July 27th, 2009

Weird Al -- with me

Trip Journal: Day 1

This is taken directly from the journal I wrote while traveling.

July 3\4th:

The flight over was surprisingly smooth. There was, of course, bits of the flight with bad turbulance but I really wasn't fazed. The flight route took us over Vegas but we flew over an area of desert that looked like Sedona. I knew we were too far north for it to be Sedona though. Now that I think of it, we might have flown over the Valley of Fire right near Vegas. We then headed NE over Colorado and then headed north to Canada. By then it was too dark to see anything. I spent the time watching Coraline and Marley & Me, both were outstanding. The dinner was wonderful! Beef in a stew served with garlic, mashed potatoes, and cooked carrots. The beef and potatoes were so delicios. It also came with cheese & crackers, bread, and a vanilla cake with raspberry sauce, yum. I had some white wine with it, and then some orange juice.
A few hours later the sky lightened and I was able to see Greenland, so cool! It was covered with snow (obviously) and I also saw some rivers and possibly some glaciers. Hours later I looked out and saw patched of green through the clouds; it was Ireland! Sadly, that was the last of the Emerald Isle I saw because of the cloud cover. A while later I saw farmland but, that too, was mostly obscured by clouds. We started descending and broke through the clouds over London. I spotted the Thames River and looked up and down it's banks for things I recognize since I knew many London landmarks are on and near the Thames. My searching paid off, I spotted the London Eye! Well, with that i nmy sights I knew it would be only seconds before I found the Parliament Building and Big Ben. Up until that point I was mostly mellow about the trip but seeing Big Ben got me really excited!
We then landed and I made my way to customs, such a long walk from the gate, and no AC because of construction! Blah! Once there, the queue for customs went smoothly. I was disgruntled that she put the UK stamp over my Yukon stamp, now both are hard to see, lame! I then grabbed my bag and got a taxi. I took one of the famous black taxis, very roomy! It was strange seeing the driver on the right and driving on the other side of the road. It was so expensive, about 55gbp from Heathrow to my hotel! They charge by the minute, not miles...or kilometers. Once we got into central London the traffic picked up, it was a like a classy NYC. When he dropped me off he said a gay pride parade was the cause of the heavy traffic. He then said he thought there was nothing to be proud about. Whatever, I wasn't about to get in a fight with a taxi driver.
My room wasn't ready so I headed outside to watch the gay pride parade near Buckingham Palace. After getting back to the hotel I went up to my room to put my stuff away and freshen up. After resting for a bit I walked over to the Thames, it's just minutes away! I just stood there for awhile and enjoyed the scenery. By this time I was hungry so I walked to the closest pub and had fish & chips and a coke. America can keep it's coke, the UK has far superior coke! I then returned to the hotel for the rest of the night. Tomorrow is Stonehenge!
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Weird Al -- with me

trip journal and *photos*!

