Day tripping it to Stonehenge and Bath
21.09.2008 19 °C
Today (pretend you’re reading this on September 20th) was a fabulous day. The weather was absolutely gorgeous – warm and sunny but not too hot … perfect for sightseeing, of which I did a lot! I made it to the coach at 8:00am with my hot chocolate in tow, and got on the bus for an hour and a half ride to Stonehenge. Our tour guide had a Scottish accent which made the random stories and facts he told us even more entertaining.
When we got to Stonehenge we had about an hour to look around. Our guide told us beforehand that a lot of tourists are disappointed because they expect it to be bigger, but the real awe-inspiring part about Stonehenge, according to him, is the mystery surrounding it. People can only speculate about it because there were no written records when it was built. The Romans came to Stonehenge when they invaded England, and not only were they impressed by it (which is apparently worth something since they weren’t impressed by much), but Stonehenge was as old to them (even though they didn’t know it) as the Romans are to us! Which basically means those are some seriously old rocks.
I remember first learning about Stonehenge in my lit book in grade school, and I thought it was the most boring entry in that entire book because I just could not figure out what was so interesting about a pile of rocks in England. Actually getting to see them in person, however, made Stonehenge pretty cool. Even though some people aren’t impressed, I thought the stones were very large and I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to move them hundreds of miles via river and rolling logs. We had an audio guide as part of the tour, but it really wasn’t that interesting since our guide had already told us the same information back on the bus. I was really more interested in taking pictures of it from pretty much every angle. I got a few of me in front of it too, of course, but I had the most fun zooming in and out with my new lens!
Apparently people used to be able to go right up and touch the stones, but they roped them off about twenty years ago - I guess because people had been taking bits of the stone home or carving their initials into it, etc. Having to stay back was fine by me though because I was able to get some nice shots without having a bunch of tourists in the way.
After Stonehenge we had a shorter drive to Bath! And as our guide had us practice, it’s pronounced Bah-th, not Baaaaath. This town’s architecture is from the Georgian, or Neoclassical period in England, and it was especially cool to be there because we were just studying this period in my art history class last week. I was a little disappointed by how small King’s Circus was because it looked larger in all of my textbook’s pictures, but other than that everything was amazing! We drove around the city first to get a feel for everything’s location, and I was impressed by how large the area was. For some reason I had the impression that it wasn’t a very big town at all, and even though you can walk to all the touristy areas within ten minutes or so, there were still a lot more buildings than I expected there to be.
We drove by Jane Austen’s house, and later on we saw that the annual Jane Austen festival was this weekend! I thought it was funny because I had just been reading in my Rick Steves book that the festival happens in late September, and it was perfect timing that it coincided with our trip! I was trying to take a lot of photos from inside the bus because all the people were in period costumes, and the buildings we drove by were beautiful. By the time we stopped, however, I was getting a little carsick from looking through the viewfinder so much, so it was good to get out and breathe some fresh air.
Our first order of business was to go see the Roman baths. There was another audio guide to go with this tour, and you just had to type in the number on the little controller if you wanted to hear about a certain pool, statue, etc. I liked the beginning of the tour because when you first walk in you’re actually above the level of the pool since the Roman’s city was below the level of the current Bath. You could look down from above and see all the people who had made it through the museum and were just sitting by the water enjoying the sun. Apparently you’re allowed to stick your hand in the water, but they highly discourage it because it’s really dirty and our guide recommended sanitizing our hands afterward if we were going to eat. I didn’t feel the need to touch the water. I also didn’t pay 50p to drink the famous Bath water that’s chock-a-block full of minerals. According to both my guide and Rick Steves it tastes nasty, so I decided to save my money for something more appetizing.
Speaking of which, once Lauren and I made it out of the bath house we went in search of food. I remembered our guide telling us about the really good pasties in Bath, and since I’d never had one, I decided that a pasty sounded like the perfect lunch. We didn’t really know where to find any though, so we just looked around for other people who had them and went in the direction they were coming from. We only had to follow two people before we found the Cornish Bakehouse which advertised its “award winning Cornish pasties.” I would just like to say that my traditional Cornish steak pasty was probably one of the most delicious things I’ve had since coming here! I will most definitely be on the lookout for them from now on and I plan to try every place I can find.
We ate on the go since we had limited time and made our way back to the Jane Austen festival. We found people in costume and watched a little show where this captain was gathering troops (meaning four guys from the audience), and then he had a duel with his “brother” who lost the money entrusted to him by gambling it away instead of putting it in the bank. It wasn’t incredibly exciting, but I was still entertained since they were in costume and had British accents.
Oh yeah – one last thing. There were pigs everywhere! Not real ones, but painted like the ones all over Seattle. Apparently, long long ago before Bath was on the map, a king’s father had leprosy so he was sent away to the area that eventually became the city of Bath. He observed that when the pigs (where they came from I know not) got sores they would roll around in the mud in a certain spot and they’d be cured. He figured if the mud was good enough for the pigs it was good enough for him, so he rolled around in it and was cured too! He went back to court and had a city built around the area with the amazing mud, and it became Bath!