Amesbury, ancient ruins, anglais, British rain, British weather, car rental, Cardiff, Cardiff Castle, cousins, cycling, Doncaster, driving in England, driving on the left side, England, English, English countryside, Europe, family, festivals, Flake 99, Gaelic Football, GPS, Great Britain, Harry Potter, highway, ice cream, King's Cross, London, Monmouth, Nottingham, O'Neill's Pub, Platform 9 3/4, Robin Hood, Shakepeare's birthplace, Shakespeare's house, Sherwood Forest, standard transmission, Stonehenge, Stratford-Upon-Avon, taxi, tour, Tour London, tourism, Traffic, United Kingdom, visiting Stonehenge, Wales
The first thing we did this morning was return to King’s Cross to take a photo of us at the trolley passing through the wall at Platform 9 ¾. The shop where we bought our things yesterday was closed, so we took photos and left to find a cab. The cabs in the UK are old-fashioned and we wanted to be sure to ride one, plus we didn’t feel like walking all the way to the car rental place and being even more behind schedule. Our driver dropped us off and we stood in a long line until we were finally able to check out with a small silver car that we called Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. It didn’t take Dan long to adjust to driving on the left side with a stick shift. The only difference is the hand you shift with and the road rules which I helped him navigate until they became easier. We discussed how incredible it is that people in the US don’t even know how to drive standards. In Europe, an automatic is really a specialty car. Rental places offer them but at a higher cost.
We were already behind schedule, but we walked the ring around Stonehenge with the crowd. I was surprised by how small the rocks seemed compared to how I had imagined it. The skies were ridiculously blue, the clouds were pure white, and the grass was very bright. The weather felt like the air when summer is fading into autumn. There was evidence of storm clouds in the distance. Halfway around the path, Dan and I took photos of each other and together. Then, as a joke between ourselves and for my brother, we pulled out our Harry Potter and Hermione Granger wands and asked a stranger to photograph us performing spells on the stones, saying, “We solved the mystery! Wingardium Leviosa!” When we were done at Stonehenge, we crossed the dips and cairns and made a quick stop at the burial mounds behind the parking lot. We climbed one and took photos of the fields and sheep around us.
Back on the road, we headed straight northwest for Cardiff, Wales. We passed through several small villages with thatched roofs and eventually found a superhighway in the off-and-on rain. We crossed an enormous bridge and officially left England. The signs were suddenly in English and in Welsh. Cardiff wasn’t very far from England. We arrived, parked in a lot, and walked around the city for a while. The castle was closed because we were behind schedule, but we walked around it and took photos anyway. There were a lot of people in costume and drunk. We walked despite the rain and found a small Irish pub, O’Neill’s, where we ordered some traditional food and local beer. I had Dan try HP sauce. The locals were watching Gaelic football; it was interesting to see how into it they were getting. To us, it looked like a combination of basketball, soccer, and rugby.
Dan got a call from his cousins who live in Doncaster, England and we decided to rework our schedule so we could visit them. However, it was running late and we weren’t sure we could make it there before they were in bed. Orignally, we were going to head towards Liverpool and maybe spend the night in the Lake Districts. Instead, we headed towards Doncaster. Rather than paying for the bridge fare again, I rerouted us through Monmouth, Wales where we stopped for snacks to take with us and to see the sights. A festival was just starting up. We grabbed some Flake 99 ice creams on the way out and left Monmouth as it was starting to get dark. The next stop on our list was Stratford-Upon-Avon, which we made by dark. Here, we got out and visited the house where Shakespeare was born. We could take pictures because of how well lit everything was and we touched the house with our hands. Dan called his cousins and we all decided it would be better if we arrived in the morning, so I set our GPS to a mid-way point: Nottingham, England. When we arrived in the town, just an hour outside of Doncaster, we saw the advertisements in the city and confirmed that Nottingham is indeed Robin Hood’s city! We managed to get a hotel room in the busy town at a discounted price because it was so late. We were too tired to even shower.
Me going through the Platform.
Dan at the Platform.
Us performing spells on Stonehenge.
Me on one of the burial mounds.
Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-Upon-Avon.