Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan

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Osaka is the city often overlooked by visitors to the country of Japan. The flashier Tokyo or the temples of Kyoto draw millions of tourists, yet those that stay away from Osaka are missing out. Walk around Osaka and you will find yourself in a beautifully understated city.  Morning-to-night locals and tourists alike enjoy every corner of Osaka. As with any other top-notch city you will find plenty of shopping, great eats, wondrous sights, and an active nightlife.

With easy access from Kansai International Airport, Osaka is a great starting point for your trip. This is especially so if you are primarily focusing your trip on the Kansai region of Japan. If you have just arrived in Japan, Osaka is a great city to sync up into the rhythm of Japan and help you get over your jet lag. From Kansai International Airport take the Kansai Airport Express JR Haruka and you will reach Osaka within an hour.

Numbers of Days to Spend in Osaka

Although Osaka is not nearly as overwhelming in size and scope as Tokyo, you will still need at least three full days to capture the essence of the city. Two days are only enough if your focus is on sightseeing, as Osaka has fewer sights than Tokyo or Kyoto. If you enjoy eating and shopping, two days will go by in the blink of an eye. To truly experience Osaka you will be happy you added a third or even a fourth day in this relaxed and laid back big city. Osaka has multiple districts and you might miss a couple of districts if you are trying to cram everything of import into just two days.

Those that enjoy the nightlife will want to schedule their trip to Osaka to coincide with the weekends. Fridays and Saturdays are popular nights with people enjoying the city late into the evening and into the next morning. Partygoers will find plenty of bars and clubs in the city. Even late at night, popular restaurants have long lines of foodies and partygoers looking to fuel up on good food. Or if the evening air is warm enjoy walking the streets and the water-lined walkways of Dotonbori canal while soaking in the atmosphere that is Osaka.

Osaka Castle Park

The top sight in Osaka is Osaka Castle Park. The grounds of the Park are free to visitors. From the grounds you can get great photos of the various buildings on the grounds, including the main Castle itself. Entry into the Castle will cost an admission fee. Osaka Castle Park is a great place to visit during the spring or fall time. At those times of the year the grounds come alive with cherry blossoms or the autumn colors of the turning of the tree leaves.

Umeda Sky Building

Visit the Umeda Sky Building for amazing views of the city. This architectural astonishment, in the shape of an upside-down U, has a viewing platform on the very top floor. Ride an elevator, followed by a short escalator ride, to the 173rd floor and the Floating Garden Observatory. Take in views of the city by sitting inside on the various seating available or by heading outside to stand on the viewing platform. Whether inside or outside, you will be in for a treat, with stunning panoramic views of the city of Osaka.

After you’ve enjoyed the views of the city, ride the elevator to the bottom of the Umeda Sky Building. Under the Umeda Sky Building you will find Takimi Koji Alley. This floor is a recreation of an old Japanese town, with “streets” that house various restaurants and izakaya. Enjoy this peaceful section of Osaka as you stroll the “streets” and unwind while eating fantastically good food.

Dotonbori Walk

Dotonbori, or Dotombori, is one of the main districts of Osaka. This popular part of town runs along the Dotonbori canal, making this a picturesque part of the city to walk. Dotonbori is close to a section of the city known as Amerika-Mura. Here you will find a hip youthful vibe with stores selling new and used/vintage clothes. For neon lights, restaurants with big signs made to appear as food, and more shops visit the parts of Ebisu-bashi and Dotonbori Arcade. For even more stores you can stop by Shinsaibashi Station. If you need a break from the active buzz of the city, be sure to visit Hozen-ji Temple, a serene spot in the city.

Namba Yasaka shrine - Osaka, Japan

Namba Yasaka shrine

Osaka Shrines

The shrines of Osaka are peaceful oases in the bustling city. If you visit only one shrine, be sure to visit Namba Yasaka. The grounds for this Shinto shrine are small but the massive lion head makes the trip worthwhile. Use the time at the shrine for peaceful contemplation before heading back into the city.

