Over the last few years I have settled into being a “small town” guy, although, there are still few things I enjoy more than the challenge of navigating a big city, and there’s no big city quite like London! I recently backpacked through this great city to familiarize myself with some new hotel properties, navigate the famous London transportation system, and experience some excellent tours of places, new and old. I spent the first day upon arrival locating my hotel in the bustling district of Waterloo and wandering along the Thymes and the surrounding area. A Friday afternoon, the waterfront was packed with people sitting outside cafés drinking cappuccinos and wine, and eventually the sights and smells of food and drink drove me into a local pub/hostel for some wonderful pizza and beer. The combination, it appears, is universal!
The next day was my historical day, embarking on a 10 hour tour of Bath, Stonehenge, and Salisbury. I am continuously struck by the incredible beauty every country offers once you get out of the big cities, and I admit that the British countryside is one of the best. Plenty of rolling hills, dense forests, and everything is so remarkably green even in the winter! Upon entering the city of Bath, I quickly decided that this was going to be where I retire (along of course with Tuscany, Mexico, and just about every other country I’ve ever visited…). Aptly named the “Italy of England”, Bath was originally a religious site of Celtic tribes before being conquered by the Romans in the first century A.D. The city, and the healing waters it was built around, has prospered for two millennia and the city has a unique style and historical presence unlike anywhere else in the United Kingdom. After a brief stop at Stonehenge, which was itself beyond impressive, we arrived at Salisbury Cathedral, recently made popular by Ken Follet in his book The Pillars of the Earth (I highly recommend). Churches are my favorite places to visit while in Europe, and Salisbury lives up to all of the hype surrounding it. As the oldest gothic cathedral in England, as well as the tallest, it truly is an incredible specimen of human imagination and craftsmanship. At the end of the tour, needless to say, the guide had a group of tired “little darlings”, as she liked to call us, and I was grateful for a good night’s rest.
Thanks to one of my helpful contacts at Noteworthy Events in London, I was also able to secure a spot on a behind-the-scenes tour of the Olympic Park, which is nearing completion for the games this summer. After going through some pretty intense security, we were taken around in a bus and informed about the planning and construction of the 8.3 billion project. The entire site in Stratford was formerly a land fill/industrial wasteland which has been completely decontaminated and turned into a beautiful, environmentally friendly, and popular part of the city. Most of the rest of my time in London was spent checking out hotels for our various types of clients, speaking with hotel managers about their properties, and practically memorizing the London Tube map and how to get around the city. Although I saw and did a lot while I was there, there are still so many places to see and things to do in this incredible city that I can’t wait until I can return! PC
Patrick Craven graduated from Elon University with degrees in History & Religious Studies. He joined the Aladdin family in March 2011. Patrick works with our Study Abroad and Group Travel clients. His favorite destinations include Italy, Ireland, Mexico and England. When Patrick isn't traveling, he enjoys snowboarding and playing the guitar and saxophone.