Frank's Excellent Adventure travel blog

Simone Felice

Me & Simone

Winchester, Me & AJ

Stonehenge

AJ & Me & Michelle

WOW!

Cut Me Right Out!

Spectacular From Every Angle

Avebury

Cricket

Ghosts?

The Well

Hackpen Hill White Horse

Ride The White Horse

Franked Mail

FoxTalbot

AJ & I

Captain TFN

The Kennet & Avon Canal

Beautiful

Swing Bridge

Lock

Going Down

Pub

Rush Hour Traffic

Frank's Corner

Bath

The Crescent

Roman Bath

Healing Waters

Ahhh... Relax

Aqueduct

Going Up


Mmm and what will I wear?

Oh, tell me what will it sound like

The morning I get there ….

Well I'll probably be wearing shorts and a t-shirt, which is pretty much all I wear, because it is all I have with me. And if I can pick my soundtrack then who better then Simone Felice to sing to me? So it will sound like, the high heel of a boot stomping on a stage with a sweet acoustic note ringing out and a voice, yeah, well the voice of the devil himself….

So it is the morning of July 27th, I am still in London, and who comes to pick me up? None other then my good friend and travel partner AJ (whom I met all the way back in Fiji in 2009 and then also traveled around Cambodia with in 2011) and his beautiful fiancé Michelle (whom I am meeting for the first time but immediately feel like I've know her for many years).

Our plan (well AJ's plan because he did ALL the work to set this week up) is to travel through some of the English countryside, listen to some incredible music, see a couple of the sites, chug down a canal, and relax and hangout together. I love it when a plan comes together (okay, everything except the relax part! hahahaha…. more on that later….)

Off we drove, out of the city and into the countryside. Our destination, Winchester and more specifically The Railway. One of my favorite singer, songwriter, musicians was playing that evening and I wanted to turn my English friends on to some good old American Music. The venue - a very small room on the second floor of the pub - was set up with 60 or so folding chairs and there wasn't an empty seat in the house. Simone Felice took the stage and then blew the room away. His charisma and energy is second to none, he had the crowd from the first note until the last. It is a night I will not soon forget. And I think it is safe to say that he now has at least two more fans in AJ and Michelle. you can check him out at http://www.simonefelice.com

We drove home that night buzzing from the high that is a Simone show and waiting for us we had the perfect, traditional, thatched roof inn, to bed down at for the night.

I awoke the next morning to meet my friends for a late breakfast - beans and toast? - before heading out to see the only place I asked AJ to make sure we didn't miss. Stonehenge. Now many people told me to skip it and many others told me to lower my expectations and that I was probably going to be disappointed. After all, the ancient monument is right next to a highway and has been rebuilt and is crowded and you can't get near the stones and yada, yada, yada.

All I can say is WOW! Am I glad I didn't listen to any of those people. Now, the more than 5000 year old site is right next to a highway (good, I didn't have to hike for 4 days to get there!) and it has been refurbished over the years (great, who wants to look at a crumbled bunch of fallen down stones!) and it was crowded (so what, I was one of the crowd and it gave me more people to bother to take pictures of us! - turns out I needed more than 1) and you can not get near the stones (perfect, the view as you walk around the outside foot path and the constantly changing perspective that offers is spectacular!) From the minute I set eyes on the Stonehenge an energy arc'd to my soul and I loved every second I spent at the ancient site. One of the weirdest things that happened (and to me one of the funniest things) was that I asked one woman to take a picture of the 3 of us (Michelle, AJ and I) with Stonehenge in the background, she happily obliged and had us all pose and stand still and smile and then she took the shot. I thanked her and we moved on, later when reviewing my photo's I realized she had, with surgical precision, cut me out of the photo! Hahahahaha…. People are amazing!

From Stonehenge we went to Avebury, an actual village in the middle of a stonehenge. It turns out the druids had many, many stonehenge sites and the famous Stonehenge is just the one that has been redone and attracts all the attention. In Avebury you can wander around the outskirts of the town and touch the stones and marvel at the scale of the site. In the center of the stonehenge is the village and we went to the Red Lion Pub to enjoy a bite to eat. Two things I will forever remember about the Red Lion Pub, is that it is haunted - there are many ghosts, but one in particular had her body thrown down the well and it turns out I found this out while sitting at the well waiting to be served - I moved. The second and much more enjoyable thing I will remember about this experience is Sticky Toffee Pudding! Mmmmmm…. Now, I need to give credit where credit is due and I owe my new found love of this British dessert to Simone Felice. He mentioned it fondly in one of his rants the night before and it was enough for me to ask Michelle, "what is Sticky Toffee Pudding?" Well, it is only the most delicious, delightful, delectable treat known to man (and woman). If you have never had it, make a point of trying it. Preferably in England, in the countryside, homemade by someones Grandma! Have it with hot custard, or cream, or vanilla ice cream (my favorite) but have it, you will thank me, I promise.

