UK 2013

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Report Number 4. Day 4. Sunday June 3, 2013. Leaving London. Stonehenge. The Mill Garden adjacent to Warwick Castle.

LEAVING LONDON

I call the girls' room at 6:00 as requested.  We pack up our luggage, and as Sharon finishes first, she goes downstairs for coffee.  I finish my packing and try to get some writing done.  The girls knock on our door, and we all go down to breakfast, enjoying our last morning at St. David's Hotel in London.

I paid our bill last night, but Alex is now at the front reception and I heap praise on his family's hotel.  So much better - infinitely better than the several bad reviews on TripAdvisor.  Some people can only complain.  The only down side, which I count as money saved, is the teeny room size.  We made maximum use of every square inch to unload our suitcases and lay out our (my) stuff while we were here.

We bring all our luggage down to the sidewalk in front of the hotel.  The pull-handle broke off my newest piece of luggage, so you have to pull it by the lift-handle - awkward.  So I use a connector strap, and tie our two huge red pieces together - the one in the front being the older one which still has its pull-handle.  And we're off.  It's only perhaps 1/8th of a mile or so to the Paddington Train Station.

It looks like a day like yesterday, lots of blue sky, more white clouds. The weather has been outstanding. I was mentally prepared for big doses of rain one day out of three. But nooooo. Heh heh.

Alex told us to take the Connect train, not the Express, and we'd cut our fair in half, for adding only ten minutes worth of stops along the way - a great bargain.  He explains how to work the ticket machines, so I get in line and when I finally reach the front, I read that American credit cards (no chips embedded, as is the case for the UK and European credit cards) cannot be processed, and I have to go to the main ticket office clear across the station.  Wait a minute!  Orrrrrr… I have lots of cash now, and I can use cash.  I got out of line before I had that thought though, so I get back in the line.  Grrrr. OK, finally back to the front.  But it rejects my attempts to put cash in.  I beg for help from others in line, but they can only get the same result.  Something wrong with the cash input.  So it's all the way across the station while the ladies wait here.  No surprises in this venture.  I come back with four tickets to the Heathrow Connect.

We go through the Enter ticket checkers and go down to Track 12.  The thing is, this is a workday, and there are perhaps two hundred rushing Londoners who live outside of London, who just arrived and they are hurrying along richt towards us.  We're salmon, swimming upstream.  They finally clear and we have an easy walk to our train.  Up we go, stowing our luggage in the proper rack, and sit down for the 25 minute ride.  Blink your eye and we're there.

We ask for directions to the Hertz counter, and make our way there.  No agents.  We ask the girl working an adjacent competitor, and she says she's NEVER seen them there.  But we finally see instructions to take the shuttle to the main Hertz office, which we do next.

A competent, efficient man checks us in, and suggests that we upgrade our vehicle based on our luggage and two-week rental period. Mohammad says our current selection is gas not diesel, and what we save in fuel will offset the additional cost.  I have him show us samples of both cars, and we agree with his recommendation.  He brings the car up (Ford Titanium.  He calls it an S-type. It says S-MAXX on the back. Manual transmission. Backup proximity beeper.).  It's comfortably roomy but not huge, and we pack in nicely.

I set up the GPS, and locate our Stonehenge destination.  And even though it's England, Voila! we're off.  Out of Heathrow, onto a circle road, onto the super highway, heading westward. Less than hour later, we pop over a hill and see Stonehenge in the distance.  FARRRRR OUT! 

STONEHENGE

We cue up in the regular-people line (not a member of their Stonehenge society, not in a big group), and wait our way to the ticket counter.  We have compared prices and have calculated that their now-familiar category of Family Plan is the best price.  They have lots of workers plying the waiting lines to get people to become annual plan holders or better yet, lifetime members.  Another option they are pushing is a country-wide plan, but we look at the 15 or so examples of places which would now be free, but none of them are on our list, so we decline.

A Rook, with the big white beak, and a Jackdaw, with the partially grey head help us wait.

With tickets in hand, we go through the entrance, through the under-highway tunnel, out the other side, jog right, jog left, up a ramp, and there it is.  There are perhaps 200-300 people scattered on the observation path that encircles the monument, but they are all spread out, and it is easy to get a photo with no one in the foreground.  We make our way around and get lots of great shots.

 

Mac doesn't have time to pose. She likes to shoot some black and white .

Mac shoots me shooting Sam shooting Stonehenge.

 

Jackdaws are all over the stones. A solitary figure stares across the land. Is she attached to Stonehege?.

