Day 6: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath

we sit together, forever
by the color TV glow
telling stories, allegories
letting ourselves go
Stay in my corner, babe
Stay in my corner, please
Stay in my corner, babe
I will fight for you if you fight for me too

Stay In My Corner - The Arcs

I have many favourite songs and this one is definitely one of it. So well written. By the way I noticed that I listen to male singers more than I do of female singers. I don't have the statistic, but I think it will be 85% : 15%. I wonder why this is so with me. Okay enough random thoughts, let's get on with this post.

Day 6 was a a Friday and I took a day tour that included Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. Really all I wanted was to go to Stonehenge. I wouldn't forgive myself if I had come all the way to England and I didn't go there. The meeting place for this tour was at Victoria coach station, a really short walk from the hotel and so I thought I didn't have to rush. When I got there, things were very chaotic. There were so many people and I didn't know where I should go and the information wasn't clear. At one point I waited at the wrong gate, but then I found the correct one and I was just glad that I wasn't late. It was quite a touristy season when I was in London so there were many tourists. The Monday of the following week was also a bank holiday in the UK, so there could be more people taking Friday off to make it a long weekend and they contributed to the number of tourists. As far as I know, there were 3 groups doing this this same tour and there were like 50 people in a group. Yes it's a big group, one that can make things rather difficult. The chaos didn't just end that morning. It carried on until the end of the day. Our guide was an ex-soldier, lecturer, author, and of course a tour guide. He's a great guide and I think it's really because of him we all had a satisfying trip, well except for a few people. He loves history so he knows this stuff. He's had a lot of experience so he knows useful things like the route to take to avoid traffic. His military training means that there's a certain discipline in him that benefit all of us, again except for a few people. The only things that really weren't within his control that day was the amount of people travelling to these places and the traffic.

First stop was to Windsor Castle and already there were many people here. Queuing wasn't fun and we had to queue quite a while :( but we finally got in. You have to go through airport security kinda check to enter Windsor Castle. The queen wasn't in when we're there. Inside the compound, I visited the Queen Mary’s Dolls' House, The State Apartments, and St. George's Chapel. Time was limited, so I didn't really linger in each place. You can't take pictures inside these places which I think kinda helped me to get through all these places within the time allocated. Here's a picture of some part of the castle from the outside .

Queen Mary’s Dolls' House is an actual doll house. It's quite big because it's modeled after an aristocratic home with their many rooms. It's very detailed. The miniature furnitures are very cute, but I don't recall seeing human figurine / doll inside the house. So it's quite an empty house. The State Apartments are really really grand. It's quite big. You get to see a lot of things, from dining rooms, bed rooms, all the precious paintings, armories, and many many things. The royal family are indeed rich. St. George's Chapel was interesting for me. Many of the royals were buried here. My knowledge of England history is like non-existent, most of it came from movies (I think of Queen Victoria as Emily Blunt, Queen Elizabeth as Cate Blanchett, Anne Boleyn as Natalie Portman). So seeing all the names, they didn't mean much to me. I did notice seeing Jane Seymour's tomb. It felt kinda strange because some of these tombs are below the floors so you are walking on top of them. It's not that I fear their ghosts will haunt me, it's just maybe the Asian me felt it's rather disrespectful to walk on top of them even though they had died hundred of years ago.

Anyways, here in Windsor we left some people in our group. It was my first time ever leaving people for being late. I think my guide has done this a few times before though. My guide with his military training just had no tolerance about it. I think we waited less than 10 minutes. He was like, they're adult, they should be responsible and it's unkind to the others who made it on time. He tried to look for them, but he said he couldn't even see them walking out to the bus so they most probably were still inside and didn't even bother. Of course he's right. The day had proven to be quite hectic with the many tourists. We may need to wait in queue again at other places, so we should use our time effectively. While it may sound harsh with the driver asking him a few times, are you sure, he was making the best decision for the rest of us. Usually the plan for this trip is to visit Windsor Castle, Bath, and then Stonehenge, but he made a decision that we should visit Stonehenge first because with the crowd and traffic, we might not make it if we leave it to the end. There was really traffic on the way there. Luckily our guide knows of another way, so we were able to avoid traffic in the commonly used road. It was a pretty smooth sailing drive for us to get there.

