Archive | January 2019

London 2018: Stonehenge

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

After we left Bath, we went to an early dinner at the Stonehenge Inn.  It was an all-you-can-eat carvery dinner (all-you-can-eat is generally wasted on me since I can’t eat that much but I tried!) with four kinds of meat; ham, pork, beef and turkey, along with veggies and Yorkshire pudding, and ice cream for dessert.  I love the big Thanksgiving style meals in England, but I was also craving a salad!

 

 

After dinner, it was finally time to see Stonehenge!

 

Stonehenge was built beginning in 3,100 BC; it was initially a raised circular embankment.  It is theorized that the earthen embankment was originally a burial ground, as bones have been found during the excavation.  About 300 years later the blue stones were added.  Blue stones is a generic term; some of them are igneous dolerite stones.  They are believed by most to have been transported by the builders from Preseli Hills, about 150 miles away in Wales.  Approximately 600 years after that the sarsen stones were placed.  These are the 30 large standing stones, with another 30 stones capping the ring.

More blue stones were added later on, and stones were moved around over the years, although it is unknown why.  They stopped using Stonehenge during the Iron Age.  I guess it depends on where in the world it is, but the Iron Age in Britain seems to be approximately 550 BC to 800 AD.  That’s quite a bit of squish in the knowledge about Stonehenge.  Researchers can only speculate on Stonehenge’s purpose; they do believe that it was a place of spiritual significance because the monument lines up with the sun at the winter and summer solstice.  Excavations have revealed animal bones that lead researchers to believe that people gathered there in winter.

When we got there, we walked up to the site as a group before getting our pre-viewing briefing, which basically consisted of “Don’t be the jerk who touches the stones.”  “If you touch the stones, you will get kicked out and have to go wait on the bus.”  “If you touch the stones, everybody else will jeer at you and mock you and throw tomatoes.”  “Got it?”  It wasn’t quite like that, but that was basically the gist.  We were split into two groups and let loose among the stones for 30 minutes for each group.  The only drawback of the sunset tour is that when you arrive, the Visitor’s Center is already closed for the day.  I would have liked to see that.

 

 

While the other group was in the inner circle, we got to wander around the outside.

 

 

Standing inside Stonehenge and seeing it up close was incredible.  It was a very spiritual experience to see this monument built thousands of years ago, and to wonder what the makers intended it for.  The lowering light of the sun was amazing to see on the stones and between them.  While it would be cool to see Stonehenge on the solstice, it was nice to be here with so few people (there were about 40 of us on the tour).  It was really a bucket list experience, and I’m afraid words can’t really do it justice.  The photos will have to do.

 

Tube Stations:  None.  We disembarked from the bus on Gloucester Road, which was less than a mile from our hotel, so we walked home from there (you also have the choice to disembark back at the bus station where we left from in the morning).
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), carvery dinner – $15 pounds
Fitbit Steps: 14,022

 

Advertisements

London 2018: Day Trip to Bath

Day 10, Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Today was a big day!  We were going to visit Bath and Stonehenge, including access to the inner circle at sunset!  I was so excited!

When we were booking our trip to London, Stonehenge was the one thing we all knew in advance that we wanted to do.  It’s a no brainer, really.  You can’t go to England and not visit Stonehenge, right?  We booked a tour with Golden Tours even before we departed for England.  It would include a visit to Bath and admission to see the Roman Baths, and then the visit to Stonehenge, with access inside the inner circle, timed to coincide with sunset.

We met our bus at the main Golden Tours bus depot on Buckingham Palace Road, which meant an early wake up to make sure that we weren’t late for our morning departure time.

Go go gadget tour bracelets!

Our first stop was a tiny little village called Lacock.  It was so cute!  Apparently everybody thinks so because three Harry Potter movies, Downton Abbey and Pride and Prejudice (not sure which version) were all filmed here.  We only had about 20 minutes to wander around and take some photos, before it was back on the bus.  It would have been nice to have a bit more time there, as there were a few cute shops I would have liked to check out.

Our next stop was Bath.  Bath is a historic city, perhaps known best for the Roman Baths built in the 1st century (circa 60 AD) after the Romans occupied England.  I, of course, learned about Bath from reading Jane Austen novels…  The baths are built using water from the only hot spring in Britain.  They were dedicated to the goddess Sulis, a life-giving mother goddess.  The Romans believed that the waters could heal all sorts of maladies if you bathed in it and drank from it regularly.  The original baths were in ruins around the 6th century, because after the Romans left the baths were filled in with silt and erosion.  The hot spring did continue to be used over the centuries, and were used by people in the late 1700s and 1800s for their restorative powers.  The jury is still out on that though.  More recent testing has shown that the hot spring water does contain a dangerous amoeba and a girl died in 1978 after contracting meningitis from the waters.  They don’t allow visitors to swim in the waters now – makes sense.

