indian in style and extravagantly the-British-are-colonising-the-world on the inside. It is very much worth a visit! All in all, Brighton is excessively cute. After having had a prolonged beach stroll you should head up to the capital.
Not Just for Nerds
I don’t need to tell you there is so much to see in London. It would require a whole series of articles to cover it all. If you’re interested, let me know and I can write up one for you, but for now we should just establish that less than three days in London is not the best idea. If you stay a little bit longer you should make a visit to both Oxford and Cambridge as a day trip each. They are extremely amazing in their own right and a definite must see not only for all fans of Harry Potter. If you want to save some money I say book a Megabus in advance and they can take you there for a single pound! Just don’t rely too much on the London transport as I did back then when a train track burned down and announcers did not tell us passengers. Instead, my train went back to my starting point instead of towards the bus and I consequently missed it. So never have a too tight schedule.
If you even have a little bit of a heart for British literature or are a massive fan of Shakespeare like me, then you absolutely must go to Stratford-Upon-Avon. There’s not too much to see but it is a pretty good day out there is a little river, many Shakespeare sites and performances all year round. It is good not too think too much about the question whether Shakesper was Shakespeare, it just spoils the mood. Once that is out of you mind, check out Trinity church and look for to the little bust of the playwright (it used to be colourful). Still, you won’t find a real grave at the church as he was not actually buried here. Throughout your walk, you will also see the Royal Shakespeare Company, his son in law’s house (which he never visited) and the replica of his birth house (it was burnt down by the owner, who was annoyed by tourists).
In case you need an extra dose of medieval British architecture and particularly if you are German and have learnt English from text books that were set in Chester, then you should drop by said town. Just stay within the city centre as the suburbs are nothing special. Walking along the old cobblestone streets, you will feel as if thrown back in time to the Tudors era. Anyway, for more beautiful architecture with old Tudor houses, church ruins and castles, check out both Coventry and Warwick. I promise you that you will fall in love with the latter!
Heading Up North
And now it’s not a long drive over to the heart of North West England with Liverpool, Manchester and Preston being super near. Places you can safely avoid visiting are Lytham (you can’t even find the ocean at the promenade!), Blackpool (only if you are into theme park promenades and clubbing) and maybe Southport (it has nice buildings but otherwise is boring). For Manchester, the huge Primark near the train station is already an attraction as are the many events going on in the square. Watch out for the many art installations across the city centre, visit the museum and library for some great British architecture and exhibits. If you like to chill on green grass by the water, do it like the locals and head to the canal district.
In Liverpool, the harbour is a must with the Three Graces and the Beatles Museum. Just across you can reach the big shopping district or walk all the way past the university buildings to the old cathedral and the small China Town. You might even stumble upon the artworks that are stone suitcases. I loved those very much for some reason.
After that, make your way to my absolute favourite town in England, York. It has everything you want from a typically British town: an old city wall, cathedral, medieval streets (the Shambles!), Tudor houses and modern quirky shops. You can walk around easily in this town and see so many different faces of it, canals, a hill with a castle tower, the list goes on. Another tip are the university houses. Just walking on their grounds you can imagine a nice student life here. Has anyone experiences with York University?
And since all this talk about England and its wonderful sights has created quite the yearning for another visit as well as its food (hey, British food might have a bad rep but it can be really nice), I am making myself baked beans* in a baked potato with cheese on top and take a look at my old photo books. Hope to see you on the island soon!