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Day 16 – Stonehenge & Bath

Wow! It’s been over a month since I blogged–please forgive me! Life got in the way.

I had been anticipating Stonehenge for the whole trip because it was one of my favorite destinations on our list. So, it was up early again, a walk down the crowded escalator to get to the Tube, on to Victoria Station and breakfast at the Starbuck’s.

Realizing our tour bus was a double-decker, we watched as the first people out the door pushed, shoved and rushed upstairs to the top level. When we approached the bus, Lin and I ducked inside the lower level and landed the front seat on the left side with lots of leg room, a spacious window to see out at eye-level, and our own shelf to put our bags and drinks. We lucked out!

The tour guide, John, noted famous sights as we drove through and out of London. He had a great sense of humor and was knowledgeable. The two hour drive took us out into the English lush countryside again.

Now about Stonehenge:

“Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire, England, 2 miles (3 km) west of Amesbury. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, 7 feet (2.1 m) wide and weighing around 25 tons. The stones are set within earthworks in the middle of the most dense complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments in England, including several hundred burial mounds.[1]

Archaeologists believe it was constructed from 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the first bluestones were raised between 2400 and 2200 BC,[2] although they may have been at the site as early as 3000 BC.[3][4][5]”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stonehenge

Driving into to the Stonehenge Visitors Center, we passed fields and cattle grazing–not what I’d thought I’d see near Stonehenge. John encouraged us to use the self-guided tour provided. We had limited time, so we used the bathroom, got on the shuttle and dashed to the site.

My first sighting of Stonehenge sent a shiver down my spine–I was standing near one of the wonders of the world. The layout of the self-guided tour and the walkway around Stonehenge was circular, starting at a distance from the back of the stones.

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I took tons of pictures with my camera and my iPhone. Here’s one of my favorites:

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Me Touching Stonehenge

We enjoyed watching young adults set themselves up so that their photos looked like they were touching Stonehenge so we tried it.

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Front Side Close

We listened to the audio, took more pictures and moved in closer on the front side. The information shared on the audio was informative.

Because we had spent as much time as possible at the stones, we rushed to get back to the tour bus and didn’t have any time to shop for souvenirs–OH, NO! It broke my heart not to have a t-shirt or hat with the Stonehenge logo on it, but the pictures I took became my souvenirs.

From there we drove to Bath, seeing thatched roofs and a patchwork quilt of green  and gold fields.

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Crystal Palace in Bath

We ate lunch at the Crystal Palace.

People congregated in the square in front of the Bath Abbey.

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We did a walking tour at 2:30 pm with John. I had dressed in my rain coat but Lin didn’t, so he left us when the rain started. There was a downpour but we kept touring. My rain coat kept my camera and wool sweater dry, but my capris, socks and shoes were soaked.

Lin and I met back up–me totally soaked and him dry and looking sheepish.

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At 3:30 pm we did a self-guided tour of the Roman Baths. Again we had to rush because of time restraints. On our walk back to the bus, Lin found ice cream and we saw Ann-Marie, our tour guide for Stratford. I gave her a quick hug.

We had a two hour drive back to London–a relaxing drive. I love our drive through the English countryside.

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There were several stops a long the way to let passengers off, and we were the last off the coach at Victoria Station. We rode the Tube back towards our hotel and received a refund from Oyster Card for four pounds. After a leisure walk towards our hotel, we ate dinner at The Swan, a local restaurant and shared Fish and Chips.

I spent that evening repacking my suitcase and surprised Lin that everything fit. This day ended our week in London. The next day we would pick up our rental car and drive to Bury St. Edmunds for my cousin’s wedding.

Have you seen Stonehenge? Bath? the Roman Baths? What was your experience? I would love to hear about your experience.

See more of my writing at my web site:

https://www.laradasbooks.com

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 15 – Free Day in London – Museum & the West Side

That title sounds like a laid-back day in London, but we packed as much as possible into our free days in London.

On this second free day in London, I woke up jazzed up–Les Miserable on the West End of London. I never thought I would have that privilege!

We savored our big English breakfast and made our way back to the Charles Dickens’ museum via the Tube and a enjoyable walk–another adventure on the Tube enjoying the people and the sights. We had learned the route on Monday when the museum was closed, so this was much easier.

So our first stop of the day was 48 Doughty Street in Holborn, London, Borough of Camden–the Charles Dickens’ museum which is a Victorian house where he lived from 25 March 1837 to December 1839.

To any Charles Dickens’ fan, the museum is a must and full of ah-ha moments on three stories. Memorabilia abounded so I took lots of pictures.

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48 Doughty Street – Charles Dickens’ Museum

The china laid out on the dining room table was so unique. Each plate had a picture and a name you might know: Charles Dickens, Daniel Maclise, William M. Thackeray, Catherine Dickens, and John Forster.

Because I’m a writer too, I loved his desk and chair–the place where he created those memorable characters and places.

Charles Dickens’ Desk and Chair

Each room was filled with personal items of Dickens–the nursery upstairs was the saddest. It housed the grille from the Marshalsea prison where Dickens’ father spent time. Many of Dickens’ books echoed the effect of his father’s imprisonment and the resulting poverty faced as a child.

In the last room on the third floor we saw many of Dickens’ famous quotes artistically displayed.

Up and down the stairs we went. When we finished seeing every display, we relaxed in a quaint cafe in the museum with tea and sweets.

We hated to say good-bye but we had ticketed to “Les Miserables” and needed to move on. We walked back to the Tube, enjoying the sights and sounds of London. We took the Piccadilly line to the West End.

