24 May 2009

TOURING LONDON, Day 3: The Day Trip

Windsor Palace (above and below).

Stonehenge (obviously!).


We are up early to gather and pack, leaving our belongings in the luggage room at The Citadines, as we will spend tonight at the Ibis near Gate 4 at Heathrow--where I stayed over a year ago when this blog was birthed.
I remember being so over-filled with stimuli, experiences, and information during that trip--I knew I had to write it all down. This has been such a positive step for me--cathartic to the max, and a phenomenal way to communicate details to my family and friends and to record and remember.
We meet the tour bus as scheduled and again journey to Victoria Station to be dispersed among our variously scheduled itineraries. Today our tour guide is a very disorganized Priscilla. She looks to be about 80 years old and is not very nice. Throughout the day she blathers on and on, chastising the passengers if we talk amongst ourselves and rambling on about her political, cultural, and general life opinions--coming from the cup-half-empty perspective.

We first journey to Windsor and it is a beautifully sunny morning. We are among the first to arrive and the town and castle are extraordinary. For some reason Cilla ushers us past the station to pick-up audio tour equipment and we regret it the whole time. It is a glorious site and we shall return someday! The Queen is not in residence this day, so the Union Jack is flying rather than the Royal Colors. We wander into Maud's for some yummy ice cream, and then back to the tour bus for our journey to Stonehenge.

Back on the bus for a bit. Lunch is pre-arranged at a British pub, The Bell. I have the vegetable lasagna with fresh salad, and JL opts for the roast pork. the food is quite good.

At Stonehenge we are again ushered past the audio tour devices--a shame as they are included in the price of the tour. We take a few photos and wander the circle. You can't walk amongst the stones any longer. The countryside is lovely and enroute we drove close to thatched cottages and saw dry stain dyke walls and sheep grazing in hedgerowed pastures. Lovely.

Bath disappoints. The tour brochure said we would have hours to wander, but we don't. We are given 30 minutes and then are to meet to tour the Roman Baths. We do, then duck out of the tour and wander into the cathedral and around the streets, enjoying ourselves infinitely more this way. The actual baths were stagnant and contaminated with bat and pigeon droppings--YUCK! We surely missed out on some interesting Roman artifacts, but the cathedral was quiet and stunning, so... six of one,half dozen of the other.
We are told there are few rivers in Britain, but there are man-made canals throughout this area--the water appears quite dirty and stagnant. I think I was picturing Brighton when I planned on Bath. We see so little, but can tell it would be worth a return trip.

We expect a three-hour return trip to London, but get there in less than 2-1/2. We are dropped off at the Gloucester Road Tube and walk toward our hotel, stopping for dinner at Med Kitchen which is adjoining The Citadines. We have walked by many times and I'm glad we get the chance to eat here. The atmosphere and food are very good, and what's more it is our neighborhood place! I have the ham, cheese, and tomato-herb omelet with salad and French fries while JL chooses a pasta dish. We are tired and need time to pack and process a jam-packed day.

We gather our belongings from the hotel and walk for the final trip to the Gloucester Road tube. A nice man carries my heavy bag down the two flights of steps after the lift--there has always been someone kind to help during this trip. We journey to Heathrow and find the Hotel Hoppa bus stop without fail. However, the H6 bus is nowhere to be seen--we seem to have just missed it. It takes an hour to learn that the H3 is the H6 at this time of night and we arrive at our hotel just after 11:30pm.

The room is just as I remember--clean, compact, and sufficient. A great bargain this time for just $50. I arrange for a 5:30am wake-up call and we don't read very long before dropping into an exhausted sleep. London has been very, very good and we have maximized our time in town.

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