And now we come to our last day of sightseeing. This was a day we’d both been looking forward to, because it was our Windsor Castle, Bath, and (!)Stonehenge tour. Yay!
Sadly, we had to leave too early for milk (the shop was closed), but I got some once we got to the coach (bus) station, so it was alright. We took a cab there, so as not to have to worry about getting lost/being on time. It was a sort of shuttle associated with the hotel though, so no proper London cab, sadness.
At the coach station we grabbed some coffee and some kind of breakfast thing for Christopher, and some (not all that good, but delightfully warm since I was cold) hot chocolate for me. We found our “gate” (don’t know what to call it there) quickly, and settled into seats. Nice bonus of being early, you get seats to wait! I had to pee, but turned out the bathrooms cost money (30 pence this time) so I thought I’d wait since the bathroom on the bus would be free. Only once we got on I discovered it didn’t work. So 30 pence and a run back to the station bathrooms, and all was well.
On the bus we got the best seats. They were right behind the middle set of stairs and had bunches of leg room and a nice big table/tray thing to set our stuff on. I was quite pleased. Our tour guide was also pretty awesome. He was dressed like I think a proper British man should. A nice tweed sport coat and proper waistcoat (vest). People don’t wear waistcoats enough anymore.
Windsor Castle was first, and it wasn’t very far. Even with traffic and lights I don’t think it was more than 45 minutes, and we hit EVERY red light. Windsor is the official residence of the Queen. Everyone thinks it’s Buckingham Palace, but apparently not. It had some very striking landscaping that I loved. We got to see Queen Mary’s dollhouse, which was super awesome. At least 6 feet to a side, real working plumbing and electric lights, perfect miniatures of everything from the crown jewels to a very forward-for-the-times vacuum cleaner. Even Christopher loved it (but don’t tell he loved a dollhouse). Unfortunately pictures aren’t allowed anywhere indoors at Windsor, so we have no pictures of it.
We also saw some other things inside, like a dining room with the most absurdly huge table ever, but honestly, at that point after Versailles and the like, it wasn’t all that impressive. And I wasn’t feeling great, so I didn’t care as much. But, at 11 they had the changing of the guard! We missed that at Buckingham Palace, but this was pretty cool. All the marching and stomping, and the band played music for a long time. We actually got kind of bored and went to see St. George’s Chapel while everyone else was still watching them. The chapel had some of the prettiest stained glass we saw on the whole trip, and at least one window was from the 1500’s.
I was wondering though, since glass is a liquid (technically), and very, VERY slowly gets distorted over time because it “runs,” shouldn’t those windows have been less pretty by now? I’m curious about that.
Anyway, we went back out pretty quickly, because lunch was at 11:30. We managed to leave the castle just ahead of the band, so we were in perfect position to see them march out. Then we headed into the pub for our tasty fish and chips (included in the cost of the tour). I had to be careful about drinking too much (water!) though, because the drive to Bath was the longest of the tour, something like 120 miles. As I mentioned, no bathroom on board, so didn’t want to risk any issues!
After our fish and chips, unfortunately, being the crazy pregnant lady that I am, I was still hungry. Christopher spotted the “cinnamon cafe,” and I was able to get my first cinnamon roll of the trip, and it was delicious. Huge win! So huge, in fact, that I convinced him to go get me a second one. Though in my defense, we shared them both, so technically I only ate one whole one. (Grumble. Now I want one.)
Then it was time to get back on the bus. The guide didn’t talk the whole way to Bath, but he did talk some and tell us about how it was built in Roman times, then abandoned, and later built over but no one knew the Roman ruins were underneath till relatively recently. Interesting stuff. I also fell asleep for a decent chunk of that drive. I’ve never been able to fall asleep sitting up much before, but boy I can now. It was one of my more interesting naps of the trip, because the tour guide narrated all my dreams. I woke up amused.
Bath was cool, but definitely somewhere you need more time. We didn’t go down to the Roman Baths, since they would cost extra and we didn’t have as much time as we’d like. We did go to Bath Abbey, which was very pretty, and (shocker) you could actually take pictures! We also walked down to take pictures of this really pretty little bridge, and went in a cute bookshop. Also, not sure if I’ve mentioned it, but all the pictures of books are ones I want to look up now that we’re home and see if I can find cheaper than in tourist traps!
