|Day 3: I was up at 3 AM, and again at 4:30. Our sleep schedules
were way off. The travel alarm went off at 5 AM Saturday, May 26. We got
our marching orders the night before. The plan was for Trafalgar to give
us a wake-up call at 5:45. At 6:15, we were supposed to put our luggage
in the hallway outside our rooms. The bags would be collected and put on
the coach. At least, we hoped they'd be put on the coach. At 6:30, we were
all to meet in the hotel restaurant for breakfast, and then hit the road
by 7:15. It sounded like they had everything figured out.
After a shower, I wandered downstairs to look around. I guess I was afraid the coach would leave without us. There was already a crowd of people in the lobby. I overheard a blonde lady in checked pants talking to a friend. The day before, she went shopping at the famous Harrad's department store, and then she toured Buckingham Palace. "Of course, it's old," she explained, then added, "it wasn't what I expected." She said the interior was "dark" and "gruesome," and commented, "I could see why Princess Diana was so uncomfortable."
Back upstairs, I met up with a family in the hallway, Sharon from Illinois and her parents. They were on our tour, too, but their timetables had different times. Donna and I went down for the "full" breakfast, which was actually in the hotel's pub. There was fruit and juice, and cold cuts I could make into a sandwich. The chocolate bran muffins were delicious. I stuck an apple in my bag for a snack. An Enya album played on the loudspeakers. The morning Times predicted a "maximum" (not a "high") of 64F for southeast England that day. We met up with a nice girl named Jocelyn who was on our tour. She was also on our same flight from Chicago.
We all filed outside and into the coach. It was cloudy and chilly out. Nick, our tour guide, announced, "This is the Amazing Britain tour– it does not go to Ireland." Apparently, there had been some confusion. At 7:40, we took off. Nick pointed out interesting places as we rode through London. Passing Hyde Park, he pointed out the Queen's Gate, which narrowly escaped being melted down for scrap during World War II. We rode down Grosvenor Place, past the fortified walls of Buckingham Palace. Small roofs were visible over the walls. Nick explained those were houses for palace gardeners and "people to walk the corgis." We picked up some more tourists at the Trafalgar office on Bressenden Place. Our coach carried about 44 people. We passed Harrad's, where Nick commented, "A pound doesn't go very far in there." Entering the suburbs around London, Nick explained there was a property shortage in England. The average income was between 25,000 and 26,000 pounds, but the average house cost 200,000 pounds.
Back on the road again, we passed sheep grazing in fields. We were in the Cotswolds, famous during the Middle Ages for its high-quality wool. Gentle, rolling hills passed by. It looked like something from a Tolkien novel. We saw a barge going down a narrow river. All new houses in the area had to be constructed of Cotswold stone, to blend in with the existing structures. Many had thatched roofs (held on with chicken wire). We made a brief stop at the thatched home of Anne Hathaway, who was William Shakespeare's wife. Scaffolding covered one wall as workmen repaired some of the thatching on the roof. The house was surrounded by a beautiful English garden. From there, we headed straight into Stratford-upon-Avon.
The coach slowed down next to a street that was so narrow, I felt glad we wouldn't be trying to drive down it... And then, the driver backs down that narrow street so that we could turn around, passing mere inches from road signs and telephone poles. I learned to not watch the driving. We drove past fields of fat, unshorn sheep and a liquor store called Bargain Booze. I couldn't remember ever seeing a store with the word "booze" in the name. We saw the turnoff for Darby, site of the Rolls Royce factory (now owned by Volkswagen). Back on the highway, emergency phones were labeled "SOS." I saw a sign for the town of Uttoxeter, and saw many blackthorn trees, fringed with queen anne's lace.
|The sky got too cloudy and dark to take pictures, so I put away both
my cameras. The hedgerows alongside the roads cut down the views, anyway.
Just after 6 PM, we got on the M1 northbound near Derby. We passed the
ruins of Bolsolver Castle, blown up by Oliver Cromwell. He did that with
a lot of castles. In the distance, there was a line of five tall cooling
towers, like at nuclear power plants. I think they were actually coal power
plants. Lots of people in England wanted nuclear plants, but nobody wanted
them nearby. The Ferrybridge Power Station looked like spaceships about
to take off for Mars. We saw the rooftops of Hull, home of William Wilberforce,
who was the 19th century abolitionist portrayed in the movie "Amazing Grace."
In the west, the Sun was a ghostly blob high in the clouds. The modern
highway was lined with new tree seedlings protected in little tubes.
A little after 7 PM, we took the Wetherby exit for the last leg to Harrogate, where we were spending the night. We passed streets called Castle Gate and Wentworth Gate, and a beautiful waterfall on the side of the road. Harrogate was a huge city, with streets named Wayside Crescent, Cold Bath Road and St. Winfred's Avenue. There was a big memorial to soldiers killed in World War I. I could see it was later changed to include World War II, and was dedicated to "our glorious dead." There's war memorials all over Great Britain. We got to our hotel at 7:40 and got checked in. In the room, we noted the beds had no top sheet. It was like that most places we stayed in England. Supper was in the hotel restaurant, a buffet affair with pork, potatoes and salad. I ordered a beer. After an hour of waiting, and reminding the waitress three times, my beer finally arrived. We finally got to bed about 10 PM.