Wednesday, May 8, 2024

Tuesday, April 30, 2024. Ancient Rocks.


 Stonehenge day! The last time I went to Stonehenge, in 2014, I had a few disasters along the way. I was only in London for two days with the Stonehenge tour the first day, and I missed the bus (the hotel concierge screwed me over in 2014). I was able to make it the second day, but it was upsetting. This time, I not only knew (basically) where Victoria Coach Station was - where the bus departed from - but I knew to set out early!

We took the Tube from Lancaster Gate to Victoria Station and walked to the coach station, down the block and across the street. We were early, but not too early. There were several tours leaving from the station and there were regular busses departing, too. When it was about time for us to board, a lady stepped through the doors and announced the train to Liverpool was boarding. Were we in the wrong place? Oh, no. Now we didn't have a lot of time if this was wrong. When no one jumped up to go to Liverpool, the lady realized she was at the wrong door. We were in the right place!

As we boarded the double-decker bus, most of the passengers went upstairs. Cynthia and I stayed downstairs. We sat down and delightfully the tour wasn't completely booked. We moved to double seats with a table between them and sat facing each other with empty seats beside us. I rode backwards.


(Some of the sights from the ride to Stonehenge.)

As the bus drove out of London, the tour guide, Steve, recounted a lot of the same information from the Misery Tour the day before. I brought my "real" camera this time, and took a few more pictures, but the problem with riding backward is that you don't really see the upcoming sights. You see the ones that have passed. There was a family at the other table and they appeared to be afflicted with an ailment. They were American, maybe from Tennessee? My eavesdropping wasn't up to full effect. The Dad person kept sneezing and taking Sudafed. He also talked about how they would need to go to Boots again soon. Just what you hope for in a confined space post-Covid - someone who is sneezing and taking decongestants.

The traffic to Stonehenge was terrible! I find the narrow roads to be harrowing. I felt like the bus was going to clip cars on the other lanes. At least riding backward, I had less to worry about because I didn't have a clear view of what was happening. The bus ride was supposed to be about 2.5 hours, but because of the traffic it took a lot longer. I used some of the time on the bus to check my security cameras at home. To my surprise/horror/shock, the camera on my front door had been blocked by something. It was the middle of the night back home, so I started to panic. I texted my gardener, but no reply. I couldn't think of any good reason for the camera to be blocked, day or night, so I was in a bit of a panic, worried that someone was breaking into my house. The back door camera was still working, so at least I knew the house hasn't burned down and it didn't look like anyone criminal was moving around in the yard. So throughout the day, I was checking the camera every 20 minutes or so, if possible. I emailed my friend who was feeding my cats to fix it when he went over, but that wouldn’t be for hours.

(What I should have seen.)

(What I saw for hours.)

We arrived at Stonehenge around 11 AM and disembarked. It was a brisk and blustery day, but sunny. The path around the stones had changed since last time I was there. Now you could get a bit closer up for pictures. We walked once around the path, into the gift shop, into the café for drinks, and back on the bus. I bought a bluestone bead bracelet last time and a sarsen stone bead bracelet this time. I've now seen Stonehenge twice and will probably never see it again.




(This guy lives at Stonehenge.)

Back on the bus, we now headed for Bath. Once in Bath, we got a quick walking tour/orientation by Steve and were told to rendezvous at the Roman Baths at 3. Cynthia and I went to lunch at Bill’s (on Cheap Street, lol), which served American friendly food. I had scones, tea and flatbread. We rendezvoused at 3 and went into the Roman Baths. 

(The tea at Bill's.)

The tour in the Roman Bath's was audio only and neither of us were interested in listening to it. We followed the arrows around, looked at things, drank the water, and went to the gift shop. I bought some gifts for friends and postcards. Neither of us heard the bus rendezvous time with certainty, nor did we hear the time for the second, more extensive walking tour. I abandoned Cynthia and walked around and around the Roman Baths looking for Steve, and getting in my steps. Cynthia ate gelato and listed to a busker in a square near the Roman Baths, so I knew where to find her, assuming I got the timetable information I was looking for. I did not find Steve or get that information.




We knew we had at least until 5, but weren't sure if the bus was leaving at 5, 5:15 or 5:30. I was still anxious because my security camera was still compromised. On the brief tour into the village, we were shown a famous bakery museum. That's where we went next. Museum was a generous word. The display was a basement kitchen setting with a female mannequin in it, preparing buns, and a little shop. We bought the famous Sally Lunn’s Buns and I bought some tea and then…we fought/argued and went our separate ways for a bit. Sorry, I was having a bad day and frustrated.


I went to a fancy chocolate shop and bought some gifts. Then I went to an off-license (liquor store) and bought some drinks for the ride back. We met up at 5 where the bus had dropped us off, but the bus wasn't there and the tour wasn't there. I finally saw one woman from our tour at a restaurant patio with a view of the bus area, so went and talked to her. She also wasn’t sure when the bus was leaving, but her dad had seen it parked down the road. It hadn’t left. We sat around until 5:30, by which time the walking tour and bus returned. We piled back onto the bus and headed back to London. We weren't expected to get back to town until after 8 PM.



(Bath birds.)

Because the ride back was long and we had all had lunch and drinks, the driver and tour guide schedule a pitstop at a service station to use the toilets and get snacks. There were toilets on the bus, but there were also 77 people in the tour. A service station would be more comfortable for everyone. Tennessee plague family were raving about how the English really knew how to do gas stations -- before we got there. I chimed in they hadn’t been to Buc-ees. They said they had so I shut up.

Let me tell you, Buc-ees is a palace in comparison to where we stopped! The toilets at this place were half broken and all unflushed. There was a casino near the toilets, but I didn't have time to play one of the dozen or so slot machines.  I used the facilities and hurried back to the bus. English Krispy Kreme was tempting, but I didn’t want to eat garbage I could get in the US if I could avoid it.

I wrote several postcards on the ride back, but could address them because my phone was nearly dead from my obsessive camera checks, and my sister’s phone was nearly dead from checking for an update on her suitcase which still hadn't arrived.

We were dropped off at Gloucester Road, not back at Victoria Coach Station, and took the Tube back “home.” It was late again, so we knew restaurants and shops were going to be closing soon. We decided to go to a Waitrose (a grocery store) at a service station near the hotel and both bought pesto pasta. I also had Bon Mamam raspberry mousse, cheese and water. We ate back in the hotel and called it a night. We didn’t have to be anywhere until 11 AM the next day, but I set an alarm just in case we overslept.

(My friend removed the paper that was blocking my camera when he came to feed the cats. Everything looked fine at the house.)

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