I was hungry by then (big surprise), so we stopped at a pasty shop. I’d been wanting to have one, since I’d read about them in various books, and it was delicious!
The last thing we did was stop at a little fudge shop. They were sampling some of the sea salt and caramel and holy wow it was good. We got to see them making some too. It was rather overpriced, but I insisted on having some. I got a little sample box and got caramel (would have gotten the sea salt but that was before they gave us a sample), chocolate, brown sugar, and to be nice I let Christopher pick the last one so he got coffee. I say to be nice because he refused to buy it and I used allowance so technically it was all mine if I wanted it to be. He was annoyed, but I was super happy about it and had zero buyer’s remorse, so I don’t care. That’s why I have allowance. Also, I haven’t actually eaten it yet, but I think I’ll be having some as dessert with my lunch.
Then it was time (after one last pop into the pub for a bathroom visit) to get back on the bus. Finally time for Stonehenge! It was a long drive too, but less so, 90 miles I think. On the way the guide pointed out a “baby castle” (very small and cute), some ginormous pigs, and this huge white horse that was carved in the side of a hill. He said there are a lot of them around Britain, and they’re fairly old.
At Stonehenge they’re starting to build a new visitors center for it, but it’s absurdly far away, where you can’t even see the stones. Apparently they’re going to have a little train that takes 60 people at a time up there. This past summer solstice it was pouring down rain, so they had “ONLY” 20,000 people that day. Assuming the train runs for say, 12 hours, it would have to make roughly 30 trips each way per hour. I’d really like to know who was in charge of planning that.
But anyway, that isn’t open yet, so we got to drive right up to the old visitor’s center which is right up next to it. Yay Stonehenge! It was a bit smaller than I expected, but otherwise super amazing. They had audio guides (as did most of the places we visited, actually, though I haven’t mentioned them), so we got to learn quite a bit about them. And as the guide pointed out, if you arrived from the other side, it meant looking up a fairly steep hill to the stones, making them look much taller. A lot of the pictures I’ve seen are from that perspective, so that’s probably why I thought they seemed small-ish. Also, apparently a full third of their length is buried under the ground, so they actually are quite a bit bigger than they look.
People used to be able to go right up to them, but then some folks were sneaking mini chisels and stealing bits as souvenirs, so you can’t do that anymore. I like touching things (that sounds weird), so I was kinda disappointed, but then I realized that that meant you could take pictures without a zillion tourists in them so that more than made up for it.
When it was time to go (boo), I peed one last time, and Christopher went to the gift shop. We’d decided we wanted a Stonehenge shot glass for the England part of the trip. He also got a tiny replica of one set of stones. (The replica of the whole thing was like 20 pounds, no thanks.) Yay! Also, before we got on the bus I showed the guide my Doctor Who shirt I was wearing (I hadn’t taken off my hoodie previously) because he’d talked a bit about Doctor Who but he and I (and Christopher) were the only actual fans on board. Out of 75 people!
The final leg of the trip back to London wasn’t terribly long, and the guide spent part of it teaching us “proper English.” So the bus was a “coach,” the trunk of a car is the “boot,” etc. I enjoyed that. They dropped folks wherever would be easiest to get back to the hotel, which for us was at an Underground station. Riding the Underground was almost exactly like New York, crowded, ratty, nothing interesting. But I can say I rode the London Underground so I don’t care.
Also, I was quite pleased with where it let us off. See, a couple days before I’d read in our guidebook that the church by the Tower of London was the oldest surviving church in London. The Tower of London was right by Tower Bridge, which was our landmark by the hotel, so we got off the train right there by it. Previously I’d been unable to find the church, mostly because I was too tired whenever we were near there to go looking, but we had to walk right past it to get to the hotel! I had been sad about not finding it, so I was very happy. It wound up being our last thing we saw (unless you count Heathrow airport, I suppose) since we left the next day.
We had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which was a mistake. It was already pretty late (we got back to London at 8 something) and service was bad, and the food was bleh. Incredibly slow, and Christopher had to get up and find someone to ask when we needed ketchup or the check. I wound up leaving while he waited to pay so I could get a shower before bed. We had no way of knowing for sure if we’d make our flights, and I wanted to be as clean as possible if we might wind up in an airport for a day or longer. Thankfully we’d done well about keeping our things consolidated in the bags, so packing took very little time. And finally, bed time!