Today was bus tour day! I’d never done a bus tour before, but it was the best way for us to do some sightseeing outside of London without renting a car. We had scoped out the bus station the night before, so knew exactly where to go in the morning. After a hearty continental breakfast at the Blades Hotel where we were staying, we marched onto Victoria Coach Station for our 8am bus tour to Windsor, Stonehenge, and Oxford. We were going on a magical mystery tour! (minus the mystery)
Victoria Coach Terminal
Victoria Station looked quite grand in the daylight. It was a tall white Art Deco building, gleaming in the morning sun. I checked in at the Evan Evans booth while Matt bought us a sandwich for the road. Staff told me to go immediately to the bus, but when I enquired about a washroom on board they said I should use the one in the Station first.
The washroom cost 30p and I only had £5 bill on me. Washroom staff couldn’t make change from that, nor Evan Evans. They directed me to a change the machine, but the machine didn’t take bills! So, I had to buy an overpriced cookie at the tuck stand in order to make change!
Evan Evans Bus Tour
When I finally got on the bus, I saw there was indeed a washroom here… but it was out of service. The seats were very narrow. Even with my small hips, I was having trouble fitting!
Our tour guide Emily was excellent. She was very friendly, cheery, and well organized. She was so skilled at her job I was convinced she had to be an actress or school teacher. She was so good at explaining things clearly, using actions to mime things our, and physiology. She was so genuine, patient, and cheerful even when people were being a pain. She had so much to say too! As we drove out of the city centre, she gave us an overview of the day in addition to commentary on the various sites of London we were passing. It was like four tours in one!
Our guide was superb with landmarks and directions. We joined an extremely long queue but she assured us the line would move quickly. Unfortunately, it did not this time and we were 30 minutes behind schedule by the time we got in.
The grounds of Windsor were full of daffodils. The lawn was perfectly manicured and the smell of freshly cut grass filled the air. The sun shone on gold on the old stone walls and everything looked very regal.
St. George’s Chapel
Our guide recommended we head to the State Rooms first, but we were eager to see St. George’s Chapel! The chapel was smaller than I expected. It was very ornate. We were in awe with the wood carvings. There was the grave of Henry the 8th, the Queen’s parents, and the opulent tomb of Prince Albert covered in green and gold.
The State Rooms
The State Rooms had two exhibitions – one for a recent wedding there and another of historic relics. It was a bit hard to appreciate with the hordes of people and narrow pathways. Using one’s imagination, it was like being on the the set of a movie!
On our way back to the bus, we stopped in the Cinnamon Cafe. Our guide had said they made exceptional cinnamon buns when we passed on our way into the castle. The bun was enormous! We got a 0.75p discount too for doing takeout.
Back on the bus, 8 people were late. It soon decreased to 1. We waited until 15 past departure time, adding to our lateness. I kept thinking “This is cutting into Oxford time!” Eventually we had to depart without them. His family got off to wait for him.
Drive to Stonehenge
The drive from Windsor to Stonehenge was 1 hour and twenty minutes. We ate the sandwiches we had made from bread, cheese, and meats from our hotel’s continental breakfast, watching the countryside go by. It was very pleasant us both being the passenger this trip!
Our guide told us that the grassy mounds in the fields were actually burial burrows! Important people were buried there, usually one per mound. They would have been white originally as chalk is under the grass.
The Midwestern American that had missed the bus at Windsor had taken an Uber with his family to meet us at Stonehenge. He was totally unapologetic. When the guide made an extra-extra point of the departure time of the bus, he just said dead serious to her, “I’ve got Uber’s number now.” To make him more irksome is he coughed without covering his mouth and totally seemed uninterested in the tour. His kids were pushy too.
We had less than an hour at Stonehenge thanks to Mr. American and traffic. This was unfortunate as there was so much to see here! There was a huge visitor centre, reconstructions of Celtic houses, Wood Henge, burial burrows, and a country walk through Salisbury Plains. The one hour we had there was not enough…
We took a shuttle from the Visitor Centre to the stones. You got quite close to the stones at the mouth of the path around the stones. However, I enjoyed the sight further away more as they all looked grand from afar. There were sheep grazing to one side and a highway just beyond the field. Ravens flew overhead and even took food from tourist’s hands!
Our guide took us on a half hour walking tour of Oxford. Unfortunately her mic’s batteries were dying so we got more static than anything else through our earpieces! We saw the Bridge of Sighs, the Bodleian Library, and the Radcliffe Camera – but I can’t tell you too much about them due to the static!
Half Pint Pub Crawl
Once the tour finished, we scurried off to the White Horse pub. It was featured in the tv show Morse, Lewis, and Endeavour. It was so tiny! We couldn’t imagine how they’d fit a tv crew in here! It was your classic English hole in the wall with low ceilings, dark wood paneling and one window lightning the long, narrow venue.
After Matt had a half pint, we scurried off to the Eagle and Child pub. This is where JR Tolkien, CS Lewis, and Lewis Carol used to drink together! Matt had another house half pint and I had a non-alcoholic beer that was actually quite good. It was Without Original by St. Peter’s and it actually tasted like a sweet brown beer! Usually non-alcoholic beer takes like coriander, so this was a real score!
Evening in Pimlico
We got back to Victoria Cross Station close to 8pm. We were both very tired! So, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and went on the hunt for a pub to have quiet drink and snack (we had finished our packed sandwiches for dinner on the bus).
Yelp directed us to the Queens Arms pub a 3 minute walk from our hotel. It turned out to be a very posh pub and we felt like fish out of water there! After one awkward drink, we steered to the next Yelp recommendation: the Prince of Wales. It was much more casual – your regular old local. We had a drink there while planning out our itinerary.
I had a hankering for hot food after a day of sandwiches. We passed Seafresh, the restaurant our host had recommended – and then to my delight, we noticed there was a takeout counter next door! Prices were considerably cheaper than the restaurant. Cheap, good food does exist in Pimlico!
I ordered chips, mushy peas, and a steak and kidney pie. The medium order of chips was gigantic and they seasoned it for me with vinegar and salt. I dipped the chips in the mushy peas and was absolutely delighted with the pie. Everything tasted so good! I felt so energized after our greasy feast. The food was perfect! I went to bed happy – it was the best food out I’d had all trip!