We recently gave you our suggestions for Five Day Trips from Paris, so now we thought we’d turn our attention to London. Of course, you can never spend enough time in the capital itself, but when the Big Smoke gets a bit, well, smoky, here’s where to retreat to.
We mentioned Oxford yesterday as one of our top university towns, and its location is pretty handy – only an hour away from Paddington by train, or there are coach services that leave from Victoria every 15 minutes (the coach journey can take about two hours). Wander round the colleges, and take a tour of the Bodleian Library – one of the oldest in Europe, dating from medieval times. Make sure you take a tour that includes a visit to the bookstacks underneath the Radcliffe Camera (pictured) – it’s fascinating.
You don’t have to choose between Oxford or Cambridge for a daytrip – although they’re both university towns, they’re different enough to make a day out in both enjoyable. Cambridge is much quieter than Oxford – the river Cam runs along the “Backs” – literally the backs of the colleges – and the gardens, on the other side, are enchanting. If you’re going to try punting, Cambridge is the place to do it. Like Oxford, it’s just over an hour’s train ride from King’s Cross.
Every Londoner’s favorite daytrip – as you’ll be able to tell by the crammed beach on a sunny weekend – Brighton is well worth the hour-long train ride (from Victoria). The beach is pebbly (so don’t expect any golden sand here) but there’s plenty to do as well as sunbathe – check out the pier, go shopping in the quirky North Laines district, and, most importantly, pub crawl – Brighton has some of the friendliest and most traditional watering hotels in the south. It also has a thriving gay community, so should you be inclined, you may want to stay the night.
Hop on a train at Waterloo, and just 90 minutes later you’ll be in a totally different world, getting off at Ashurst, on the edge of the New Forest – just west of Southampton. Forest is the word – it’s actually the largest remaining area of unenclosed pasture, heathland and forest in the south of England. It was established in 1079 by William I, no less, as a place to hunt deer, and it remains populated by animals – not just deer now, but cutesy mini New Forest Ponies. Hire a bike and spend a day in the England of old.
Kent, east of London, is known as “the garden of England” but pretty seaside village Whitstable must be the harbor. It’s most famous for its oysters – and has been since Roman times. Nowadays, there’s an annual oyster festival, which takes place in the last week of July, but you can buy the blighters throughout the year. Buy them at the harbor side and enjoy them – although you won’t want to get frisky on the train ride back to London (the journey takes 90 minutes, either from Victoria or St Pancras).