London in General
What with the Diamond Jubilee celebrations taking place in London this bank holiday weekend, I thought that I would share with you my experience of London. Now, up until the Easter bank holiday this year, I had never visited the capital of the United Kingdom, despite it being somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Whilst my review may ... not cover all topics (I was only in town for the weekend), I will now discuss my experience of London.
Hopefully my review will help people who have never been to London before. My view of London is through the eyes of someone who lives in the middle of nowhere and so as you can imagine London was like nothing I had ever seen before!
Obviously, being a city, I expected London to be very busy. Although when I actually got there, coming from a tiny village in the middle of the Welsh hills, I was amazed by how busy the city actually was (by the way I have been to other cities before, Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham etc). It was a huge contrast compared to my usual 'so quiet' surroundings. Everywhere I looked there was something going on (I.e. cars whizzing pasts, people rushing everywhere). I loved the whole 'fast paced' thing as it made such a lovely change from green scenery, although I have to admit on the third day I was a bit like 'argh, I'm fed up of having to keep dodging people in the street'. You have to constantly look where you're going or you will bump into someone.
I loved the whole atmosphere in London. I found it to be very magical and I loved how full of charm the city was. I would describe London as being modern and very patriotic. When in the city, I felt so proud to be British. There are so many shops selling 'London' merchandise which is nice.
There were so amazing sights to see. I had a lot of 'wow' moments, especially as I found the city to be so magical. I thought that it was great seeing the sights that I had only ever seen on television before; I.e. Big Ben, Tower of London and The London Eye. A lot of the sights which we saw were whilst we were on board the Big Bus Tours. I was looking forward to seeing Buckingham Palace although apparently buses aren't allowed up to the palace (only cars) which was a shame. Although we could have got off the bus at Buckingham Palace had we wanted, although because some members of our group had booked to go on the London Eye for a certain time in the afternoon, we didn't have time to get off at the Palace. Although next time I would definitely take a trip to the Palace.
Now I knew that London was famous for its red buses and black taxis, although I was surprised that everywhere you looked you could guarantee within around 2 or 3 seconds a red bus and a black taxi would whiz past. I was surprised that they were actually everywhere, and so no wonder London is associated with them.
Whilst on the subject of travel; I have to say London is so easy to get around as there is plenty of transport available. Such a huge comparison to where I live where the only means of transport is one 'bus service' which goes to town once a week, and comes back the same day! Once a week! So to have a bus available every couple of seconds is amazing! We actually went on the 'Big Bus Tours' (see my review) which were brilliant and took us pretty much everywhere we wanted to go.
We found the people to be very welcoming and very helpful. They were happy to help and give us directions which I thought was lovely.
Like the rest of Britain, the weather in London was very unpredictable. I had hoped that the weather would be lovely and hot like it had been the previous week, although it was actually very dull and we experienced light rain at times which was a shame. I'm sure the city would have looked much more beautiful had the weather been lovely.
One thing which was annoying, but to be expected in London was the fact that everything was expensive; all the tourist attractions we wanted to see were really expensive (London Eye, Madame Tussauds etc). Being a student on a budget, this was annoying.
Although, we did find some free things to do in London. Our hotel was located by Regent's Park and so we had a lovely afternoon walking through the park which was free. There are many parks in London, although this was the only one which we visited and would thoroughly recommend.
I was actually hoping that I would see some celebrities in London, although I was disappointed that I didn't see one!
London is definitely the kind of place which you can keep going back to. I think that as there is so much to do, each visit will be different as you will be seeing different things each time. Also, you will never get bored of London as there are so many things to do. I would definitely consider it a great place where you can spend a weekend every now and again.
I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to London and would definitely recommend it.
~ * Tips * ~
Keep your camera on you at all times! There is so much to see and you may bump into someone famous!
Taxis are quite cheap. We travelled around on the Big Bus Tours which cost us around £30 each for a whole day (as there were 6 of us, that worked out at £180 just for a bus). We enjoyed using the bus to get around, but considering that the 3 taxis we took cost just £8 for all of us per journey, we could have saved over a £100.
Carry your mobile phone at all times - it's so easy to get lost in the crowd and so its important that you can keep in touch.
I found London to be very clean - there was always lots of 'street cleaning' going on whilst we were there.
Be careful when crossing the road. We almost got knocked over when crossing the road!
Watch your bags at all times.
Thanks for reading!
