Hitting Great Britain

Trip Start Jan 18, 2007
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Trip End Mar 28, 2007


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Friday, January 19, 2007

- 2007 - 19 January -

Arrived - bright 'n early in the Queendom and met up with Dale who guided us to her place of residence... about 10 minutes away from Waterloo Station. (this is Dale =)  We caught up with her before she had to head off to work and chilled for a bit before doing the Big Bus Tour & walked around London for a while.

Checked the usual tourist sites - Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Parliament, Westminister Abbey, St Paul's Cathedral, the London eye, etc.
 



Weather was strangely good =) and all in all a good first day in London.

Saturday morning (the 20th) we had a nice egg and bacon breakfast (bacon, you will see, is to become a theme in this journal) followed by the changing of the guard at Buckhingham Palace (the Queen did not attend.)  There were a surprising number of British people there considering how foolish it was for anyone not on Holiday to venture out in the rainy, windy, cold.  It takes a long time, and there is a lot of unexplained walking, with heavily festooned soldiers doing laps.  The tuba player was incredibly short, which provided us with some amusement.  Also amusing was the queens car parked in front of the palace.  It appears to be a Ford station wagon. Royal life must be getting kind of austere.

We then wandered around and found our way to some hot chocolate outside the Tower Bridge.  We took a bus to Covent Gardens and wandered around looking for food.  Eventually deciding to go into a South African pub called Springbok, only to turn away when we found out their menu consisted only of Thai food (sadly, we're not joking...)

We found a half price tickets booth and bought some tickets to Blue Man Group, on Drury Lane.  (yes, we met the muffin man, the muffin man...)  Meeting up with other fellow South Africans - Mirco, and Carla, we all enjoyed an evening with the group, who, true to name, were both blue and men.

Sunday started with a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath.  Stonehenge was bitterly cold, and tremendously windy, but nonetheless, the stones refused to fall down.  By far the coolest game of mystical dominoes either of us has ever seen.  You get the sense that had you been alive 4000 years ago and not had any good TV channels, you too would have been moved to team up with 599 friends to drag those rocks 20 miles across England.  It is a powerful place, for reasons I cannot fathom.

Bath is a charming English city with a more charming Roman heritage.  Completely forgotten and buried under layers of street and buildings, rediscovered in the Victorian 1800's is a Roman Bath network of temples and hot spring fed baths dedicated to Minerva, and a host of other minor deities, both imported Roman and local Gods set up shop here.  It is fascinating to be able to look at history as a three dimensional process.  Standing 20 feet below ground level and looking up past the layers of street and stone that were literally built up and over this amazing feat of architecture.  The Roman Baths were rediscovered in the late 1700's because water was leaking into someone's basement.  When they went in to discover the cause, they found this extensive network of baths, many with still working plumbing from 300 A.D. 

Another highlight of the trip were Dale's excellent bacon and egg sandwiches. 


The following morning we went on a pilgrimage specifically for Bruce: the Winston Churchill Museum and the Cabinet War Rooms.  Jessilyn did a very good job pretending to be interested while Bruce wandered around the museum, dedicated to one of his favorite human beings.  I think she may even have liked it, though she'll never admit it.  It is a fascinating place, including the underground War Rooms from which Churchill and his military advisors ran the entirety of the British involvement in WWII. 
We also found an interesting fact.  Winston Churchill became famous during the Anglo-Boer war, fought in South Africa, when he was a war correspondent for a British newspaper.  He was with a troop transport train that was ambushed.  He was captured and put in a POW camp where he escaped into the desert and found safety on an English farm.  He returned home a war hero. 
This segues us nicely into the next portion of their trip!

Except for that damn chronological order.  A perfectly good segue ruined by a trip to the London Eye, which we visited next.  Then off to Heathrow, for a 11 hour plane trip to Johannesburg, and then a 1 hour flight to East London, South Africa.

Please, continue reading.  Coming up next is Bruce's fascinating four page account of what the Indian Ocean looks like from 10,000 metres.

All the best.
--George

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