Thursday, February 24, 2011

Megan's Visit Part Two

It's travel report day two! Here's what went down on days 3-5:

Day 3: The Queen, Wonders of the World, and Steaming Water

Megan and I got up super early to get ready to leave for our tour to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. We located Victoria Coach Station and found seats to wait for our bus. Though we were annoyed that the bus was a little late, it was only by fifteen minutes and our tour guide was worth waiting for- he was awesome. The bus wasn't packed, which was nice, and the people were much politer than the ones on the Wales tour, actually listening to the tour guides tidbits (or being quiet if they weren't.)

Windsor Castle was first, and the Queen was in! Unfortunately, she didn't come out to greet us :p The castle was really impressive, as was the church connected to it.

We didn't have a lot of time at Windsor- only two hours, and a chunk of that was taken up waiting to get through security. Megan and I wanted to see the castle and church, so we sort of did a speed-tour through both. I really enjoyed seeing it, but I wish we could have had more time.

We grabbed lunch and got back on the bus heading for Stonehenge. To be honest, though I know it's one of the seven wonders of the medieval world and all that, I wasn't incredibly excited to see it... until we started getting closer. Then I realised that I was, in fact, quite excited and went, "THERE IT IS!" when I spied it in the distance.

We only had forty-five minutes there, but it was the perfect amount of time. While Stonehenge is cool to see, once you've seen it, that's kind of it. So soon we were back on the bus and headed to Bath.

I didn't quite know what to expect from Bath. I knew the Roman baths were there, of course, and I knew it had something to do with Jane Austen (though I'm still a little confused about her living there... I thought she resided in the country.) What I found was that Bath is so, so beautiful. Aesthetically, I like more than London; the entire city is still standing in its original Georgian architecture, gorgeous in its uniformity.

We went straight to the baths and were set free to explore them on our own. It was pretty cool to see. The water does actually steam, as you can see in the pictures; it's about 115 degrees. We weren't allowed to touch it, as there's still lead in it, not to mention a large amount of bird poop, since there isn't a roof on it anymore.

Megan and I wanted to go to either Jane Austen's house or the Jane Austen Museum, but there wasn't time, since, though it was supposedly close, we didn't know exactly where it was. I definitely plan to go to those landmarks when I visit Bath again in a couple of months.

Once Bath was done, it was time to go home. The tour was really great (and people were *gasp* on time, which kept everything running smoothly.) I would definitely book that company again.

Day 4: A Slight Tourist Trap

Another early morning dawned on Tuesday when we arose to get our train to Warwick Castle. We had about a two hour train ride to Leamington Spa, where we had to catch another train and take that one for three minutes (literally) to Warwick. The fun part of this was that we had four minutes to make this change. I've made many quick train changes, but usually in stations I am familiar with. So Megan and I once again felt like we were in an action movie as we raced through the station, found out where our train was, and literally leapt onto it shortly before it started moving.

We got to Warwick and handed over the arm and the leg it cost to get into the castle. We bought the tickets from a info place-type thing and there was apparently a tea room there. I was kind of hungry at this point and figured that one of the delicious scones advertised outside the info center would hold me over 'til lunch. But England has joined Wales in its food teasing- there was no tea room in that building. (I should also mention that when we were in Bath, we saw a sign outside of a restaurant saying it had bagels. Megan was desperate for a bagel, as they don't have them in France, so we went in. When we asked for bagels, they looked at us like we were crazy and said, "We stopped serving breakfast at eleven." Then why is the sign out there at four thirty?!)

Anyway, scone-less, we headed to the castle. I was a little surprised by what we were greeted with- two actors dressed in low-quality costumes and greeting us. We entered the castle walls and went inside... and it didn't get any better. Honestly... the place looked like a big tourist trap. While the castle was still standing historically, it was surrounded by rainbow-colored signs and activities, all of which you had to overpay for separately. But it wasn't the fact that there were slightly hokey activities like a sword in the stone and a dragon slayer. It was the fact that everything was so tackily presented- the colors, the spelling and grammatical errors that I had a problem with.

The castle, however, was pretty cool and the scenery was beautiful. Megan and I climbed up to the top of a tower, which was a bad idea. While the view was great, my fear of heights is no less severe for being discovered when I was eighteen, and Megan's not keen on them either. So we carefully picked our way to the walls to take pictures and shakily walked down the 500-something stairs. The things we do for cool pictures.

