Saturday, May 14, 2011

catching up

So this is going to be a gigantically long post. But it's broken up into days, so if you need to take a break, I've provided logical spots for you to do so.

I realize that it's been a while since I've updated this here blog. But I am not to blame. The fact that western England feels is necessary to charge you for wifi everywhere wifi exists is to blame for my being so behind. Now that I'm back in London, you'll get to catch up on the adventures.

Day One: onto the western frontier

We left for Bristol on Tuesday at 8. Except that the bus didn't get here until 8:30. No big deal. I just got up 30 minutes early so I could stand on the sidewalk. Anyways. Our first stop was Stonehenge, which is in the county of Wiltshire. We spent about an hour there and it was really cool. But kind of not as cool as everyone always talks about. I mean, it's giant and it's old but it's basically just a place to take a couple of pictures. Maybe if we would have done the audio tour it would have been cooler  but we just walked around it so it was basically just a big pile of rocks that I can now say I've been too. There is a rope that blocks you from getting very close to the circle so we just admired. There were also a bunch of burial mounds that you can see from the stone circle, which was cool. And it's located in an absolutely gorgeous area. Green, rolling hills all around and no civilization to be spotted. After Stonehenge, we went to Avebury Circle, which I have to say is a million times cooler than Stonehedge. It's another stone circle but a ton bigger than Stonehenge. Like the actual circle is bigger, not the stones. And there actually three circles, one big outside circle and two smaller inside circles (kind of like two eyes). Stonehenge is about as big as one of the small inside circles. Avebury is also located in Wiltshire, the middle of the village of Avebury. The whole outside circle isn't there anymore because the town is built over the top of it. But not only is it bigger, you can actually walk right up to the stone and touch them. I touched ancient rocks folks. And some of them I sat on. Can you say the same? I thought not. Ok, maybe your not that excited about my ancient rock touching, but I mean these rocks are older than Christ. By a lot. According to Wikipedia (because I can't remember the dates they told us when we were there) it was constructed around 2600 BC. That is crazy. Crazy people. I hope you understand how my mind was kind of blown. Anyways, we also had this hilarious tour guide through Avebury. Her name was Pat and she was great. She had on of the best accents of all time and rolled all of her 'r's and kept saying how 'fab' everything was.

After those adventures we headed to Caen Hill Locks in Devizes, which is also in Wiltshire county (p.s. counties in England are like the states of the U.S. which is why I'm telling you them. Plus then you can see on a map kind of where we were.) So here the thing about the locks. None of us wanted to be there. Apart from one of our directors who was eating it up. He was a kid in a candy store at those locks. But the rest of us didn't see the difference between this canal and the Regent's canal we had already walked in London. So I didn't have the best attitude. But sometimes I need to be a tad bit more patient and open minded. As the walk continued, we ended up being able to help this guy get his boat through the locks, which was pretty sweet. Once I knew how the locks worked and all that jazz and saw someone actually using them, I was a lot more interested and enjoyed the stop more.

Our final stop for that day was the hostel in Bristol, which is in Gloucestershire county. It was actually a really nice hostel. Almost cheap hotel quality. And better than the Nazi camps I was imagining in my head, minus all the dead bodies and actual Nazi's. There were four to a room. Kaylee, Tara and Amy S. were in my room. We lucked out and had our own bathroom in our room, though most everyone else had to share the hallway bathroom. We had two bunk beds and it was fun to have actually roommates rather than just a herd of people sharing a giant room.

Day Two: bathing

We started off this day with an included breakfast in the hostel. Not Holiday Inn quality but it was still nice to have some bacon thrown in with my cereal. Then it was off to Bath, which is in Somerset county. In case your unaware, which would be kind of silly of you and you should probably brush up on your historical sites if you really don't know what Bath already is, but it's a town that contains a Roman bath house from back in the day when Rome ruled London. The British didn't actually use it that much, cuz they thought it was weird. (Uh duh. Who wants to bath with everyone else literally hanging out in front of you). But the elite did use it and thought they were really cool because they were so Roman. I don't know how cool they actually were, but their bath house was pretty cool. The water was disgusting looking, but you could just walk right up to the pool and sit next to it. They only thing you couldn't touch was the water because it wasn't sanitary. We got a little audio tour and you got to choose what sections you listened to, which was nice. When you first walk in, you walk around this little balcony thing that overlooks the main pool, but before you get down to the pools, there's a museum thing you walk through. One of the things I thought was most interesting was this section about curses. People would write messages to different gods asking them to curse someone else because they stole something or whatever. Most of the time the offender did something pretty trivial. Then they would throw the curse into the spring that provided the water to the pools so that the gods would grant them their curses. After the museum, you go into the pools. There is the big pool in the center and then there are two smaller pools through an east passageway and a west passageway. Once you leave the pools, they have some of the water from the spring that you can drink because people back in the day thought it had healing powers. I didn't find out about this little feature until after I left so I didn't try it but I heard it was super yummy and tastes like sulfur. Don't worry Mom and Dad, we'll be trying some on our trip to Bath. They also have a new spa sort of thing that uses the same spring that fill the Roman baths. I didn't go in it because I didn't even bring a swimming suit to Europe with me, but I heard it was pretty sweet.

