In the summer of 2013, me and my girlfriend Renate went on our first holiday together, after a little over a year of dating. We decided to start off with a few days in London.
After visiting Hogwarts, I started my journey southward.
I took a train directly to London, where I bought a ticket on the Eurostar to Paris.
The Eurostar line goes in a tunnel under the English Channel, and is run by a company separate to the InterRail coalition, but I did get a discount.
I had to wait for my train for quite some time, but as I were a bit tired from the journey so far, it was nice to just relax at the station with some entertainment I had brought.
I had an iPod filled with all the songs by Jonathan Coulton (that had been released at that point) and all the episodes of the Rooster Teeth Podcast (then called The Drunk Tank), and a book called ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ (a collection of shorts stories written by Neil Gaiman).
All of these things helped to keep me entertained in the lulls during this whole month of travel.
The train-journey was comfortable enough but, as you can imagine, the view was nothing to brag about.
When I arrived in Paris it was already so late that I just found a place to stay for the night.
In the next part; Exploring Paris!
After visiting Cardiff I took the train back to England, and traveled north up to Newcastle, Northumberland.
After dropping my rucksack of at a hotel, I hopped on the bus out to Alnwick Castle.
I had traveled to this particular castle because this was the castle which had been used as the filming location for Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies, ‘The Philosopher’s Stone’ and ‘The Chamber of Secrets’, and had as a result informed the look of Hogwarts in all subsequent films.
In the movies there were of course a lot added to the castle in post-production, mostly in height, but I did not mind. Hogwarts was a place I had wanted to visit ever since I devoured the books as a child.
While doing research for this post, I learned that the castle had been used to film many other things than just Harry Potter, but one of them made me really exited.
In February of 1983, Rowan Atkinson and his co-stars were filming around Alnwick Castle, as it would double as King Richard IV’s castle for the first Blackadder season, titled ‘The Black Adder’.
Blackadder is one of my favorite comedy shows, so I wish that I would have noticed that when I was there.
After I was done soaking in the Hogwartsian atmosphere, I took the bus back to my hotel.
And after a night in Newcastle, I started my journey southwards, to France!
After arriving in England the first place I intended to visit was Salisbury in Wiltshire, to see the prehistoric monument located just outside the town.
Before taking the trip out to Stonehenge itself, I decided to take a look around Salisbury, and found their lovely cathedral.
Stonehenge was far enough away from Salisbury that there were shuttle buses going back and forth from there.
It was sort of a shock to me to see just how close Stonehenge is located to a fairly well-trafficked road, but it was far enough away for me to practically ignore it.
When I and my fellow passengers stepped of the bus, we were greeted by a gaggle of wiccans, druids and pagans handing out pamphlets and picketing the tourism industry around Stonehenge.
The security and ticket takers seemed very annoyed by this.
Once I got behind the fence, everything calmed down a bit.
But I did sort of see the point that the protesters were making, in that it seems wrong to me that Stonehenge is located behind a bunch of fences, and not free to be explored.
But if that were the case, I bet that the structure would have long since been divided up in thousands of souvenir pieces, scattered all over the world.
Stonehenge, and other structures like it, has always fascinated me.
There is something about a lone man-made structure located in the middle of a beautiful natural environment that really speaks to me on a personal level.
So much so that I keep having the urge to create when I am out in nature.
After I was done looking at the monument, I headed back to Salisbury with the shuttle bus.
And from there I hopped on a train to Cardiff, Wales!