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Bernadette Solos to London, Bath and Stonehenge


I’m not a “city” girl, but I’ll start by saying that my three days here was not long enough to experience all this amazing city has to offer!  One can easily spend seven days here and just scratch the surface. 

Upon my arrival I had a few hours to check in, have a shower and then head out for a Soho Food Tour.  I must admit, it was really fun and the bites and beverages we enjoyed at the five restaurants we visited were really delicious.  The group was small, and our guide was quirky, adding that little extra touch to the small group tour. This district gets its name from the cry made when a hare hunting party was ready to begin the hunt. Today, it is a mixing pot of cultures for sure – and it was so much fun experiencing how people just spilled out into the streets, holding their drinks, visiting, laughing and sharing stories.

Here’s One Nose to start

A fun fact in Soho – there are 7 noses scattered throughout the District.  Legend says that if you find them all you will receive unbelievable wealth! 

London is a sprawling metropolis and not all the “tourist sites” are close to each other.  I purchased an Oyster Card, London’s version of a metro pass. The Tube in London is the most efficient and cost-effective mode of underground travel that I have yet to experience.  The downloadable app for your phone is a must have! The stations are well lit and very well traveled.  I must admit I was apprehensive about traveling around on my own, especially in the early morning or later hours, but even at 6:30 am (yup, getting to my tour), there were over 100 people on the train with me in various cars.

Although most of the tourist sites are accessible to those with mobility issues, there’s a lot of cobble stones around and accessible travel can be difficult.

My hotel was perfectly situated at Leicester Square and it took me only 3 minutes to walk to a Tube Station, allowing me to access everything I was hoping to see easily.  Access to Tube Stations is another must!

Most museums are free in London and house so many treasures, all of which I will have to return to as I just didn’t have enough time on my hands to do the museums justice.

I did have a city tour, which included a walking portion that allowed for a Beefeater Tour, a visit to the Tower of London and a look-see at the Crown Jewels, along with a stop at Westminster Abbey.  You have to be very quick if you want to avoid the lines and once you get to the “jewel room” and be aware – no pictures are permitted.

Added on was a mini cruise on the Thames.  If I had more time, I would have taken the longer cruise.  It passes by the major sites along the river and travels under many bridges – including modern London Bridge and the Tower Bridge.  You get a real feel from the boat the difference between London on one side and Westminster on the other. 

Also included was Buckingham Palace and the Changing of the Guards – actually, I witnessed 4 different changing of the guards! I was also able to see Westminster Abbey but didn’t quite make it inside St Paul’s Cathedral.  On a side note, Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors in the summer when the queen is not in residence, so watch for that if it’s on your must do.  Of course, you can visit the grounds anytime.

It was VERY busy at the palace.  Open to the public when I was there were the main castle grounds, the Queen’s stables and the garage.  The rest was closed.  If you are there when the palace is open for tours, be prepared again – no pictures are permitted inside the palace.

Big Ben – well, it’s still being refurbished and is running into difficulties.  Don’t expect to see it without scaffolding for a while yet!

On my free day I hopped over to the London Eye, spending several hours there exploring the area and its sites to visit.  I had an express entry ticket into the London Eye – A MUST HAVE!  I was very pleasantly surprised with my trip around on the London Eye.  They don’t load the cars with more than 15 people.  It allows for everyone to walk around, take as many pictures as you like and then sit and enjoy the view.  On a clear day such as I had it’s a great birds eye view!  Note this one:  there is NO WIFI zone in effect at the London Eye!

My one disappointment – I had hoped to go in and see the Churchill War Rooms, but there was a 1.5 hour wait, so I skipped out.  Be prepared if you visit London – there are ALWAYS lineups. 

I’ll add on here that I believe some Hop On/Off tickets are worth it.  London would be an excellent choice to take advantage of all the Hop On/Off vouchers offer visitors.  With sites spread out, it would be money well spent.  Add on the London Pass and Oyster Card and you’re good to go!

London is electric!  So many people from around the world gather there.  The atmosphere is exciting and enthusiastic.  Yes, you do have to have the fish and chips!  The batter is super light and the fish melts in your mouth.  And donuts!  And Shepherd’s Pie.  And so much more…the food ranges of course from high end to pub food – skip the standard fast food joints – and dig into the local foods.

On a “OK, that is a really great idea” note, I loved how “look left” or “look right” was painted at crosswalks!  I continually found myself looking the wrong direction as cars sped by! 

We’re so use to tipping here that we take it for granted.  Not so in London.  There are two ways this can go.  The tip will either be added right onto the bill or you will have to request a tip be added.

I only really had 1.5 days in London itself and it just wasn’t enough.  I missed sights I would have like to have seen and museums I would have loved to visit.  Once a private hunting ground for Henry VIII, Hyde Park is now a beautiful, large park visited by locals and tourists alike. I wouldn’t have minded some time to just chill out there.  I believe that London Town will call my name again and I will return.

