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Published: June 11th 2007
Bath, Sunday June 11, 2006
St Clair Hotel
Today we had our first B & B breakfast, an event of great interest to many of the students. We began with a self-serve buffet offering various cereals and mueslis, including extra topping options of assorted nuts and dried fruit. Also fresh fruit, juice, and yogurt. Then most ordered the “full English breakfast.” Eggs, bacon, sausage, grilled tomato, mushrooms and baked beans, with the obligatory accompaniment of dry toast in a rack, and all the coffee or tea you could drink. A good fueling up for the day ahead, to say the least.
A coach picked us up just outside our door at 8:45 for a trip to Stonehenge. The drive through the countryside was really beautiful. Extremely hilly and winding, with breathtaking vistas appearing unexpectedly as you rounded every curve. Lovely green countryside with stone houses and cottages dotted throughout. Sheep and cows grazing, flowers in bloom. It seemed there was no sprawl or unsightly development at all. The road was extremely narrow, often bordered by very high hedgerows. I had to just trust our driver and not think too much about how fast he was driving. He did have to really slam on the brakes a few times. He had a microphone and gave us a great running commentary as we went, touching on various subjects from geology to local legends to pre-historical ruins and UFO sightings.
This was my fourth trip to Stonehenge. It may be the one place I’ve visited each time I’ve been to Britain. It was a pleasant day weather wise, and it was fairly pleasant spending the better part of an hour strolling around the stones. They offered free audio-tours, and although we didn’t use these, most visitors did. Although it looked a little odd to see so many people walking around intently absorbed in listening to a tape recorder, it did keep most people from doing too much talking, which lent a quiet and respectful tone to the whole monument area. One of the travel writers we’re reading said of Stonehenge: “it’s like some game abandoned by giants,” and I found myself thinking of this as I observed the massive stones. I like this description because I think it really does capture both the enormous scale of the monument as well as the mystery about it.
On our return we stopped in a little Cotswold village of Lacock. What a treat! In the 1940’s, a Countess Salisbury donated nearly this entire village, together with the Manor Farm and Lacock Abbey, built in 1232, to the National Trust, and it has been preserved and maintained as a historical site. The village is often used for movie and television filmings, including BBC productions of Pride and Prejudice and Moll Flanders. And……one of the houses was used as the house of Harry Potter’s parents in the third Harry Potter movie! It is really a remarkable feeling to wander around this little village. Many of the people who live here today either have a connection to the village that goes back many years or are the craftspeople who are employed by the National Trust to maintain the village and Abbey. Camilla Parker-Bowles lives here and her daughter was married in the little village church. We only had about 30 minutes to explore this village, but it is definitely one place I hope to return to on a future visit.
I had some difficulties with my camera today, but some helpful gentlemen at the London Camera Exchange in Bath were able to help me out. I may have more photos from today to post at a future date.
Tomorrow we leave Bath, a bit too soon for me. It’s a delight of a town, with lots to see and do. I also just really like the feel of the place. For one thing, the architecture is so stunning and well-preserved. Peter Sager talks about its “wonderfully integrated beauty.” “Here we have understatement in stone, the beauty of plainness.” I think that gets it right. And as you walk about the town, you can often gaze down a busy street and just beyond to see the green hills rising in the not-very-far distance. It gives the feel of the town being gently wrapped in the arms of the surrounding hills. At least in early June, it doesn’t feel over-run with tourists. At the shops in the main town, you feel like you’re mingling with many local folk. I had a snack yesterday in the Abbey churchyard, a large square with benches all around the perimeter, and various musicians taking their turns performing in the center. A local woman sat down beside me, and we had a very pleasant conversation. At one point a young man walked by, and she called after him. It was her 18-year old son, who stopped to talk with her for a few minutes. She has two sons, and she said she feels very lucky to live in Bath; it’s been a very good place to raise her children. For our planned family visit to Britain, I think Bath would be an ideal location for us.
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