Over the next week I put my head down and worked hard to get all my uni homework done for my Overseas Nursing Programme. I wasn’t even quite halfway through the month and had plenty of time until my workbook was due in, but I quite fancied the idea of being able to relax. Especially nice was the thought of relaxing during my next planned week of travelling knowing that uni could safely go right to the back of my mind.
Sometimes I think there are two kinds of people in the world. People that get stuff done and procrastinators. I have always been a getting stuff done kind of person. I find it hard to relax knowing that there are still some essential tasks to be done. Not that I still don’t occasionally leave things till the last minute or put off jobs, but I am happier knowing that essential things are complete and no longer require any thinking about. Hence I’ve always been one of those people who will hand in assignments early rather than pulling an all-nighter and getting the essay in with seconds to spare. I did try it once as friends told me the pressure produces some truly remarkable academic results. But I hated the stress and exhaustion of it and vowed never again.
So anyway the homework was finished after a few days of hard work. Then it was time for some Stonehenge fun.
Stonehenge was pretty great. It really is just a pile of rocks but still felt very special seeing it in person and learning odd details about it’s origin. Such as the fact that they used deer antlers as shovels to dig out the holes. Guess they didn’t have spades back in the day.
Stonehenge was the biggest thrill of that week. The other note-worthy thrill was eating some of the world’s best trifle. Artistically made by my adopted Bournemouth host mother with to-die-for-yummyness mixed all through.
And then it was time to zip off for another travelling holiday before my final day of uni. Especially with all the homework complete there was no excuse to stay sitting around on the couch.
First I headed off to Winchester and checked out the cathedral with Shelley.
This cathedral contains the grave of Jane Austin and some of the most beautiful stone craving decorations I have ever seen. Handy tip for when you plan your visit is to go on a Sunday when entry is FREE.
Then I ditched Shelley and went up to London for a night. I got to meet up with an old workmate (Imogen) and we did a Jack the Ripper walk. It was an interesting walking tour but not as gory as I hoped. Essentially we were shown the locations where Jack ‘ripped’ his victims along with photos of how the locations used to look with a couple of horrible ‘victims in pieces’ ones. Yick. I think the overall quality of tour probably depended on who you got as your tour guide. I didn’t find the one we were allocated hugely inspiring plus the time of year meant it was still quite light outside. But oh well, you win some and you lose some.
London was just a quick stopover for me as I had some agency training stuff to do. After finishing that I then headed to a small city called Canterbury on the east side of England. Canterbury is quite small and probably most well-known for Canterbury Cathedral. It is the church of the English Archbishop and features in the Pillars of the Earth series. Otherwise there is not a huge amount of touristy stuff in the city as such. But there are a few attractions within a short train ride distance from Canterbury which is partly why I decided to stay there. The other reason was that the Kipps Canterbury Backpacker hostel has a reputation for being almost as amazing as the hostel I stayed in while in Cardiff. After discovering the best hostel in the world in Cardiff, I was rather keen to keep having great hostel experiences. So after Cardiff, finding decent hostels was definitely starting to factor into my destination planning.
And I was not disappointed.
It is just one of those places that feels like home. Family-run with friendly staff. Activities (often with free food) in the evenings. Comfortable nice warm dorm rooms. Really clean and tidy. And the reception man even carried my heavy backpack up the stairs for me to my room! Yup I was pretty happy with my choice to travel to Canterbury just for the hostel.
Otherwise the other things I did over my few days in Canterbury, other than lounging round the hostel, included visiting the Cathedral (beautiful inside but not as good as Winchester I thought personally), going to Canterbury Tales, visiting the pilgrim hospital, and eating Mexican food at a fab restaurant I found called Cafe des Amis. My favourite activity was the Tales part. It’s a fun way to learn about Canterbury history as you learn about pilgrims and their stories of travelling using a recreation of medieval life.
Leeds castle is another great place to visit only a train-ride away. It is privately-owned making the admission fee a bit expensive at £21 but it is a very nice castle that I really enjoyed visiting. It has gorgeous sprawling gardens with peacocks and is set within a moaty-lake giving it a dramatic appearance. The inside of the castle is well set-out and quite enthralling to wander though. There are also a couple of other oddities/novelties such as a maze and a dog collar museum to make the visit even more fasinating. The maze itself was quite tricky with hedges set out in a, well, maze. To my shame I couldn’t find my way through, but luckily a couple of clever kids offered to show me the way. Otherwise I might still be in there now!
