Friday, March 21, 2008

England Travelblogue: Introduction

I had the pleasure of traveling to England for the first time last week. It's always been my dream to travel extensively, but aside from a somewhat "international" childhood — which began in another hemisphere and ended with me here in the United States — I never really had the chance to explore the world in the way that I desired. Flight layovers in places like France and Hong Kong just aren't enough when you find yourself yearning to get truly immersed in another country's culture and history.

A few years ago, I decided that I was going to make it a point to start traveling. I drafted a long list of cities and countries, which I amend every now and then, and kept staring at these countries thinking that one day, I'd start seeing all of them. But a few months ago, I realized that while a list was all fine and well, it was more important to really make a move and go somewhere.

So I chose England.

Some of you might wonder why I decided on England — compared to other destinations on my list, like Machu Picchu and Thailand, it might seem rather "vanilla." But for me, it was a dream to visit this country. Having unconsciously developed into an Anglophile over the past few years, I felt it was my duty to make a pilgrimage to the land of Shakespeare and Britpop.

The thing that was unique about this trip was the fact that I decided to do it alone. With friends and family unable to accompany me across the pond, I still felt the need to go. I wasn't alone in the traditional sense because I was able to make arrangements to stay with some relatives while I was there. But I had to do a lot of planning by myself and there was a three-day period where I was flying solo as I traveled both in and outside of London.

So I sat down and thought about all the things I wanted to see. I knew I couldn't see it all in one go, so I decided to prioritize things. What were the places I absolutely needed to see? There were the obvious choices like Buckingham Palace and Big Ben, but I also knew I wanted to visit the places that suited my personality.

I made it a point to visit the literary places like Charles Dickens House, Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, and Stratford-Upon-Avon. In an attempt to expand my horizons a bit, I decided to visit Stratford by taking a day trip offered by Golden Tours. The trip allowed me an opportunity to visit Oxford and Warwick Castle in addition to Shakespeare's birthplace, and I'm really glad I took it. Even though trips of this sort are teasers that don't allow you the time to explore everything to a great length, they're an excellent way to experience something different in a short period of time.

Aside from arranging the day trip and coming up with a basic list of all the things I wanted to do and see, I didn't plan an official itinerary until I actually got to England. (This was actually a smart plan, because the Monday that I was there was also one of the stormiest days in England's history! So I decided to make that a museum day in an effort to take refuge from the wind and rain).

But the best thing I did do was figure out where each landmark was. This allowed me to figure out how much I could see at once. (For example, I was able to sort out that after seeing the Tower of London and Tower Bridge, I could take a bus across to the Tate Modern, see the Globe Theatre since it was next door, then walk across the Millennium Bridge to St. Paul's Cathedral before calling it quits. And believe it or not, I did manage to see all of these things in one day!) My flexible planning definitely paid off at the end and I was able to have quite a memorable trip.

I'll be spending the next week writing about this trip from a variety of angles, sparing you all from details of my day-to-day activities. So sit back and relax, because there's definitely more to come!

No comments: