It is hot. At 6:00 AM the temp in our room was still above 80. I showered and went down to the counter to complain. The manager said he would put us in a different room if we made sure everything is packed before leaving on our tour. I feel a little weird having y stuff just disappear while I’m away, but I’m not going to spend another hot night like that. Some folks on our tour said that theirAC didn’t work either, so I’m not sure what good this can do. I suggested to Laura that we could go to Hyde Park and count the naked people, but she insisted that we continue with the tour.
Our guide for this trip was just as talkative as yesterday’s, but didn’t seem as annoying. I think it was the condescending tone of yesterday’s guide – she was telling us how we were supposed to react to various historical things, rather than provide information and let us decide for ourselves. This time wee got tons of information, and felt well-prepared when we arrived at our destinations.
We entered the hills of the Cotswolds, with hedgerows and stone fences. The views stretched for miles. We eventually reached the Salisbury Plain, and saw Stonehenge looming ahead.
I had sort of expected a disappointment. Although small in area, it was hardly disappointing. The size of the stones is daunting. One truly gets a sense of awe, and the plain stretching for miles around just heightens the effect. A stiff breeze blew across the plain, more refreshing than any we had felt in London. Across a field we could see several barrows, where the ancients were actually buried, six to a mound.
We walked around listening to the audio tour, snapping pictures from every angle. We had completed perhaps half the tour, when we realized we only had 15 minutes to get back to the bus. We really wanted to stay longer, bask in the cool breeze, and admire the stones. We were really interested in the shop, but with the crowd, there was no way.
We once again entered the hills and headed toward Bath. I kept wanting to snap pictures at the crest of each hill, but it wasn’t possible. Soon, we were on a hill overlooking the town itself. The view was fantastic, with Georgian houses and church spires in all directions. As we descended, our guide told us about all the famous people who had lived in Bath, pointing out certain residences as we went.
We stopped just outside the Bath Abbey and headed for the Roman Baths. While fascinating from a historic perspective, to me it looked like a murkey green pool of hot water on an already hot day. Still, we took the tour. It was very hot, but it was interesting to see the hot water bubble up from the Sacred Spring and to see the ancient Roman architecture and sculpture. We were allowed to sample a glass of the mineral water. Laura declined, but I gave it a try – actually tasty, but too hot to be enjoyed..
Leaving the baths, a set of marimbas was playing beautiful classical music in the Abbey square. As with other large churches of the Gothic era, this one has flying buttresses and sculpture just about everywherer. Along the twin spires are angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder to heaven. Apparently the sculptor had a sense of whimsey – a couple of the angels were having difficulty.
We decided to enter. The soaring Gothic vaults and stained glass were breathtaking. Every inch of floor and wall space was filled with memorials, some worn bare from foot traffic. We walked along the nave and around the back of the choir. As we were returning along the opposite aisle, we saw a sign and took a detour into the Abbey vaults below the church. This turned out to be a wonderful display of the abbey’s history, along with artifacts from the previous churches that had occupied the site.
We exited the abbey and began a search for food. In a quiet square just around the corner from the baths and the abbey, we found another pub called the Crystal Palace. This time we knew the routine for ordering. We started with more of the rustic bread and balsamic vinegar, then had small portions of chicken stirfry. Our second pub lunch turned out to be just as delicious as yesterday’s.
From the pub we wandered through a narrow street until we reached the Avon River. A beautiful park lined the banks, and canal boats were moored alongside. There was an impressive bridge based on a design from some Italian bridge spanning the river, and below that was a weir – a set of three cascades in an arch on the river. A tour boat pulled up to that point, straining with the current. We continued our walk along the river and by the shops until it was time to board the bus for home. Once again, we regretted not having more time to explore. Our bus route out just heightened this sense, as we passed many interesting shops, parks, and buildings that were not in walking distance of the abbey and baths. We will have to come back some day.
The bus ride home passed by so many lovely villages, each with their own church spire. Laura and I both wanted to jump off the bus and explore. The ride back to London took about three hours, and on the outskirts of the city we had good views of Windsor Castle.
Back at the hotel, we weren’t sure where we would find our things. The front desk gave us our new room keys, and assured us that our luggage had been moved. The new room was much more modern, with US-type 110 volt outlets. There was a minibar, updated fixtures, and most importantly – air conditioning. The room itself was a bit smaller, and there was no where to put our drinks with the minibar in place. Oh well. These were trade-offs we could live with for AC.
Suitably refreshed from the trip, we headed in search of dinner. We ventured further down Kensington High Street than we had planned, rejecting several menus as we passed. We eventually came to a Lebanese place called Maroush just off of High Street, and decided to give it a try.
After being seated, stumbling through the menu, and finally placing our orders, a bowl of olives and a large bowl of whole vegetables was brought out. There was a whole tomato, whole green bell pepper, some lettuce, and other veggies. We weren’t quite sure what to do with it, so we ate some of the smaller carrots with the olives. From later observation of our fellow diners, it turns out that we were supposed to construct our own salads. Oh well.
For starters, we ordered hummous and pita. I ordered the hot version, and the spices would sneak up on you. Laura ordered Shish Touk, and I ordered a mixed grill, which included a sample of the shish touk and some lamb kabobs. The flavors were intense and incredible. I had ordered a side of rice, but it wasn’t needed. There were potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and two pita points were tomoato sauce similar to a pizza. There was no way we could eat dessert. However, we weren’t given a choice. Without our asking, a plate of watermellon and several small pastries that looked like baclava were put on our table. These turned out to be a wonderful finish to an incredible meal.
As we dined, the significance of eating in a Lebanese establishment was driven home. A young Lebanese woman and her grandfather were seated next to us. The young woman talked loudly about the current Israel-Lebanon war, worrying about her friends back home. Her grandfather was clearly not please with her talking so openly next to two Americans. I guess they both made unjustified assumptions about us. We also watched two Israeli women wander in, be seated, and realize where they were, then leave quickly.
This was not the last time we were taken to task for being Americans this evening. After dinner we strolled down High Street, and decided to use the rest of my Internet time looking for Thames River cruises. There was actually someone there to help this time, so I inquired about the USB ports. With a heavy French accent, the man stated that an AMERICAN court made them disable the USB ports because people were downloading music onto thumb drives. He made the point of saying AMERICAN court several times, with emphasis on American. His distaste for us was palpable. We found the info we needed, posted a quick update to this site, then left.