Chapter Eight: Stonehenge To Bath

EngDay8K #10Chapter Eight:  Stonehenge To Bath

Day Nine – Breakfast Is Served, Rock On, A Trip To See King Arthur, All’s Wells That Ends Wells, Cat’s Meow, The Out-Of-Towners, A Hill of a B&B, We’re Just Wild About Harry, Lawful Assembly and Dinner At Hall & Oates

We had left a note with Steve (our Cathedral View b&b host) the previous evening that we would be down for breakfast about 8 a.m. Being a group that is never late for a meal, we were greeted by Steve’s wife, Wenda, at the appointed hour.  Steve was busily cooking away in the kitchen.

The Cathedral View rooms were ok, but feeling a little worn. Steve and Wenda said they were going to renovate it this winter, which will make this an even better base in Salisbury.

P1000993As far as location and hosts, I would think Cathedral View is tough to beat, especially since it was so near the cathedral (hence the name).  Wenda bakes the cookies, Steve mans the breakfast duties and, in a unique alliance, Steve makes homemade jams with blackberries that are picked by Wenda’s ex-husband. 

They asked whether we were going to see the Magna Carta before we left town, but we said, “You’ve seen one; you’ve seen them all.” Steve reiterated that this was the best Magna Carta, but we had a date with some rocks.

After a good breakfast of eggs and pancakes, we bid Steve and Wenda “cheerio,” and it was off to see The Old Stones (the ones without Mick Jagger).

P1010064Located not far from Salisbury is a unique place that evokes many varied responses when asked whether it is a worthwhile detour to visit.

P1010077Before I left, I talked to more than one person who thought Stonehenge was awful and a complete waste of time to visit.

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Others loved it and called it “mystical.”   Being both loved and hated, I surmised Stonehenge is the Oliver Cromwell of attractions.

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We arrived about 10 a.m., barely beating the tourist bus parade that arrives during that hour.   I had purchased tickets online (£8).  It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and after we got our UWH card stamped, we were on our way (ok, they don’t really have UNESCO World Heritage Cards, but they should).

EngDay8K #06The headsets tell the story of Stonehenge in a rather overly dramatic fashion, but whether it was Druids or visitors from outer space, most of us thought the big stones were a worthwhile visit. Tracy was a little harder to impress, which is why I didn’t propose to her for a few years after meeting her.

P1010066It is believed that two or three, large portal stones were set up just inside the north eastern entrance.  Only the Slaughter Stone remains today.

P1010078We walked around Stonehenge for the better part of an hour, which we all thought more than sufficed.  When we reached the parking area, it was completely full and the tour buses stretched from their to eternity.

Back in the car, Kim easily glided us with no near mishaps, and in about one hour we arrived in Glastonbury. On the way into town we passed the Glastonbury Tor, supposedly the place where King Arthur was taken (presumably not on a round table) after being killed.

P1010097Not in the mood for a long hike (and more importantly, because we missed the road to the Tor and didn’t want to turn around), we decided to visit the other major sight in town.

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The Glastonbury Abbey (£6) was a serene scene, and we all enjoyed our visit here.

EngDay8K #04We came upon the “grave” of King Arthur (so much for Camelot) that would be scoffed at by a bar patron we would meet later in Bath.

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As the trip note-taker, Tracy, noted, “These were really lovely ruins.”  We walked around the abbey grounds enjoying the serenity while taking photos for about 45 minutes.

EngDay8K #29 We wandered into an apple orchard where we tried to get artsy.

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Besides Sir Arthur, there were other fairy-like and mystical stories about the abbey that was eventually destroyed thanks to Henry VIII, who also stole their silver, gold and anything else he could get his paws on. The last abbot at the abbey was hanged, drawn and quartered at the Glastonbury Tor.

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We decided to bypass lunch in the town of Glastonbury because it looked to us that these eateries catered mainly to the tourist trade.  The restaurants we passed had menus that did not pique our interest.  Fortunately, the town of Wells was located (and I’m sure it still is) very near to Glastonbury. It took us a while to find a parking place, but we found a grocery store a short walk from our next destination that had a parking lot where we could leave the rental mobile for a couple of hours.

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Walking through the cute town of Wells, we found a terrific spot for lunch located very near to that next stop…the Wells Cathedral, but first Mary and Tracy had to scout out the colorful local flower shop.

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The Crown At Wells is both a restaurant and a hotel, and we were told that William Penn once preached there.  That was all fine, but we just needed to eat.

P1010108It looked like we could have stood at the bar for lunch, but as Churchill once said, “Never stand up when you can sit down.”  We found an open table and sat down.  Lunch was really good, and they had the best French fries (chips) that we had tasted yet in England.

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Nearby was the beautiful Wells Cathedral (free admission, but a £3 charge for photography).  The cathedral is very well maintained, and we were happy to pay the few quids to photograph it.

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It was the first English cathedral to be built in the Early English Gothic style, with pointed arches throughout, and was dedicated in 1239.  The famed Scissor Arches (above) in the nave were added in the 1300s.

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I’m so glad I listened to people before I left who said not to miss this beautiful cathedral.