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Osaka Sights

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Osaka Castle Park: 34.687315, 135.526201
Umeda Sky Building: 34.705384, 135.489614
Dotonbori: 34.668515, 135.502552
Ebisu-bashi: 34.669054, 135.501296
Shinsaibashi Station: 34.674413, 135.500310
Hozen-ji Temple: 34.667877, 135.502613
Namba Yasaka Shrine: 34.661625, 135.496691
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Osaka Castle Park
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Osaka Castle Park, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Umeda Sky Building
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Dotonbori
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Dotonbori, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Ebisu-bashi
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Ebisubashi, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Shinsaibashi Station
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Shinsaibashi Station, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Hozen-ji Temple
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Hōzen-ji Temple, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
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Namba Yasaka Shrine
Impressions and Sights of Osaka, Japan
Nanbayasaka Shrine, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan

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Mickey Mouse’s House: Hong Kong Disneyland

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For fans of Walt Disney’s theme park, Disneyland is the happiest place on earth. Regardless of how many times they visit the famed park a sense of joy overwhelms them. The park’s ability to bring forth the inner child in adults and to captivate the minds of children makes Disneyland a special place to visit. In 1955 the original Disneyland opened in Anaheim, California, U.S.A. Since then Disney has built five more parks around the world, including Hong Kong Disneyland. Hong Kong Disneyland opened in 2005 on Lantau Island. Fans of Disney will find Hong Kong Disneyland a great addition to the roster of theme parks.

Mickey Mouse ears on the train for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Line - Hong Kong, China

Mickey Mouse ears on the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Line train

Statue of Minnie Mouse on the train for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Line - Hong Kong, China

Statue of Minnie Mouse on the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort Line train

Arriving at Hong Kong Disneyland

The easiest and most convenient way for visitors to reach Hong Kong Disneyland is by using public transportation, Hong Kong’s Mass Transit Railway (MTR). Whether you are arriving straight from the airport or leaving your hotel on Hong Kong Island or Kowloon you will take the MTR to the Sunny Bay Station. Once at Sunny Bay Station you will board the Disneyland Resort Line bound for Hong Kong Disneyland Resort. On the Disneyland Resort Line train you will have your first chance to get into the Disney mood. The train’s windows are in the shape of Mickey Mouse ears and throughout the train are statues of various Disney cartoon characters. Sit back and enjoy the short six-minute ride journey to the Disneyland Resort Station.

Welcome sign for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Welcome sign for the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort

Fountain with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse located outside the entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland - Hong Kong, China

Fountain with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse outside the entrance to Hong Kong Disneyland

Once you’ve arrived at the Disneyland Resort Station’s immaculate platform you will walk towards the welcome sign and on to the ticket booth and entrance to the park. What you will notice is that signs display both English letters and Chinese characters. The signs within the park and the signs for rides are in English and Chinese. Attractions and shows have either English audio or English subtitles. Anyone who understands either English or Chinese will navigate the park with ease. To enter the park you will need to buy tickets. Tickets are available ahead of time on-line or at the park’s ticket booths. Ticket prices in 2016 for a 1-day ticket: General Admission HK$539 (US$69), Child HK$385 (US$50), and Senior HK$100 (US$13). The 2-day ticket price: General Admission HK$739 (US$95), Child HK$525 (US$68), and Senior HK$170 (US$22).

Those who have visited Disneyland in California will find the low admission price a welcome surprise. The Hong Kong Disneyland General Admission 1-day ticket price is a third cheaper than the same ticket in California. Keep in mind that the cost differential could relate to the size of the parks. Hong Kong Disneyland is not as large a park as the one in California. If you visit Hong Kong Disneyland on an off-peak day you can ride every attraction and see every show within one day. If your schedule is flexible you will want to visit the park on an off-peak day. A mid-week day during non-holiday, non-school vacations, is the best chance to visit the park with the fewest amounts of people.

Mickey Mouse flower bed in front of Hong Kong Disneyland's Main Street Train Station - Hong Kong, China

Mickey Mouse flower bed in front of Hong Kong Disneyland’s Main Street Train Station

Sleeping Beauty Castle (Top portion of the Castle was going through renovations when this photo was taken) - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Sleeping Beauty Castle (top portion of the Castle was undergoing renovations when this photo was taken)

Inside Hong Kong Disneyland

After you have purchased your tickets you will enter the park. As you enter the park grab a map and the Times Guide with up-to-date information on when the parade, fireworks, and stage shows start. Once you pass the entrance gate visitors first see a flowerbed of the familiar face of Mickey Mouse and the Disneyland Main Street Train Station. Continue past the flowerbed and you will find yourself on Main Street. This replica of a Main Street in U.S.A. has shops filled with souvenirs, clothes, and candies. Walk Main Street to the Sleeping Beauty Castle. This location is a great meeting spot for groups that may get separated at any point during the day. From this central location you can reach any of the six lands found within Hong Kong Disneyland. Each land has attractions, shops, and eating venues. Choose from starting your day at Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Grizzly Gulch, Mystic Point, or Toy Story Land.