The last, oh that's not true, the second to last thing of interest in the English countryside that afternoon was the Hackpen Hill White Horse. Okay it was a far stretch from Stonehenge or for the matter, Sticky Toffee Pudding, but it was different and fun and interesting none the less. It turns out that way back when in 1837 - to commemorate the coronation of Queen Victoria there were 8 White Horses carved into the chalky earth in the hills of Wiltshire. We had the pleasure of stopping to photograph and to have Michelle try to get a photograph of us (AJ and I) riding the horse (didn't work - looks like we are peeing on the grass!) It made for some good afternoon laughter though.

Okay now the last thing of interest, to AJ at least, because if he mentioned it once he mentioned it a thousand times, was our destination and place of rest for the evening, Marlborough - now, wait for it - believe it or not - Marlborough is reputed to have one of the widest high streets in all of Britain! Yes, you read that right, and according to AJ it is worth repeating, Marlborough has one of the widest high streets in all of Britain! Unbelievable, fascinating, HUH?

After a good nights rest and one last chance to marvel at the second widest high street in the UK we set off on a mission. The mission was to Pirate Up, to find a Jolly Roger to fly. Well we found pirate hats, pirate mustaches, pirate eye patches, pirate swords, even a pirate parrot BUT we could not for the life of us find a damn pirate flag! We bought a ton of pirate stuff anyways and off we went in search of our vessel.

We arrived in Devises and after a brief orientation and a tour of the boat we were off. Off on the FoxTalbot a long boat/narrow boat that we were to “Chug” down the Kennet & Avon Canal on, all the way to Bath and back. Now I had only a few requests when I was asked by AJ what I wanted to do this week and the first one was to visit Stonehenge (check), the second was to relax, chill out, and to not work too hard at anything so that my body could have a week off to heal. So AJ, and I have to believe he had all the best intentions, came up with the idea for us to “Chug” for 5 days on the canal. Now they call it chugging because the boats top speed is about walking speed and the whole idea of the experience is to relax and chill, there are 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and all the comforts of home on board. The idea is to chug a bit and then pull over at a Pub and have bite or a pint and then chug a bit more and then pull over for the night near another Pub, etc… What nobody told me was that you have to do a ton of physical labor - opening and closing Swing Bridges, opening and closing Locks - and that most of it during the first 2 days was going to occur in the pouring rain! Yes, there I was relaxing - Ha! - soaking wet, aching, walking along next to the boat on a muddy foot path, pulling my back and my shoulder out in order for us to get to where we could have driven to, dry and in a warm car, in about 15 minutes! In all fairness, I wasn’t alone, Michelle was there right alongside me, Old Captain TFN (Too F**king Nice) was at the helm. Hahahaha….relax….hahahaha…..

Okay, so enough of my ranting and raving, the truth is that once the sun came out and I dried off and we settled into a routine, it was awesome. What a spectacular way to see the English countryside. We chugged past some of the most beautiful, green, lush, rolling hills I have ever seen. We stopped at some fantastic traditional English Pubs and I had Fish & Chips and Sticky Toffee Pudding whenever and where ever I could. We eventually tied up for a day or so and hopped on a local train to Bath, an old Roman town that is now a must see if you are in the area. The day there was spent wandering around and checking out the old architecture, dining in the Pump Room and watching people grimace at the taste of the medicinal waters, getting a massage at the Spa and then soaking and lazing around in the various pools. The night was capped off with a supper at the “Best” Fish & Chip joint in Bath. Okay, now I’m starting to relax.

There was a long day of chugging to get back up the canal to be near where we had to be to return the boat on Friday. What an incredible day! The sun was out, the breeze was gentle, the company was perfect, and that made the work not too bad. Actually this time around I was at the helm and Michelle (god bless her) and Captain TFN did all the heavy lifting. We pulled over and tied up by late afternoon and sat around enjoying hors d’oeuvres, chatting and relaxing. (check)

Unfortunately my time with AJ & Michelle had to come to an end. They were so incredible and took such great care of me and made sure that we had such a spectacular week that I am filled with gratitude for having them as friends. They dropped me off at the Luton Airport and stayed by my side until it was time for me to catch my flight. AJ & Michelle thank you, I know we will see each other somewhere, someday, soon.

Me? I settled into my seat on the aircraft and off I flew. Next stop…

Peace,

Frank



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