After the bath house, they just told us to wander around Bath. We ended up getting super split up and Kaylee and I went walking around. We saw The Circus, which is a circle of houses and then we went to the Royal Crescent, which was the other thing I was pretty excited about seeing in Bath. I wanted to go into the museum that they had, but it was 6 pounds and I was too cheap to pay for it. We basically just walked around Bath until there was nothing else to see. And then we still had an hour and a half before we were leaving. So the amount of time spent in Bath could have been cut down some. It's more of a half day adventure rather than an all day adventure. But still a good adventure.

Then we just went back to Bristol because they wanted us to explore what was around there. About 30 of us ended up going to see the play Jekyll and Hyde. It was quite the experience folks. I really didn't know the details of the story but there were some shockers. For instance the song that says "b****" every other line. Or the prostitute that essentially gets raped on stage. We were all a little surprised at these things, especially since one of our directors wife's was there with some of her kids and the other director and his wife were there. But none of us were expecting those things and it was still an enjoyable play despite those aspects, though I probably wouldn't recommend it now that I know the details. I think maybe plays should get a rating, just like movies, so these things can be avoided.

Day Three: whales?

Day three started out at Tintern Abby, which is in Wales. That's right, I've now been to Wales folks. I wish I was really cool and had my passport stamped again. Just so that I could have another stamp in my passport. But unfortunately, Wales is still part of the UK, even though it's another country. Tintern Abby was pretty sweet. It's this super old falling apart Abby. And it's gorgeous, even though there's not much left. It surrounded by awesome scenery and it was just great. We also could go touch the ruins and stuff, which was great. If you couldn't tell, I enjoy the things I can actually touch and interact with much more than the things I just have to look at.

After Tintern Abby, we headed back into Gloucestershire and went to Chipping Campden, which is part of the Cotswold district. This is basically like the vacation homes for people when their tired of the city. It was a really pretty place but we had to eat lunch there and it was way expensive and there wasn't really anything to do there so we just wandered around aimlessly.

After this we went a a 4 1/2 mile walk/hike. I was not excited about this at all. But it actually wasn't that bad and it was a good way to experience part of the English culture because the English love to walk and they have walking trails all over the place, included a lot that go through private property, which is what our walk did. It was super pretty though and we could see for miles at some parts of the walk. It was nice to be away from the city and just walk through the fields.

Day Four: slippery slope of death

This was our last day of the trip. Some of us went and saw a couple of Banksy paintings. Banksy is a street artist and his work is awesome. It almost always is some commentary on politics and he never repeats a painting. He was raised in Bristol, so a lot of his paintings are around there. They used to get painted over because people just thought it was graffiti but eventually he became well known and it was sort of an honor to have a Banksy painted on your building.

We headed for Wells in Somerset county to see another cathedral. I think we're all pretty churched out. There are a million abby's and cathedrals out here and they all start looking the same. So although it was cool, I wouldn't have died if I didn't see it.

After Wells we went to Durdle Door beach in Dorset county. We had to climb up this giant hill and then back down the other side to get to the beach. But now I can say that I've touched the Atlantic Ocean. New accomplishment in life. And there was this cool rock arch thing that's famous. It was really pretty and basically the same kind of beach as the ones in Northern California (aka windy and cold) but it was rocky instead of sandy. And it was a different ocean. and a different country. Cool stuff.

Then it was time for the long, long ride home. And to top off this long ride, we had to stop for dinner when we were 90 minutes away from London. My long road trip instincts hated this. Why would we stop when we're that close. But alas, I was not driving and so we stopped.

It really was a great trip, just super exhausting and it's nice to be back in London.

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