Tomorrowland - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland

Tomorrowland's UFO Zone - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Tomorrowland’s UFO Zone

Tomorrowland

Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland has four attractions that are found in California’s Disneyland. Rides include Space Mountain, Orbitron, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, and Autopia. Besides those rides two other attractions are in Hong Kong Disneyland’s Tomorrowland. The UFO Zone is a place for kids to play with water. The other attraction is the Stitch Encounter, an interactive video featuring Stitch from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch. In 2016 Tomorrowland will open a unique attraction, the Iron Man Experience. The Iron Man Experience will be the first official ride by Marvel inside any of the six Disney parks. Details at a Disney expo showcased how the ride has you flying alongside Iron Man as you help save the city from a villainous attack.

Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride in Fantasyland - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride in Fantasyland

Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride in Fantasyland - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Dumbo the Flying Elephant ride in Fantasyland

Fantasyland

The land next to Tomorrowland is Fantasyland. Attractions include Dumbo the Flying Elephant, Cinderella Carousel, “it’s a small world” and The Mad Hatter Tea Cups. The Mad Hatter Tea Cups ride is similar in design in both the Hong Kong and California parks. Except the Tea Cups in Hong Kong is underneath a covered roof as opposed to under the open sky as in California. Another ride in Hong Kong Disneyland’s Fantasyland is The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. This is the same ride found in Critter Country inside California’s Disneyland. A unique attraction to Fantasyland is “The Golden Mickeys”, a live action show celebrating Disney characters and movies. The show’s dialogue is in Chinese and large monitors on both sides of the stage display English subtitles.

Tarzan's Treehouse in Adventureland - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Tarzan’s Treehouse in Adventureland

Jungle River Cruise ride entrance with English speaker line in Adventureland - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

English speaker line for the Jungle River Cruise ride in Adventureland

Adventureland

From Fantasyland you will find yourself in Adventureland. Here visitors who’ve been to California Disneyland will find the familiar Tarzan’s Treehouse and Jungle River Cruise. As you enter the Jungle River Cruise attraction you will notice three different lines you can choose from to board the ride. The lines relate to what language the tour guide speaks on the boat you board. Choose the line for the language you know best, either English, Cantonese, or Putonghua/Mandarin.

Old West jail in Grizzly Gulch - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Old West jail in Grizzly Gulch

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars ride in Grizzly Gulch - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars ride in Grizzly Gulch

Grizzly Gulch

After you’ve visited Tomorrowland, Fantasyland, and Adventureland the similarities between Hong Kong Disneyland and California Disneyland lessen. The land next to Adventureland is Grizzly Gulch. Grizzly Gulch is a recreation of an Old West town. The buildings are straight out of the Wild West complete with a bank, hotel, and a blacksmith. There is even a Grizzly Gulch Jail where you can have your photo taken as a wanted criminal poster. The main attraction is Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars, a ride that shares a resemblance to Big Thunder Mountain Railroad in California’s Disneyland. Part of the ride has a mountain peak shaped as a bear. A similar peak is found in Disneyland’s other California park, California Adventure. The only other attraction in Grizzly Gulch is a zone set aside for water play.

Mystic Manor in Mystic Point - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Mystic Manor in Mystic Point

Three statues become one in the Garden of Wonders - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Three statues become one in the Garden of Wonders

Mystic Point

Mystic Point is the one land unlike any in California’s Disneyland but only has two attractions. One is the Garden of Wonders, with various sculptures that create 3D illusions. The other attraction is one of the best rides in the entire park. Mystic Manor is the ride you get from combining California Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion and Indiana Jones. The Manor is the home of Lord Henry Mystic and his monkey friend Albert. Riders board carriages that take them throughout the mansion. As you travel through the mansion you view various artifacts Lord Henry has accumulated on his journeys. Albert joins you on your travels and his hijinks cause a few commotions to keep you entertained. This lighthearted ride is super fun and worth riding multiple times since you won’t find this ride in any other Disneyland parks.

