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Mopping up England

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3-5-06
Knowing the only way we were going to fit in Stonehenge and Bath was by a commercial coach tour, I booked a day trip including Salisbury Cathedral with Golden Tours. The pickup point was to be a hotel about fifteen minutes walk from our hotel at 7.30am. We rehearsed the journey in the evening prior, just to make sure we didn't miss the pickup. I will now never forget where West Brompton is.

8.10 in the morning went by, but finally we were ushered through the road construction area to where our coach was waiting, unable to reach the hotel. A seemingly endless round of pickups from other hotels followed, until by 9.30 we were back at the tour office ready to board the actual tour. No time for a pitstop, rush rush rush.

At Salisbury the ancient cathedral impressed us with its immensely high spire, its many medieval tombs of knights and barons, and its splendid stained glass. We viewed an original of the Magna Carta, watched over and commentated on by a lady who may well have been there for the signing.

While the few passengers who had opted for a pub meal lingered awaiting their pre-booked lunches, the rest were let loose in the Salisbury shops. Here I was gladdened by an exceptional prawn and mayonaise roll and a just-right cappucino. Fresh, real food; a rarity on our long sojourn.

A short drive onwards to Stonehenge, getting briefed on the way in the varied theories of how it came to be there. The stones every bit as impressive as expected. Tourists can no longer get closer than a defined circular walk, with a good audio commentary to listen to when the cold wind whipping against your ears permits. One theory suggest the site was a refrigerator for keeping meat in ancient days. The prevailing temperature supported this hypothesis. It was damn cold.

As the coach drove away, Miriam saw many small white pebbles in the meadows, and commented that her grandfather had collected pebbles like that from near Stonehenge. As a misty rain gathered, we rolled in to Bath, for a quick squint at the town and in particular the Roman Baths.

The Baths were fantastically well preserved and gave a real insight into the life and leisure of the ruling Romans and their underlings. A tasting in the Pump Room showed the spring water to be similar to but milder than the mineral water of Keyneton in Victoria. Many of the friezes and statues from the site have been recovered and are displayed in well lit conditions on an interpretive walk. Just don't know why the Romans in Rome don't polish the treasures of their city.

The day had been huge and we were glad to be dropped off at Earls Court Road, a short walk to "home". A good rest and a leisurely packing of bags was required. For after an all too brief sleep, the HotelLink mini-bus was seeking us, it was 4.30am and we were on our way to Heathrow ready for departure to Dubai.

4-5-06

We were glad to have the opportunity to catch a few of the sights we hadn't had time to see previously. Top of the list was the Tate gallery, to finally reach total art overload. A quick tube ride to Blackfriars, and a leisurely stroll across the bridge delivered us to the Tate. Entry was free except to a couple of exhibitions that were of no interest to us anyway; we were here to see the core collection. More excellent Dali and other favourite surrealists such as Magritte, Matisse, asbstract stars such as Rothko, Pollock and more...

School children sprawled in front of the huge canvases and reproduced them carefully in their exercise books. Special mention must be made of the young girl who had carefully torn up pieces of coloured paper to make a very accurate small scale version of a Matisse collage, "The Snail".

After art exhaustion set in, we headed off to walk past StPauls Cathedral, joining the hundreds of Londoners eating sandwiches on the steps. Peeking inside, it all seemed grand but the entrance fee of something like fourteen pounds per person was somewhat exhorbitant, so we backed out. Finding ourselves in the theatre district and the Strand, we saw many familiar Monopoly street names. Continung randomly through the streets we came across Australia House, the only visible reminder of home that we encountered in the UK.

Before the afternoon ended we had visited Harrods, just to see the Egyptian escalators. From the statues of Dodi and Di to the top of the building, everything in sight is gilt and resplendent. Shopwise, it seems just like Myer used to be in its glory days. Lots of good but fully priced luxury goods, and many staff doing their best to be attentive to the customers.

Posted by piepers 20:53 Archived in England

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