next day in London! We had to wake up early because this was our 'Day
Trip' day. We all slept pretty damn well that night because of the whole
time change thing so it was still a little difficult to get up early -
the bus tour operators, Gray Line, were picking us up at a neighboring
hotel and we had to be there on time. Go figure. That was a nice hotel
by the way - I can't even imagine how much that place cost in American
Dollars. But anyways, the Gray Line trip we booked was to take us first
to Salisbury, followed by the amazing Stonehenge, and finally the Roman
city of Bath - afterwards a 2 1/2 hour drive back to London. So we weren't
going to be back in the city until about 7pm - yes, it was a very long
day, but definitely scenic.
So after our shuttle bus picked us up, we were taken to the main tourist bus area where we transferred on to our tour bus - and it was definitely a full bus. I ended up sitting alone for a little bit, but as the bus filled up more and more, it was inevitable that all seats would be filled. I ended up sitting next to a really cool Native American woman who was also with much of her family on vacation. And they liked to talk and talk and talk and laugh and laugh - it became annoying much later on the final drive home, but in the meantime, it wasn't so bad.
It takes about an hour or so to drive up to Salisbury, and the weather was amazing. I've been to Salisbury before but it's definitely not something you can get tired of seeing. Salisbury is a beautiful small city/village which has as its centerpoint the amazing Salisbury Cathedral. As you'll see in the pictures below, the cathedral itself is quite breath-taking. In fact, it's the tallest cathedral in ALL of England, and is approximately 450 feet high, about as high as the London Eye.
As we found out, the tour bus guide was mostly there to provide a running commentary while the bus was driving to places, but at each location, we were allotted a certain time to explore on our own, which was cool in a way, but I honestly thought we'd get a bit more 'guidance'. So anyways, we had about 45 minutes or so to look around at the cathedral grounds and inside - pictures below show all that - and needless to say it's pretty amazing. We then met up for lunch at a nearby pub called the Cloister - and had some pretty decent beef stew and met some of our fellow travelers. We started talking to the couple sharing our table with us and to my surprise, the guy was involved in the home audio/video installation business. SWEET.
So here are the pictures from the morning and up through Salisbury and the Cloister. Stonehenge awaits!
And after lunch, we were back on the bus and on our way to the amazing ruins of what is possibly one of the world's greatest and oldest mysteries - the rock formations of Stonehenge! I won't try to pretend and make it seem as if I know lots and lots about Stonehenge - but you can click HERE to read about Stonehenge at Wikipedia. Regardless, Jeff and Susan were extremely excited to see Stonehenge - I saw it back in 2002 so while I was still completely ready to see it again, the first time (like so many things) is always the time that has the most anticipation and excitement associated with it. So about a half-hour later, our bus crested the hill of the English rolling hills landscape and there was Stonehenge! It is still funny to see that Stonehenge is literally right off the side of the highway, just like those stone dinosaurs outside of Palm Springs. Okay, bad analogy. But still, you'd expect Stonehenge to be in a more grand environment. Allegedly it is still in the works to reroute the highway into a tunnel so that the environment isn't tainted...but they were saying that back in '02, so I'll believe it when I see it. Anyways, below are the pics from our 2nd stop of the day trip - Stonehenge!
We had about an hour to walk around Stonehenge, which when you consider it's a creative stacking of rocks, is probably enough time. After that, we then boarded the bus again for about an hour's drive to the city of Bath. I hadn't mentioned it earlier, but during the previous driving segments, it had been obvious that our bus driver's primary job was actually as a NASCAR racer and this job was just secondary. But it provided him a chance to still practice his skills while driving the bus..... and oh yes, we found that out as the bus was rounding the corners and driving the highway. The man LOVED to drive fast. Well, on our way to Bath, he was driving in that 'zone' and apparently didn't notice the traffic stopped ahead of him - well, we all soon realized it as he slammed on the brakes and sent all of us lurching forward in our seats (fortunately, it had been a tour bus company requirement for us to all buckle our seatbelts up) and the squeal of brakes accompanied many gasps as we all looked forward to see the rear of a truck in the front window. We didn't stop in time. Sure enough, we hit the back of the truck in front of us - amazingly, not as hard as it could have been. The damage to the bus was only a broken window - the truck suffered dents to its rear loading doors, which you might be able to see in the pic below. Our trip was delayed a half hour or so as the proper paperwork was done, but eventually we were back on our way towards Bath.
As you approach the center of the city, you see the massive settlements that look like giant walls on the hillside. They're a bunch of houses, I assume, and not where we were headed, but it was still an impressive sight to witness as we were driving into town. Once in Bath, the bus dropped us off in the middle of the town, which sits on the river Avon. The city is a major attraction because of the discovery a few decades ago of the Roman bath ruins that had been built on top of by apartments. Apparently some apartments kept repeatedly getting flooded basements...with warm water. Sure enough, excavations revealed that the apartments were built on Roman ruins that had been the site of where the Romans, when they had occupied England, had built a temple and bath on natural hot springs situated in the city. Obviously the Romans had their day...and of course that day ended, and history and time served to mostly erase their presence. Amazingly though, much remains of the temple, even with all the development on top of it, which you can see in the pics below. It was a pretty amazing thing to see, and the springs function to this day. You're not supposed to touch the water though...so much for the healing aspects? Here's a Wikipedia link to Bath if you really want and need to know more!
About two and a half hours is what it took to get back into London - and in that period of time, Susan nearly committed murder. This was because the Native Americans I mentioned earlier had decided (well, some of them) to get utterly trashed. And they talked, loudly, the entire drive back. My seatmate was fun to talk to, but the others were just really loud. And if you thought you were going to get some sleep before getting back into town, you were wrong.
Anyways, a long time later, we got back into town and got dropped off on...Regent Street? I can't remember, but it was on the street that runs straight towards the London Eye yet also Parliament and Westminster Abbey. And at night, that's one helluva view. We were on the hunt for the Sherlock Holmes Pub, and boy were we in the wrong area. But we had a great walk down to the Thames, at which we then found out that the pub was closer to Charing Cross Station - and amazingly we did find the pub, as it is quite different in appearance from the office buildings around it. Unfortunately, it was a little blah and expensive and limited in the menu, not to mention the service consisted of exactly one waiter. My impatience showed and I convinced Jeff and Susan to go elsewhere. We then consulted the bible..er, I mean Rick Steves' London and discovered that another pub was somewhat nearby - called the Pub of the Moon (or something like that) right near Trafalgar Square, which somehow we ended up near. That's an awesome sight to see at night as well! After that it was time to go back to the hotel and crash for the next day - as while we had another full day in London, that next evening we'd be headed out to PARIS! Or so we thought!