Published: June 2nd 2010May 31st 2010
Battled Hardened Driver of the UK
The first day of travel to Europe is always the worst. Sleeping on the airplane is almost impossible, and this flight was no exception. Bad weather made most of the flight bumpy, and no pillow or blanket could make one comfortable enough to get real sleep. It still didn’t feel like vacation yet. Places like Stonehenge were still just a page in my travel book. By the time we landed in Heathrow, everyone was pretty cranky from lack of sleep.
Fortunately Heathrow was amazingly efficient. After our bad experience at the Aruban airport during spring break, I was beginning to think that all airports were run by people who didn’t graduate high school. It was less than 30 minutes from the time we landed to the time we exited the airport. Kudos to the Brits for a well run airport! Hertz had our rental car ready to go, and before you could say “Bob’s Your Uncle” our vacation had begun.
Last year in Ireland, the first few moments of driving on the left almost gave me a heart attack. Between driving on the left, shifting gears with my left hand and navigating
in an unknown land, my blood pressure must have been through the roof. This time in England was not too bad. Gina the Garmin got me to the highway rather quickly, and before you know it we were on the way to Stonehenge. I guess you could say I was battle hardened after fighting the Irish roads last year.
Stonehenge - Don’t take it for Granite (granted)
We decided the Queen and Windsor Castle would have to wait, the druids were calling me spiritually from Stonehenge. The allure of a mystical stone circle thousands of years old was too much. How many times did I watch the History Channel or National Geographic and dream of going to this cool place?
Stonehenge was only about 90 minutes west of the airport and it wasn’t for the speed cameras I would have made it in 60. Apparently a lot of people had arrived before us, because there was a major traffic jam on the highway just before Stonehenge. The highway literally passes within a few hundred feet of the giant stone circle. What brilliant transportation planner designed this road? To my surprise, most of the traffic was passing through
and not stopping at the historic site. Maybe the drivers were just rubber necking? Who knows? To be sure, Stonehenge itself still had plenty of crowds.
Being the smart person, we bought an English heritage pass and used it to skip the line at the entrance. Excited like a school boy, I ran up the path to get close to the stones, but I was stopped stone cold by a rope which encircled the entire landmark. Apparently, this was as close as one could get to Stonehenge unless you come back on the summer solstice. Oh I was disappointed. All I could do was walk in a circle around the mighty stones that predated the pyramids of Egypt and dream some more. I guess everyone has to visit Stonehenge at least once to cross it off the bucket list. But be warned, it looks just like it did on History Channel.
As a consolation, we traipsed through a nearby field and climbed to the top of some ancient barrows. The view wasn’t much better, unless you liked looking at the parking lot of Stonehenge. So we settled for lunch at outdoor café.
The Birds Say Hello
I was delighted to finally try a Cornish Pasty, which is like the original Hot Pocket. I guess I was so enjoying my food that I didn’t notice the birds flying around our table. Then Erin just squealed with laughter, laughter I had not heard since I wore my fanny pack on last year’s trip. Apparently I had been pwned by a bird, who had stealthily dropped his load of poo on my shirt sleeve. Oh the humanity! I felt like I was on the hidden camera version of the Dirty Jobs TV show, but without Mike Rowe around to make me look cool. I dug deep for my dignity, and remembered a Rick Steves tip from Venice. If a bird poos on you, don’t try to wipe it off right away because it will just smear. Wait an hour or so until it dries, and it will wipe off cleanly. So for the next 60 minutes, I used the bird poo on the sleeve as a weapon, alternately chasing the kids attempting to get poo on them, or grossing out my wife when I tried to hug her. It was a win-win situation all around.
Arrival in Bath and a Surprise for Dinner
After the fun at Stonehenge, we drove for about another hour to the city of Bath where we planned to stay for 3 nights. Our bed and breakfast was on the edge of town, away from the noise and crowds and with plenty of good parking. On the advice of our host, we walked down the street to the local pub for dinner.
The Dolphin Inn doesn’t sound like the name of a pub, but it was unmistakable when we walked in. To be honest, it didn’t look too pleasant at first, with only a few tables and most everyone drinking a beer from the bar. When I asked about dinner, the lady directed me to the back for the “restaurant” section. As we walked through the pub, we emerged into a beautiful courtyard on the banks of the Avon River, complete with tables for dinner. What a great place to eat! We had gorgeous views of a stone bridge, gentle water gliding by, and pair of swans paddling up to greet us. It was a delight and nice way to end our first day in England.
There are more photos below