Tuesday, June 22, 2010

UK Travelogue, Day 5: England in a Day

Wednesday, June 2

I woke in a blind panic, sure that we had overslept our planned wake-up time of 6:00am. It was a reasonable assumption: after all, it was nearly fully light outside already, and birds could be heard twittering in the branches of the garden of Earl's Court. I popped up, nearly hitting my head on the bunk above, and checked my watch, which for some odd reason only read 4:30, despite the aforementioned facts.

Sure that there must be some mistake, I clattered out of bed and checked Bethany's digital watch, which she'd left on the window sill: 4:31. Worried that somehow both watches still might both be wrong (and I am not kidding here), I rustled into some shoes and up to the lounge where I logged on to one of the computers and checked the computer time plus, for good measure, the World Clock website.

Call me paranoid, but I'm not accustomed to so much light at such an ungodly hour. Also, this vacation had already earned somewhat of a reputation for Fails, and I was not about to let Day Five become one of them.

Now well and truly awake, I clicked around on the computer for a few minutes before tippy-toeing back to the room and letting myself in. (Not that I needed have bothered with the quiet: my sister could blissfully sleep through an air raid.) I rolled around trying to get back to sleep, but no dice. At about ten minutes until six, Bethany came awake in a flutter of the same what-time-is-it panic which I'd just experienced, only of course on a more muted and less paranoid scale.

By 7:00am, we were in the Underground, not being sure of distances quite yet and worried about how long it might take us to reach the Victoria Coach Station. Turned out to be only a 30-minute trip, but better early than let when it comes to busses, trains, and planes: this I have learned from hard-won experience.

Tour Coach

Now let me level with you and say I rather loathe organized tours. I hate the fake chummy feel that most tour guides try to infuse. I don't like being hurried through things; I don't like moving in large groups; associating with annoying tourists galls me; and above all, I don't like to be kept waiting by others, specifically the sort of tourists of a rather bovine mentality who seem to delight in organized tours. But if you can think of a more cost-and-time-efficient way to see Stonehenge, Bath, and Stratford-upon-Avon (via a drive through the Cotswolds) in one day, please let me know.

Quick thoughts and impressions:

1. I found Stonehenge remarkable, though less imposing on first approach than one would expect.

Tourist Ruth spots the sights

2. Jane Austen supposedly disliked Bath (certainly several of her central characters did) and if it were as crowded with tourists then as it were now, I completely understand.

River Avon

3. We love street performers! The only people more assured of my loose change are subway musicians.

4. Our tour guide was a dear little man who had me charmed from our first exchange. Upon loading the bus, I fixed him with my most serious look, and said, "Now, I expect to have a good time," to which he blinked twice and replied, "Boy, it's been a few years since a woman said that to me!"

Our guide

5. Meat Pasty = Love

6. The champagne and scone snack while watching privately-acted scenes from As You Like It was just the delightful touch that the visit to Shakespeare's birthplace needed to send it over the edge as Worth Seeing. After all, the rest of it was just a well-preserved half-timbered house with hand-made replica furnishings and a lot of dressed up guides.

Shakespeare's Birthplace Jump!

Of course, there were several Fails of the Day as well:
1. Five minutes into the tour, the bus mic stopped working. This necessitated a fifteen-to-twenty minute stop for someone from "the office" back at Victoria Station to come down to where we were on Oxford Street and sort it all out.
2. After that delay, we lost more time waiting for one hapless tourist (from Winnipeg) whom we nearly had to leave in Bath.
3. I left the book I was near to finishing (Sleep My Little Dead: The True Story of the Zodiac Killer) on the tour bus despite numerous admonitions from our guide that we pay attention and not leave behind any of our personal belongings. I felt like such a child, but was saved from shame only by knowing that I would never have to face him again. (This also marked the SECOND BOOK THIS SUMMER that I have abandoned on a public mode of conveyance, the first being that Bill Bryson book that I left on the plane from San Diego.)

At any rate, we rounded our our night with a hot pasty or two bought in the subway and a shared sandwich and drink from Marks & Spencer.

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The pictures from this day trip somehow hid from the internet until just TODAY, so if you haven't yet done so, stop by Flickr to see the full set here!

3 comments:

  1. I'm enjoying these accounts! You're hilarious.

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  2. Your travelogues make a person feel like they took the trip, without having to experience the crowds of Bath. I wouldn't have liked it, either.

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  3. Sounds better than the one tour I've taken(Mayan ruins in Tulum). I think Shakespeare would consider the jump at his house quite the leap!

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