I hope you guys have been looking forward to this, I am finally writing about some of the wonders in United Kingdom, part of a 3 episode review arc, this trip was the day trip that I have booked with Premium Tours in London. My review of this tours company won’t be too great but neither would it be too shabby too. After all maybe my review might be slightly unfair and bias, since I am from a country where the expectation for customer service and hospitality is extremely high. But I will do point out some of the strong points and quality of my tour guide and Premium Tours in this post and also the upcoming ones on Bath and Stonehenge.
Probably you guys have already guess it, this trip was a full day tour to Windsor Castle, Bath and Stonehenge, compromising my top 3 wanderlust bucket list. I have long wanted to visit these places when I have decided to come to the UK. Although being in the UK, a predominately English speaking countries, it should be easy for traveller to travel free and easy to these places with the rail it isn’t too hard. Although the top of my list, Stonehenge, was the hardest because besides a train ride, you will need to cab out to the place. Why? For those who are unsure what Stonehenge is, I will give you guys a heads up, “couple of weird stones on a lawn” haha, stay tuned for my post on that to be clearer, actually most of us has seen it before on your desktop. With all these consideration and thoughts, I might as well book a day tour! All planned out for you, tickets, tour guide, transport. Of course it definitely comes with a price, about 160 SGD per person, tips are not compulsory. A bit of the costly side, however I guess, everything is expensive in the UK for us. It is highly recommended to visit these 3 attractions as you will not want to miss it. Day tours are actually good to includes in any free and easy trip, especially if you want to see more rather than shop more. They allow you to learn more about the country through the knowledgeable tour guide and also see the “actual” city that you are visiting, I mean, the suburban and the neighbourhood, staring out of a coach windows seeing the countryside is one of travelling greatest pleasure. Such pleasure can only be attained on a bus or train, luxurious a seat in business or first class flying can be, this is something they can never ever fulfil.
Tours can be fun and enjoyable but depending on how you want things. Being a discerning and C’est la Vie me, I hate about being rushed and sticking to a rigid schedule, another point that I have to point out would be the early wake up time. Due to the early departure of this tour, I have to be awake at 7 in the morning, holy hell, rushed through breakfast and then be at the meeting point. It is worth to know that most coach tours or company are based out of London Victoria Coach Station. Similar to most cities in the world, it is an awful place to be with the morning crowd in rush hours, the human traffic is as bad as the road traffic. One of the reason I choose Premium Tours would be the pickup services that they provide in most hotels in central London. In case that you guys are tempted to sign up after reading my reviews the tour name is Windsor Castle, Stonehenge and Bath.
After booking the tour you can choose to either make your way down to Victoria Coach Station or to one of the hotels for pickup. Different hotels have different pick up times. Just nice Hilton London Metropole hotel was one of the pickup point which makes it no fuss for me. A lady from a tour company came to collect us from the hotel concierge and up the coach we went. After a couple more pickup we were all alight at the coach station. Even the pickup lady was well trained, sharing with us some of the thoughts behind the buildings we went pass in London and also informing us of the procedure for our tour later. We arrived slightly before 8 in the morning and waited at one of the gates, which was used for Premium Tours. The crowd here was crazy, totally comparable to an early morning MRT in Singapore. This is when you have to pay attention as the tour guides will call out the tour name and you will proceed to the designated coach. My whole tour was about 30-40 people, although it was extremely funny to how the tour size decrease marginally later on. My tour guide was a classic one, true brits that speaks with an accent that I love, arrogant and proud about his work and being a British, extremely knowledgeable about the history of United Kingdom.
