GUY: Can I see your ticket please?
GIRL: *hands him ticket* Are you alright? (which is the British way of asking ‘how are you?’)
GUY: Oh! Well yes, I’m doing quite well!
GIRL: Beautiful weather today!
GUY: Oh yes, quite nice.
GIRL: Have a good day then!
GUY: I’ll try! *turns to me* ticket please. *hand him ticket* Well, aren’t you going to ask how I am?
Why on earth would I ask this man how he’s doing when the chatty girl in front on me just did? You just said you were fine! Mean old man, why are you always trying to make me feel stupid? We decided to change up our initial plan and to see Stonehenge on Saturday rather than Sunday and to see what the Information Center in Bath had to offer rather than book something online (especially since we haven’t been able to get online this whole time anyways). This time I didn’t sleep on the bus. I felt surprisingly awake, so I just let St. Vincent, the Flaming Lips and Ratatat take me through the pretty countryside.
We get to bath around 12 and this time, we found our hostel on the way to the Information Center. I liked this place better already! Not only was the lady behind the counter helpful and cheery, but there were computers for internet and the bathroom was cleaner. Yay. Again, check-in wasn’t till later, so we stored our stuff and I got to use the internet. She gave us a map of town and even gave us verbal directions on how to get to the center of town. Double yay. I needed to go to the bank and was thrilled that Barclays was right around the corner. As we’re walking there, Katie says “Oh, and you’ll be happy to know that there are less people in our room tonight. Only 10!” Geez Katie, that does make me feel better. By now it was 12:30 and we really needed to get to the Information center. There were brochures in the hostel office that advertised Stonehenge tours leaving at 1 and that you could sign up at the Information Office. This sounded perfect, if only we could get there on time!
Here’s yet another shinning example of how different me and Katie’s thinking patterns are. The lady says ‘turn left’. To Devon, this means turn the left down the street with more people and lined with shops that looks like it could possibly lead to more people. To Katie, this means take the left down the less crowded and darker street that looks like it leads to no people. But since she was the one who got the directions pointed out to her on the map while I was looking at brochures, we went down her sketchy road… and ended up doubling back to go down mine while Katie mumbles “She should have specified which left!” Sorry Katie, I thought it was OBVIOUS.
But we eventually made it to the Information Center and managed to sign up for a tour that was leaving in 15 minutes! We just had to find the purple bus first. So after getting turned around in the tiny city and doubling back to the Information Center for directions again, we finally found it. I was thrilled that the bus was purple! It reminded me of home! Katie on the other hand, thought it was obnoxious. Don’t ever go to TCU then love, you’d be disgusted. There are two purple buses so I go up to the first guy and hand him my receipt thing. He looks at his list and says I must be on the other man’s bus. So I go to the other man, who tells me I’m not on his list either. WHAT? I am going to see Stonehenge today people! My bus back home leaves at 1:50 tomorrow, it has to be today! Cut to the man calling his people and finding out that other people had canceled and we had been booked in their place and all of this has happened in the past 5 minutes and that is why we weren’t on the list. *Phew* So we headed back to first man’s bus and set off for the most famous rocks in the world.
Of course I chose a window seat. Supposedly they point out scenic and historical stuff along the way and I want to try and get pictures of it. Katie sits next to me, and this is the first time the two of us have actually sat together on a bus the entire trip. And this is a tiny bus. And Katie was not sitting in her seat properly. She was spilling into mine (even though she had the aisle to spill into!) and making my claustrophobia kick in. I wanted very much to shove her away stick my head out the window. Unfortunately neither was possible. It got worse when the bus started and Katie starts leaning over me to try and get pictures. My shoulders were doing that squished diagonal thing and the whole time I just kept thinking breath, you’re ok, you have room, you’re not squished. Yes I am! Scoot over! I’m going to freak out in like 2 minutes! I can’t breathe, you’re sitting to close. MOVE OVER!!!! Don’t freak out. There are a lot of people, this will look bad. You’re not squished you’re not squished, this is NOT a tiny bus. YES IT IS! I am going to die right now! MOVEEE! But I somehow managed to keep my cool and take pretty pictures out the window.