Sheriff Woody welcomes you to Toy Story Land - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Sheriff Woody welcomes you to Toy Story Land

Rex welcomes you to Toy Story Land - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Rex welcomes you to Toy Story Land

Toys and Games in Toy Story Land - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Toys and Games in Toy Story Land

Slinky Dog Spin ride in Toy Story Land - Hong Kong Disneyland, Hong Kong, China

Slinky Dog Spin ride in Toy Story Land

Toy Story Land

The final land in Hong Kong Disneyland is Toy Story Land, based on the Toy Story movies. This land’s vibe resembles California Disneyland’s Mickey’s Toontown, but none of the rides or buildings in the two lands is the same. A gigantic replica of the Toy Story’s Rex welcomes you from one entrance to Toy Story Land and at the other entrance is a replica of Woody. Buildings are in the shapes of popular toys such as Lincoln Logs. Throughout the land you will see massive replicas of popular toys such as Tinker Toys, Dominos, Checkers, and Barrel of Monkeys. Attractions in this land lean more towards those found at traditional roller coaster theme parks. The Toy Soldier Parachute Drop is a ride where you sit in a carriage that is pulled up into the sky and then dropped at various speeds. The Slinky Dog Spin puts you in a carriage within Slinky Dog from the Toy Story movie. This ride goes around and around in a big circle. The final ride in Toy Story Land is the RC Racer where you race on a U-shaped track.

Dessert options at Hong Kong Disneyland - Hong Kong, China

Dessert options at Hong Kong Disneyland

Laksa and chicken satay at Hong Kong Disneyland - Hong Kong, China

Laksa and chicken satay at Hong Kong Disneyland

Food at Hong Kong Disneyland

Fans of Disneyland theme parks can buy their favorite snacks at Hong Kong Disneyland. On hot days you’ll still be able to cool off with a traditional Mickey Mouse Ice Cream Bar. Besides Mickey Mouse you can select Minnie Mouse Ice Cream Bar or a Sherbet Bar based on either Stitch or Lotso from Toy Story. Food carts sell churros, turkey legs, hot dogs, and corn on the cob. Within food halls you can buy hamburgers and other Western style cuisine. Food carts sell more localized cuisine such as red bean waffles, fish balls, and Hong Kong style tea. The food sold at Hong Kong Disneyland includes dishes from other Asian countries. For example you can buy a bowl of Laksa or chicken satay. Food carts even sell Korean squid and fish cake. The various dishes will keep you fueled up as you navigate the park.

Leaving Hong Kong Disneyland - Hong Kong, China

Leaving Hong Kong Disneyland (in the background on the left is the MTR Station)

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Hong Kong Disneyland

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Hong Kong Disneyland 22.315412, 114.039881 Mickey Mouse’s Other House: Hong Kong Disneyland

 

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Visiting Windsor and Eton

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Visitors to Windsor and Eton will find two charming English towns right next to each other. Windsor is famous for Windsor Castle. Windsor’s neighbor Eton is home to a prestigious boys’ boarding school. It is easy to visit both towns as they are within walking distance of one another. In fact, a seven-minute walk separates the two train stations that bring travelers to Windsor and Eton. If traveling from London, Windsor & Eton Central services travelers from London Paddington (via a platform at Slough). Travel between the two stations can take anywhere between 27-49 minutes depending on which train you catch. Travelers from London Waterloo will arrive at Windsor & Eton Riverside in one hour. Windsor & Eton Central is the train station closest to Windsor Castle, while Windsor & Eton Riverside is closer to the River Thames and Eton. Listed below are the main sights to visit in Windsor and Eton.

Windsor Royal Shopping

Upon exiting the train at Windsor & Eton Central you walk into the open air Windsor Royal Shopping center. The center was once a Victorian railway station and parts of the original architecture remains. A variety of shops and restaurants are at your disposal to cure your hunger or shopping pangs. If you are hungry and aren’t able to decide which restaurant to eat at try the Cinnamon Cafe. The Cinnamon Cafe serves pastries such as scones and other traditional English foods such as jacket potatoes. In addition to restaurants and clothing stores, Windsor Royal Shopping has candy and souvenir shops. Even more stores are found in the streets surrounding Windsor Royal Shopping. Both established English retailers and international brands are there to fulfill your shopping needs.

