Friday, 22 July 2011

England - The first sight of Stonehenge

July 7-8

Hello everyone!

There are many methods of transport that I use when travelling. From boats across the West Sea to tuktuks hurtling through Sri Lankan lanes; slow elephants in Thailand to speedy trains in Europe. There are many ways of getting from A to B, but the majority have one common theme: I am never in control. Someone else is usually doing the driving.

Until now. To travel around the south of England we decided to rent a car. I was looking for something small, such as a Ford Fiesta. When we arrived to collect the car we were told that they had no such car available, and I was thus bumped up free of charge to the next category. We drove away - once I had returned into the office to ask how to turn the car on - in a Vauxhall Meriva. A rather large family car.

It was a nice enough car once I worked out how to use the handbrake (a button??), the headlights and the rear windscreen wipers. The latter were of particular importance in Wales, but the rain seemed to disappear as we crossed the Severn Bridge into the big country. Our first stop was one of historical importance, and one that most people know - Bath.

Bath is famous because of the landmarks left behind here by the Romans. The most famous are the Roman Baths, where folk used to wash themselves and hang out almost 2000 years ago. The temple was constructed in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually built up over the next 300 years. Thanks Wikipedia. They are very well-preserved, and also house many Roman artifacts found in the surrounding area.

Understandably, you're not allowed to use the baths for their original purpose. You're not really supposed to touch the water, but most people sneak a cheeky finger or two into the murky green liquid. It's pretty warm - I can imagine that it was very nice to take a dip in their after a hard day killing scores of Celts back in the day. The other point of note was the free audio guide - a contender for the most annoyingly enthusiastic woman's voice I've ever heard. Rather posh as well, possessing a hint of Liz Hurley about her.

Bath is a nice small city; quite quiet and very easy on the eye. The sun made a pleasant appearance, allowing us to stroll along the River Avon which stretches through the city. We were staying at the university slightly outside of the centre. The campus was rather busy due to the hundreds of people graduating, in addition to a bizarre number of Italian teenagers on a school trip.

I've been to Bath a few times before, but the place we visited the following morning was new for me. If many people have heard of Bath, then just about every person has heard of our next destination: Stonehenge.

The advantage of having a car is that we could visit more remote places that possess interesting facets of Britain. The number of tour buses in the car park, and lack of public transport on view, suggested that it is quite a difficult place to get to on the cheap. Being in a tour group would also mean paying the rather astronomical £8 entrance fee. That doesn't even allow you into the main area - you are fenced off on a path a fair distance from the stones. Those on a tighter budget peer through the fence on the side of the road, and don't pay the fee. From this base we were only about fifteen metres away from the people being led along the path.

For the record, Stonehenge is a very interesting place. For about 10 minutes. Being exposed in that wind isn't great fun, and it's not as if there is that much to see. What you do see, however, is amazing, and definitely worth a visit. Especially if you are zooming around in a Vauxhall Meriva.

Love you all


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