There is a group, all with teal-coloured (In honor of the UK, I stick in the exra 'u') jackets on the opposite side of the stones cheering, and we see that they are making a human totem pole.  A massive group is in a circle supporting a base person with three MORE people standing one on top of another's shoulders.  Are you sitting down?  And there is a FIFTH person, a little girl I think, with a red crash helmet on, CLIMBING her way up the already quadruple-stacked "statue" to the top. 

 

A huge cheer goes up as she makes it. AWESOME.

We complete our circumnavigation.  It is, and a rarity apparently, a beautiful blue sky with puffy white clouds day.  The stones go into shadow and back out to sunlight.

Deciding to eat here, we make our choices. Sharon orders beef and potato soup, short on (zero) beef, she finds. mac gets American sausage but doesn't like it. I urge her to take it back and ask if they'll allow her a free substitute. She asks and they won't. She comes back with a different sandwich and carrot cake. Sammy liked her sandwich, but don't recall what it was. I got cream cheese and salmon. It is bland een with mayo. I ate most but left 40% I'd say. My momma didn't raise me to be a picky eater for nothin'.

As we get set to leave, the lady in the black robe is standing nearby and Mac compliments her on the color of her eyes. This sets the lady off, and the way she is talking, I'm pretty sure, she "belongs" here. She has Mac hold her staff, and goes on and on about the wonders of the staff. Finally Mac tells her we've gotta go, and go we do.

THE PIED WAGTAIL

The grandkids sit in the car, in the car park, while Sharon and I go use the rest rooms. After I finish, Sharon calls me and she has found a Pied Wagtail, carrying food behind a sign along the way to the Handicapped Facilities.

Sharon got these first three shots of the female, I presume, bringing a grub to its nest.

The parent has flown up to near the nest, right behind the blue-and-white-and-tan sign. I used my iPhone to take and then blow up thiis last photo, showing six babies.

You KNEW there were gonna be birds.

WARWICK

After an uneventful rest of the drive, we arrive at Park Cottage, our B&B for one night, in Warwick at about 4:00 pm.. It's on a main road, and proprietor, Fran, has told us it's only a five minute walk to the castle. Nobody's here right now but we understand the husband will be here in a few minutes. We walk across the street and check out a couple of pubs, then Stuart calls us from across the street. He's back. His wife Fran is picking up the kids from school and will be back soon. Because of the great weather and light, Stuart suggests we do a walk to what he calls the Mill Garden, then check it out. A walk after the long car ride sounds great, and we take off.

The girls are excited because a scene from Dr. Who, a television show, was shot in this very town, through the tower we're looking at, just on the left. They are TOTALLY NUTS over Dr. Who.

 

The walk-through tower and the entryway the girls somehow magically knew about.

 

I like how they don't call it a mail box, or a postal box, but rather POST OFFICE. The ladies, walking up the slight hill, headed for Mill Garden.

 

These hanging balls were a common feature in front of stores and homes. We understand that long ago, because large sheets of glass were so expensive, they used small pieces and lots of lead to make windows. As may be seen here.

 

The home, where Mill Garden started. The owner, center, gardening as we peruse the perimeter.

 

These two shots show that Mill Garden is directly adjacent to Warwick Castle. Sharon learns from the owner here that he first bought the house and its land, but there was a huge plot of land between him and Warwick Castle. He tried for years, maybe decades, and finally convinced the owners to sell him the middle ground. And he developed the garden on that property too.

 

Mac and Sharon proving that sunshine can happen in J. O. England (Jolly Old).

 

At this point, the girls took over the camera for the rest of the garden shots, some of which are shown below.

(Right) I deny all charges. It wasn't me. I was temporarily insane (I'm ok now, of course). I didn't know the territory. I'M INNOCENT!!!!

 

 

We finish up at beautiful Mill Garden, and walk back to Park Cottage. Fran is there, and we talk a bit about Warwick Castle (she can get us a discount), how to get there tomorrow and the history of this old, old house of theirs.

Here are the two beds in the girls' room.

 

We walk up the street to a restaurant called The Racehorse, in honor of the thoroughbred racetrack in Warwick and not too far away from here.

Here is what our dinners looked like after working them over a bit. Mine is at upper left. It is a steak-and-ale pie. Pies in the UK are meat inside of some kind of bread, not sugary fruit pies like we have in the U.S. I'm not sure what upper right dish is - maybe chicken in barbecue sauce. At lower left must be Mac's. It doesn't take her long to finish off a good piece of steak.

Well, that's it for the day. We're excited about seeing Warwick Castle tomorrow, and I'll be comparing it with my memory of 11 years ago, when Sharon and I were here during our six week Motorhome Birding trip all over the UK.


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