The plan for today was to catch the train on the South-Eastern Line from Greenwich to Woolwich and then swap to the light rail service to London City Airport where we would pick up a hire car and drive to Bournemouth with stops at Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral. Bernie was keen to return to Stonehenge to see how it looks after the closure of the A344 and the redevelopment of the visitor centre. The Salisbury Cathedral stop was to view its copy of the Magna Carta which this year celebrates its 800th anniversary. BUT, it's a bank holiday weekend this weekend and the first day of mid-term break for schools across the UK so, of course, that's not quite how it panned out!!
We towed our bags back around to Greenwich Station to find a notice posted over the Oyster card readers saying that there were no services on the South-Eastern line today. Not a great start to the day! A quick check of the rail network map revealed that we could still take the train to the airport, but it would involve about three changes with all our luggage in tow. We decided that all sounded too hard so
we towed our bags back to the hotel and asked them to call us a taxi.
The girl on the desk rang a minicab which she said would take us to the airport for £25.00. The minicab duly arrived and drove us under the Thames River to the airport where he dropped us off at the rental cars depot. It was really busy at all the counters so we had a bit of a wait before we could be served at the Avis counter. Ha, the guy on the desk trotted out the ... 'Would you like to upgrade to a hybrid for just £2.00 extra per day?' Bernie wasn't that excited by the sound of a hybrid so said 'No, happy to just go with a small four-cylinder compact car like we booked'. Um, well, we'll upgrade you anyway to a Toyota hybrid anyway, we suspect because they didn't actually have a car available in the class we had booked. What a scam though, trying to get us to pay for the upgrade!
With keys in hand we headed out into the lot thinking we were looking for a Toyota Prius in Bay 3. Hmmn, there's nothing
in Bay 3, is it still being cleaned perhaps? A staff member out on the lot asked what we were looking for and checked the rego on the key tag and directed us to a Toyota Yaris ... on the opposite side of the lot from Bay 3. We had to put the back seats down to fit our luggage into the little Yaris.
Bags stowed, Bernie set up his phone in the air vent cradle because we will be relying on the Tom Tom Europe App to navigate our way around England. The rather spurious 'uprade' got us an automatic hybrid car with absolutely no useful features like more boot space, inbuilt Sat-Nav or cruise control. Glad we didn't get conned into paying extra!!
With the Sat-Nav set for Amesbury we were on our way - being guided by 'Ken'. We thought (hoped?) that the Sat-Nav would take us straight to the nearest orbital road thereby avoiding Central London. Ha, ha, of course not, Ken took us right through the City of London. We never in a million years would have thought that we would be driving along Upper Thames Street and Victoria Embankment before tackling Pall
Mall, St James's Street and Piccadilly. Insane right? Like driving the Monopoly Board!! In actual fact, with the Sat-Nav guiding us it was relatively easy ... for me anyway sitting in the passenger seat making comments like - 'Can you believe it, we're driving right past Trafalgar Square and there's Nelson's Column'. I think Bernie still found it a bit stressful to be driving right through the middle of London but ... he made it.
Eventually we reached the M4 Motorway which we drove along until we reached the M25 orbital road which we took south until we could turn west again on the M3. Yay, we were finally out of London and on our way towards Salisbury Plain ... along with all the Londoners who didn't get out of town last night for their bank holiday weekend! The traffic on the motorway was heavy, but when we turned off onto the A303 it was very heavy. As we approached Amesbury the traffic was at a virtual standstill. In fact there was a strawberry stall in a layover and people weren't even bothering to pull into the layover, passengers were just getting out level with the strawberry stall and
then walking along the road to catch up with their driver after purchasing their strawberries!! That way you don't have to worry if anyone will let you back onto the road.
Finally, after four hours on the road for a trip that would normally take just two hours, we were in sight of Stonehenge. We drove past on the A303 and found our way to the new visitor centre via the B3083 and the A360. OMG, there were thousands of people visiting Stonehenge today. Bernie had read on the website last night that, although Stonehenge is managed by English Heritage, the surrounds are cared for by the National Trust so National Trust members are admitted free to the site.
So, when we reached the ticket office we skipped the queue that was a hundred metres long and went into the very short 'reserved tickets and members line'. The bad news was that English Heritage wouldn't extend free entry to Australian National Trust members who enjoy reciprocal membership with the UK National Trust. The good news was that the staff member didn't make us go to the end of the queue, he was happy to sell us our entry
tickets. Phew, no free entry we but we rather cheekily skipped the queue.
We took the shuttle bus out to the stones and completed a walk around the stone circle listening to the commentary provided by the Stonehenge App that Bernie was able to download thanks to the free wi-fi access available on-site. Despite the crowds and an appalling display of how not to parent, we did enjoy our visit. We thought that the changes to the site have really improved the visitor experience. The commentary was excellent and, although you can't get as close to the stones now, that is actually a good thing because it is possible to take photos without too many people in them. And by the time Bernie works some magic in Photoshop we should have some really good photos of Stonehenge. Twenty-two years ago Bernie was disappointed that the stones were smaller than he thought they would be. Today he was surprised that they were bigger than he remembered!
It took us so long to drive to and visit Stonehenge that we decided while we were eating a very late lunch (more like afternoon tea!) that we were right out of time
to visit Salisbury Cathedral. It would have been interesting to call in to see the copy of the Magna Carta that is held in Salisbury, but we have actually seen the copy held at the British Library in London so we felt OK about setting the Sat-Nav to take us directly to our B&B in Bournemouth (Boscombe). It only took us about an hour to drive down to Poole Bay because the traffic had eased off quite a bit while we were visiting Stonehenge.
We found the B&B easily and checked ourselves in before walking around to the local supermarket. We bought a few litres of water and walked back to the B&B to freshen up before going out to dinner with Matt and Sophia the young couple who we met in far north Finland in December 2013 and have kept in touch with.The B&B that Bernie found is literally just around the corner from their flat so it only took us a minute to walk to their place.
They have done an amazing job doing up their flat. It is small, but perfectly formed with a lovely yard out the back which is a real bonus. We
walked down to the beach to Matt and Sophia's favourite bar and restaurant. We had a couple of drinks in the bar and then moved upstairs to the restaurant when our table was ready. Another really lovely meal with very generous serves. We really couldn't fit in three courses tonight so skipped on dessert. We had a lovely evening with Matt and Sophia. Although they are considerably younger than us, we just seem to click. Hopefully we will be able to catch up with them again sometime, somewhere. They are keen travellers too so we might be able to meet up in an interesting or exotic location in the future.
Steps for the day13.029 (8.87 km)
Tot: 2.097s; Tpl: 0.072s; cc: 14; qc: 29; dbt: 0.0224s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.4mb