They have done a great job stabilizing and restoring the original baths; visitors can see what it used to look like through a combination of excavation and restoration, and technology to show what it would have looked like.  They also have artifacts that were discovered during the excavation.  It was fascinating to walk through and check it out, and we spent a while there.  At the end, if you want, you can have a sip of the (treated) water to experience what people would have tasted when they visited hundreds of years ago.  I can’t understand how people managed to choke this stuff down!  In large quantities even!  It was gross; I’m not really a fan of water on my best day, but this warm, smelly, sulfuric concoction was disgusting!

If you are interested in taking in the waters, there is a modern spa nearby where you can bath in the hot springs water – after it has been treated, of course.

After we saw the baths, we had time to wander around the city before we had to get back on the bus.  We walked around and checked out the river, and saw inside the Bath Abbey.  The Abbey is another of those churches that has a history over 1,000 years old.  This one was built beginning in 1090 AD, but lay in ruins by the late 15th century.  It was repaired and rebuilt beginning about 1616, with the interior being completely renovated between 1864 and 1874, in a vision of Victorian Gothic architecture.  It is stunning and very impressive to see!

 

We also checked out a few shops, and discovered that they have a collection of owls around town!  I love that this is a trend, and apparently not just around the United States.  In my travels, I have seen bison, horses, dogs and now owls.  Everything in the historic section of Bath is adorably postcard perfect…

We also had ice cream!  I got two flavors; salted caramel and raspberry sorbet.  It was delicious!  The service was a bit lacking though.  I eat ice cream really slowly, and it was a very hot day (which is clinically proven to make ice cream melt fast), so I asked if I could have a cone and a paper dish in case it melted faster than I could eat it.  You would have thought I had asked for free ice cream by their reaction!  You only get one or the other!!  They grudgingly agreed to give me a broken cone.  Fine – whatever…

Soon enough – it was back on the bus to head to Stonehenge!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to Victoria
Costs: Golden Tours day trip to Bath and Stonehenge, with an inner circle sunset viewing – $175 (note: this price is in U.S. dollars), Roman Baths – 18 pounds (included in the cost of the tour), ice cream – 3 pounds for 2 small scoops

Road Trip Photo Faves: Lighthouse

Here is another of my favorite photos from my trip.

This is the South Pierhead Light, in South Haven, Michigan.  It was built in 1872 and is still operational, including its above the pier catwalk that connects the light to shore.  My cousin and I visited on an afternoon trip in September, 2018.

Waterfall Wednesday: Fallingwater

It’s Waterfall Wednesday…  Apparently that’s a thing on social media.  So playing along, here is a photo of the waterfall that gave Fallingwater its name, from my trip last summer.  Fallingwater is perhaps the most iconic Frank Lloyd Wright home; you can visit it in southwest Pennsylvania.  Beautiful!

London 2018: Millenium Bridge and St. Paul’s Cathedral

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

After lunch at the Borough Market, we walked across the Millennium Bridge, a pedestrian only bridge over the River Thames.  This bridge is incredible!  It is a steel suspension bridge that was originally opened in 2000.  However, it got the nickname, the Wobbly Bridge, because of a huge swaying motion that was an issue on the opening day of the bridge.  The swaying was so bad that they had to close it down and make modifications to the design; it wasn’t opened again until 2002.  Thankfully the swaying is no longer a problem, especially since it was breezy the day we visited!

The sign says, “Someone somewhere is waiting to love you. Just not here.”  Sounds about right…

 

Millennium Bridge, St. Paul’s and the River Thames

The breeze was nice on such a hot day – I still can’t believe that we were treated to two weeks of incredible sunshine and temperatures in the high 70s and low 80s while we were there.  We got great views of the river and the boats passing under the bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral’s south facade is framed in the supports of the bridge.  What a view and it is free!