Xdonzx / xd-o-n-z-x
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Bognor Regis (West Sussex)
For those of you unfamiliar with the name, Bognor Regis is a small seaside town on the south-east coast of England almost slap bang between the better known resorts of Brighton to the east and Portsmouth to the west. Although Bognor Regis is only ten miles from where I live, I rarely go there as it's rather run down and rough. Like a lot ... of British seaside towns it had its heyday several decades ago, and since then it's been left to quietly moulder.
I happened to visit Bognor Regis just last month and things haven't improved all that much. It must be getting on for 4 or 5 years since I was last there, and the recession hasn't been kind to the town - it looked dirty, there are cracks in many of the pavements and every other shop front was either empty or closed. However, despite its down-at-heel demeanour, there are parts of Bognor Regis that recall its glory days, and if you look hard enough you can unearth the odd gem or two. It has to be said that Bognor is still a fairly popular town for many a holiday maker looking for an inexpensive seaside holiday. Bognor is cheap, it's mostly cheerful and your holiday pound will definitely stretch further here than a lot of other places on the south coast.
~~~ BOGNOR GETS A ROYAL UPGRADE (AND THEN AN INSULT) ~~~
Bognor can trace its origins all the way back to AD 680 when it was a Saxon settlement known as Bucgan (which meant shore or landing place). It remained a sleeping little fishing village (as well as a popular haunt for smugglers) until the late 18th century, when it was transformed into a resort by a gentleman known as Sir Richard Hotham. He must have had some success, as it became a popular place to "take the waters" throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. Indeed, it was chosen as the ideal location for King George V to convalesce after a lung infection in 1929 (he and Queen Mary stayed at Craigwell House in Aldwick). After his return to London and his royal duties, the town of Bognor petitioned the King to bestow the suffix "Regis" (of the King) on the town. The King is purported to have cried "Oh B*gger Bognor"...but he granted it anyway. That the King said "Oh B*gger Bognor" has never been up for dispute, but the reasons behind his outcry are unclear. Some say that the outcry was not as a result of the petition request, but at the news he may have to return to Bognor when he became ill again! Just before he died the King was told he would soon be well enough to revisit the town and have a second convalescence there. He is said to have then uttered the famous words, thus implying he had very little regard for the town. Who knows, maybe the thought of a return visit to Bognor was what finally finished him off :o(
~~~ THE SEAFRONT ~~~
One of the main attractions of Bognor Regis is definitely the seaside. It's not a massive seafront at Bognor, but it's along the lines you'd expect from your traditional British seaside resort of the 1930's, 40's and 50's. You have a pier, a shingle beach, amusement arcades, rides for the kiddies and the odd fish and chip shop. And of course not forgetting plenty of shops in which to buy ice-cream, buckets and spades, pink rock sticks and candy floss. There are some lovely old buildings overlooking the seafront which must have been stunning in their glory years. Sadly, a lack of visitors, bracing sea winds and general neglect has resulted in most of these into looking rather run-down and unloved.
The pier at Bognor is as traditional as you get. It's evidently the oldest in Britain (built in 1865), but it's quite short and lacks the attractions you find on better known piers in towns like Brighton and Boscombe. The pier used to be a lot longer at Bognor, but a storm put paid to its former grandeur in 2008 and 60 feet had to be removed due to storm damage. The pier houses an amusement arcade and a nightclub (now called "Vision" as the former incumbent "Sheiks" gained such an awful reputation for drugs and fighting). Despite its smallness, the pier pays host the "The International Bognor Birdman" competition every summer, which is huge draw for residents and tourists alike. Basically the competition is for various madmen (and women) to dress up in costume, throw themselves off the pier and see who can "fly" the furthest. All the contestants design their own flying machines and the record currently stands at a rather impressive 89 metres. It's a rather popular event as you can imagine as it's certainly rather unique. Nobody takes the contest all that seriously, it's just a bit of fun with plenty of silly costumes and outlandish flying machines. Rumour has it that Richard Branson even took part one year!
Opposite the pier, is a rather good crazy golf course, and it's always a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon. When my nephew wasn't too old to enjoy such simple pleasures we regularly used to play a round there. You can also have your fortune told by Gypsy Lee, but she is housed in a wooden shed rather than a tent! There are no big rides at Bognor, just a few small ones for the kiddies on the seafront.
The beach at Bognor is still a massive draw for the town, despite being covered in pebbles. During a heat-wave it will be full to bursting with both locals and holiday makers sunbathing and swimming. If pebbles aren't really your thing, then you will find nicer and sandier beaches nearly - try Elmer Sands, Aldwick (the posh part of Bognor Regis where all big houses are), West Beach in Littlehampton or West Wittering near Chichester.