It was about an hour bus ride there. The bus guy has a microphone on so he could point out all the historical stuff we saw along the way. There was the Westbury White Horse, a chalk hill carving from the ancient Wessex people that was too far away to take a picture of. As it was, it looked like a tiny horse on the side of the mountain, when in actuality, you can fit 3 people where the horse’s eye is supposed to be. We also saw Cley Hill, which is where many UFO sighting are said to happen, and this pretty little Thatched Cottage village. There is also a still in use military base close by and one of the signs on the side of the road was for Tank Crossings, haha. But all in all, it was just one pretty landscape after another. And there were tons of cows! Which also made me feel like I was home. Apparently, the tour man thought it was important to point out a pig farm. Oh yeah, I wanna see where the bacon comes from, NOT. Enter example #346 of how Katie and I differ:
KATIE: I’m a member of PETA. People Eating Tasty Animals. Haha!
ME: I’m a vegetarian.
Yeah, awkward. I was happy when we finally reached the rocks. I was even happier to be out of the bus and in the fresh air. It wasn’t all that cold, accept we were in a giant empty field and there was wind, so it was. This is also, just like Ft. Worth and I reminded me of home. Katie announced that she wanted ice cream, to which I replied, ‘it’s too cold for ice cream.’ (Cut to me eating ice cream an hour later. What? It did sound like a good idea after I thought about it. And they had strawberry!)
So our tour man marches us through the gates, gives us audio guides and sends us up to look at the megaliths, telling us to be back at the bus in an hour. As soon as I turn on the camera, my low battery sign flashes up. Hello darling, I wondered when I’d be seeing you! I still managed to get some good shots in although I didn’t take as many as I wanted due to the fact that I was trying to conserve battery power since I still hadn’t taken any pictures of Bath yet. (and we still had a tour and the actual baths to visit!) The audio tour was actually pretty pointless for me. I knew more than I thought about Stonehenge since we talked about it in both my Archaeology class and my Art History class plus my sister and I saw watched some show on TV about it once. So yay for being smart and knowledgeable! It was kind of nice to put my headphones on, go ehhh, I know this, *skip* ehh I know this too *skip*. The kind of sad thing is that even though you’re at this hugely significant (although no one really knows WHY) and important archaeological sight that millions of people flock to every year, it loses it’s magic in about 10 minutes. After you take your pictures, you realize, they really are just rocks. They’re amazing and cool and a ridiculous human feat, but how long can I really stare at a bunch of rocks? So I went to gift shop and faced a huge internal debate on whether or not to buy my Grandma a Stonehenge thimble for her collection. Would she like it? Would she already have one? Surely her and Papa have been to Stonehenge before, right? Her and my Grandfather were very generous and sent me a small donation to help fund my trip so I know I have to get them something, but I just couldn’t decide whether it was worth the money and if she would like it. I ended up not getting it, and I kind of regret it. Don’t worry though Mimi, you’re still in my thoughts and you and Papa will get a present, I’m sure of it!
So after I got some homemade from the local dairy cows Strawberry ice cream (Katie: ‘heeey! You said it was too cold!’ So I was being hypocritical, what do you want from me? I’m happy and it’s tasty so shut up and let me eat my cone.) We loaded back on the bus. In Katie’s mind, sitting in a tiny bus waiting for the people to come back in was a perfect time to make a PB&J sandwich. Oh, what do you know? She has all the ingredients in her bag! Cut to me holding jars of peanut butter and jelly while Katie takes out a loaf of bread, paper towels, and a butter knife. And I thought I was squished before, turns out I highly underestimated the elbowroom usage in making a sandwich. I may have almost got elbowed in the face twice, but good for you saving money Katie! An hour later we were back at Bath and headed to the hostel to check in.
By now it was close to 4:30, so Katie I decided to wander around Bath for a bit. Turns out, I love this little city. It’s beautiful and the perfect blend of modern and classical and if you ask me, it felt more welcoming and peaceful than Oxford. The Bath Abby, which is right in the center of town, is beautiful from the outside alone (we didn't actually get to go in. Sad, I know) and even had flying buttresses! Thanks Art History, you've saved me again with my wonderful knowledge! Leanne would be so proud! The weather had the crisp cold feeling to which I said “It feels like Christmas!” Katie thought that was ludicrous, but clearly she’s never experienced a San Antonio Christmas, because it feels just like that! Seriously all I needed was Amy Grant’s Christmas album and Mannheim Steamroller to start playing through the streets and I would have believed that it was December.
