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Throughout its long history, it’s been a green and pleasant land, a scepterd isle and a nation of shopkeepers. It stood as a beacon of democracy and a bastion of ideological freedom, as well as a crucible of empire and a cradle of class oppression. Magna Carta, the King James Bible, and the welfare state were all dreamt up here, but then again so were beer bellies, Bovril, and Mr. Bean. It’s a nation of tea-tippling eccentrics and train spotters, of dog lovers and football fanatics, of punk rockers, gardeners, gnome collectors, superstar chefs, free-wheeling city traders, pigeon fanciers, cricket bores, and part-time Morris Dancers. To some it’s Albion. To others it’s Blighty. To many it is the most eccentric, extraordinary, and downright incomprehensible place on earth. Welcome to England.

To journey through England is to journey through time – from the ancient megaliths of Stonehenge to the space-age domes of the Eden Project in Cornwall. It’s also a trip to the 21st-century: London is gearing up for the 2012 Olympics while cities like Manchester, Leeds, and Newcastle revel in their heritage and confidently face the future, with industrial buildings revitalized as waterfront galleries or trendy apartments, flanked by tempting bars, shops, restaurants, and some of the finest music venues on the planet.

For visitors, the beauty of travel in England is the compact nature of the country. By spending less time going between places and more time in them, you can immerse yourself in the scenery, instead of just breezing through. Whether you’re strolling the undulating hills of Oxfordshire, cycling in Norfolk, surfing off Newquay, or rock-climbing in the Peak District, England is perfect for activity and adventure. With time on your side, you’ll get closer to understanding local sensibilities: relaxing with the locals in a country pub, enjoying a music festival, or watching a sports match.

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