THE BLOG

A Student's Guide to Backpacking: England

07/24/2011 05:29 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2011

Now one of the most diverse places on the planet, London is the brilliantly industrial capital of one of the most impressive empires that the world has ever seen. Just hours outside of the city, though, one can find the remnants of civilizations past, namely Roman ruins and even some obscure, little-known, 5,000-year-old temple/monument/mystery known as Stonehenge. Don't ask me, I just write here. In any case, no trip to Western Europe can be complete without a foray off of "The Continent" and across the Channel.

Food and Drink
Traditional English Fare -- English food has been much maligned in the past as garish and, well, just plain disgusting. Recently, travel shows have been attempting to change this view by taking audiences to posh restaurants serving cured pigeon and other beautiful dishes. In reality, though, the food for the common man has not undergone a drastic overhaul. 'Bangers and Mash' (sausages and mashed potatoes) and the omnipresent 'Fish and Chips' (fried white fish and french fries) are still quite common. Considered in the context of a formerly industrial city -- and eaten at a respectable pub -- this simple, traditional English food can actually be quite cheap, good and filling.

Sights
British Museum -- Going to the British Museum, personally, was a dream come true and it is a must-see for any visitor to London. The 'Louvre of History,' the British Museum contains artifacts and artwork from some of history's most storied empires. The museum halls are adorned with Assyrian guardians and Egyptian pharaohs, artifacts that can overshadow even the most grandiose of collections throughout the rest of the museum. My favorite piece, and one of the most influential discoveries in history -- the Rosetta Stone -- is proudly displayed at the entrance to the Egyptian wing. All of this and the museum is free so, backpacker or not, you have no excuse not to visit this premier institution.

Bath -- I'm personally not a bath person, but evidently the Romans were and left quite a monument to their former opulence in the town that today is known as... Bath. Despite the lack of creativity in the naming of the town, though, the town has become a major destination for those who wish to walk the same ground as the Romans of past millennia. If you're bold enough, you can even purchase a glass full of water taken straight from the very hot spring that the Romans once used for their ancient spa for only 50 pence.

Stonehenge -- One of the most famous, and mysterious, sites in the world, no one truly knows the story behind the stones. We can speculate, though, and many theories center around worship or observance of the sun as one of the stones was deliberately placed in the direct path of the rising or setting sun, coinciding with the Winter and Summer Solstices. Apart from its religious or astronomical implications, Stonehenge is a feat of engineering on its own as builders hauled the massive, 40-plus ton stones from a quarry hundreds of kilometers away from the actual site.