Saturday, 28 May 2011

Getting out of London

We left Torquay early on our way to Bath determined to get there at a reasonable hour to give us some time to take in the sights. We made one stop on the way at a little place called Glastonbury that we had never heard of before but of course you our viewers will all know that it has so much history and so much mythology!
Glastonbury Abbey is set in 36 acres of parkland and is said to be the final resting place of the legendary King Arthur and Ginevere. It was destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 15th Century. The ruins are truly awe- inspiring and as you wander through you can't help but feel their powerful links with the past. In keeping with Arthurian legend every second shop in town offers New Age services and mystical paraphernalia. We didn't buy any!

Onwards to Bath and as we headed out of town the little Peugeot alarm sounded to tell us we were on the Reserve tank. Unfortunately we think the GPS might be on a back hander scheme as we headed back the 10.3 km to the nearest petrol station. With GPS failing to recognise one way streets we circled the petrol station that we could see behind a big brick wall frustratingly trying to find the entrance. Tank full and we were off to Bath!

You can't help but love the city of Bath, rich in history and elegant architecture........and a favourite of visitors. Bath is unsurprisingly named for the bubbling hot springs discovered by the Romans in the first century although there is a legend that their curative powers were first discovered by a Celtic King whose leprosy was cured when he bathed in the waters. Bath's old town is free of traffic which makes wandering through its streets very pleasant and driving through it a nightmare. Parking is an issue here and our hotel charged a hefty 10 pound for the car parking.....but we decided to stay close to the city and suck up the cost of convenience. From one extreme to another ...we were fortunate to get a room upgrade and have a huge bedroom and super king bed for tonight. Whooooo! Hotel has the standard 2 person sized lift, hot water that takes 5 mins to get to your room if you are on the third floor and the bathroom has emergency cords. We think it must be the law. Shame that some of them also have pull cords to turn the lights on so I am slightly terrified of yanking on it after my experience in Poros.

All the roads lead to the Roman Baths whose excavated ruins are proudly considered to be Britain’s best preserved memorials to its Roman History. It is well set up as a tourist attraction and there were plenty of them here. Supplied as part of the admission fee is an audio guide and it was good to listen to all the background information to this spectacular attraction.

When I have an opportunity and I know we are dining out I have taken to asking the locals where they go to eat. Most say immediately what do you like to eat and I say to them that does not matter. So on a recommendation we are off tonight to Jaime's (Oliver) Italian. While we entered through into what looked like a really small intimate restaurant what transpired was a large well run, well-staffed, slick operation that served delicious food. The tastes were exquisite...simple food cooked and presented well.
Earlier in the day we had seen an opportunity to go to a street comedy walk called Bizarre Bath. It has been rated the second most popular tourist attraction in Bath on Trip Advisor. It was attended by about 40 odd people and was more about the hysterical rather than the historical. It poked fun at some of the more eccentric things in the city as well as using bemused passers -by in a very entertaining piece of street theatre.  90 mins of comedy for 8 pound was well worth it and we laughed for most of that time.

Toward the end of the tour we had heard some bagpipes in the square beside Bath Abbey.  Being curious by nature we investigated and found the Bristol Pipe Band in full puff piping a huge number of people out of the Abbey. We spoke briefly to a piper at the end, a man with a broad Scottish accent who said there had been a concert in there. We were fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. It was a sight and sound that created goose bumps for those of us with Scottish blood.
We left for our own tour through the Cotswolds. Everything I had read or had been told before about the Cotswolds is true. It is a lovely region named for the limestone hills and made up of a dozen or more towns and villages that are just so pretty. It was great to explore these by car as it enabled us to get off the main roads and dawdle down the pretty little lanes with their drystone walls and grassy green fields lush with spring growth and see the odd Cotswold sheep. Some of the lanes were so narrow in places they were little more than driveways which meant when you met a car coming the other way it was always entertaining.....for me anyway! It was lovely to come across sleepy little villages almost by accident and of course that is part of the charm of the region. We followed a trail up from Bath to Castle Combe, Tetbury, Malmesbury, the infamous Badminton (horse trials and where badminton was invented-no Bath is not where baths were invented). Badminton was enormous with 2 acres of groomed gravel around the palatial sized Badminton House .In the areas that we could see just some of the hurdles and styles it was pristine and it seemed not a blade of grass out of place.
Onwards through Cirencester, The Slaughters, Bourton on the Water and Stow-on the Wold- the names are enough to keep you entertained on their own and I will never tire of looking at thatched roofed cottages and try and work out how it keeps the elements out. The sheer beauty of this area has exhausted my entire supply of superlatives!

We decided to come back as close as we could to London to make our trip back to Gatwick and onto London city tomorrow as easy as possible. We opted to drive back through Oxford and stay in Windsor. We have heard that the Castle is well worth a look and arriving in town we have found Liz is here too. Presumed so as the flag is flying high. It really is a massive and almost imposing structure right in the middle of town. Again parking is at a premium (to be paid for) with virtually no street parking to be found. We had some difficulty finding accommodation as apparently the races are on (not sure if that is Ascot- but its close by) and its Bank holiday weekend. Town is fair heaving with people and it’s difficult to tell if it’s always like that or there is an event. My guess is that this is normal.

I was unaware that Windsor is also the home to the famous Ascot Racecourse and Eaton College, which is just 10 mins walk from the Castle. The sports grounds are huge and the school buildings impressive. Whats more Eaton, its buildings and grounds are the size of a small suburb.

The plan is to be first in line tomorrow at Windsor and while we are standing in the queue will work out what we can squeeze into our last 3 days in London together. We have a list.

1 comment:

  1. What a great trip . You sure are getting around th at lovely area. Love the photo of you both.