It’s been decades since my last visit to England, which was with my college madrigal ensemble. So I went on another musical tour of England with my church choir. Whereas my last trip was during the Christmas holiday season, this visit was late spring, from June 2nd to June 9th. I still remember missing out on the chance to visit Paris on that last trip. This time, I resolved to cross the English Channel at the end of this choir tour and embark on my first Solo European Adventure (SEA). This is SEA Blog 3 and Part 1 of my 3rd visit to England.
In January, I bought my WOW Airlines tickets and began planning my trip. Lots of research and travel videos helped in putting my back pack adventure together. After six months of planning, the time for my journey arrived. I was nervous but excited to see if I can follow and complete my “ambitious travel itinerary” as described by friends. Yes, it was ambitious because I wanted an unforgettable trip to share with you.
After dinner on Tuesday, June 2nd, I boarded the plane to begin my flight from St. Louis to Keflavik and then my connecting flight from Keflavik to Standsted Airport. June 3rd Travel Notes (TN)
TN: Landed in Keflavik around 11 a.m. local. Bought a green energy smoothie since I only had a few minutes before boarding my connecting flight to Stansted. Will definitely buy a hotdog when I’m there on 18th, take pictures, buy chocolates on the way home. Boarded the plane to Stansted. My seatmates were a lovely couple w/ a 17-mon baby girl w/ pretty blue eyes.
TN: Arrived at Stansted Airport and deplaned between 4:30-4:45 p.m. local. Stood in line at the UK Border and entered UK around 5:15 p.m. Walked through customs and found National Express ticket booth. At 5:40 p.m. I got on the bus to Victoria Coach (Bus) Station and arrived at the station around 7:40 p.m. Followed signs and found my way to London Victoria (Train) Station just around the corner.
While in the station, I enjoyed Moroccan meatballs for dinner at LEON. After dinner, I walked around London Victoria Station to see the shops and linger awhile, then bought an Oyster card to get on the London Tube to Gloucester Road Station. From there I walked to the ibis Styles London Gloucester Road hotel where the Central Presbyterian Church Choir tour group was staying for two nights. The choir arrived six hours earlier. I had my own room for two nights.
June 4th Free Day in London
TN: This morning after breakfast, I walked ten minutes from the hotel to the Victoria and Albert Museum. With so many galleries to choose from, I decided to spend time in the Medieval and Renaissance gallery followed by the Europe 1600 – 1815 gallery.
My visit ended at the museum shop and after lingering awhile it was time to get on the Tube to explore Leicester Square, then Covent Garden, and the Royal Opera House to soak in the very cosmopolitan vibe, eat, linger, shop, and wander about. I’ve already visited all the other main tourist attractions during my 1st and 2nd trips to England. Instead of waiting in long tourist lines, it was fun to go exploring and enjoy the city like a local.
Revisiting Covent Garden reminded me of the reason I moved to Boston, MA. Living in Boston was like living in London. That’s why I loved living in New England for almost 20 years.
On my way back to the hotel, I enjoyed walking around South Kensington district with it’s charming neighborhood architecture and plenty of street cafés, boutique restaurants and shops. It was fun to pop inside the Waitrose and Tesco to pick up snacks and beverages just like a local. Then for dinner, I went with two of the choir ladies to Umami The Taste of Asia on Cromwell Road down the street from our hotel.
June 5th Arundel and Worthing
TN: Check-out of ibis Styles hotel and travel to Arundel for hotel check-in then afternoon rehearsal for the 1st Outreach Concert at St. Stephen’s Café Church in Worthing. Group dinner at Sea Lane Café then back to the church for 7:00 p.m. concert.
For this concert tour, I sang “The Prayer” duet with the Missions Pastor co-leading the tour group.
I had a wonderful view of the English Channel from my dinner table at Sea Lane Café. Picture of me in concert attire smiling and thinking that in a few days I’ll be crossing this channel to France!
June 6th Arundel and Chichester Cathedral
TN: Shared a room with 2 choir ladies. Woke up late and missed the bus ride to Arundel town. 12:00 p.m. choir departs for Chichester for Tea, and afternoon rehearsal for performance in Evensong at Chichester Cathedral.
It was awe-inspiring to be singing inside a Cathedral founded in 681 steeped in history with marvelous acoustics that amplified the sound of the choir as far as its 269-foot spire. The majestic atmosphere brings about humility in a person and a desire to lift up their voice and sing up into the heavens.