After ensuring that all are onboard we instantly departed, making use of all the precious time we have, although most of the people prefer to sit on the upper deck, I prefer to sit in the lower deck, with far better eye level views of the scenic scenery. It is with an international tour mates that we depart, there are Americans to as far as China. Upon getting started, the tour guide immediately start sprinting, throwing us with great depth of history and stories, mostly about the kings and queens, the royal family but also not excluding the places and buildings in London. Such as the Blue plague that shows buildings with historical worthiness to the gorgeous Harrods, the place where it is said to be able to find anything in the world, as long as you have the cash man, it is said that you can buy century old champagne to caviar and also a yacht. Maybe one fine day I will just come back here and buy one, slap down by black Amex and off I go. Hearing him talk was fun man, shooting away while seeing him sucking his water as and when, it is just like a crash course into London. One of the interesting one was about how the Queen and the royal family actually contributes to the UK economy rather than living off as royalties on Britons hefty taxes. It is nice to know that the Queen actually is not only a symbol but also helping the people. Another interesting fact that I learned was on Order of the Garter, the highly exclusive membership of knights where membership is only on the nomination of the Queen, and also the home located in Windsor Castle, where the meet of the Garter takes place annually during June for the Garter service. I super love this picture in the St George Chapel!
The journey to the Windsor Castle is slightly less than an hour away from London, Windsor Castle is the Queen favourite residence, yes, in fact the Queen does actually alternate between staying here and the Buckingham palace, it was said that this was far more preferred by the Queen than the Buckingham Palace. Since in the past this is where she has spent most of her time growing up, throughout the torrid times of the world war the Queen, being only a young girl was sent here to be protected and also grow up out of the media scrawny eyes. Located in the town of Windsor, the area is a upscale small compact English town, with a train station and despite a small shopping area nearby. The town is full of tourists, besides the famed Castle and nearby alleys and streets are also great for exploring if you have time to spend. A leisurely stroll will be great. Eton College was also nearby within site from my view at the train station. For those who are interested, Eton college is the most famous boarding school in England and also tremendously hard to get in, with fees to match. It produce at least 19 British Prime Minister and many other business world elites, among them perhaps the most famous one would be Prince William. It is a all boys boarding school, where almost every graduates proceeds on to be accept by leading university worldwide. Thankfully by being in a tour group, the queue to the entrance was slightly shorter than the normal entrance and soon with the audio guide distribute, I proceed to admire the grandeur of this place. The place was quite huge actually, plenty to see, I would say to have at least 2 hours to have a good and relaxing view. I my route map, I went to St George Chapel first, followed by the Queen Mary Dolls House which was connected to the State Apartments & Semi-state Rooms. The chapel has the most beautiful exterior and interior but the State apartments and rooms were the glamorous and full of stuff to see. Here are some pictures of the grounds.
St George Chapel as mentioned above was the meeting place for the Order of the Garter, a quiet place where prayers are heard and by being inside you get a quiet and peaceful feeling. I absolutely love the flags in the choir area inside. Many sovereigns are buried here. The exterior was extremely gorgeous and a perfect representation of Gothic architecture. It is important to visit here when you first arrive as the chapel does close a little early than the others, guest are also welcome to attend any of the services held. I will let some of these pictures do some of its amazement!
The Queen Mary Dolls house was up next for me, the story being this exhibition was quite sweet actually, there was also a slight queue for this. This is by far the largest and most beautiful doll house in the world, you really feel large by being inside, tall and fat. Ordered as a gift for Queen Mary, the wife of George V, the idea came from the Queen cousin Princess Marie Louise who had deep connections in arts. It is great to see such small dolls craved to perfection and with precision. You could see every single details even on the miniature figurines, the creator was Sir Edwin Lutyens, symbol of the finest British craftsmanship.
The last visit that I went in Windsor Castle was the rooms and apartments, this is definitely the highlight of the place, a must visit. It is quite large and you could definitely spend some of your time here, with the most famous being Waterloo chamber, you will get to see some of the rooms and items that are still being use today for state visit and hosting guests. Set out by Charles II to compete with his France counterpart Chateau de Versailles, you could imagine how gorgeous it is. I will let you guys see some of my pictures here.
One the last note, I also get a glimpse of the changing of guards right before I left for the meeting point. Stay tuned for my article on the enchanting city of Bath, Somerset. Do you guys love Windsor Castle? Let me know!