Wednesday, January 18, 2006
So... I left you with the threat of Stonehenge. Our last day at the timeshare we loaded into the car and then wrestled with heavy traffic to Exeter where Michael was picking up his rental car. He'd been grumbling about the size of our rental car, although we needed the room when it was loaded full of us AND our bags, and had reserved something smaller to pick up at Exeter and drop at Birmingham - but when we got to the rental location they offered him a station wagon (!!) - a much BIGGER car than the one we'd been in all week - and he took it (the fool!). Ellie and I shook heads, helped him load his stuff from one car into the other, and then we all drove off with Michael following us.
I kept him in my rear view mirror for at least an hour, through the heavy traffic (school holidays, remember - *sigh*) and then lost him while overtaking some slow vehicles (families towing trailers, or caravans, as the Brits would say). I thought I saw him draw near but that car eventually passed us and it wasn't him (rats!). We'd all planned to go to Stonehenge that day, and his little photographer's heart would have leapt for joy because the sky was wonderful - big dramatic clouds. If you can't be there for magic hour (sunrise, sunset) then dramatic clouds are as good as it gets - but we never saw him there and learned afterwards, when we met up in Birmingham 5 days later, that he was attacked by a bout of good sense and chose to drive on up to the Lake District (a loooonnng haul in one day, especially by British standards, which are smaller, more winding roads than he's used to in California).
But Ellie and I had a grand time slowly walking around the henge and taking a ton of photos (that's what really made me apprciate my digital camera - I must have taken more than 50 shots of Stonehenge and I never had to reload! yay!!!). Here is the official English Heritage site, which has lots of links (they have the management of the location).
We finally hit the road and drove on in to London environs, having finally eluded most of the holiday traffic, and by hit-or-miss (MapQuest leaving a bit to be desired in this instance... quite a large bit, actually) made it to Pat & Trevor's and fed their hungry kitties and schlepped stuff into the house. Pat and Trevor were at the World Science Fiction Convention (up in Glasgow, which I'd planned to go to and then decided I'd prefer to spend that time seeing friends in England and seeing ENGLAND, as opposed to seeing a convention center and a hotel which could be about anywhere, as interesting as Worldcons are) but they kindly lent us use of their home, which freed up a friend who was driving over to feed the cats (Broggy and Kiwi - large brother and smaller sister, both gorgeous black animals).
I think we drove out to an Indian take-away in a nearby community, and crashed pretty early. Next day, Sunday, we slept in, used the computer, started doing laundry, fed cats repeatedly (rather complex directions as they each have special diets!), found a shop where we could buy a little food (having cleverly forgotten it's SUNDAY and even this close to London, the shops don't stay open late - spoiled Americans, I tell you!).
Monday we drove 15 minutes down to Farnham, a charming small city (town?!) full of Georgian architecture, some lovely churches, and a castle which was, sadly, closed that day (*sigh*). We nonetheless had a grand time wandering through the town and eating a pub lunch in a rather "foody" pub - they had a 2 course prix fixe meal that was EXCELLENT plus a special on a bottle of wine - we thoroughly enjoyed that! I learned there is a well-known guitar shop and I walked off in search of it while Ellie went in search of a particular publication and came back to find me tucked into a timbered corner of this great old building, happily playing a VERY nice inexpensive guitar (!!) to maintain my callouses (I hate losing them and having to rebuild them - it hurts!). We walked back and wandered through the Lion and Lamb Yard which was charming - I do like the sculpture!
Tuesday we drove all the way out to Whitstable on the east coast (so we walked beaches on both the utter west and utter east of England, right across it's broadest portion!) - we particularly liked the beach huts - funny little houses. My friend Joan told me that these have sold for some ridiculous figures, especially considering that you can't SLEEP in them! But it was lovely for me to see Joan again (who fed us a scrumptious luncheon) and her now-grown daughter and two grandkids (yay! for grandkids) and then we started the drive back, stopping in nearby
Canterbury (check out more Canterbury shots at this site) and just missing the Cathedral (they closed EARLY, the rats!) but enjoying the grounds for several hours.
When we finally hit the road for home we had a great experience as we topped the rise of a hill and found a hot-air balloon rising majestically (and ENORMOUSLY!) before us - there was an annual ballooning meet the next day - here are some nice shots from a different meet. A rich, full day!
Wednesday we took the train up to London and spent the day riding the Underground, walking through assorted galleries and museums, hanging out in Covent Garden and of course a yummy lunch with wine and finally an evening at the theatre, seeing The Philadelphia Story with Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Ehle at The Old Vic. Lovely, rich day and despite terrorist activity within the previous month, neither of us were fearful (remember how my trip started with a diverted flight, after all!).
Thursday will find us loading out of Pat & Trevor's home and driving up to Birmingham, stopping at Kenilworth Castle on the way. The story of parking and schlepping and returning the car isn't particularly interesting - except that we drove 1,500 miles in less than 10 days, from Rochester to Heathrow, out to Cornwall and Land's End, back by way of Stonehenge and east to Whitstable, and finally north a little ways to Birmingham! Whew!!!