We left the castle more quickly than we expected, so we got lunch and visited a bookstore- bad idea, as we both got two books (I got a copy of Alice in Wonderland and Julie Walters' autobiography.) The two people who worked at this bookstore were so quintessentially English bookshop people- one of them had round glasses that magnified his eyes by about two hundred percent and the other was smoking a pipe. I wonder if there are some characteristics that would identify one as "quintessentially American"?

That night, we went to Covent Garden to have dinner at Cafe Pasta and while we waited for our reservation time, we visited some of the stores. For some reason, there were a TON of people there, making the tiny shops too full to really enjoy. I got an overnight bag for my future travels and Megan got her first Build-a-Bear! It was a truly auspicious moment in history.

Day 5: Swimming Through Canterbury

I haven't yet mentioned what the weather was like during these days. The short answer is cold and rainy. While it wasn't always the latter, it was perpetually the former. So. Cold. But on our day in Canterbury, the weather really outdid itself by pouring down freezing rain.

We again had to rise early to go to Victoria Coach Station and our coach showed up right on time. We got a little nervous because it made a few local stops, and then a lady whose card didn't work got angry enough at the bus driver that I thought she was going to shoot the place up, but finally, we made it to Canterbury. Megan was nervous that we would't make it back in time for her train home, so we checked that we could get a bus home an hour earlier than we had planned (we could.) It was still pouring and we went right to the cathedral, which was as grand as before. This time, I got to see more of it than I did before, since there wasn't a service going on on Wednesday.

We had made a list of the places we wanted to go, and St. Augustine's Abbey was on the list after the cathedral, so we followed the signs there. It was raining even harder; drops were dripping into my eyes from my eyebrows (I had lost my umbrella on the mad dash between trains to Warwick.) We got to the abbey and... it was closed. For two months. What?! This made me very grumpy, and I wasn't very happy when we trekked further to try to get to the connecting church and came up with a wall in our way. By this point, we were soaked, freezing, and hungry. We decided to go get lunch- our goal was fish and chips and we found it at a pub close to the abbey. Though I've been in England for nearly three months, I've never had fish and chips. It was delicious, and I even ate it with tartar sauce, which I haven't had for years. When we had finished, Megan said, "I vote that whichever of [the two museums we had on our list] is closer, we go there." I agreed. We both looked miserably out the window at the still-falling rain, knowing that though our jeans were still stuck to us and our coats were damp, we had to leave eventually.

We ended up at Canterbury Museum, which was pretty cool, though I was almost too cold to enjoy it. When we finished there, we grabbed something to eat (delicious chocolate cake and ice cream) and then it was time to head to the bus. Our bus driver was very punctual- there was a girl who arrived literally one minute late and he wouldn't let her on.
This was good. What was not so good was the woman sitting in front of us. She could not sit still. She shifted her position every few seconds, fiddling with her phone. Sometimes, a shift in position would cause her to almost contort herself, especially when she tried to put on her seatbelt... but even that didn't keep her in one place. She continued to twist around, causing Megan and me to try to smother our laughter. At one point, she stood up to adjust the lights and continued to contort herself as she attempted to figure out how to work it. She sat down again and undid her either dreadlocked or really dirty hair and flung it around a little, getting startled when her flailing hand hit the window. Then she started to fan herself vigorously with her iPhone guide. Megan and I were a little concerned that whatever drug she was strung out on would cause her to have an episode and slay both us and the old lady sitting in front of her. Thankfully, she got off at the first stop; I really don't think she would have made it back to London.

We got to the city right on time, went back to QMUL to get Megan's bags, and then made our way to St. Pancras. We sadly said goodbye and then she was off. It was an awesome visit and I can't wait to visit her in France in April!

And after all of that rain during her stay... today was sunny, warm, and beautiful. I was walking around without a coat. I'm also getting sick though, either from being around sick people for the past few days or because of all the rain (or both.) I'm really trying to stave it off by taking medicine now and I drank a litre of orange juice today. Hopefully it will go away soon- I don't want to be sick.


Anonymous said...

How many times do I tell you to ALWAYS pack a snack!!!?? eso you.
One day you will listen to me.

Sounds like fun.. of course running for transportation was involved since you were the one using it.

Love ya

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