Lots of theaters and lots of people. I had fun taking my picture with 2 Bobbies.

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Two Friendly Bobbies Stop to Take a Picture With Larada!

From here, we headed over to the Queen’s Theater to see “Les Miserables.” I saw the sign a block or so away and the anticipation mounted. I couldn’t believe I was really here in London’s West End to see an amazing play!

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The line was long to get into the theater, but some friendly Londoners let us in up front with them and visited with us. Inside the theater, a young couple seated next to us offered to our pictures.

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Lin and Larada in the Queen’s Theater

The play truly outdid the version I saw here in the States. After a double encore, an Evacuation Alarm went off which was so scary with the terrorist activity that had gone in London a few months before. People moved quickly to get out–no one knew the danger level but all acted as if there was a real threat. A crying little girl next to me got separated from our mother and grandmother and I helped her move up in the line. Doing that, I, myself, got separated from Lin a little, and it was frightening.

When we got outside, someone kiddingly said, “That’s a great way to clear out a theater for the next performance.” I asked several people around if that was usual and they all assured and said no. We never heard an explanation of the alarm.

We headed back to our hotel and walked to street near us that had several eateries. We ate at the Ristorante Italiano because the hocker outside was so entertaining. Inside we enjoyed a personable waitress during our delicious dinner and dessert.

We hadn’t made it to Hyde Park yet but had passed by it every time we went to the Tube, so we dashed over there. It was too dark to stay long and see much of the park, but the grounds were breathtaking with colorful flowers and fountains.

It was a long FREE day in London and we made the most of it for sure, but I fell on the bed when we got back to our room. We needed a good night’s sleep because tomorrow was another fun-filled day out of London to see my most anticipated site–Stonehenge and then on the Bath to see the Roman Baths.

Are you a Charles Dickens’ fan? If so, which is your favorite? Do you like Broadway plays? If so, which is your favorite? I’d love to hear back from you.

Larada’s website:  https://www.laradasbooks.com

Ireland & England · My Thoughts · Travel

Day 12 A Tour of London

We woke up early for our first day in London and had breakfast down stairs in our hotel–a full English breakfast.

We had to catch The Tube and then walk to Victoria Station to find our tour bus. Lin’s experience on the subway in New York City really helped. The nearest station to us was about a 7 – 10 minute walk. The pre-paid Oyster card provided by our tour guide helped ease us into the routine. The walk down into where we caught The Tube consisted of an elevator and an escalator-down, down, down. When we found our platform, we didn’t wait long. I enjoyed our uneventful trip on The Tube and our pleasant walk to Victoria Station–I worried a little if we were going the right direction but we were–thanks to Lin’s great navigation skills.

When we arrived at Victoria Station, we had time to grab a Starbucks and relax some. I needed the bathroom and I had “to pay to pee.”

The crowded queue area for all the tour buses felt overwhelming, and there were lots of buses lined up ready to take willing tourists all over London and England. We found our line and bus and waited.

The jam-packed tour filled our whole day: we saw Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, 10 Downing Street, and drove down White Hall. We saw the famous Big Ben and Parliament.

Our tour guide timed our visit to Buckingham Palace perfectly so we could see the changing of the guard. The soldiers going off duty were the Irish Guard. Those coming on duty wore the Scottish gear with the big hairy helmets. The huge crowd waited patiently. Our tour guide used a unique flag to find her–a skull and crossbones. She waved it high and was easy to find, but we still lost two women. The sculptured flower gardens took our breath away–bright colors, manicured lawns and decorative pillars and statutes.

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From there we bussed to Tower of London for a lunch of Fish and Chips. We toured the Tower and saw the Crown Jewels–OMG!! Again the crowds were massive.

The next part of the tour was a cruise on the River Thames–what a relaxing jaunt! Seeing London from the river gave us a great vantage spot. Our tour ended with a ride on the London Eye, an over-sized ferris wheel on the edge of the River Thames.

I’m not normally afraid of heights, but that ride was a little daunting. We could easily see the Parliament building and Big Ben from the ride. The individual compartments could hold about 10 – 15 people, so I could walk from side to side and take pictures. We had a clear 360 degree view of London. The river laced in both directions–it was awesome. The scariest part for me hit at the top of the ride and then when we started down the other side–I felt protected when we traveled up, but when we were going down, I felt vulnerable and exposed. It truly is the Daddy of them all for a ferris wheel ride.

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The London Eye behind us & across the River Thames

When we finished the ride, we walked across the bridge near Big Ben for The Tube Westminster station to get back to our hotel–it was more involved than the straight shot to Victoria Station, but Lin handled it masterfully. Again we had to go down into the bowels of London to access The Tube–musicians played at a variety of spots. We made the connection back to Victoria Station and then back to the stop near our hotel.

Before going to our room, we talked to Charlotte, the hotel clerk, about seeing a play in the West End on our next free day on Wednesday. She helped us book tickets for “Les Miserables” at the Queen’s Theater in the West End–I was so excited.

A friend from home suggested we see a play in the famous West End of London before we left–I hadn’t thought of it with all we were going to see, but I knew we had to do it.

We had a leisure dinner in the neighborhood and a restful evening in our room after a busy, busy day. We knew we needed to rest up for tomorrow, our free day in London. Lin studied the map of The Tube and laid out our route to get to our destination for the next day–the Charles Dickens museum and the British Museum.

Have you ever been to London? What was your favorite sight?

Check out my web site: https://www.laradasbooks.com