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Scenic London

By Barbara Keer

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There we were in London a few days after the first bombing. It was hot. The city was tense, but functioning as normally as possible. It was a good time to use our one full day to leave the city. Our hotel booked a day tour with 'Astral Travels' that turned out to be one of the best we have experienced.

Bodlian Library


Tour groups are limited to 16. Our group was considerably smaller and included a wheelchair user. The tour we took was called 'Bards and Battles Day Tour'. We visited Oxford, Stratford-Upon-Avon, the Cotswolds and Warwick Castle. Our guide, Graham, was pleasant, informative, helpful, sensitive to the wheel chair user, and a good driver. We were picked up and delivered to our hotel door and fascinated by the activities in between.


Arriving in Oxford, we were greeted by our guide, Debbie, who is an Oxford native. It was a few days before the most recent Harry Potter book was released. We visited the Bodlian Library where the Harry Potter movies are filmed. You will be able to see the next movie in November. Blackwell's Bookstore anticipated the release of their local hero's latest book, 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'.

Blackwell's Bookstore

Oxford is the oldest University in England and the first to develop the University/College System that was later used at Cambridge, Harvard, Yale and so on. The library dates back to 1320 and offers amazing collections from which students and visiting scholars can do research. Oxford students spend a relatively short period of time in scheduled classes so summer months are available for special courses and workshops attended by visitors from other countries which contributes to the university's revenue.

Shakespeare's Birthplace


After a lovely cup of coffee and some sweets, we were off to see Shakespeare's birthplace. And there was the Bard's cottage in person. The cottage contains a museum on the first floor. From the second floor window, THE Shakespeare Garden could be seen below, colorful and filled with the requisite herbs that match sonnets and plays.

Looking at Shakespear's Garden

Boarding the bus, it was good to sit in comfortable seats and enjoy the air-conditioning. Now we traveled past Ann Hathaway's Cottage ( Shakespeare's wife) and through a bit of the Cotswolds as we made our way to Warwick Castle, advertised as 'Britain's Greatest Mediaeval Experience'.

Ann Hathaway's House

Again, our time was arranged so we could wander and participate in several of the events. The falconry demonstration was thrilling. The huge American Eagle from Canada barely missed our heads as it flew by. Another feature this summer is the world's largest trebuchet weighing 22 tons and measuring 18 meters high and capable of shooting missiles up to 300 meters which was used in Mediaeval times. This was known as a doomsday machine and destroyed castle walls in its day. The bus rearranged the schedule so that we could watch this machine in action.

Falconer with American Eagle

Heading back to London we learned that London is the second most expensive city one can visit (Tokyo being the first) and we were presented with many free to inexpensive activities available in London including many museums. We will have to wait for another visit to explore them, but we did enjoy walks through Hyde Park and the Kennsington Gardens.

According to their own description Astral Tours offer: Groups of no more than 16, luxury air-conditioned Mercedes mini-coaches, innovative, unique, well paced tours with personalized and professional service.

They claim that ensuring a memorable day is their business and they did that for us.

Warwick Castle


You can reach Astral Tours at www.astralTravels.co.uk

Or email: [email protected] 

On another trip to London we took another amazing tour and you can see my article on Travel Jewish London Walk here

Published on May 21, 2006

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