~~~ BOGNOR HIGH STREET ~~~
It's sad to say but Bognor town centre is even shabbier than the seafront. At least the seafront still has the charm and ambiance of an atypical British seaside town despite the scruffiness of some of the buildings. In the town centre, it all feels a little bit squalid and dirty. The pavements are cracked and uneven and there's rather too much litter everywhere. The main shopping area is a bit cleaner and it's pedestrianised, but the areas surrounding it are filthy.
The recession has hit hard here, and it's reflected in the number of empty units on the high street. Every other shop is either a charity one or some kind of pound shop. There aren't too many well known high street names here - you're more likely to find small independent traders. Although it's great to see any independent traders on the UK high street in this day and age, they're not particularly nice shops in Bognor Regis. You're unlikely to find a nice greengrocer or butcher here, more another variation on a "pile 'em high, sell 'em cheap" pound shop. I thought it was quite ironic that a pound shop calling itself "Mr Bankrupt" had obviously gone the way of its moniker with its doors were firmly sealed shut and its windows blacked out. Sadly yet another casualty of the recession and lack of tourism to the town.
It's not all doom and gloom on the high street - there are some famous names here - there's a Morrison's supermarket, a Boots, a New Look, an Iceland and a WH Smith. Sadly Marks and Spencer left a good few years ago and is unlikely to return. What you will aplenty here are pawn brokers, cheque cashers and money lenders. And fairly recent addition to the town since my last visit is a plethora of Polish supermarkets throughout. It has to be said that if you want better shopping opportunities, you'll be better off heading into Chichester....though it will inevitably be more expensive there.
~~~ SIR BILLY BUTLIN MOVES IN ~~~
Bognor Regis is well known as being home to Butlins holiday camp. Evidently this is the oldest holiday camp in Britain, and Butlins has been dominating the skyline at Bognor since 1960. Although Butlins used to be renowned for cheap family holidays and accommodation, there has been much building work here in the last few years, and many of the old wooden chalets have been knocked down and replaced with huge glass-fronted hotels which look a lot like massive cruise liners (The Shoreline was built in 2005 and it was followed by The Ocean in 2009). The onsite entertainment and facilities have all been upgraded and it certainly looks a lot more 21st century than it ever used to. Butlins holiday camp used to known as Southcoast World but has now rebranded itself as Butlins Bognor Regis Resort. It houses all sorts of attractions from swimming pools, fairground rides and tennis courts to a multiplex cinema and a concert hall / stage arena.
I've been to the cinema there and had dinner in the restaurant and both were very modern and welcoming facilities. I do draw the line at a day pass though, as it is still Butlins and it's a bit naff. However judging by the number of families who flock there, it seems like a popular way to holiday with plenty to see and do.
~~~ HOTHAM PARK ~~~
Hotham Park was a magical place for me when I was a child. In those days it had a lovely little Pet's Corner and lots of twisting paths throughout the woods with hidden statues of cartoon characters. Sadly these have all gone now, and the Pet's Corner is no more. It's not a magical place for me anymore, but there is still plenty to see and do there, and it's certainly a lovely little haven of greenness after the squalor and brashness of Bognor town centre. It's free to enter (but you do have to pay (inexpensively) to park), and there are lots of little attractions scattered throughout the trees. You can ride on a mini-train, hire a boat on the miniature boating lake, play pitch and putt or crazy golf, or just enjoy a walk. The squirrels seemed to be virtually tame when we visited last week and came running up to anyone carrying food on them. The rooks were just as cheeky, and we were glad we had left the dog at home or there may have been an international incident where she would have tried to "play" with them.
~~~ FOOD, DRINK AND SLEEP ~~~
There are plenty of places to eat and drink in Bognor, but they're mostly along the lines of fish and chips shops, cafeterias or tearooms. There are a few outlets from the better known chains such as KFC, McDonalds and Starbucks, but they're mostly independent traders. Restaurant wise you have a couple of high street names such as Brewer's Fayre and Wetherspoons, but that's about it. There are a few nice restaurants in Bognor - namely "Sen" (Spanish food) or various Indian, Chinese and Thai eateries. To be honest there's much more choice in nearby Chichester, but the prices will be dearer there than you'll pay in Bognor.
