Snap Shots Christmas 1999 in London England — Part 2
I finished up Part 1 of Christmas in London talking about playing Yahtzee and how it became a nightly family ritual. I need to provide some further explanation. We actually played Triple Yahtzee, and it was extremely competitive, and we didn’t just play a single game each night, we could and did play anywhere from 3 to 9 games an evening. We would gloat when we got a Yahtzee, we would sigh when we were forced to take a zero, and we would giggle with glee when our opponents took a zero. We watched each other’s scores as the game progressed and would make teasing comments. But we also helped each other make game choices. We were just short of blood thirsty in our game and gamesmanship. And we had a blast. Even today when the kids come to visit we will break out the Yahtzee. And we are slowly teaching Cari how to play.
Steph had scheduled the day trip for the 1st full day we were in England. When she gave the tour company instructions there were only 2 provisions that she made. One we had to visit Bath England, and the other Stonehenge. We were assured by the tour contractor that meeting these requirements would not be an issue. We were picked up in front of our hotel promptly at 8am. Our tour guide/driver was a very chatty lady (I don’t remember her name), that must have been part Italian because she spoke with her hands, and was extremely polite in that when she was speaking to you she looked directly at you, which is all well and good when you’re the only car on the road, but not so good when you’re in downtown London during the morning rush hour. I was sitting in front, and almost immediately stopped talking in hopes that she would keep her eyes on the road, but as soon as I shut up, Steph and Allison had a million questions, so our driver/tour guide was constantly looking into the back seat rather than the road. I will kid you not, I damn near put my foot in the engine trying my imaginary break!!! LOL LOL I never did get used to that lady’s driving, and I am sure I aged a dozen years that day. We spent the next 10 hours with this lady, the tour covered almost 300 miles, with several little stops along the way. And she did get us to Bath and Stonehenge. While the lady scared the crap out of me, she was a very good tour guide, she had a wealth of information, and made it a great day.
The reason Bath was on the agenda is because Jane Austen was raised there and authored her books from her home in Bath. I suspect you’re wondering how I even know this. Well my Daughter was an English Major, and she loved Jane Austen. Allison has read all of her books numerous times, and teaches them in her HS English class. In addition she will never miss an opportunity to watch Pride and Prejudice or Sense and Sensibilityand can complete the dialog of either movie when it is being played. Allison also subjects Cari to this torture whenever these movies are on, and Cari is getting pretty good with the dialog as well. That is why Bath was on the agenda. But beyond Jane Austen, Bath was an extremely wonderist town, from the Roman baths, Beckford’s Tower, Bath Abbey (est. 1449), The Austen Home and Museum and Pulteney Bridge were some of the sights we took in during our visit to Bath. Allison was also fortunate because a year later we sent her to Bath to study English for a semester, where she also majored in beer drinking and pub crawling. That’s a story I don’t have any of the sordid details, nor do I want any details.
The next stop of any significance was The Old Bell Inn, Warminster UK, is a tavern/pub/lodge which opened in the 1400’s and has never closed its’ doors (though a remodel wouldn’t have hurt). We had an “authentic” pub lunch, Steph remembers this meal being so so, kind of like what you have if you went to a Mid-Evil Times show. I remember the meal sucking, and leaving hungry. LOL LOL, I also remember this being the only time I have ever been in a restaurant where I had to duck as I walked to the table. The beams in the ceiling really really hurt when you bang your forehead on them (which got a major chuckle from the other guests). Grinning, we were not the only tourist having lunch there that day.
From there it was on to Stonehenge, please remember this has been a wet, rainy, crappy (but normal) English day, there had been a chill in the air all day, and lucky for us it seemed that whenever we got out of the car (for whatever reason) the drizzle stopped. From the Old Bell Inn, to Stonehenge was only a 35 or so minute trip.
By the time we arrived at Stonehenge the sun was getting closer to the horizon, and the rain which had been an annoying PIA all day, was now coming down in close to buckets. The visitor center for Stonehenge is about 200 yards away from the actual site. We were told that until recently (within the last few months) visitors were actually allowed to walk among the ruins, but to many tourists touched things they weren’t supposed to, so by the time we visited, the ruins were a restricted area. You could get within about 20 feet of the outer ring, but not inside the ring at all, but still it was Stonehenge, and it was breath-taking. Personally I felt the age in my bones, thoughts crowded my mine, I was inspired and wonderment at the same time. We walked the site in a driving rain for close to 30 minutes. I took 15 or 20 pictures on my instamatic camera, knowing damn well that I wouldn’t get a good picture. But I was wrong, I had 15 amazing pictures of Stonehenge, the gray background of the rain filled clouds only added to the mystic of the site. And looking at the pictures, you couldn’t even tell it was raining at all. My instamatic took amazing pictures in which I feel I captured Stonehenge. Both Steph and Allison had their nice 35mm cameras but, some of mine out did theirs by a long shot. (But we won’t mention that to them). Thoughts kept jumping in my head, and my imagination ran wild. We stayed until the site was closed. Then visited the Visitor Center once again, viewing reconstructions of the site, a history as best they could describe, and thoughts via display on how the scientists felt the construction process proceeded. We ended up purchasing a poster of Stonehenge which we had professionally mounted and framed and to this day it hangs proudly in our den.
From Stonehenge we proceeded back to the hotel. The ride was quiet, Allison and Steph napped in the back seat, and I kept trying to apply my break. The weather was still quite nasty, the rain was coming down in buckets, and I surely didn’t want to engage the driver in conversation considering the conditions. The driver/tour guide had done a wonderful job. We had a great day, and I saw parts of London and England that I never saw during my 1st visit to London 20 some years earlier.
We arrived at the hotel around 4:30/5:00 pm, exhausted and wet to the bone. We were greeted warmly by the hotel staff which engaged us in conversation (about our day) before we retired to our room. We cleaned up, and headed to the hotel restaurant, only to find it closed. We were advised that it would remain closed until after Christmas, but room service would be available to us, and there would be no limitations on what we could order. We thanked the manager, and decided we were going to try that Italian restaurant we had seen close to the hotel the day before. It was open, we had a great dinner, and were told it would only be closed on Christmas Day. We also found out it was much more than an Italian restaurant, that they served Chinese, as well as, a wide assortment of “United States” dishes, and foods from all over the world. We laughed among ourselves knowing that we might be having several meals at this place over the next 4 days.
Back at the hotel after dinner we engaged in the nightly ritual of Yahtzee, and watching British game shows (which btw are so much more difficult than any game show I have seen in the US). This pretty much concludes part 2 of Christmas in London. Don’t worry folks, I will get to the fart story in part 3.
As always your thoughts and comments are welcome. I truly thank you for indulging me as I ramble thru my past. Please take care and have a wonderful day. — Bill