Wednesday, September 09, 2009

London, Day 6: Road trip

Today we awoke early and picked up our rental car for an exciting drive through the county with our chauffeur, Rob!

Rob drove our Nissan Note with great skill, even through his initial trial by fire: London morning rush hour...on the wrong side of the a manual transmission...with the stick shift on the left side of the car also.

Is that elation on Rob's face, or terror, or maybe a little insanity? Who knows!

Rob did a fantastic job weaving through all the countless roundabouts and such, as he was aided by Dave, a very good navigator. The two managed to get us safely to all sights and back again, even with such helpful traffic signs as these:

WTF?! I do not think that you can grasp the meaning of these signs in the three seconds it takes you to pass them. We did enjoy British signs, including "Free recovery, await rescue" and "Sheep crossing." Amazing.

Our first stop was Stonehenge, which is pretty famous and needs little introduction.

We didn't pay to get in, because we were tight on budget and time. However, we were able to get some perfectly lovely pictures from the road. It is a really cool monument, and as Dave explained to us beforehand, it really is in the middle of nowhere.

Of course, Stonehenge is hardly alone - it has many sheep to keep it company! Diane and I really enjoyed the sheep.

Rob continued to drive admirably through the countryside, and we saw the first American-made vehicle of the trip:

Next destination was Avebury Stone Circle, our second UNESCO World Heritage Site of the day. (The third if you count this huge druid mound we passed on the way to Avebury.)

Avebury has a stone circle similar to the one at Stonehenge, and even though it is not as well known or neatly put together as Stonehenge, I think it's superior for several reasons.
  1. It is free.
  2. You can walk among the stones, even touch them.
  3. The stone circle is much, much larger, making a circle around a whole town.
  4. The stones are larger, though much less polished.
Walking around Avebury was really cool. We found a spot with no sheep poop and sat down for a delicious lunch of fruit, cheese, and crackers.

I walked up to a group of sheep and tried to make friends, but they were not thrilled.

Next stop was the Cotswolds, and I think I fell asleep on the way there. I guess Rob's driving was pretty smooth! (When you are driving in England, no news is good news.)

The Cotswolds are a series of very quaint little towns, and we visited a few of them. The prettiest was Bourton-on-the-Water, which had a very picturesque little river flowing through the town.

Picking up on what was becoming the theme of the day - sheep - I tried to find some natural wool for sale but was unsuccessful. However, we did have a lovely tea with scones at a local restaurant.

On our way home, we also stopped at Stow-on-the-Wold, another cute little town. This is where I found some Walkers Crisps for my law school friend Tiffany, and also where I almost lost my guidebook buying said crisps. Dave and Rob also visited an antique shop whose least expensive item was a 1,000-pound desk! Yikes...

Then we sped back to London for a quick dinner at McDonald's (come on, we had to try it) and a reservation at Absolut Ice Bar in Mayfair, which is a bar run by Absolut Vodka, stocked with Absolut vodka, and kept at about 20 degrees Fahrenheit. They gave us fun robes and gloves so we didn't die of exposure during our 45-minute session.

The ice bar was really cool - the entire thing was made of ice, including the bar, the walls, the chairs, the tables, and even your glass. It made for a really deliciously cold drink, and you could even play hockey with it afterward. (Rob dropped his on purpose and broke it in half - awesome.)

After a little while in the ice bar, we were ready to go; in fact, Diane hadn't been able to feel her fingers since several minutes in, so we decided to head out a few minutes early and go back to our hotel. We went up to the rooftop terrace to look out onto the city, then to bed to rest up for our last full day in London!

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