Night life in Bognor tends to be centred either on the pier at "Visions" nightclub or at Butlins. Accommodation wise, Butlins is where most visitors stay when they come to Bognor. However, if holiday camps are not your thing, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts to choose from - no doubt many housing the ubiquitous seaside landlady! If neither of those options floats your boat, then you can stay at Royal Norfolk hotel (a lovely white painted seafront building with plenty of charm and more than a whiff of a bygone era) or the Russell Hotel overlooking Marine Park Gardens.
~~~ NEARBY ~~~
There is plenty to see and do in this part of the world, as you have both the lovely coastline as well as the majestic and rolling hills just inland known as the South Downs. The historic town of Arundel is only 8 miles to the north and houses a world famous castle and cathedral. You can read about Arundel in my review at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/ arundel-in-general/1074333/.
The old Roman town of Chichester is 6 miles to the west of Bognor (http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/destinations-national/ chichester-in-general/1165555/) and has lots of great shops, Chichester Cathedral and Pallant House Art Gallery. Near to Chichester are both Fishbourne Roman Palace and the Goodwood Estate (horse racing, motor sport, golf and a stately home). Please see my review for further details at http://members.dooyoo.co.uk/sightseeing-national/ goodwood-estate-west-sussex/1533106/
~~~ RECOMMENDATION? ~~~
Sadly Bognor Regis can no longer rely on tourism the way it once did, and that is reflected in the whole town. Although parts of the seafront are charming and obviously historic, they've become increasingly shabby over the years and everything looks a little unloved. The town is still a popular choice resort for a cheap seaside holiday, but it looks a rather rough and squalid in places.
Bognor needs to undergo a huge regeneration programme to become the charming seaside resort it was in George V's heyday. There is a glimmer of hope for Bognor as there appeared to be plenty of building work going on to the edges of the town. We noticed some stunning looking glass fronted flats and penthouses in development near Butlins. There are also plenty of new homes being built on estates to the north and west of the town. We drove past legions of new estates advertising show homes from Barratts, David Wilson, Berkeley Homes et al, so there is plenty of new blood being bought into the area. If it's been planned right then that should mean plenty of refurbishment or new shops and leisure facilities for Bognor Regis to house the influx of new residents.
As it stands I can only recommend Bognor if you love the British seaside and want a relatively cheap holiday on the south coast. However it is very far from ideal if you like your resorts upmarket and clean...because it's very far from either. George V definitely summed it up oh so well when he shouted "Oh B*gger Bognor!" back in 1929!
~~~ HOW TO GET THERE ~~~
By Car - Bognor Regis is easily reached via the M27 (and A27) coastal road which links
Sussex, Hampshire and Kent. From London the town is best reached via the A29 or A24.
By Train - Bognor Regis station is situated within a two minute walk of the centre of town, and is served by regular trains from London Victoria (1 hour 45 minutes), Portsmouth and Brighton.
Car Parking - Car parking is quite easy in Bognor as there are plenty of relatively inexpensive pay and display car parks within easy walking distance of the town centre and the seafront. Obviously on a hot summer day, parking is going to be a problem in a seaside town like Bognor, but outside of hot days parking isn't much of a problem here.
~~~ FURTHER INFORMATION ~~~
Bognor Regis Tourist Information Centre
Phone: 01243 823140
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Eyam Village (Derbyshire, England)
Eyam in Derbyshire is an unlikely tourist destination, yet every year it attracts thousands of people. Although it is a picturesque little village in the heart of Derbyshire that has existed in some form or other as a settlement since Roman times, its notoriety ultimately derives from a period of roughly fifteen months in the late 17th ... century.
A Quick History Lesson
During the summer of 1665, a resident of Eyam received a package of cloth from London. Finding the cloth to be damp on its arrival, he hung it in front of the fire to dry. This awakened some dormant plague bacteria in the cloth and within a week, he was dead. As the plague ravaged the village, the local Rector, William Mompesson persuaded many of the villagers to shut themselves off from the outside world to prevent spreading the disease to the rest of Derbyshire. This brave decision was a death sentence for many of the villagers as, over the course of September 1665-November 1666, many succumbed to the disease. It is estimated that out of a pre-plague population of around 350 (some put it higher), around 80 survived.
Although only a small village, Eyam is highly accessible. It sits in the centre of the Peak District and is easy to reach from Sheffield, Manchester or other parts of Derbyshire. Probably the easiest route is to head towards Bakewell on the A6, following the signs to Stony Middleton and then to Eyam. The approach to Eyam is up a steep hill, but all the roads are well maintained and should offer no problems for anyone in a car.