Stonehenge is surrounded by fields. In fact to get to the stones, you need to take the provided small bus. I suppose you can walk there if you want. Also if you have the time, you can walk to the burial mounds that are located on the fields. These burial mounds are like little hills. Our guide gave a thorough explanation about Stonehenge, many of which I have forgotten. Some things I remember was that the stones were transported by glaciers and the reason the tribe of people who built it eventually left the place was because their source of water was getting bad and so they had to move. It is quite an interesting feat of engineering, especially considering how the people managed to get the heavy big slabs of stone on top and this is still quite a mystery.

After that we went to Bath. We had entry to the Roman Bath. Before entering, we were briefed to not touch the water because it's dirty. We're told we would have a chance to sample it near the exit. The Roman Bath is also a museum and we got an audio guide to listen to while exploring the exhibition. I didn't listen to all. To be honest I wasn't that interested. What I learned was, there were 3 types of pools with different degrees of temperature from mild to hot. The Romans would go into the pools one after another starting from the milder one to the hottest one. Then they would get their oil massage and perfumed. After that they would go back to the pools, this time from the hottest one to the mildest one. This picture below shows the great pool and as you can see the colour of the water is a strange green.

I saw people walked on the upper level, but I couldn't find the way to go up there and so I didn't. It was also drizzling quite a bit, so I didn't try to find the way. I did sample the water and man I didn't like it. It tasted metallic and I have doubt if it's really good for you. One word I would describe it is the Indonesian word, air tanah, which is ground water in English which is exactly what it is. When I wanted to leave, it rained quite heavily. I usually don't have a habit of bringing an umbrella during my trips, but because I was going to the UK which is famous (perhaps unfairly) for its wet weather, I remembered to bring an umbrella and was actively packing it into my bag. So it came in handy that day. Since it was raining, I didn't feel like exploring the surrounding area. I ended up having a meal at Burger King because they had empty seats. I know it sounded so not spectacular, but it turned out to be a good decision for me.

When I came back to the bus, I saw this one guy talking agitatedly to our bus driver. I thought our bus driver was in trouble maybe for parking wrongly. Turned out, he's not. This was a tourist who was left out by the other groups. I think what happened was he's very annoyed that he and his group was left there and then he got very confused when our driver was telling him that we're going back to London after this. I think his groups was following the usual itinerary and so he was expecting to go to Stonehenge. He was also very agitated and rough when he finally talked to our guide, but our guide isn't the type who takes this kind of treatment and he just roughed him back and said he wouldn't be talked to this way. That shut the guy up. Finally he accepted the situation and got on our bus. Lucky for him actually that we had spaces for him and his group. We found out from our guide that the other groups didn't make it to Stonehenge. I googled, the last entry for Stonehenge is 2 hours before closing time, so I think because of the traffic and stuff, they didn't make it and I felt truly thankful for the decision that our guide made that we made it.

On the drive back, we had bad traffic. I was actually calm in all of it. I guess it helped that I had a filling meal so I wasn't hungry and also because I didn't have to wake up early the next day. Also considering what happened to the other groups, we had a fabulous day so there were much to be thankful for. It got quite worrying for the driver because by law their shift is only 15 hours and his time was running out. The worry was if we couldn't make it to London and he had to stop. Luckily we made it and the guide made another decision to stop at only one stop instead of trying to get to the different drop off points because the traffic was just not cooperating. He chose a stop near Gloucester Road tube station thinking it's the best considering where were were and that's good for me because there's a direct tube line to get to my hotel. I arrived in my room at 9 pm plus. Tired for sure, but truly thankful. Our guide might be tough for some people, but really it's because of him we got to see all we wanted to see :) For pictures, you can go here.

:) eKa @ 5:23:00 PM •

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