Windsor Royal Shopping - Windsor, England

Windsor Royal Shopping

Windsor Castle

The highlight of Windsor is Windsor Castle, one of the residences of the Royal Family. When the Royal Standard flag is flying above the Castle the Queen is home. If the British (Union) flag is on display the Queen is spending her time elsewhere. As Windsor is located near London many tourists flock to Windsor Castle via tour groups. If traveling without a group when you arrive at the Castle you may see a long line of people snaking along the street leading up to the ticket booth entrance. That long line is for tour groups and if you aren’t connected to a group you may go ahead to the ticket booth entrance. A Windsor Castle attendant will guide you to the line for non-tour group visitors. Admission to Windsor Castle includes a handheld device with a self-guided multimedia tour. Your ticket gives you access to the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, and St. George’s Chapel. Keep in mind that St. George’s Chapel is closed to tourists Sundays. If you plan on watching Changing the Guard be sure to check on the Windsor Castle website beforehand for up-to-date times.

Windsor Castle - Windsor, England

Windsor Castle’s Round Tower

Windsor Great Park

The easiest way to gain access to Windsor Great Park is by walking to the end of Park Street. There you will find the Park Street Gate. The Park Street Gate is closed during the nighttime but when open it allows you direct access to the Long Walk. The Long Walk is a three-mile tree-lined path through a section of Windsor Great Park. With Windsor Great Park stretching over 8 square miles of land, the Long Walk provides just a glimpse of the grounds. A view of a statue of George III rewards those who traverse the entire path. If the walking made you tired go to the pub right next to the Park Street Gate where you can grab yourself refreshment and recuperate.

Park Street Gate and Windsor Castle - Windsor, England

Park Street Gate (to the left) and Windsor Castle (center)

The Long Walk, Windsor Great Park - Windsor, England

The Long Walk, Windsor Great Park

River Thames and Eton

The River Thames separates the two towns of Windsor and Eton. Walk along the river to see swans frolicking in the water. You can watch rowing and motorboats sail the river. The river flows past the Alexandra Gardens. The gardens are open to visitors and are next to a parking lot if you drive to Windsor and need a spot to leave your car. Besides walking next to the river, several companies offer various boat trips along the river. You can cross over the River Thames by way of the Windsor & Eton Bridge, which connects the two towns of Windsor and Eton. At night Windsor Castle is lit up and the bridge provides a spectacular view. Across the bridge, on the Eton side, are several restaurants of which a few offer riverside seating. If you continue past the restaurants you will wind up on High Street. This street is lined with shops and leads you to Eton College, a boys’ boarding school. The architecture of the shops, restaurants, and boarding school are worth the stroll through the town of Eton.

River Thames - Windsor and Eton, England

River Thames and the Windsor & Eton Bridge

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Windsor and Eton Sights

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Windsor Royal Shopping: 51.482834, -0.609454
Windsor Castle: 51.483889, -0.604408
Windsor Great Park: 51.463062, -0.606337
Eton College: 51.495735, -0.604440
Alexandra Gardens: 51.484611, -0.613870
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Windsor Royal Shopping
Visiting Windsor and Eton
Windsor Royal Shopping, Goswell Hill, Windsor, United Kingdom
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Windsor Castle
Visiting Windsor and Eton
Windsor Castle, Windsor, United Kingdom
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Windsor Great Park
Visiting Windsor and Eton
The Long Walk, Windsor, United Kingdom
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Eton College
Visiting Windsor and Eton
Eton College, Windsor, United Kingdom
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Alexandra Gardens
Visiting Windsor and Eton
Alexandra Gardens, Windsor, United Kingdom

 

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Day Trips From London

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A week in London means a packed itinerary and a day trip to another town may be the furthest thing from your mind. Even so, you should devote a day to a city besides London. Visit other parts of England near London to allow yourself the opportunity to explore another side of the country. Day trips that offer a different experience than staying in London are Bath, Oxford, Reading, Stonehenge, and Windsor. Travel times listed in each heading are one-way train trips from London’s Paddington Station.