Next up was another train ride to Dover. I had been to Dover previously as the Contiki tour bus drives through Dover and onto a ferry to head across the channel. However this time I wanted a closer look at those famous white cliffs. Not to mention Dover Castle is meant to be one of the best castles according to Shelley.
The castle is quite majestic as you can see. I easily spent a few hours inside wandering around. The castle contains many underground tunnels. Regular tours are run going through the tunnels which end with you coming out onto a balcony set in the cliffs themselves and a fab view of the harbour. There was also a hospital within the tunnels which comes with a separate tour. All included with the admission price (£17). Not to mention it was an absolutely stunning day with blue skies and pretty grass flowers within the castle grounds. Then I wandered round Dover a little before catching a train back to Canterbury at the end of a pleasing day.
All in all I found Canterbury to be quite a relaxing place to stay and use as a base. The hostel alone I think is a great reason to plan a visit to Canterbury even though there isn’t a huge amount of tourist attractions within the cathedral city itself.
Next up on travel trip list – Brighton.
My Brighton trip was quite a short visit at just two nights. This was mainly because the hostel I booked did not sound like the kind of place where I would want to stay any longer than a night at the most. But I really wanted to visit beachy Brighton and see what all the hype was about. Being such a popular weekend destination all the nice hostels were already booked out, so it was with a dubious mind-set that I clicked on the confirm booking button.
Hm well. I learnt something that weekend. If a place has terrible reviews on Hostelworld, then it’s probably for a good reason. But if you just want a bed to sleep in, then you would find Sea Smart View Hostel just fine.
Two words – Triple bunks. Ugh.
I was just super glad I snagged a bottom bunk as it did not look fun to climb up into the top bed. Plus the room smelled like a combo of feet and fish, was dirty, expensive, and way too many beds (18) with only one en-suite. Usually I find most hostels will have other bathrooms outside the dorm room which make meeting your bathroom needs super easy. Not this place. You had to share with the other seventeen people in the room. Ugh.
Okay I’m done whining now. Lesson learnt – bad reviews are usually correct reviews.
And onto the nicer side of Brighton. I could indeed see why it was a popular weekend destination. Lovely beach-walk with seaside shops, a carnival pier and just generally a nice place.
While here I had a chance to try out a lesson in stand up paddleboarding. SUP is something I’ve really wanted to try out since reading about it in another travel blog. It originates from Hawaii and is a lot of fun as well as being a great workout.
This may shock you to realise, but that isn’t me in the photo. Unfortunately there wasn’t anywhere to put my camera safely during the lessons so no photos of me doing SUP. But just imagine me on that board, without the wave as waves tend to make me fall off. But I recommend everyone to try a SUP lesson. It was so much fun and easy to pick up. Within ten minutes of the lesson starting we were all standing on our boards paddling round. My lesson cost £40 and included everything needed for the lesson. I used Brighton Watersports Shop and found them to be really good.
And then a storm rolled in with pouring rain once the lesson finished which cancelled any further tourist plans for the day. I ended up heading to the cinema and watching the latest x-men movie Wolverine. As much as I love x-men usually, gotta say that Wolverine just wasn’t up to the usual x-men standard.
Then for my last travel day, I spent the morning going through the Royal Pavilion. This is the number one tourist attraction in Brighton. It is excellent sight-seeing. The pavilion was a pleasure palace built by one of the King Georges back in the 1700s. The inside is decorated with a chinese-theme and just jaw-dropping to walk through. No photography was allowed but picture golden rooms filled with massive dragon chandeliers. Absolutely fascinating to walk through. Each room has been restored beautifully to the original décor.
One thing that I didn’t do in Brighton is visit the Pier. It is meant to be one of those must-do tacky tourist-things but I thought meh.. Carnival rides and candy floss are usually are lot of fun to me, but not so much as a solo traveller. If I return to Brighton with a friend one day, then I’m sure I’ll hit the Pier next time.
Once I finished the Pavilion, and had one last meal at my new favourite Thai restaurant the Giggling Squid, I headed back to Bournemouth ready for my final uni day and the completion of the ONP course. I was pretty excited to not only leave the horrid Sea Smart hostel behind me, but I was super thrilled about finally getting to the end of the marathon of obtaining UK nursing registration. I was on the homestretch now.