July 5-Bath, Lacock, Stonehenge

The day started out at a reasonable hour, I got up at 8ish. By this time I don't think I'm 100% on UK time. I went down to eat breakfast and afterwards I start walking to the hotel where my tour starts. It's only 0.3 mlies, why take a taxi for that? I get there after an enjoyable 15 minute walk, I'm about 1 1\2 hours early (I'm paranoid about not getting to places on time so I always give myself time). After verifying this is the correct hotel I go to the Victoria Station right next door. I grab an iced coffee from a Costa Coffee, it appears to be a British chain. It was a bit strong but that's what sugar is for. I then head to a nearby park where I read for a hour. When it starts to drizzle I pack it up and head back to the hotel where I see a small group waiting. After waiting about 15 minutes with the others the coach arrives and we board, my knees were squished! It could've been worse, I've been in coaches and cars there were more cramped. As we drove through London our guide told us about what we were seeing. We passed Margaret Thatcher's flat. A policeman was outside and we learned that this means that she was in residence at the time. We also passed a few other sights; Harrods and Wimbleton Stadium in the distance. We drove through some lovely villages and went through the Cotswalds (means "rolling hills sheep"). We also saw where Jane Seymore used to live.
After two hours we finally got to Bath, what a beautiful town! The pink stone buildings and ancient Roman arctitecture left me breahtless. We were led immediatly to the Roman Baths. WOW! I inew the Romans were masters of engineering but you don't truly get the scale of what they accomplished until you see it with your own eyes. They took advantage of the natural hot springs and made...baths! There were statues lining the walkways and lovely mosaics. There are steps leading down through the ancient walkways leading to the water. Wow, just..wow. It was mild and breezy topside but just awful once you're in the interior. Many degrees hotter and much more humid! I can't be surprised though, it is next to hot springs! The art adoring the walls me it worth it though, there was a religious alter for the Godess Minerva. I finally went to the actual baths, the waters were very green. It was untreated so they warned us not to touch it, you don't have to tell me! There was a man dressed up in a Roman priest's robes, he started praying to the Gods, thanking them for the waters and begging to watch over it's visitors (us). A lady collapsed next to the water. I'm not sure if it was from the heat of the interior or if she slipped on the slibbery cobblestones. They had to call the paramedics, I hope she's ok.
After leaving the baths I immediatly head to a small cafe and got some iced tea, boy did I need it! The interior of those baths left me feeling like I went through a car wash and then the suana. Afterward I walked around and just enjoyed the beauty. I came upon a crowd gathered around a statue, I was wondering what was so special about it when it moved! It was a man, all in black, including black body paint. He also had trained pigeons that were landing on his arms and legs. It was really bizarre and also fun! He must have been so hot with all that black rubber clothes on!
After we boarded the coach we headed to Lacock, about 30 minutes away. We passed through more villages on the way, this time in Wiltshire. We got to Lacock, was a great little town! Now this is a real town, you can walk the entire thing in ten minutes! Not including the Abbey of course, but we didn't go there (I'm going there on the HP trip). This little village is like a trip back in time, if you ignore the cars that is. It's owned by the National Trust and they take great care to keep it looking like it's a village lost in time. The satelitte aerials are hidden by the chimneys! The tour guide took us on a walking tour, she pointed out a very old barn, built in the 14th century. She also mentioned the filming history of Lacock, from Pride & Prejudice to the newest Potter movie! The scene where they go to Slughorn's was filmed in Lacock and she pointed out Slughorn's house (LJ imput: I found out later the house she pointed out is next to the house they actually used. I still saw it though!). Afterward we ate dinner at the George Inn, a pub dating to the 1300s! I ordered a beef ale, chocolate truffle, and some lovely British coke. It was very filling and really good!
After saying goodbye to Lacock we headed for the Salisbury Plains and the highlight of the tour; Stonehenge! The tour guide talked about the Henge and asked me why I thought the Henge was built. She probably called on me because I kept nodding, she mentioned stuff I already knew. I said that there were many theories but the most popular one is that it was a religious sight for the Solstice. She agreed and talked some more about it. We came over a hill and...there it was. I distinctly remember gasping out loud. After getting out of the coach she pointed out the buriel mounds in the nearby distance. We took the path to the stones and there it was. We were there a hour and we split up into two groups. The first group went into the stones while the rest of us walked the perimeter. That was perfectly fine with me, I alked around and took pictures while enjoying the view. I chatted with some people I had become friendly with over the course of the day. After 30 minutes we were allowed past the rop and into the stones! Wow. I felt something when I walked amongst the stones, it felt like ancient magic. I also could swear that I felt a spark when I touched one of them for the first time. I took so many photos of the stones, including some lovely sunset photos and photos with me in them. I got some nice photos with the sun shining through one of the arches. I had to angle myself since it wasn't the Summer Solstice where the sun is directly lined up with Stonehenge. I got upset seeing graffitti on the stones, the marks of selfish people wanting to ruin an ancient monument for their own stupid reasons. It broke my heart seeing it but I didn't let it ruin my experience. I've waited years to experience Stonehenge and I finally had my chance. I sat amongst the stones and just soaked it in.
Sadly we had to leave, I didn't want to. After saying goodbye to Stonehenge we made our way back to London. What was supposed to be a two hour trip took nearly three due to traffic. Traffic at 10pm! It was because of a concert ending in Hyde Park. We eventually got to the drop-off points and I said goodbye to everybody. I hailed a taxi, I could've walked but I was too tired by that point and I really needed to shower. The taxi driver was great, he called me 'luv' when I tipped him, hehe! After getting back to the hotel I showered and requested a wake-up call for 5am. I probably fell asleep by 2am.
Tomorrow is Paris!

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This really didn't touch the surface of all the photos I took of July 5th. I haven't even uploaded all the photos to my computer yet! I might share some more later on. In the meantime, if you want to see what I have uploaded you can see them at my photobucket.

PS-I so need to make icons so I have my very own Stonehenge icons :D