Bath – 90 minutes

Walk around London and you can’t imagine that Britain was once part of the Roman Empire. Travel to Bath and that evidence hits you smack dab in the face. The town of Bath is known for its hot springs and the Romans built bathhouses to harness the restorative water. Tourists can buy tickets for admittance into what was once a functioning bathhouse and learn the history of the town. Unlike hot spring locations in other parts of the world, Bath does not have public bathhouses open to visitors. Thermae Spa is the only place in Bath where you can pay to take a dip in water flowing from the hot springs. Before heading home stroll through Bath and admire the Roman architecture and quaint streets.

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul - Bath, England

The Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – Bath

Oxford – 60 minutes

Tourists looking to explore England’s famed university towns choose between Oxford and Cambridge. Both are solid choices but Cambridge is a two-hour journey from London while Oxford takes an hour to reach by train. Oxford boasts over 30 different universities within walking distance. Just by being in Oxford one feels smarter as if intelligence is increased by osmosis. You will have the urge to duck into a library to crack open a book and study. When you arrive at the Oxford train station stop by the tourist information booth and buy the 2£ map that includes a walking tour. The walking tour will guide you past the top sites. Plan on the walk to take an hour to complete. The walk will take longer if you walk at a relaxed pace, explore the universities, and eat at one of the many restaurants in Oxford.

The Radcliffe Camera - Oxford University, England

The Radcliffe Camera – Oxford University

Reading – 30 minutes

Reading is not a town brimming with sites, but that’s the appeal. The streets from the train station lead you past various shops and to the Oracle shopping center. The Oracle provides a chance to shop in a mall without the same crowds that you find in London. Behind the Oracle is a riverfront reminiscent of a scaled version of the River Walk in San Antonio, Texas. Plenty of restaurant options around the river will replenish you during your shopping excursion. If you need a pause from the hustle and bustle of London consider Reading that break.

The Oracle Riverside - Reading, England

Reading – The Oracle Riverside

Stonehenge – 3 hours

Photos of the monument Stonehenge are recognizable around the world. Years ago tourists to the fabled grounds of Stonehenge could walk right up to the massive stones and place their hands directly onto the monument. Even though the experience of touching the stones is no longer allowed this prehistoric monument is a site to be seen. With a six hour round trip, this destination is the longest on this list to reach by train. The better plan is to tack Stonehenge along with another location such as Bath. Companies, such as Gray Line, have a bus tour that is nine hours and includes transportation to both Bath and Stonehenge. Travel with a tour group means that you will be on a schedule when at each location. At least you will visit both sites without having to spend six hours sitting on a train.

Stonehenge - Wiltshire, England

Stonehenge

Windsor – 35 minutes

The highlight of Windsor is Windsor Castle, one of the many residences of the Royal Family. If you see the Royal Standard flag flying above the Castle then you know the Queen is home. Tourists primarily descend upon Windsor by tour bus just to visit the Castle. Windsor is more than just the Castle and worth a few extra hours beyond the tour of the Castle grounds. If you arrive at Windsor & Eton Central railway station upon exiting the train are various shops and restaurants. Around Windsor Castle are more shops and restaurants. Next to Windsor Castle is Windsor Great Park that includes pathways such as the Long Walk. Another nice walk is across the River Thames to Eton College, a boys’ boarding school. The streets leading to Eton College are lined with shops and restaurants.

Windsor Castle - Windsor, England

Windsor Castle

 

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Day Trips From London

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Bath: 51.375801, -2.359904
Oxford: 51.752021, -1.257726
Reading: 51.454265, -0.978130
Stonehenge: 51.178882, -1.826215
Windsor: 51.481728, -0.613576
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Bath
Day Trips From London
Bath, United Kingdom
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Oxford
Day Trips From London
Oxford, United Kingdom
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Reading
Day Trips From London
Reading, United Kingdom
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Stonehenge
Day Trips From London
Stonehenge, Amesbury, United Kingdom
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Windsor
Day Trips From London
Windsor, United Kingdom

 

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An Italian Castle in Napa Valley

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Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Before visiting Castello di Amorosa if you’d told me there was a castle in California I assumed you meant Hearst Castle in San Simeon. If you insisted there was a castle in Calistoga, built in the Italian tradition, I’d have called you crazy. My guess is that the man behind Castello di Amorosa, Dario Sattui, received his fair share of skepticism as well when he told them his plans. That dream of Dario’s, to build an authentic Tuscan castle in the middle of Napa Valley, has come true in a most amazing way.

