With my study abroad term quickly coming to an end, I’ve made up a list of places I wanted to re-visit in England. Since Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated in England, many cities started setting up their Christmas decorations and displays in mid-November. My flatmates helped me go through the towns I had visited since September and narrow down the ones with the best “holiday spirit” for me to visit again. Last weekend I went back to Bath; this time I was accompanied by two students from Drexel who were also studying at the University of Bristol.
We each had our own afternoon plans set in place, but because I had visited Bath a month prior, I was in charge of deciding how we spent the morning. My favorite place to have tea in Bath was Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House, so that’s where we started off the morning. It’s a popular place to be on a Saturday, but we were seated without having to wait too long. Afterwards, we walked around Bath Abbey and got to see the Christmas tree towering alongside the church. The shops that lined the main streets had red and green window displays, and attracted quite a big crowd. Many little kids squeezed their way through to the front to press their noses up against the glass to get the closest look possible.
By midday, it was time for us to go our separate ways. I made my way to the meeting point for the tour I had booked to visit Stonehenge that afternoon. There are many different ways to travel to Stonehenge such as a train ride from Bristol followed by a bus journey. It’s important to note that when traveling to the site by this method can be longer and more expensive. The tour I chose was four hours long and included the price of entry to the grounds of Stonehenge. I found this to be the most economical option, and it was perfect because it allowed me to spend the morning in Bath with friends!
The ride from Bath to Stonehenge went through the very scenic countryside of England. We passed many free-range farms and saw sheep, cattle, pigs, and horses grazing the expansive fields. This part of southwestern Englandis known for its rolling hills, which are stunning. The greenery is endless and it’s a view that I missed after spending so much time in the city. We drove through two small villages along the way that were known for their thatched roofs. The cottages looked like something out of a storybook, and part of me expected Hansel and Gretel to walk out of one. I didn’t realize that we were in such a remote area until I looked at my phone and noticed I didn’t have any cell-service. Luckily we were only a few minutes away from Stonehenge’s Visitor Centre and Exhibition Hall, where there was Wi-Fi.
Once we arrived at Stonehenge’s Visitor Centre we boarded a shuttle bus that took us along the one mile path to where the stones were. In order to preserve the secluded feeling, the exhibition hall and visitor centre were built far away from the grounds of Stonehenge. There’s also a walking path that leads to the site, however it was much too cold to trek to the stones. Because Stonehenge sits in a valley surrounded by hills, tourists are warned about rainy and extreme windy conditions. I lucked out and experienced a cloudy, but chilly day with absolutely no rain. The sun set at about 4 pm in England, so by 2 pm it was already getting a bit darker, which made for an ominous afternoon.
I’ve had many friends tell me that Stonehenge isn’t as grand or magnificent as the Instagram posts and travel bloggers claim, but I was bent up on not leaving England until I got to experience it for myself. As I stepped off the shuttle and walked towards the stones, I was blown away, not by the wind, but by its breathtaking beauty. There were hardly any people around and the atmosphere felt calm and serene. I was able to walk up fairly close to the actual stones, which was something I didn’t expect as most of my friends were only able to view it from a distance. There was trail that circled around which I followed and periodically stopped and asked other tourists to snap pictures of me. I realized that almost everyone there was an American tourist, most of them being other study abroad students. I had a few conversations with students from Texas, California, and Connecticut during which we exchanged travel tips and destinations in the UK. It was fun to connect with other study abroad students like me and share our experiences thus far.
After spending about and hour and a half at the site, I took the shuttle back to the visitor centre area and walked around the gift shop. There are many theories about who built Stonehenge and why and the shop was filled with books on all the different possibilities. There were also many photograph journals filled with professional photos of Stonehenge taken at sunrise, sunset, the middle of the night, and any other time in between. Because of its remote location, there isn’t much light pollution in the sky, making Stonehenge a photographer’s dream to capture the Milky Way Galaxy and stars above the stones. I spent a bit of time flipping through the photo books and admiring the beauty before it was time to head back to the bus.
Time moved very quickly and before I knew it I was back in Bath! I was welcomed to a sea of people flooding the streets, dressed in formal attire, and practically sparkling under the twinkling lights strung across the tall lampposts. It was another one of those Christmas-movie events where everyone seemed to be in a holiday daze and just ready to spread some cheer. It was a nice change from the serene nature of Stonehenge, the perfect end to my day.
A Message from the Office of Global Engagement:
The safety and security of Drexel students is a priority for the University. As part of the efforts to support Drexel students that are studying abroad during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Office of Global Engagement has conducted a rigorous review of programming and provided additional support to participating students with customized pre-departure orientations and regular check-ins during the required self-isolation period and the term.