As rail strikes rolled out both in London and the rest of England, I was thankful I had found out in advance. The hotel internet was patchy and I would have had trouble booking a coach ticket for the airport. I decided not to try and cram more than I had already on my plate for the day, and stick to my booked tickets and original timing.
I took an underground line to Victoria railway station, from which I went to find out where my airport coach would leave from. After that, I walked from Victoria coach station towards Westminster, stopping at Westminster Cathedral, a rather out-of-place Neo-Byzantine building, which serves as the Catholic cathedral. Designed by John Francis Bentley, it was completed in 1903. It was closed for service, unfortunately.
Due to the strikes and potential issues, Westminster Abbey had rearranged its opening hours, and waived all the “entry times”. So basically it was a bit on the chaotic side, though I arrived for my own timeslot, as I had calculated that would be all right for the tour I had signed up for. The abbey is officially called Collegiate Church of Saint Peter at Westminster. It was a originally a Benedictine abbey, and William the Conqueror, in 1066 made it the “official coronation ceremony” place, and many Royal Weddings have occurred there. It is built in the Gothic style, with Neo-Gothic towers. Furthermore, most British monarchs were buried there, along with a number of personalities that were either earthed there, or had memorials erected – Darwin, Newton, Hawkins, Shakespeare… The Abbey features a 19th-century wooden choir in the middle, and an outer cloister in early Gothic style. It was bustling with people fighting the audio guide and extremely hot though. However, this completed my tour of the Unesco World Heritage Site of “The Palace of Westminster, Westminster Abbey and St Margaret’s Church”
Before the train strikes and the chaos in English airports, I had booked a 12:15 “Westminster Abbey hidden highlights” tour as my last activity in London before taking the Stansted Express to the airport. The change of plans meant I had to take the 14:00 h coach instead of the 15:00 h train to be at the airport by 16:00, to make sure that I would have plenty of time to go through security. That meant that I unfortunately had to cut the tour short. Event then, I got to see St Margaret’s Church, the old Medieval sacristy, the inner chambers of Samaria and Jerusalem, and got close to coronation chair. Not bad at all, even if I unfortunately had to miss the library to walk back to the station.
I have to say that the return was exhausting. Even with one hour difference, I got on the coach for the airport at 14:00 and did not land until 22:00. However, flying out of Stansted always has a good thing – goodbye sushi!
All in all, this non-weekend weekend was an amazing mental break! Even if the last day did not work as originally organised, I had a heads up in order to prepare my contingency plans. I got to see something that I always wanted to see – and even if Stonehenge was smaller than I thought, it was not disappointing. Also, I checked that entering the UK after Brexit is pretty much the same as before, so I can organise more escapades in the future, because I still need to go to Jurassic Coast…
Walking distance: 11.27 km / 16672 km