 

Next we went over to St. Paul’s Cathedral.  St. Paul’s has an incredibly long history.  The first church on the site was built in 604, but burned in 675.  The second one was destroyed by the Vikings, and then a third church was built in 962.  Of course, there was a fire at the next church in 1087, but it was rebuilt by the Normans who wanted to make it the longest and tallest church in the world; another fire slowed down the work.  It was finished in 1240.  The current St. Paul’s is believed to be the fourth to have stood on the site, and it was built between 1675 and 1710.  Services at the current cathedral began in 1697.  The decor around the choir area was added in the late 1800s.  The cathedral was originally a Roman Catholic Church, but… you probably know how the Catholics fared in medieval England.  St. Paul’s is now an Anglican Cathedral.

St. Paul’s Dome

Taryn and I visited, but the guys didn’t want to, so they went and found a pub to wait out our visit.  St. Paul’s is stunning, but unfortunately, they don’t allow photos inside.  I did sneak one…  St. Paul’s also has two really interesting features.  The basement of the church is where their crypts and burials are; there are several pretty interesting burials there, as well as smaller areas to worship.  The truly impressive experience is not for the unfit…  You can climb up the steps to the tower and go outside on top!  St. Paul’s is located at the highest point in London, so the view from there is awesome.  Of course, there are 528 steps to get to the top…

Interior of St. Paul’s

Of course Taryn and I chose to climb the steps and check out the view, along with every other tourist in London.  The spiral staircase was narrow and a little nerve-wracking, and it was certainly hot!  At one spot there is a seating area above the main section of the cathedral and you can look down and see into the church.  What a neat perspective!  Then we continued up the stairs.  It took longer than we expected because we had to wait for the people in front of us, so pack your patience if you decide to go.  It was so worth it when you get to the top, step outside and see the view!  And the breeze cooled us down after all that stair climbing!  I loved it!

 

Climbing down is faster because you are heading down, and there isn’t the bottleneck of people on the stairs that you have on the way up…  We got to the bottom, took some photos of the outside of the cathedral and found the guys at the pub.

 

We walked over to check out the London Eye, but ultimately decided not to go on it.  It was really packed and I’m sure the line would have taken a while.  The cheapest ticket was 27 pounds.  Nobody really seemed that into it because we had already seen the view from the Shard, the Tower Bridge, and St. Paul’s Cathedral…  It is pretty though!

The London Eye

We headed back to the hotel and decided to do a quick, fast food dinner at Nando’s Chicken; they are supposed to be known for their Portuguese chicken.  I didn’t think that it was anything special and was sort of annoyed because I tried to order a salad as a side, but was told that they ran out.  Next thing you know, Brandon, who ordered AFTER me, gets a salad!  Seriously?!!?

The rest of the evening, Taryn and I relaxed in the room (we didn’t want to walk anymore!) while the guys went and did their laundry and went to the pub.  We had such a busy day and were going to have another big day the next day!

Tube Stations:  St. Paul’s to Earl’s Court
Costs: Millennium Bridge – free, St. Paul’s Cathedral – 20 pounds (free with London Pass), dinner at Nando’s Chicken (fast food)
Fitbit Steps: 18,760

London 2018: The Globe Theatre

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

Next we wandered over to the Globe Theatre.  The Globe is a replica of the original theatre that was built in 1599 by Shakespeare’s theatrical company.  It opened in 1997 only 750 feet from the location of the original theatre, and is as historically accurate as they could make it, accounting for the fact that they only have incomplete information about what the original theatre looked like, and of course, modern building codes.  They had to get a special exception to top the open-air theatre with a thatched roof.  The theatre once again features Shakespeare’s plays, and you can either get a seat in the gallery, a box seat, or one of the “cheap seats,” in the standing room only section.

Outside of the Globe

The original Globe Theatre was only standing from 1599 to 1613, when it was destroyed by fire.  A second version was built in 1614 and was dismantled after a City ordinance in 1642 banned theatres because of the “inappropriate” content in plays.  It was the Puritans, you know…

We went on the tour of the theatre, and had a bit of time before our tour to check out the exhibits below the theatre.  They have an exhibit on the recreation of the theatre, and the research that went into creating a theatre that was as close as possible to the original.  They also had several artifacts on display that were unearthed from the original theatre, where a partial excavation was done in the late 1980s.  There were also a number of costumes and set display items from the various plays that have been put on at the new Globe Theatre, as well as costumes from Hollywood versions of Shakespeare’s plays.

The tour explained how the theatre would have worked back in the 1600s.  First of all, women wouldn’t be there, neither as actors nor as spectators.  It was not considered acceptable for women to go to the theatre, which was essentially located in the red light district of London.  Additionally, the place would have stank to high heaven!  Bathing wasn’t much of a thing back then, and there weren’t any restrooms in the theatre.  If you had to go to the bathroom, there were buckets.  When you consider that the men watching the show would likely have been drinking a lot of beer, and the buckets were probably getting knocked over by drunk men, ewww…  There was a reason the people in the standing area in front of the stage were called Penny Stinkers.  That area cost a penny.  Only the rich men could afford the box seats.