There was however, a lady playing a really cool instrument that looks like mini UFO, it was called a Hang and it is a variation of a steal drum. Another regret, I didn’t buy her CD. It was only £5. I so should have! Sometime I think about going back and buying it, I could be listening to it right now! But sigh, too bad for me and my people back home who have no idea what they’re missing out on! If anyone is going to Bath, I will give you money to bring it back for me!
I did however get to make some music of my own. Apparently the Abby is looking for some new recruits to join their bell choir so they set up these tent areas so people can try out their bell puling skills. Turns out its harder than it looks. Katie and I approached the tent and Katie dove straight in where as I had to be somewhat persuaded to “have a go!” by this woman looking man. She clearly had some facial hair going on and I tried so very hard to look at her eyes and pay attention but all I kept thinking about was how do you not see that beard growing on your face! Those are long hairs! What do you see when you look in a mirror??? I finished my bell pulling in about 2 minutes and started getting chatted up by another bell guy while I was waiting for Katie to finish. He was quite nice but agreed that he was starting to get a headache and I felt bad for him. They kept trying to recruit us, but I said we were from the states.
BEARDED WOMAN: Well that’s ok! We’re International! Where are you from?
BEARDED WOMAN: Well that’s no good. Where do you go to school?
KATIE: In Wisconsin.
BEARDED WOMAN: Well that’s no good either! What about you? Are you from Wisconsin too?
BEARDED WOMAN: Oh that might work! What part?
ME: San Antonio, but I go to school in Ft. Worth.
BEARDED WOMAN: We have a church in Dallas!!
Of course you do! But with all do respect, I don’t think I’m made out to be a bell ringer. A few shops later I did manage to buy myself a wallet with a change purse which was good because my Altoid box was broken and I was tired of getting weird looks every time I pulled it out to pay. Now all my money and my cards can live together as one! And Caroline, you should know I also almost bought you some really warm looking but cliché grandma looking knit socks. I couldn’t decide whether you would find them funny and love them like me or if you would simply think “Prima, I love you, but those are ugly.” So again, purchase number 3 that I did not make, but am somewhat regretting. Damn it Bath. We ended up going to the grocery store and each buying ourselves our own little frozen pizza for dinner. Mmmm surprisingly good frozen veggie pizza, it’s been too long!
When we got back to the hostel, what are they watching on TV, but Harry Potter! I found this too funny. Watching Harry Potter in England after a long day of sightseeing? YES. Too bad it was my least favorite one (The Chamber of Secrets) but it did make Katie and I excited for Harry Potter #7 part I, which comes out in a month!! Did I mention how Laura, Matt and I plan to go to Leicester Square when the big premiere is out as to try and get a glimpse of the stars? Yeah, I know. As much as I dislike Daniel Radcliff’s acting, I’d very much like to see him on the red carpet. And Rupert Grint. I love him! (And yes Adri, I’ll try and snap a shot of the twins for you as well! I know about you and the gingers.) We’re cool nerds. Be jealous. So as I’m sitting on the couch watching Harry battle giant spiders, the hostel ‘living room’ is getting full of people, a large majority of which, are speaking Spanish. This is the Spanish where they have the little lisp action and they’re talking way to fast, but I am managing to pick out words every now then. They’re talking to this guy who spoke English and he was trying to talk to them in Spanish and they were making fun of him. I don’t remember what they said, but I remember understanding it and laughing. This caught the attention of the man. Enter Eric, the polish dude:
ERIC: You speak Spanish?
ME: Umm very very little. I mostly just understand it.
ERIC: You’re not Spanish? You look Spanish!
ME: Well I am Hispanic, but no, I’m from Texas.
ERIC: I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone from Texas before!
Haha, this a.) the first time I think EVER that anyone has ever said I look any sort of Hispanic. I guess around here in Europe, the Spaniards are lighter skinned and I could blend! I think I like Europe’s thinking. And b.) why does everyone I meet get all excited and say they’ve never met a Texan before? Are we just some geological point on a map that Europeans are looking for so they can cross of their ‘people of the world’ chart? I don’t know, but I can say that Texas is one state that a lot of people recognize (as apposed to other states) and have a lot of misconceptions about.
ERIC: How long are you staying in Bath?
ME: Oh just the day. We leave tomorrow.
ERIC: So I guess there’s no point in getting your phone number then?
ME: Uhh, probably not.
