24 October 2012

to Bath with a friend

Squeezed in a weekend trip with my friend, Maree, last weekend.  Waited until she got to London just before midday on Saturday and we bused to Paddington station.  London has upgrades going on and parts of lines are closed every weekend.  It's never been that big of a deal but the last few weekends my local tube station has been closed and it's been more frustrating.  But that's London life for you.  So at Paddington we purchased tickets outta here.

Lack of sleep for both of us meant a snoozy train ride.  An hour and a half or so to pep us up for an afternoon in Bath.  It's such a pretty city.  Streets lined with ancient buildings.  If it weren't for the distraction of the modern day vehicles all over the roads you could easily picture life here in the 1700s or so.  We checked into our hostel and set out to roam the town.  We visited the circle which I guess may have been quite a sight in its early days but was nothing special really for today's various city setups.  We stopped by the Jane Austen House and paid for a tour.  Tour...a talk which was interesting enough where I discovered she only spent five years in Bath and hated it, followed by a walk around a small downstairs area that had a few things set up from that era, mostly clothes.  Wouldn't recommend paying for it if you're planning to visit Bath.

We continued wandering down, via some shopping, to the Abbey and the Roman Baths.  We didn't bother paying to go in.  Maybe if we had more time and our bathers...  We topped up our tummies with an icecream each and just roamed the streets.  It was such a lovely time of year to be there.  Not only were the buildings wonderfully old and full of character but the trees all about were scattered with the colours of autumn.  We made our way back to a restaurant we'd seen earlier and went in for tea.  The food was pretty good but I thought mine could have been a little more interesting or a little more for what I paid.  I really liked the atmosphere of the place, except perhaps the noisy hens party in the bar area.  Then us two party animals hit the night with an early bedtime.  

Refreshed by sleep we gathered ourselves together for the main event of the trip.  We ducked into the just opened breakfast room and slapped a take-away breaky into our hands and headed off downtown.  When our the Mad Max minibus pulled up, we climbed aboard and set out for some of the most famous rocks in the world.  I wasn't sure if I'd pay to "go in" but I did in the end.  You follow a path around the rocks that is roped off so you can't get too close and you can listen to the audio guide as you go.  I did start doing this, the listening part, but it got too boring to pay attention to the voices yabber about different speculations about how the stones may have gotten here and why.  Stonehenge is a fascinating set up of rocks though.  Intriguing.  Not much to do there obviously but look and take snapshots.  Which I did.  It's such an icon I didn't want to leave England without saying I've been there.

 When it was time to leave, we moved on through the Wiltshire countryside and passed a few "white horses" along the route.  These white horses are formed by scrapping away the grass and topsoil to reveal the white chalk beneath in a specific shape.  One of these horses, not one we saw, is three thousand years old.  Most aren't near that old though.  On we went to Avebury.  Avebury has a massive stone circle surrounding the small village.  So big it's a little hard to see the circle.  But you can see a row of stones in a curved line at any one time.  It has one huge outer ring and two small inner ones and apparently Stonehenge would fit inside one of the inner ones of Avebury.  These rocks are "a la natural" unlike Stonehenge.  We roamed the paddocks with the sheep for a while and ducked into the shop for warmth and chocolate.

 Further down the road we stopped in Lacock for lunch.  Maree and I ate Sunday roasts that were very satisfying accompanied by a lovely american couple also on our tour.  Lacock is a small village owned entirely by the National Trust and is well known for it's unspoilt vintage look.  It has been used for many a movie sets particularly period dramas.  But the most well known in my experience is the brief snapshots used in the Harry Potter films.  The guide showed us the house that was used as Harry's parents' house.

After Lacock we made our final stop in Castle Combe.  It's another dated little village but unlike Lacock, where the houses are rented due to the National Trust owning them, Castle Combe is paid for by individuals wealthy enough to own some property there.  It's another pretty place though and also sees some movie action such as in Stardust and Warhorse.  These building are so full of character.  In both places I admired the slapped together look of houses with wonky walls and what appears to my eye as dodgy craftmanship and other oddities like the mix of materials used.  This, with the knowledge that they've been standing longer than Australia has been civilised, makes such buildings a fascinating sight.

From Castle Combe we rolled straight back to Bath and Maree and I jumped aboard the first train we could, with two minutes to spare.  We thought we might have to stand the whole way back to London as the carriages seemed to be teeming with reserved seats.  Thankfully we managed to make our way to the unreserved carriages while the train jostled along and find a couple of vacant seats for ourselves.  I left Maree at Paddington to train on while I bused home glad to tick another place off my list and to have done it with company as I'd hoped to.

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