Tuesday, August 28, 2012

London, the Middle: Part 1 - Friday & Saturday


Friday morning was probably the most exciting part of my trip, well, for me anyways. I had a trip planned, a guided one, that went to Stonehenge, Bath, the Cotswold's, and Stratford-Upon-Avon (the birthplace of Shakespeare.) I was super hyped up for the trip too! I had already visited Bath on a previous visit to London with my family but I had always wanted to see Stonehenge and seeing the house where Shakespeare was "born" was just an added bonus!

I woke up way too early since I was so excited for the trip so I went into the city early where I wandered through Trafalgar square and made some stops at Tube stations that sounded interesting. Of course, I wound up back at Victoria Coach station where the tour the previous day left and I waited to board the *correct* tour this time. Once on the bus we were introduced to our tour guide who insisted that we call him "Mr. Handsome" he was attractive but much too old for me, I felt weird calling him that. He talked through the city, pointing out attractions and once we were on the high way, we were told to get our rest because it was a two hour drive there and the rest of the trip, we'd want to see. I fell asleep and when I woke up, we were closing in on Stonehenge. He told us all about the suspected origins of the stone formation but made it very clear that the information was unknown.

We got off the bus, got our tickets and were told to be back in one hour. When we were inside, we got a free audio guide and we could walk around and listen to some information. I met some of the women on my trip (a woman and her mother from California) and they took photos of me in exchange for me taking photos of them. The liked Riva and they also had a small gnome that they took with them on the trip for photos.

After the hour was up, we all loaded back on the bus and started the drive to Bath. Once we were in Bath, we had some options, we could: visit Bath Abbey, visit the Baths, or just wander the city and get something to eat. We had an hour and a half until we had to get back to the bus and, of course, being me, I did all three. I began by visiting the Abbey and walking around the area, there were a lot of head stones of sorts in the walls, it was interesting.

After I saw the inside of the Abbey, I decided to check out the Baths, I told myself I wouldn’t do it since I had already seen it on my last visit but the student discount was too good to pass up so I went anyways. Like I said, I had already seen the baths so I didn’t really take my time to visit every display or every photo opportunity and I didn’t get the audio guide for an extra 4 GBP. I just wandered the area and museum for a while and had a few photos taken of me and I took some of the baths. When I neared the exit of the bath museums, I had the opportunity to taste the water which is supposed to have healing powers. In tales from the past, the water cured leprosy.

“The water which bubbles up from the ground at Bath fell as rain on the nearby Mendip Hills. It percolates down through limestone aquifers to a depth of between 2,700 meters (8,900 feet) and 4,300 meters (14,100 feet) where geothermal energy raises the water temperature to between 64 °C (147.2 °F) and 96 °C (204.8 °F). Under pressure, the heated water rises to the surface along fissures and faults in the limestone. This process is similar to an artificial one known as Enhanced Geothermal System which also makes use of the high pressures and temperatures below the Earth's crust. Hot water at a temperature of 46 °C (114.8 °F) rises here at the rate of 1,170,000 liters (257,364 imp gal) every day, from a geological fault (the Pennyquick fault). In 1983 a new spa water bore-hole was sunk, providing a clean and safe supply of spa water for drinking in the Pump Room.” - Wikipedia 

I left the Bath houses and went in search of lunch. I wound up buying a chicken baguette and an Italian ice and headed back to where we would meet the bus to depart for our trip through the Cotswold's to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

I thought that I could stay awake for the whole trip, but I dozed off a bit in the drive from Bath to Stratford-Upon-Avon. I did, however, see quite a few of the sights that there were to see, many small towns and such. Once we arrived at the Shakespeare Birthplace Museum, we all got off the bus and went inside to enjoy a champagne reception with scones and some fantastic acting right in front of us. There were actors working there who would recite portions of plays before you.

We had a bit of time to wander the museum after that and there was a mirror that had been signed by many great writers in the past paying their homage of sorts to the greatest playwright in history.

We boarded the bus to head back to London city and I met the couple in front of me who were from New York (the man) and New Jersey (the woman.) They were on a tour of the Balkans with a Russian tour group, even though they were American, but they wanted to stop in London for a few days too. Get this, they were also Technical Writers!

Once I was back in London city, after a long day, Katharina and I met up at Marble Arch and went to dinner in Leicester Square. When we got there, there was a film premier for Total Recall and a red carpet was set up and everything. We grabbed dinner at Garfunkel's and I had a delicious London beer with my veggie burger.

Katharina and I then wandered around the square and found China Town. Of course, we had already eaten but we just saw some of the shops and the decorations and it was cool.

On our way back to the Tube stop, we also noticed that Leicester Square is famous for half price theater tickets so we stopped and bought tickets to see Wicked on Tuesday night. Normal price tickets were about 45 GBP and we got ours for about 18 GBP, not bad. Though, I knew we would be in VERY far away seats. We then headed back to Chris and Anne's house and I watched some TV then it was bed time.



I woke up on Saturday and read until Katharina got out of bed, nearly two hours later. We had breakfast and then headed into the city to check out Portabello Market. This market is located in Notting Hill and was packed with tourists! It was fun to see and it's something to check off my to-do list, but with the heat on Saturday, I wouldn't do it again. And I can honestly say that I didn't buy anything at this market. I think I was more worried about finding shade and keeping hydrated to even look at the items for sale.

After the market, we went to Oxford Street to look at some shops but decided to part so that I could see some museums and Katharina could lay in a part somewhere. We decided to meet back at the Oxford Circus tube station at 6 PM so that gave me two hours to see the museums. I went to the National Portrait Gallery first which had an exhibit on the Olympic athletes and, of course, it was free! The Portrait Gallery wasn't too big so I was out in no time at all. On my way out I took a survey about my visit and helped someone with their research, cool.
You SO were not allowed to take
pictures inside, oops.

My next stop was the National Gallery, the next building over. The National Gallery houses all the famous paintings and I'm sure I could have spent an entire day there but I only had an hour so I moved quickly to see all the paintings I wanted to see. Of course, I didn't see everything, but it was still good to get some history in with the trip. Across the street there was also St. Martins in the Field church and I looked around inside while I was there too.

 I got back to our meeting point early because I overestimated the travel time. Since I had time, I looked in some of the shops but decided against buying anything since everything was so expensive. And I thought German clothing stores were expensive!

Katharina and I met up and went to dinner at Vipanos, her absolute favorite restaurant. I mean, it was good, but I don't think it was the best thing since sliced bread. She talked about it repeatedly and wanted to go there every night, luckily, we only ate there once. After dinner, we decided to lay out in Green Park for a bit and relax in the shade.

Since we were so close to Leicester Square, and the Oxford Street, we went to see it at night again. We wandered the street and found the M&M store located there. I'm not even kidding when I say that there was four floors of M&M's. It was crazy. I felt that I needed to include pictures of this even as it was a big deal, so here's some larger images of the trip to the store.

Then we took the Tube then bus back to Chris & Anne's. When we were back at the house, I read for a bit and hung out with the kids (Hugh was excited to share some of his Olympic stickers and the stories behind them.) He even wanted to show me his stamp collection but it was his bed time and mine too since I'd been so busy all week already.

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