South west England

After leaving London late we found a place to park in Basingstoke so we could spend our first night in our new home. It was one of the best sleeps we had had so far due to no late night interruptions. Unfortunately, we had left the fridge on overnight, being accustomed to having one run 24/7 which resulted in us waking up at 6am with sub zero temperatures and a flat battery. Thankfully, after a short 45min wait, we were assisted by a couple of locals heading off to work allowing us to continue our journey.

The first stop was Stonehenge which was amazing and even more so was that the smaller type of stones were warm compared to the larger. Definitely a unique experience. From here we drove on to Bath which was a very picturesque city but instead of staying we chose to continue on to Bristol because we were in need of various items to setup the van more completely. After spending the night in Bristol, then viewing a 200 year old suspension bridge we returned to Bath, only to find the weather had turned so we decided Oxford would be our next destination, with the decision to return to Bath at a later stage.

We spent the following day in Oxford, starting off with our first double deck bus ride into the city centre. From there we took a walking tour, and we were lucky enough to be the only participants, by a very informative and amusing guide dressed as Mr Darcy. Oxford really gave you a feel for how things were many years ago, reflected by the layout of the streets and the buildings themselves. After the tour we wondered through the covered markets admiring the fresh produce and various other wares. Our day in Oxford ended with a quick visit to Blackwells bookstore, where there are 5kms of shelved books. The longest in the world.


After a long journey we finally arrived in London at the start of a new day and an amazing adventure. During the flight/layovers we met some very nice people which was a great start to a year abroad.

When we first exited the train we caught from Heathrow we were delighted at the differences between Australia and England... besides the freezing cold. Often these were little things that we thought were cool or were just another way of doing something. For example:

  • When you press the pedestrian button here it lights up to tell you to wait which also lets you know someone has pressed it: Cool
  • They have bike stations which you pay a pound tariff and then you have access to use the bikes though out London. You don't get charged any extra if you only use them for 30minutes so you can easily ride from sight to sight: Cool
  • They dump bags of rubbish on the street corner for manual collection and if you put them there on the wrong day, the garbage collectors put a sticker on it advising of this and dump it back on your door step: Different

These are just some of the interesting things that we came across in our first few hours here. We also found our favourite place to eat Pret A Manger, which offers tasty healthy sandwiches/soup/croisscants and hot chocolate (or coffee etc) for an affordable price (~$10 for two drinks and two sandwiches). The added bonus is that all food is made fresh that day and if they have left overs at the end it is given to others in need.

Upon arrival at the hostel we were slightly concerned about the quality of the establishment due to some mixed reviews read on a different site to the one that convinced us to book here. Thankfully, the initial advice was correct and the place was clean, warm and friendly. It contained a surprising number of Australians, which helped the initial transition, and although it was difficult at times with noisy/inconsiderate people in the dorm, it was nice to have a base to come back to, allowing us to leave a lot of our personal items in a safe place.

On our first day we did a lot of exploring, getting our first glimpses of Royal Albert hall, Buckingham Palace and the city in general. On the second day we went on a walking tour (free to join but tips appreciated and deserved at the end) that explained the Wellington arch (a monument to a politician whose main contributions were inventing wellington boots and erecting statues/monuments in his honour) and then retook us past Buckingham Palace. Quite a modest house for one little old queen to live in... I'm sure she'll survive these trying times. From here we saw a few other palaces including the royal guards. Then it was on to Trafalgar Square, St Pauls Cathedral and Big Ben (or at least the clocktower that housed Big Ben) finishing up in a nice little english pub for a bite to eat. On our way home we visited Harrods (expensive, over heated and packed... like Christmas was coming) then Winter Wonderland which was a fair that put Perth Royal Show to shame that was being held in Hyde Park. This gave me the opportunity to sample some Mulled Wine (drinkable especially because we were freezing), Vikings Blood (if i remember correctly made from berries and tasted like cough syrup) and Meed (tasted like yuck not honey...)

The next day we were up early on our (rented) bikes to go and see the National Gallery (via Buckingham Palace again which gave us the best view yet with no crowds..). Even though neither of us know a great deal about art we were both able to appreciate some of the magnificent pieces on display. Sometimes for the artwork itself, other times for the size or intricacy of the frames holding the pieces, and sometimes because it was a Monet or  Da Vinci piece. From here picked up another bike and wondered over a bridge (which happened to keep us from falling in the river Thames) where we stumbled upon a chocolate fair! It was a tough day...

On Sunday we took the train out to Dartford to look at the van we were planning on buying. This almost ended in us getting fined due to us using our Oyster card to get on the train but then learning that this only covered us up to 2 stops before Dartford and that we were suppose to buy a different ticket. Thankfully Kayla showed a bit of leg and we got off that one. 

Monday turned into another big fun filled day starting at the British Museum. This had a quite an impact on us, especially seeing some of the Egyptian displays and was almost overwhelming in it's content. We both agreed this could be a place you could revisit many times for a nice day out (and it doesn't hurt that it is free). After this we had aimed at going on another walking tour but instead explored Coventry Garden markets as well as many London streets, all which were fantastically decorated, ready for Christmas. To finish the day off we went to the show Wicked which was amazing and an excellent take on the Wizard of Oz.

Tuseday was our last day in London and we spent most of the morning lounging in the hostel, researching vehicle insurance, registration etc before we headed back to Dartford (making sure to purchase a ticket) where we bought our new home. We didn't get to leave London until about 5:30pm after picking up the necessary safety gear required for travel through Europe/UK:

  • 2 x breathalyser,
  • 2 x HiVis jackets,
  • 2 x Safety triangles,
  • Light adjusters for when we drive on the wrong side of the road ,
  • Spare head lamp globes,
  • Fire extinguisher and blanket (recommended not required)

This was our first experience with UK motorways and we were amazed at the number of them snaking over and under us, something we had seen on TV but couldn't really appreciate until we were amongst it. We also discovered a new friend, the motorway stopover, offering showers, food and internet. Our journey has really begun :)