In Napa Valley if one brings up the Sattui name most people will think of the winery, V. Sattui. Its large tasting room offers a variety of approachable wines, for the novice and expert tasters. V. Sattui’s market has foods to buy ranging from meats, breads, cheeses, and salads. The grounds offer benches or lawns perfect for picnicking. This leads to V. Sattui being a great stop when in Napa Valley.

Goats in front of Castello di Amorosa

Goats in front of Castello di Amorosa

Similar to V. Sattui Winery, Castello di Amorosa is a fantastic outing. In fact, it’s worth visiting the region just to see the castle. Where else besides Italy can you see an Italian castle? The moment you drive up to the parking lot for Castello di Amorosa you are mesmerized by the castle. Your mind rejects the possibility that someone took it upon himself to have a castle built in Napa Valley. Yet as you get out of your car you’re faced with the stark fact, Castello di Amorosa is real.

As you approach the castle by foot a welcoming committee of farm animals greets you. Dario Sattui didn’t stop at authenticity with the walls of the castle. This is a functioning castle so livestock is prudent. A flock of geese use the shade of trees to block out the sun. Sheep wander through vineyards and goats meander past the castle walls. Seeing the animals gives weight to the fact that every detail of this castle if genuine.

Pricing for tastings or tours at Castello di Amorosa

Pricing for tastings or tours at Castello di Amorosa

You will enter the castle itself through the main gate. To move further into the castle you will need to pay for either general admission or a guided tour. The photo to the right showcases the pricing in late 2014. Each entry fee includes a visit to the tasting room. Children may visit the castle and their entrance includes a tasting of grape juice. On our visit we opted for “General Admission with Premium Wine Tasting”, a cost of $20 a person. With general admission you may go ahead to the top of the tower, visit the great hall, see the courtyard, or descend to the tasting room.

We’d arrived in the morning and went to the tasting room first, in case it got crowded later. The number of people in the tasting room was minimal, which lent to a relaxed tasting session. There was no bumping of elbows or feeling rushed by others looking to snag your spot at the wine bar. Once in the tasting room it was easy to imagine that you were in Italy. There are no windows, which gives the tasting room a medieval, and romantic, vibe. The brick walls are soothing and lined with bottles of wine. The attendant serving us was an Italian gentleman, and that added to the entire experience. Were we in California or Italy? It didn’t matter as we drank the wines and soaked in the atmosphere.

Tasting Room in Castello di Amorosa

Tasting Room in Castello di Amorosa

After tasting the wines we made our way back to the courtyard.   There are tables and chairs in the courtyard that allow you to sit and take in this amazing structure. Next to the courtyard is the great hall that may be used for special events. The walls are painted with images of medieval times. There are portraits of jesters, knights, and royals, along with scenes of daily life. After you’ve had your fill of paintings its time to ascend the stairs to the castle walls and tower.

As you make your way up the stairs a sign reminds you of the hard work it took constructing Castello di Amorosa. The sign reads “our paths and stairways have all been constructed using hand-carved stone, hand-hewn wood, and centuries-old European bricks, to stay true to the building techniques used in the Middle Ages”. You can’t help being in awe as you look at the ground, the walls, the tower and even the rooftops. When you reach the top of the stairs you are rewarded with views of the surrounding hills and vineyards. Admire the scenery or pretend the castle in under siege and you the loan archer left to protect the stronghold.

Rooftop of Castello di Amorosa

Rooftop of Castello di Amorosa

As you make your way back to your vehicle it is hard not to be impressed by this castle. The attention to detail Dario Sattui put into having this castle built is evident throughout, from the moment you step onto the castle grounds until you leave. He is to be commended for making his dream a reality. We are lucky that he made Castello di Amorosa open to the public so we too may experience it.

For more information about Castello di Amorosa, including the history of the castle, visiting hours, and current pricing, please visit their website: http://www.castellodiamorosa.com/

 

 

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Castello di Amorosa

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Castello di Amorosa 38.558418, -122.542602 An Italian Castle in Napa Valley

 

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