A Year Ago Today
A year ago today (August 5, 2014) we had what can only be described as the perfect day. Read on to find out why.
Early Morning Train Into London
In order to meeting the tour bus at Victoria Coach Station, we had to get up very early. The bus would be leaving at 8:30am and we needed to be there to meet it at least 15 minutes prior to that.
Up at 4:00am
In order to make it all happen so that we could be at the tour bus in time, we had to be up at 4:00am to get showered and dressed. We then started our walk into Longfield at 5:45am in order to catch the right train into London.
No Rail Pass Discount Today
This was the only day that our Two Together Rail Pass was of no use to us. Anytime before about 9:30am is considered “peak” time, so we just had to bite the bullet and pay full fare on this day.
Meeting The Tour Bus
Had we been staying at a hotel in London, the tour company would have picked us up at our hotel. However, that was not the case and we need to get ourselves to Victoria Coach Station. The Coach Station is about a 10-15 minute walk from the train station, but we had coordinated everything correctly and we arrived at the tour bus in plenty of time.
The first stop on our day-long tour was at Windsor Castle.
On this type of tour, trying to fit so many things in on a single day, generally there isn’t enough time at each stop.
We had to line up and wait for our tour guide to procure our entrance tickets and the line was already quite long when we joined it. However, it didn’t seem like a long wait before we had our tickets and were exploring the castle.
Windsor castle is actually a royal residence and has pretty much been so since it was first built in the 11th century. Queen Elizabeth II was not, however, in residence when we visisted.
Some of the sheer opulence amazed us – a rather obscene display of wealth but that seemed to be the norm of such sites that we visited, including the Tower of London where we saw the crown jewels.
We did our best to hit the highlights within the allotted time we were given at this site and easily found our way back to the waiting tour bus thanks to the clear instructions given by our tour guide.
The town of Bath, located in Somerset in Southwest England is a quaint town that maintains its look with strict building codes.
Most of the houses and buildings use the tan-colored stone and the entire town has the same “feel”.
Of course, Bath is most famous for the excavated Roman baths and that was the main reason we wanted to visit.
Some of the excavated areas are amazingly well preserved, but there are still many places where you can see the areas that have been less restored. The site itself is fairly large and we enjoyed wandering through the ruins for the short time we were there.
From time to time you’ll actually get a “Roman” explaining the history of the baths and we would pause to listen.
OH! MY! GOODNESS!
I was not prepared for my reaction to Stonehenge. Geoff, who had been there several times as a child, had always, jokingly, referred to it as “just a pile of rocks.”
As soon as I saw it I was totally overwhelmed and even began to cry. I believe it is the closest I have ever come to a truly spiritual experience. I have always been drawn to older structures, ancient history, etc. but this is the first time I have come face to face with something so awesome (and I do not mean the glib “awesome” we all use too often. I am using the true meaning of the word – that which creates awe.) and so ancient – 5,000 years old!
Show Some Respect!
Given how affected I was by Stonehenge, I’m afraid I did not handle well the people that were treating it like it was just another attraction. As we passed some teenagers, that were barely even looking at Stonehenge, I got annoyed at the fact that they were laughing, roughhousing and munching on crisps (potato chips). I’m afraid I lost it a little bit and grumbled, “For goodness sake, show some respect! This is 5,000 years old!” I doubt they even heard me, or would have cared if they did.
That’s so sad.
Not Nearly Enough Time
I didn’t want to leave. I was already planning a return, somewhere off in the future, and hoping to be there for one of the solstices when they actually allow a certain number of people INSIDE the stone circle.
There is also much, much more to the area than just Stonehenge, but we had no time to explore. We had to get back to the bus. But, not before spending some time in the museum at the entrance and, the inevitable, gift shop.
Last Ones Back
Geoff can attest to the fact that I’m always the one trying to make sure that, on any trip like this, we’re always back to the bus on time. I never want to be the last one. I never want to keep others waiting. I never want to risk missing the bus.
This time was different. Even when we realized we really needed to get back, and we picked up some speed in our step, we were still the last ones back to the tour bus.
Our tour guide had already headed back with everyone else’s self-guided tour electronic recorders and then had to take our’s back separately. (We had been admonished at the beginning of the tour not to return them ourselves but to bring them back to the bus for our tour guide to return.)
Back to London
From Stonehenge it was a straight shot back to London, which took a couple of hours.
With all of these types of tours, they’re always quite happy to pick you up at your hotel (but that didn’t apply in our case as we were staying too far outside of London), but dropping you off was another matter. They would identify a few spots and drop you at the one nearest your hotel.
We had actually picked up the tour bus right at Victoria Coach Station and thought that we would get dropped back there. Apparently that was not the case.
Dropped Off Near Victoria Station
The tour bus dropped us, with a few other people, “close” to Victoria Station. But, as we had already been into London a few times, we had no trouble finding our way back to the train station, which is exactly what we did.
Dinner In Longfield
It had been a long day and we finally got back to the Longfield Train Station just before 9:00pm. It would be a very late dinner for us tonight.
Our first stop was, of course, Monroe’s, which had become our favorite restaurant in Longfield. Unfortunately, they were just closing up, which wasn’t too surprising given the time. Fortunately, though, we did know that the local chippy was open until 10:00pm and it was just across the street.
Fish & Chips at the Local Chippy
We wandered across the street to Longfield Fishbar to treat ourselves to some fish & chips.
Even though Geoff noticed that Rock (what he knew as Rock Salmon) was on the menu, after the disappointment experienced in Chiselhurst, we both decided to order Halibut & Chips.
While waiting for our order, Geoff spoke with the proprietor of the shop and asked about the Rock Salmon (actually a type of eel). He had heard that it had all been fished out in the UK and, apparently, he was right. The Rock they served now actually came in the from USA. He only served it occasionally because he only offered fresh Rock, not frozen. It was only on the days that it was flown in – once a week or so – that he would have it available. He told Geoff that the Rock he had in Chiselhurst was likely the frozen kind and it just didn’t hold up well frozen.
Geoff also asked why it was now called simply Rock and not Rock Salmon as it was when he was a child. The proprietor explained that that was due to European Union regulations. You weren’t allowed to use the word “salmon” if it wasn’t actually salmon.
Lovely Halibut & Chips
Even though this shop had a couple of sets of tables and chairs outside, it was a bit cool for us and we decided to eat inside instead. There was no thought of us just taking our fish & chips back to the resort as they would have been cold by the time we got back. So, we opted to sit on a couple of chairs inside the shop, with the cardboard box packaged fish & chips on our laps and eat them there with the supplied plastic knives and forks.
Indoor Table and Chairs
The proprietor didn’t like to see us struggle with our meal on our laps, so he brought one of the tables inside for us. He then brought us some real, metal cutlery to use as well and that certainly made it easier to enjoy our lovely fish dinner. He also insisted on supplying us with a couple of bottles of water, on the house.
We also had a very interesting dinner conversation with him. Among many other subjects, we discussed the high cost of housing in the UK and encouraged him to check out Canada for his retirement.
It was the perfect ending to a perfect day.