24 hours in country England
For most of us in Australia flying to Europe, the most regular and cheapest stop is usually London. There are days and days worth of things to do in the city, however if you have a spare day or more I would highly recommend jumping on a train and exploring some country. It is very true how they say that London and the rest of England may as well be different countries.
The trains are very efficient, regular and thorough throughout the UK. Book the day before (preferably sooner) to get a fare up to 80% cheaper than if you buy it at the station. You can get pretty much anywhere for 20 pounds if you book in advance. Get to the station 30mins beforehand, use the ‘Collect’ machines to punch in your purchase number and your tickets will be spat out. Be ready to jump on, they don’t stop for long!
I got the train for 9 pounds to Retford on the York line, taking 1hr 45mins. I had a friend living there, and spent the night at her huge farmlike property. This is a small old English village that was exactly what I was looking for: authenticity.
With a small square hosting daily markets there are locals all around the town centre, creating a lovely village feel. The streets are full of gorgeous brick buildings and streets, as well as many local delicious taverns and pubs to satisfy your propper English meal craving. I ate at the Angel Inn and had a steak and ale bread pudding and it was unbelievable!
There are beautiful gardens in the town centre and a lovely strip of shops. Here is where you will see a stunning sunset, as there is nothing around to obstruct the sky. This was the perfect place to stop for my first night after a 30 hour flight.
You can get a train to Birmingham from London for 9-19 pounds in advance and it takes around 1hr 20mins. This city surprised me with its vibrant and bustling nature and I would recommend spending a day or so exploring what it has to offer.
If you get the train you will arrive at New Street Station, which is central, huge and full of cafes and shops. Go to the information counter and they will give you a map and recommend where to go. There is also a left luggage area to store your luggage up to 24hrs. For up to 3 hours its 6 pounds, and for 6 its 8 pounds.
With your map create a walking tour for yourself based on how much time you have. I had three hours and this is what I did.
I started by walking to Victoria Square near the station. This is a huge open area with Town Hall and other historic buildings which are quite breathtaking. This seems to be a central meeting spot for people and is always busy with locals and tourists.
At the time I was there, a music festival was on so there were thousands of school children and orchestras playing all over town, creating an amazing summer and vibrant atmosphere.
From the Square walk through the shopping centre and over the beautiful canal filled with flowers. This exits into an open area filled with restaurants and is a gorgeous place to sit in the sun and feel like you’re in the Netherlands.
From here walk through Symphony Hall and hear the echo of classical music wall to wall. From here you will see a massive, modern glass building. Surprisingly, this is the new library opened 2013. Usually this isn’t something I would be interested in seeing, but this is an exception. It is extremely modern inside (actually makes you want to sit and read a book) and each level has a courtyard which looks over the city. The 9th level has views that none other can offer in town.
From here go across the road and explore the main street of Broad street and enjoy all the shops and pubs. You can head towards the Bullring, which is a giant shopping centre that seems to take up most of the city. It has several different areas that are connected by modern outdoor areas and statues.
This was a surprisingly busy and interesting city and definitely deserves a day visit (despite what people told me).
So next time you have a layover in England, jump on a train and experience something different!