On arrival in Eyam, you will be directed to one of two car parks at the upper end of the village. The first is a pay and display one which costs (on average) about a pound an hour. However, literally next door is a free car park and I'd advise trying here first. The only downside is that both car parks are relatively small and at the peak of summer, I suspect that parking could be an issue.
The most pleasing thing about Eyam today is that although it is a significant tourist attraction it has not sold out to the tourist dollar (or pound, Euro or yen). Its development has been well-managed so that it can continue to function as both a village community and a tourist site. Places and buildings of significance are clearly identified by green plaques which are easy to spot and contain information about the history of that particular building, whilst a number of well-written information boards are posted throughout the village. Many relate to the plague year, although there are a few that point out the historical significance of other buildings, reminding visitors that Eyam is not just about the plague. It has not sold out or become "Disney-fied" and has managed to strike a good balance between tourist spot and local community.
Things to see
It is the terrifying, yet touching story of the plague that will attract most visitors and there are a number of well-maintained sites to visit. A map (obtainable from the tourist information point in the village) is essential to make sure you don't miss anything out as the sites are scattered throughout the village.
These include the Riley Graves (see below), the boundary stone and Mompesson's Well, which marked the area beyond which villagers could not go and where food was left for them by the outside world. The church, too, is well worth visiting. Inside, there is a memorial book which records the names and dates of death of all known victims. This really brings home the personal impact of the disease. The church also contains some a fascinating and very well-written display providing background information about the plague in Eyam and which combines general information with more personal, touching stories.
Don't be too quick to just look at these items and go, though, since the church itself - regardless of its plague connection - is a beautiful building and well worth taking time to look around.
Almost everywhere you go in Eyam, there is a tragic story. Cottages bear plaques indicating who lived and died there. Many families lost significant numbers (including one poor woman who lost her husband and all her children, only to remarry and see her new husband succumb to the disease.) Then, there is the case of the Hancock family, where the mother was the sole survivor, having to bury her six children and husband over a period of just seven days. Their graves (the Riley Graves) can still be seen on the outskirts of the village and are a poignant reminder of the terrible fate of some of the villagers.
When I arrived at Eyam, I thought we would probably spend a maximum of two hours there. In fact, we were there for at least double that and even then we didn't see everything (Eyam Hall was shut for the season when we visited; we also didn't visit the museum). Better still, the whole day cost us virtually nothing: car parking was free, as are most of the sites (only the museum and the Hall charge). Our only expense was some light refreshments from one of the coffee shops. There are not many places where you can experience such a fascinating, inspiring and emotional day for absolutely nothing.
One thing you do need to bear in mind in Eyam is that there is quite a lot of walking involved, as the various plague sites are scattered throughout the village and surrounding area. Many of the key sites (the church, the plague cottage) are clustered in the middle of the village and are easily accessible. A few, though, involve walking across fields or along stony tracks - some of which are up steep hills. This includes Mompesson's Well, the Riley Graves and the Boundary Stone. Although none of the walks are particularly long (the furthest is about 0.5 miles out of the village), they are all in different directions, so you do find yourself backtracking quite a bit. However, given how beautiful the village and the surrounding area are, this is no great hardship, providing you are reasonably fit. Given the nature of the village, you would also be advised to visit Eyam on a nice day, as almost everything you do is outdoors.
Thanks to its historical significance, Eyam can get incredibly busy. As well as being a popular tourist spot, it is also a destination for school trips and even when we went (in mid September) it was packed with schoolchildren and tourists. The good thing is that since there are a variety of sites to visit, you can choose your own route and if one site is busy, you can simply move onto the next one and return later.
Eyam is a deeply moving place to visit and should be on the list of anyone who finds themselves in Derbyshire. It might not be the biggest place in the world, but it is safe to say that it is one that has always fascinated me. Tremendous credit should be given to the Town Council and authorities for successfully managing to maintain a proper sense of village life and community, whilst at the same time making sure this terrible, touching tale is still being remembered almost 350 years on.
© Copyright SWSt 2012
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Destination National / Small campsite on the shore of Ullswater. Address: Patterdale, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0NL. Tel: 017684 82337
Destination National / Country: England
Destination National / A small coastal town in West Sussex between Bognor Regis and Chichester
Destination National / Country: England
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City: Somerset / Destination National / Country: England
Destination National / Long Melford (or Melford, as it is known colloquially) is a large, ancient village in the county of Suffolk, England, on the border with Essex, which is marked by the River Stour, approximately 16 miles from Colchester and 14 miles from Bury St. Edmunds.
Destination National / One of the oldest and highest towns in England
City: Buckinghamshire / Destination National / Country: England
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