My ten-day London (and the Home Counties) adventure was supposed to be 60% work/40% try-really-hard-to-grab-some-sightseeing time, but our host office ended up being the most awesome place ever and throwing in some really cool side trips. That, combined with how easy London and the Home Counties are to explore, and I’ve racked up some amazing happenstance and unexpected adventures along the way. Even though I’ve still got tomorrow and Sunday morning, I spent my long train ride from Winnersh to Waterloo thinking about all of the amazing surprises that have happened so far.
10. Seeing Slough across the Bridge in Eton
Staying during the week in the Home Counties, there wasn’t a lot nearby I was familiar with at first. When asked if there was anything I wanted to do, my only response was that I wanted to see Slough. This solicited dumbfounded stares and a reply of “why?” But of course, I wanted to see an office park and pretend it was the set of the British version of The Office. Duh! And while that still seemed dumb to my lovely British hosts, they humored me and looked it up the building and station from the show. Unfortunately, the infamous hq had been demolished a few years before, so there wasn’t anything left to see. But I did get a small peak at the town from across the bridge in Eton, where I also got to spot some Eton students in their fabulous tails.
9. Drinks in a bankers’ bar complete with Brexit propaganda.
Every single person asked me about wtf is going on with Donald Trump. In return, I tried to get their thoughts on the upcoming Brexit vote this summer on whether Britain should leave the EU. One of the pubs we stopped in had table-top pro-Brexit propaganda.
8. Taking the commuter train into the city and pretending to be in The Girl on the Train
Not exactly Gone Girl, but striving for the same audience, I thoroughly enjoyed The Girl on the Train. The train commute plays a central role, as does the fact that the trains allow for public consumption of alcohol. Tonight I spotted two VERY giggly thirty-somethings downing gin and tonics fast enough to make the novel’s protagonist envious.
7. Adventuring down the notorious Green Street
I love the movie Green Street Hooligans and the show Gavin & Stacey, both which feature West Ham United prominently. Got to wander out to West Ham and check out the stadium and the surrounding neighborhood.
6. Holding my own in a Pub Quiz in a 17th Century Home Counties Pub
Other than about twenty questions about the Carry On films (of which I knew absolutely nothing), I held my own on my quiz team even though I had no idea we’d be doing pub quiz until they handed out the sheets.
5. A late-night Belle & Sebastian sing along with a friend of the band.
After a night of live music, is there anything better in the world than a good car sing-a-long to a beloved tune?
4. Touring Windsor Castle
I walked into the office on Monday expecting a meeting, and instead got sent on a tour of Windsor Castle. This will go down as one of the most perfect change of circumstances in my life. The portraits on the wall and the decadent furniture was so glamorous. Made me wish I had time to see other castles around London during my time there.
3. Seeing the Gherkin from the top of an adjacent skyscraper
I will willingly look like a fool in front of folks much cooler than I, if it means I can get a photograph that I really love. And I really, really love this shot of the Gherkin, even if the people who saw me take it get this view every single day.
2. Listening to “Waterloo Sunset” at Waterloo Station
Oh, the Kinks! This song is one of my top five faves, and strolling through Waterloo station listening to their soft and sad lyrics was 3 minutes of pure heaven.
1. Taking the perfect photograph of Stonehenge
I didn’t think I’d have enough time to fit in a visit to Stonehenge, but a friend kindly volunteered to drive me today and I was thrilled. It took about an hour and a half to get out there, and I had a blast on our little English road trip. I’ve wanted to photograph Stonehenge since the original Windows desktop background came out two decades ago. And I was not disappointed one bit. I’m going to write up the actual site next week since it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but apart from the history, I was floored by the experience of actually getting to photograph the magnificent place.
I still have a day and a half left, so who knows what else unexpected might happen. There’s so much here I want to do, and so little I’ve planned, that every little thing has been magical.
England Travel Resources
- London Packing List for All Seasons
- My Tip 10 Super Awesome Surprise London Adventures
- The 12 British Phrases the Have Taken Over My Brain
- Visiting the Tower of London
- The History of Windsor Castle (podcast episode)
- Banqueting House: the Place to Kill a King (podcast episode)
- Visiting Stonehenge