When joining up with tours on a FIT, it’s the responsibility of the person traveling to be where they are suppose to be to join in on the tour.  I found my own way to my Soho Food Tour, my Walking Tour and my Stonehenge tour.  If you miss the tour, there is no looking back.  Preplanning is very important.  I usually plan day by day or it just becomes to overwhelming.  So, the day before a tour, I plotted out which bus, tube or walking path I needed to take – how long it would take me and then added on a half an hour (I’m a slow walker – lol) just in case.  It’s easy to pick up a muffin, coffee or tea in the tube stations for early morning departures.

Cotswolds: Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, Somerset

Even knowing that I would lose a day of sightseeing in London, I decided to take a very long day tour to visit Bath and Stonehenge.  On the way, we traveled through the quaint towns of the Cotswolds.  Many people travel to the Cotswolds and spend a week or so in a B&B just relaxing. 

When we arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon, I was randomly chosen as were several of my traveling companions to “go to school” – the same school that Shakespeare attended! This school is still actively teaching students to this very day. At first I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able go sightseeing, but the school experience was outstanding! If you are interested in what influenced Shakespeare’s writings and his everyday life then absolutely recommend visiting the school.

Bath, Somerset.  This World Heritage Site located on the River Avon and dates back to 43 BC.  It is the first UNESCO World Heritage Site in England and its picturesque Georgian design is breathtaking, including the Pulteney Bridge, modelled after the world-famous Ponte Vecchio in Florence which I have also visited!  We were given 2 hours to explore on our own. 

Most of us headed to the Roman Baths to tour there.  Tickets were not included, cost around $40.00 and the line moved quickly.  It was well worth the visit. An audio guide is included, and we were told that it would take about 1.5 hours to experience everything.  Feeling a little pushed for time, I did skip through a few things.  There are so many little corridors to go through and levels to ascend or descend.  There are four major features:  the Sacred Springs, the Roman Temple, the Roman Bath House and of course the Museum.

Beyond the Baths, there is the Royal Crescent with 30 beautiful Georgian houses built in the 18th century, a spa (of course), Sally Lunn’s buns and tea (and yes, I did have a bun!), Jane Austen Centre and the Bath Abbey, also known as St Peter and Paul Abbey.

Almost 100,000 people live here – so it not a small little quaint town, but it certainly has a beautiful quaint feel to it and the people there are warm and welcoming.  Here’s another good place to look at the Hop On/Off option if you plan to visit here for a few days.


Stonehenge is about a 1.5 hour drive from London, easy to do on your own or with a tour.  Again, we had a 2.5 hour stop over here before our return trip to London at the end of the day.  Our vouchers were included in the tour.

Once you arrive at Stonehenge, you pick up your tickets (you should purchase before you go), and a shuttle bus will take you from the Visitors Center to the Stones, almost 1 km away.  You can also walk and explore on your way as well.  If you explore the grounds, be aware that you will not be able to access the stones.  The only access is from the road the connects the Visitors Center to the Stones themselves. If you go on your own, without a tour your ticket will be timed to thirty minutes time slots.  Don’t forget to bring your voucher with you.   If you travel with a tour – no worries – your ticket will be included.

There’s so much more here than meets the eye.  Located in Salisbury, the stones just show up in a field as you approach.  Said to have been arranged 5,000 years ago and constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC.  This ring consists of standing stones, each weighing around 25 tons and almost 15 feet high.  There are a few stones scattered around the field as well, but each of them serves a purpose so don’t discount them as you visit! 

 You’ll notice “mounds” all around you.  These are ancient burial mounds.  Many were lost when farming was introduced as the farmers, unaware of what they represented, ploughed over and flattened them.

This is a highly touristed site and you are no longer permitted to walk among the stones to protect them from vandalism.  But you can get pretty close!  There’s an audio guide available as well, so that when you are walking around them, you can get an explanation of what you are seeing.

This can be a mystical, awe-inspiring place.  If you have the time, take it slow here.  Other than people chatting and taking pictures there is a peaceful feeling in this meadow oasis. 

The first Stonehenge erected around 3000 BC was a simple circle of stone with the Heal Stone as its anchor.  Around 2500 BC the smaller inner circle and altar stones appeared along with the guarding Station Stones.  Later, around 2200 BC the site became complete with the addition of the Oval of Bluestones and the Avenue entrance.

To really visit Stonehenge – you need at least two hours.  Visit it for sure, though.  It’s a must see!

After my visit to Stonehenge I was dropped off at the Victoria Tube Station, made my way back to my hotel and headed off for a good night’s sleep.  It was an early morning with a 4:30 am pick up from hotel to catch my flight from London to Edinburgh where I was to begin my 15-day CIE tour.

Thank you for sharing my London, Bath and Stonehenge Tour with me! I leave behind my “FIT” portion of this adventure and move over to the “Guided Tour”. The next Chronicle in the series will focus on my experiences with CIE Tours in bonny Scotland. Click on the the piece that you want to read next:

I also invite you to browse my pictures of London, Bath and Stonehenge by heading over to my gallery.

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