Like I would give you my number anyways Creepy Polish man. Through out the rest of the evening I met quite a few people staying in the hostel besides Eric, including British man, Spanish couple, and a German guy who I talked about Munich with. (Did I mention I’m going to Munich for Christmas? I already bought my tickets and am excited!) Towards the end of the evening, in comes drunk Czech man who starts handing out Stellas to everyone in the room. Umm thanks? Not really in the mood for beer right now, so I just kinda awkwardly cradled mine while I tried to watch Underworld on TV and ignore the obvious flirting going on between Katie and Eric the Polish dude happening on the couch right next to me. Pass.
The next morning we woke up and set out to explore the Roman Baths. Not only did I get a student discount, but the Stonehenge tour guy gave us a little card that gave me an additional discount. Hell yes, double dipping, I’ll take that! The baths were pretty cool. I wanted to attend the FREE walking tour at 10:30, so I didn’t have as much time to explore the museum as I would have liked, but it was pretty cool all the same. I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of Colin with the baths though! (for those of you who don’t know, Colin is a sock fish that belongs to one of my bosses back in Ft. Worth. She gave me him to take around London and get cool shots with and this weekend was his first field trip.) It was going to be perfect! A fish next to the bath, oh the irony! But urgh, I was too busy thinking about the time, and I forgot. For being so cool, why are you full of regrets Bath?!
Onto the walking tour done by two men, one tall and one quite small and both named Andrew. Apparently, this is Bath’s largest attraction, probably due in part to the fact that it’s FREE. We were so large that they split us into two groups, and we got the little Andrew. Such a cute old man! Have I mentioned my love of cute old tour guides filled with wisdomosity? Again, this man knew everything I wanted to know about Bath and more! He had stories about almost every building from who the architect was (apparently the family Wood pretty much created Bath, hence their expression, “You can’t see the Wood through all the trees” as it’s quite lush there as well) to who stayed there and why they’re important. Important figures to note are A.) Jane Austen who lived in Bath for 4 or 5 years and contrary to popular belief very much disliked living in Bath and is said to have never written anything during the entirety of her stay B.) Beau Nash, who is sometimes referred to as the ‘King of Bath’ even though I don’t really think he did too much other than gamble, pick up rich ladies, and convince said rich ladies to fund city projects and support himself. I know, what a player. Andrew even pointed out cool little things like what old manhole covers looked like, the only part of surviving wall, and the only Tudor style building left in Bath, which naturally he found ugly but I loved!There are just too many stories to tell, but I think one of my favorites was that many many years ago, there was a lady who lived in the Royal Crescent, one of the most expensive and prestigious Bath housing, who decided she wanted to paint her door yellow. This caused much hoopla among the other residents. So much so that she was taken to court and many years later, they decided if the woman wanted a yellow door than by golly, she could haveher yellow door! And the door has been yellow ever since! The tour ended by the Avon River, the pretiest view ever! It was sad to leave Andrew, he was such a nice tour guide but time was a wastin.
After our tour, Katie and I headed to the Pump Room, a ridiculously fancy restaurant that also gives out free samples of Bath water with the purchase of your bath ticket! Naturally, I didn't come all this way to not taste the famous 'healing' waters. It comes from this really cool fountain looking thing that says "The King's Spring" (even though Queens were the ones who visited more often *cough Queen Ann cough*) but it was warm and it tasted minerally. I took a few sips and put my cup down while Katie drank half of hers and insisted that I was making too big a deal of how bad it tasted. Whatever. I then tried to sneak back into the Baths so I could get my picture of Colin with the Roman baths, but just as I turned my camera on to get the shot, it died! NOOOOOO! This is so not funny. The one picture I needed to complete my collection and it's non existent! Sorry Cheryl, but I did get one of him outside the baths and at Stonehenge, so that's gotta count for something, right?
It was a long ride back to London due partly because the bus made a lot of other stops before finally getting back to the Victoria station. It was a strange feeling of seeing London and feeling myself get more relaxed and settle into that ‘you’re almost home feeling’. Who knew a month of living there could do that to you? At this point, there was nothing I wanted more than a HOT shower and some food. I had them both soon enough and even a surprise chat with the fam, who very much laughed at my piñata story (don’t worry, I tell you that one soon enough). There was no better way to end the weekend then to crawl into bed and watch a movie, not to mention a classic. Ah An Affair to Remember you put me right to sleep!