Wednesday, May 14, 2014

London: Day 7 an 8

My iPad's charger called it quits yesterday, so I had to wait to buy a new one before I could post about yesterday and today. Okay, here we go.

Day 7- Tour Day 
Today was a day dedicated to a tour through Lacock, Bath, and a private viewing of Stonehenge's inner circles! I could not imagine being in England without stopping by Stonehenge, so I scheduled a tour that led you right inside.
But first Lacock. 
The countryside coming out of London is gorgeous. Rolling hills, dewy green grass, flowers. 
The drive to Lacock was about two hours long, but it went by very quickly because of the great views.
There were lots of sheep and lots cattle around. We even saw a pig farm.
The day was beautiful, too, apart from one small afternoon shower.
Lacock is a tiny town that has remained intact for 500 years, so you see lots of Tudor buildings around, and stone streets.

We didn't have a very long stay there, about an hour. But it was a lovely little spot. 

I grabbed a cup of coffee there and a Cornish pasty to eat on the road, since there was no official lunch time scheduled. 
That's the town church. We didn't have time to go in, but it has that great Gothic charm.
This is supposed to be the home where Harry Potter was born. The guide pointed it out to us. He also told us that the man who lives there now has a dog named Harry and that the next door neighbor is a pottery artisan. So there you go, Harry Potter. 

Our next stop was Bath, to see the old Roman baths that give the city its name. It was about 45 minutes from Lacock.
The guide, Tony, led us around this square and toward the baths.
This is Bath's abbey. 
There were a lot of school groups waiting to go in, too. They were rowdy and as annoying as you can imagine. 
And here we go, into the Roman baths!

The first thing they told us was that the water was filthy so please not to touch it. And what did people do, touch it. 
This is from the other side, facing the abbey. 
Beautiful. To think that this was all buried up to a few centuries ago.
Then came the bath's museum, with its history and closeups of its ancient carvings. 
Most of them were out of glass cases, so we could get as close as we wanted, as long as we didn't touch anything. 
Part of the original foundations. 
That's where the excess water goes. You can't see it in the picture, but there water was steaming. 
The main bath from the ground floor. I was standing on the very first step.
This path over some foundation stones led to a smaller bath, that used to be a cool bath, in contrast to the main hot bath. The smell in this area was really strong. Like iron and sewage. 
That was where the cool bath used to be.
Right after this, the museum ended with a faucet from which you could try some of the special healing waters that have made this place so famous throughout the ages. I grabbed a paper cup and filled with with the hot water. It tasted a lot like iron. A bit like tasting blood.
Those are the properties the water is supposed to have, though, so strange taste or not it's obviously a good idea to drink it. 
Once we were doe at the baths, we had time to explore on our own. The city was gorgeous. 
Lots of cute stores with vintage items and antiques.

We spent two hours in Bath, where it rained for a bit after we got out of the baths, and then we got back on our bus and made our way toward our dinner area near Stonehenge. The views there could not have been prettier.
Apart from the moors, this is probably what you think of when you think of the Engish countryside. 
Again, lots of sheep and cattle around. 
The image is blurry because I took it while we were driving, but those are flowers used to make canola oil.

We stopped to eat at a small little restaurant, where they already had our orders ready to go, since we had to be at Stonehenge at 6:30 exactly. 
I had fish and chips, which weren't as good as the ones I had in Portobello Road last Saturday, but I was so excited to see Stonehenge that I didn't care.
Finally, we were on our way there.
I was practically squealing by that time. You can see that I am in front of the whole group, speeding toward the stones.
Isn't that unbelievable? I mean, I've seen it in pitcures countless times, but there is nothing like standing there, right there in front of them. But we were even luckier: we got to go inside.
There was absolutely no touching the stones, but that's fine. It was quite enough to be standing right next to them.
I really couldn't believe I was there. 

Since it was sunset, we got to see the stones at their absolute pretties. Tony even said that it was an extraordinarily pretty day to see them.

That stone you see all the way in the back is the Hill Stone. It's part of Stonehenge, but it is a good thirty feet away.
Of course, people have a way of ruining everything. A few of the people on the tour decided that they wanted pictures of the stones without anyone in them, so they were forcing the rest of us to leave the circle so they could take the shots. I flat out refused, as did another woman. Nope. I waited a long time to see and be insde Stonehenge, I would not be bullied into leaving it just because they want a "perfect shot". Sorry. If you want a great shot buy one from a professional photographer,  but don't ruin my experience.
I love the sun rays coming through the stones like that.
You can see all kinds of moss and things growing on them.
There were also markings from different eras. 
I don't think there was a single angle I missed. 
The guide offered to take a picture, so why not?

You can see that it was getting darker by the minute.
There was a family of crows nesting in between the pillars and the top stone. They kept going out and bringing back food for their babies. 
It added the perfect pagan touch.
By that time, it was starting to get really cold. 
There's the crow again.
Going to get more food before it gets completely dark.

And then, unfortunately, it was time to leave. I really could have stayed there hours longer. There is such a complex atmosphere there. You can feel it's not an ordinary spot on this earth. 
Bye, Stonehenge.
So that was yesterday. I loved the Roman baths and all that, but it doesn't get better than standing right inside Stonehenge, with crows cawing around you and the sun setting.

Today, I headed to the Apple store in Covent Garden first thing to get my new cable and charger. Finally, I've been able to charge my iPad again. 
I went to see the Victoria and Albert Museum, near South Kengsinton Station. It's a huge building. I mean, huge. Just stepping a foot inside you think how the hell am I going to see all of this? The answer: you can't. Like the Natural History Museum in New York, there's no chance you will get to all the exhibits.
 I started with European carvings and statues.
So many beautiful ones made by people I've never even heard of. It's amazing how much we fous on a few painters and sculptors, when there are so many to consider. 
The detailing on ths one was amazing.
Look at the movement in the statues.
That's Pandora.
She's the bust of an actress dressed up as Cleopatra. She has an asp around her wrist 

I thought this one was insane. That's Apollo on the left, skinning someone alive because he lost a music competition. Yikes. Imagine if after all the American Idols or whatever, people got skinned. We'd get a lot less crappy singers, that's for sure.
There weren't many more places where you could take pictures in the museum, but I got a great snake sculpture.
You can also see two bears in the back.
A Japanese figurine.
That was in the Middle East section, where they also had a huge, elaborate rug that can only be lit every hour for ten minutes to prevent the color from fading. 
And another asian diety I wished I could have taken more pictures, but honestly, there was so much to see. There was an entire floor dedicated to ceramics, with countless tea cups and plates as well as figurines. Then another floor of only glass objects and three halls filled with ancient jewelry. Plus another wing on ironworks like gates and old doorknob designs. Incredible stuff. 
By the time I got out of there I was really tired, so I found a nice little place to buy some food and hopped back on the tube to Goodge Street station...where a Scientoloogist tried to get me to convert. 
Verys trange conclusion to the day.

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