TN: After our Evensong performance we took a group picture then walked to Bill’s Chichester for dinner, and then back to the hotel for our last night in Arundel.
June 7th Morning Free in Arundel
My admission ticket gave me access to the shop, gardens, grounds, restaurant and 14th Century Fitzalan Chapel. The castle’s grandeur and magnificence were breathtaking. Exploring the grounds and wandering through the beautifully serene gardens transported me back in Medieval time. I’d love to return and spend a day or two taking my time to see everything.
TN: Check-out of hotel and depart for London by bus. Arrive in London Shepherds Bush and check-in ibis Shepherds Bush – Hammersmith hotel. I had my own room again for 2 nights. Rest of the day Free!
For this afternoon and evening I met Lori, a former choir member of my childhood church in the Philippines, who lives in London. She knows my Mom very well as her Choir Director and she was very sweet to accompany me around town. We revisited some of the tourist attractions and explored London by river on MBNA Thames Clipper. I loved being on the River Thames viewing the London skyline in the 21st Century. An array of ancient and modern architecture now resides along the River Thames. One of its newest resident is the London Eye .
After our round-trip on the MBNA Thames Clipper we rode the Tube to Piccadilly Circus Station. The place didn’t look the same as my last visit because the Piccadilly Lights made the whole place feel like Times Square in NYC. It was odd to see this gigantic marquee amongst classic architecture.
We had dinner somewhere in London’s China Town (forgot restaurant name) and then walked around a little bit afterwards. Along the way, we passed the Hippodrome, which I remembered as The London Hippodrome nightclub but now it’s a casino. Entertainment and Fun abounds giving fun seekers plenty of options. We lingered and walked into souvenir shops, then bought ice cream, found a place to sit in Piccadilly Square and enjoyed the vibe around us.
June 8th – Shepherds Bush London
TN: Shopping at Westfield London and bought a scarf at Marks And Spenser then enjoyed a colorfully delicious and healthy lunch at itsu. 3:00 p.m. “Open Church” outdoor ministry with New City London, then afternoon rehearsal for the 7:00 p.m. Concert at The Church of St. Stephen and St. Thomas.
June 9th – Ascot
TN: After breakfast, went back to Piccadilly Circus to pick up a few souvenirs and then shipped them via Mail Boxes etc. Check-out of hotel at 12:00 p.m. and leave for Ascot. Arrived in Ascot and joined a few choir ladies on a taxi cab to Windsor!
Her Majesty The Queen was home to celebrate her 92nd Birthday. Windsor was crowded and we only had 2 hours to wander about. So I decided to enjoy afternoon tea with a decadent dessert and then go wandering around Windsor Royal Shopping. At 4:00 p.m. I joined the choir ladies for a taxi cab ride back to Ascot for dinner and our last tour concert at All Saints Church, Ascot Heath.
We received such wonderful hospitality from the staff and congregation of All Saints Church, Ascot Heath. They fed us a great meal, I received sweet compliments about my singing, and they sent us home with souvenir tea cups. I hope to come someday and visit the church again.
Part 1 of my 3rd trip to England ended after the concert and a few of choir members and I shared a taxi to Heathrow. The following morning, I’ll find my way from Heathrow to St. Pancras Station to board the Eurostar and begin my Solo European Adventure to France, Italy, Austria, and Iceland. I’ll be blogging about it the next few weeks!
Part 1 of England Trip Summary:
Airports – Keflavik, St. Louis, Stansted
Places – All Saints Church – Ascot Heath, Arundel, Arundel Castle, Ascot, Chichester, Chichester Cathedral, Covent Garden, English Channel, Hippodrome, Leicester Square, London Eye, London China Town, Piccadilly Lights, Piccadilly Square, Royal Opera House, South Kensington, Victoria and Albert Museum, Windsor, Windsor Royal Shopping, Worthing
Restaurants – Bill’s Chichester, itsu, LEON Victoria Station, Sea Lane Café, Umami
Stores and Shopping – Marks and Spenser, Tesco, Waitrose, Westfield London
Transportation – Eurostar, London Tube, MBNA Thames Clipper, National Express
Train Stations – Covent Garden, Gloucester Road, Leicester Square, London Victoria, Piccadilly Circus, St. Pancras