Having flown from Bermuda to Newark, overnight to Dublin and then onto Heathrow, we picked up our hire car and took the drive around the M25 to my brother's house where we were due to spend our first night.
Being short of time, I had to get into London on our first day to arrange my visas for Russia and China so despite the tiredness and jetlag, we headed up into Charing Cross and along the Strand to the visa agency I was using. After handing over my passport and the forms, we headed back to Covent Garden for some lunch and a wander around. We were going to go to the portrait gallery too but we were both exhausted so we got the train back to Redhill and spent the evening relaxing.
July 15, 2009
On Wednesday, we headed out early and towards Stonehenge, one of the places Elizabeth wanted to visit in our short trip around England. Having dealt with the early morning M25 traffic, we headed south and the sight of the stones on the horizon a couple of hours into the journey was a great sight!
The stones itself are much smaller than expected but the site is well maintained and the path around Stonehenge is well laid out and far enough back that you can get some good pictures without too many people in the bloody way!
From there, we headed to Cheddar Gorge and the caves there. We decided to stop and go into the caves but, quite honestly, it was probably not worth the money - the tickets were £16 each and we had to pay £4 for parking! £36 for a couple of caves and a small museum - very much a rip off, I'm afraid to say.
Having wandered around, had a late lunch we continued the last few miles into Bath, where we were spending the night.
We wandered around the city and found the Thermae Spa. Having had a hectic couple of days, we decided to treat ourselves to a couple of hours in the spa and dinner there, too. Having followed the GPS around some ridiculously narrow country lanes, we found our hotel, left our bags behind and headed back to the Spa. Inside, the two pools (one inside and one outside on the roof) were lovely and warm and relaxing, heated naturally by the local spring. Even the food was good, a lovely spicy Thai curry which we then sweated out in the steam rooms before we headed up to the roof and lazed in the pool watching the sunset over the city.
July 16, 2009
Today, we spent the morning around Bath, visiting the abbey and the Roman Baths, which were brilliantly set out and very interesting. It was certainly a surprise how large the site was given how small the entrance looked! From there we walked through the city to the pathetic Jane Austen house (where she MIGHT have written a book!!!). Even Elizabeth though this was pretty poor and just about everything in the house, including the house itself, was either "similar" to or a reproduction of or a "this is probably what they did/had/used"... very disappointing.
After some on-the-go pasties, we headed north to Stratford-upon-Avon. We had spoken to a couple at our Bath hotel, over breakfast, about Stratford and they recommended going to see a play. On arrival in Stratford, we saw there was a production of Julius Ceasar at the RSC Courtyard Theatre that night and so went and got tickets. The play was amazing and even our seats, the cheapest at £22 each, had a great unrestricted view. The acting was excellent and you could see the similarities in the acting between this and the Rome HBO series we'd watched a couple of months ago. An excellent way to spend an evening!
July 17, 2009
We spent the morning back in Stratford visiting the Shakespeare sights - from the exhibition about his life to his birthplace, his grave and the houses around the city where various family members lived. The exhibition and birthplace were really well set out and the tour guides were knowledgable and helpful. One of them even knew plenty of stuff about Bermuda and the part of Texas where Elizabeth is from!
Having done all the things we wanted to do in Stratford, we headed back to the guesthouse where I suggested, half-jokingly, that we should drive to Wales so Elizabeth could say she has been there too! After looking at the map and seeing how close it was, we decided we might as well! We actually eventually headed a bit further into Wales and stopped in Brecon, around Brecon Beacons and then went onto a small place called Blaenavon, which somehow appeared to be a World Heritage Site!
Having stopped at a country pub for dinner, we headed back for a good sleep and some relaxation!
July 18 and 19, 2009
We spent the weekend in Leicester with our friends Ralph and Louise, a weekend which involved eating, drinking and catching up - we hadn't seen them since our wedding last year so it was great to see them again. Some great martinis and cocktails, a lovely curry on Saturday night and a home-cooked roast chicken on Sunday and great company. It was a shame we had to leave so soon for the drive back to London.
On the way back, Elizabeth wanted to go through London so we headed right through the centre - I showed her Lords Cricket Ground (which she'd seen earlier on TV), Regent's Park, Green Park, St. James' Park, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and, of course, Croydon...
July 20, 2009
Having got back to my brother's for a couple of nights, we decided to have a day a little closer to home - we headed down to a small country pub called the Shepherd and Dog in a small village called Fulking for lunch and from there we went into Brighton. We didn't stop there but I was able to show Elizabeth the pier and the waterfront which, let's face it, is all there is to Brighton!
We drove a bit further along the coast from there to Arundel, where we saw a great view of the castle from the road in. Having parked up and wandered around, we found the castle was closed one day a week. Mondays. Excellent.
Well, tomorrow we fly up to Edinburgh for a few days and some more new sights, with Elizabeth visiting her 3rd country in 3 days (4 in a week if you include our stop in Dublin last week!).