An Olympic Escape: London’s Top Four Day Trips
Whether you’re ecstatic, nervous or feeling claustrophobic about being at the heart of the 2012 Olympic Games, London is sure to be generating some sort of excitement within you. A short distance from so many of England’s other iconic cities and renowned sites, if you’re overwhelmed by the crowds, consider making a stealthy escape to one of these easy day trips that are no more than a couple hours drive.
‘Cotswold’ literally translates to a ‘sheep enclosure in gentle hillsides.’ The name for the region of rolling hills located in southwestern and west-central England, was vastly populated with sheep during the medieval period, which resulted in a high demand for the fine quality wool and fleeces during the 13th and 14th centuries. The wool trade dominated Cotswold and brought wealth to the area, helping it to prosper and establish the beautiful homes and churches we see there today. One of the most famous “wool churches” was St. James. The church’s 17th century monuments and ornately decorated visage make it a popular attraction in the small-market town of the Cotswold district, the charming Chipping Campden. In the 20th century, several writers and artists visited and lived in Chipping Campden, recognizing the town as the center of the Arts and Crafts Movement. The favorite stone of Cotswold, a golden, honey-colored oolitic limestone, unifies the area’s architecture and distinguishes it’s unique character.
Windsor Castle is located in the English county of Berkshire and is currently one of the Queen’s royal residences. Since the time of its construction in the 11th century when it was built to protect from Norman dominance, the medieval castle has undergone the reign and fall of several British royal families whose uses varied. Windsor Castle occupies more than thirteen acres, and still maintains its original fortification, a palace built by King Henry III, and a small town. The extensive parkland surrounding the area, the magnificent state apartments, and the theatrically designed architecture of the town is currently home to five hundred people, making it the largest inhabited castle in the world. One can view drawing exhibitions in the palace, treasures in St. George’s Chapel, and climb the tower to view the entire London skyline.
The prehistoric, large standing stones that lye near Salisbury and two hours outside of London, attract thousands of visitors each year because of their unmistakable beauty and supposed supernatural aura. Three thousand five hundred years ago Stonehenge was constructed in three phases, a project that took about 1,400 years, for unknown reasons. Some historians speculate that Stonehenge was built as a place of worship; while others believe it represented the solar calendar. Whatever the reason may be, the mystery of its design and architecture make it a captivating must-see when visiting the UK and with its UNESCO World Heritage designation, an international point of interest.
On the Southern Edge of the Cotswolds, and an hour and half travel time by train from London, the city of Bath, boasts 2,000-year old Roman hot springs and impressive Georgian architecture. Over a million liters of water are produced each day in England’s only mineral hot springs. The hot springs were thought to have healing properties, thus attracting Europe’s 17th century aristocrats and celebrities and were designed by the Romans to create a bathing complex for relaxation and religious observance. Since then, the well-maintained baths have attracted tourists from all parts of the globe who seek to discover, unwind and experience the luxury of their predecessors. Just a few feet outside is the last Gothic church in England, the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, commonly known as Bath Abbey. Bath Abbey is still an active place of worship, whose Gothic architecture is commemorated in its fan vaulted ceiling and beautiful stained glass windows. Other attractions include Bath’s several parks, including Sydney Gardens frequently visited by Jane Austen Sydney Gardens, theatres and museums.