Travelling without a passport. Is that even possible?!
For the next 2 months, my passport will be held under lock and key- I hope!- with the British government, whilst I apply for a visa to stay on in London post-graduation. As anyone who reads the Daily Mail (or other, more edifying editorials!) knows, immigration is a big issue in UK- and in many developed countries- these days so I am keeping my fingers crossed! I am not done with London yet and hopefully London is not done with me! 🙂
There’s nothing like the possibility of an ending to make you pay more attention to the present. I’ve lived in London for 2 years now, but hardly travelled around the UK, or even explored London to the fullest- Shame on me! I’d be really disappointed in myself if I left without seeing the Lake District, Cornwall or Oban, to name a few places. So I’m taking this 2 month stint without a passport as a blessing in disguise, and going to travel extensively within London and the UK. And who better to do it with than fellow bloggers?
First stop? St. Albans with the amazing Corey of Learning Patience! She has some incredible stories to tell- living in Trinidad for 4 years, for example, is definitely off-the-beaten-track!- so I highly recommend stopping by her blog.
We were really lucky! When I left London, it was cold and fray but in St. Albans, the weather was AMAZING- we even sat out in a beer garden for (part of) our lunch!
WHY? It’s only 20 minutes from Kings Cross (followed by a 10 minute walk into town)- took me 80 min door to town, so to speak – trains are frequent & it is full of history.
Directions on Google Map: for more details, there is a map right outside the station.
To town: basically, you turn right on exiting the station, then right again so that you walk down a bridge (Victoria Street). Keep walking down and eventually you will see a Jigsaw & Clarkes across the street (shown below). Civilisation, at last!
I am fascinated by the Greek & Roman Empires- in fact, I considered doing Classics in Uni- so St. Alban’s location next to Verlamion (first a Celtic British Iron Age settlement- meaning settlement above the marsh- and later 1 of the biggest towns in Roman Britain)- really interested me. The town’s buildings were mainly made from wood, and it was decimated in AD 60-61, during the revolt of Boudica, before being rebuilt and encircled by city gates in AD275.
If you’ve not heard of Boudica (meaning Victoria) before, you’re missed out. She was really inspiring! Queen of the Iceni people, she led a revolt against the Romans when they confiscated the property of leading Iceni families and (reportedly) stripped & whipped her and raped her daughters. She successfully defeated 1 Roman army & destroyed Colchester, then capital of Roman Britan, as well as London & St. Albans. Although ultimately unsuccessful, her rebellion led the Romans to lessen (slightly) their demands, such as making taxation fairer. So, you see, 1 woman CAN make a difference 🙂
But back to St. Albans! Before going, I did some rudimentary research (Tripadvisor :P) and the top attraction was the Cathedral. To be frank, I wasn’t very enthusiastic as many Cathedrals just blend into each other. But, boy was I wrong.
Lots of tudor architecture! I adore these white buildings with their timber beams!
It was pretty hilly and I started trailing behind… you can see Corey leading the way here! 🙂
St. Albans is a mix of the historic and modern (lots of shopping), a really quaint University town, and I LOVED the cathedral! St. Albans was actually the 1st English Christian matyr, beheaded in-situ, hence the name and leading to St. Albans becoming the oldest place of Christian worship in the UK. In 793, an abbey was established on the spot, which was eventually converted into a Cathedral. (Photo in header)
Maybe because it is such a significant religious site, there are tons of churches in St. Albans. Pubs too!
Perhaps because of the change in purpose of the building, I found the layout of the Cathedral very different from all the ones I’ve seen in France. Unfortunately, there was a Graduation ceremony going on, so we couldn’t explore the entire place. It made me feel all nostalgic for my own Graduation(s!) though 🙂
It’s so funny how pervasive social media is today- even the CHURCH is on it! I definitely need to brush up on my Social Media skills!
These windows were modelled after the one in Yorkminister ‘cuz the guy who donated money to restore them was from York! (The windows were destroyed during the Reformation.)
What was special though, was the presence of guides who were able to tell you more about the Cathedral and its history. This really nice lady actually came up to me and told us all about the ex-Abbey, its stained glass and its history. It was so interesting, we never actually made it to the Roman sites! Can yo believe that? Especially after my long segue into Roman history?! Now I definitely need to go back 🙂 (No hardship!)
Even the pew seats are gorgeous! Is it sacrilegious to say they reminded me of these clutches I saw on HonestlyWTF? Fashion on the brain!
But my favourite sight of the day?
Definitely these cute guard dogs!
THINGS TO NOTE: Go to St. Albans City Station not St Albans Rail station- I hate it when stations share similar names!- it is almost twice as fast!
Also, do NOT Use your Oyster! It’s really confusing as the Thameslink in West Hampstead & Kings Cross both allow you to tap in with Oysters. However, at St. Albans, you can’t tap out & you get fined £20 EVEN if the money has been debited out of your Oyster. That’s what happened to poor Corey 🙁 The Thameslink ticket is £12 off-peak return, or cheaper with a Railcard (bought on day of travel.)
And if you can, go on a Wednesday (or Saturday), when the market is on!
P.S. Research meal options before you go. We ate at Blacksmiths Arms, which was pretty, but er, not very tasty.
There was a yurt in the garden!
Our lunch- looked better than it tasted! I used the salt, Very Liberally 😛
Next up, Hampton Court Palace this weekend!