After our theatre tour, we headed back over to the Borough Market to get lunch.  We all split up and checked out the options; I wanted to try something English, so I looked around and settled on a Scotch Egg.  If you don’t know what a Scotch Egg is, here’s the scoop.  It is a soft boiled egg, wrapped in sausage meat (you can skip the sausage if you are vegetarian) and then wrapped in bread crumbs and deep fried.  Oh my, it was sooo delicious!  My egg came with some salad greens and I bought a Ceylon Earl Grey iced tea to round out my meal.  Street food at it’s finest!  We found a spot on a curb to sit and eat our lunch, and spent some time people watching.  A nice break in the middle of the day!

Costs: Globe Theatre – 17 pounds (free with London Pass), lunch at the Borough Market

London 2018: Southwark Cathedral and The Golden Hinde

Day 9, Monday, July 2, 2018

We started our morning early and headed down to the London Bridge area of London.  We had only a few days left on our London Pass, and we wanted to get our money’s worth!  We did so much that day that I will be doing several posts!

Our first stop was the Old Operating Theatre Museum.  I really wanted to see it, because it is such an eclectic and kind of morbid museum.  Of course, I forgot that it was closed on Mondays – oops!  Don’t worry though, we did manage to get back there a few days later…

We then decided to wander over towards the Globe Theatre.  On our way, we ran into the Borough Market as they were setting up.  What a great market!  They had fruits, tarts, cakes, and all sorts of seafood, plus every kind of street food imaginable.  We decided to come back for lunch and continued on our way, so I’ll save the photos for our return visit.

Taryn and I stopped in at the Southwark Cathedral for a few minutes.  The Southwark Cathedral was built beginning in 1106 and up until 1538 it was the church of an Augustinian priory; a priory is a monastery.  Then came that period in English history when the monasteries were dissolved by Henry VIII, and the priory became a regular parish church.  In 1905, the Southwark Diocese was established in the Anglican church and the Southwark Cathedral officially became a cathedral.  Like most of the buildings in London that are almost 1,000 years old, the cathedral was built in stages and experienced a few fires along the way.

Southwark Cathedral

Excavations at the Southwark Cathedral – that’s a coffin (bottom L)!

The cathedral is largely built in the Gothic style, with flying buttresses and other Gothic features.  It is stunning!  Unfortunately there are no photos permitted inside, and the narrow streets make it impossible to get a good view outside, but you can get a free guidebook with the London Pass.

London has so much incredible history, so while we were walking we passed the ruins of Winchester Palace, which at one time was the home of the Bishop of Winchester.  Yes, please, I would live there…

The ruins of Winchester Palace, a bishop’s house

Our next stop was the Golden Hinde.  The Golden Hinde is an English galleon that became famous for circumnavigating the globe between 1577 and 1580, while captained by Sir Francis Drake.  Surely you have heard of Sir Francis Drake.  The ship was originally named the Pelican, but Drake renamed her the Golden Hinde to honor his patron, Sir Christopher Hatton.  Hatton’s family crest was a golden hind (a red deer).  Apparently hinde is spelled both ways, with the “e” and without, but the ship in London has the “e” on her name.  The original Golden Hinde was broken up in the late 1600s; the ship that is now dry-docked in London was launched in 1973.  Although it is a replica, it is sea-worthy and sails from time to time.

The bow of the Golden Hinde

As for Drake, the expedition made him a rich man.  It wasn’t without its disasters though.  Only the Golden Hinde completed the entire voyage out of the five ships that originally started it; the others either turned back or were lost.  That isn’t very good odds!  Drake did make it all the way around the world though, crossing from the Atlantic to the Pacific at the Straight of Magellan in what is now Chile, docking near what is now San Francisco to complete repairs to the ship, and sailing across the Pacific and around the Cape of Good Hope.  He was even knighted for his accomplishment.

The ship was interesting – we got to climb up and down the ladders, see the replica guns, experience the low ceilings and imagine what it would have been like to sail in the 1500s!

Tube Stations:  Earl’s Court to London Bridge
Costs: Southwark Cathedral – free (free guidebook with London Pass), Golden Hinde – 5.00 pounds (free with London Pass)