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We stopped by to see the tomb effigy of Thomas Bekynton’s corpse. Bekynton was Chancellor of England and Bishop of Bath and Wells in the mid 1400s.

EngDay8K #17Before we left, we stopped in the gift shop to see if they had a Wells shot glass for a friend of mine with the same name.  When I couldn’t find one, Tracy asked, “Why would a cathedral have shot glasses?”   Hmm, I thought everyone drank.

P1010132As we departed the store we ran into Louis resting comfortably in his basket. Louis is the Cathedral Cat, and we could tell this tabby boy is well pampered (as all cats should be). Lou even has a book and note cards for sale in the gift shop.  Obviously, he is one cool cat!

P1050793In another hour we reached Bath (another World Heritage site), and as we traveled through town toward our next b&b, for the first time, our GPS lady seemed a little out of sorts.  We circled Bath like an airliner waiting to land, but eventually we found our lodging, Hill House. It was here where Kim had his only blip on his driving radar.

The directions from Hill House (perfect directions, as it turned out) told us to park outside the b&b, where we could unload the luggage. Kim, however, decided the smallish space was not safe (cars coming from an odd direction can do that to a person), so we took off and circled the town again (it was kind of like The Out-Of-Towners in a car instead of a plane).

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Eventually our pilot (aka Kim) had us near Hill House again, but he would not park there. Kim parked a block away, and I ran down to Hill House.   Our host, Harry, scurried up to our car, told Kim to come back and park in the original spot next to the b&b. We unloaded quickly, and Harry jumped in the car with Kim to score him a parking space.

Inside Hill House, Harry escorted us to the large, lovely dining room where we were offered cake and tea or coffee. Harry gave us the lay of the land (maps, walks, tours, etc.) and told us that this bed and breakfast was formerly a wine merchant’s home. Hill House really was beautiful and deserves its high ratings on line.

P1010136Harry was great, told us about the next morning’s breakfast (Hill House, in our opinion, had the best breakfasts of the trip) and took us upstairs to our room.  We took the attic room that was spacious with a large, modern bathroom and a great view.

There happened to be a rugby match in town (foreshadowing alert) this weekend, so Harry told us the restaurants were all pretty full (he called one that he recommended and was informed they were full, but he gave us a suggestion to just show up and they might be able to squeeze us in).  He also said to be sure to stop by the Assembly Pub on the way for a beer.

P1010138Hill House is not named “Hill” for no reason. It is located on a pretty steep hill that leads down to the center of Bath.  Hill House is convenient to everything, and you can walk off whatever you have for dinner on the way back as you come back up the hill. The hill was nature’s own ThighMaster.

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At The Assembly Pub, I enjoyed the local Bath ale called Bellringer.  It wasn’t free, although their clever sign might get some extra patrons to walk inside.

P1010140We were talking about King Arthur and Glastonbury Abbey when a guy next to us laughed and said not to believe everything you read.  Oh well.  We also liked their “Soup Of The Day.”

EngDay8K #02Now, it was time for dinner, so we headed toward the restaurant Harry had suggested.  Mary, who I swear had only downed one beer, asked us, “Do you know where Hall & Oates is located?”  We did not, however Hall & Woodhouse (which Harry recommended), on the other hand, was just down the street.

P1010145The restaurant was packed as we had been told, but after I chatted up the bouncer (you never know when you might need help) who we learned was coming to Los Angeles to box and asked for tips on where to stay, he said we might be able to get us in for dinner. He talked to the greeter who told us to hang on for about 15 minutes and he would see what he could do.

While we waited for our table, Tracy and I had our first martini of the trip. Once we saw the bill (£15 each), we decided it would also be our last martini of the trip. The upstairs dining room at Hall & Oates (oops, Woodhouse) was beautiful and the rooftop was nice, too, but we were only afforded a ground floor table, which we gratefully took.   P1010143For dinner, everything from the fish & chips (Kim) to Pork Loin (Mary) and Steak & Ale Pie (Tracy and me) were great. Our United Nations of servers at British restaurants continued with our waitress, who hailed from Ontario, Quebec, Canada.  Amazing, eh? P1010142It didn’t matter that we might have eaten too much, because the steep walk up that half-mile hill shed any extra caloric intake. Since our legs were already numb, we walked on a little further to get a nice view of Bath, and then headed back to Hill House for a very pleasant night’s sleep before what would become a crazy day in Bath.

It would start out innocently enough, but turned rather odd as the hours progressed. The day’s events would include Kim & Mary becoming an integral part of a huge, local sporting event, and a comedy of errors that evoked the memory of poor Uncle Billy from It’s A Wonderful Life. Oh yeah, those heart attack symptoms were a little scary, too.

Next: Day Ten – Eggscellent Breakfast, Showers In Bath, We’re Walking Here, Circus But No Tent, Ponte Vecchio: British Style, Hat Trick, Lunch In A Department Store, Kim & Mary Have A Ball, Father Of The Bride, She Doesn’t Look So Bad, Tom Pulls An Uncle Billy, Fool On The Hill, Kim & Mary’s Martini Dinner and I Don’t Think It’s Really A Heart Attack

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