Day 9: I had dreams that night, but I don't remember what they were. I was up at 5 AM. The shower had yet another wacky faucet, but with plenty of hot water. By 6 AM, that first day of June, the Sun was well up in the English sky. I washed a shirt in the sink the night before, but it wasn't dry yet. The room came with a "trouser press," so I thought I'd see if it would dry out the shirt. What happened was the whole thing broke away from the wall. So, I went downstairs to report it. The night clerk almost laughed when I told him. He also explained about Internet access. The computers need codes to allow users online. The codes are printed on cards which are sold to users at different rates for different lengths of time online. All they had left to sell were 90 minute cards. That's why they couldn't let me online the night before. If they'd just explained that to me, I wouldn't have been so ticked off. The whole first floor of the hotel seemed deserted that time of morning. I went back upstairs, where Donna made me a hot chocolate. I felt better. The TV weather looked like it would be warm and sunny that day. 
At breakfast, I was starting to get used to eating grilled tomatoes. We got all packed up and waited in the lobby. At 8 AM, we were on the move. Outside, the tour company brought us a different coach. The floor was different, the overhead compartments had no doors, and there were no more handy pockets behind the seats in front of you. It also had that "new bus smell." By that day, Donna and I had rotated back so that we were sitting behind the "emergency loo."  It was a happy, sunny day-- not a cloud in the sky. 
We headed out into busy traffic on the M6. The highway followed a line of railroad tracks, and off to the side I kept spotting pedestrian bridges over the tracks. Sheep and cows grazed in the fields. Heading towards Wales, we talked about King Arthur, who was probably a local Saxon king. There were no billboards anywhere on the major highways. Right after 9 AM, we crossed over the Manchester Ship Canal, built in the late 1800's. That was where cotton was brought in for the textile industry. Manchester was where Ghandi protested on behalf of Indian garment workers. In nearby Blackpool, the casinos featured "fruit machines." We were also close to Liverpool, which was not as big as it used to be. The lack of jobs had caused thousands of people to move away in recent years. Liverpool had a great natural harbor, used over the years by many companies, including the Titanic's White Star Line. 
Past the Ship Canal, we turned onto the M56 towards Chester. The Romans first had a settlement at Chester, stationing a legion of soldiers there. The great Roman walls were expanded by the Normans and the Saxons, and then exploded by Oliver Cromwell during the English Civil War. Queen Anne rebuilt the walls in the 18th Century.
From the great city gate we could see the remains of the old Roman amphitheater, which was big enough for 8,000 people. We walked along the wall for a couple of blocks. Old Tudor buildings lined one side, while on the other, the wall overlooked the remains of an ancient Roman sauna. Down along the edges of the wall lurked narrow alleyways, all dark and mysterious and Oliver Twisty. 


We lost track of the group, so we went back to the cathedral. No pictures were allowed inside, but they had an audio tour for a reasonable price. It was beautiful inside, with gorgeous stained glass windows. There were many memorials to people inlaid into the floor. Some were so old, and made of soft stones like marble, all the lettering had rubbed off them. 
We wandered around the High Street, and found a little church called St. Peter's. It was mostly square, not cross-shaped, built of big, ancient grey stones. The interior instantly gave you a sense of history. It turned out the original church on that site, built on the foundation of a Roman headquarters, was founded in the year 907. There'd been a church there for eleven hundred years. Half the church was set aside with pews, for when they have services. The women guides seemed very proud of their church, and I got a real sense of community from them. It can't be easy for plucky little St. Peter's to get by, literally around the corner from the magnificent Chester Cathedral. 
We were back on the coach by a quarter after 11. Down Princess Street, we crossed over the River Dee and were soon in the countryside again, zooming down a 4-lane highway. There were tree-covered hills on both sides of the highway. Many of them were actually old slag heaps from the coal mines that closed in the 1980's. Our route that day would take us over the Welsh/English border several times. We started seeing the red dragon of Wales on signs everywhere. The signs started showing words in English and Welsh. Traffic jams greeted us as we made our way down the A5 to Shrewsbury, the home of Charles Darwin. More hills appeared. We headed south on the A49. We saw farms with chickens, pigs... and more passing hikers. 
At the town of Ludlow, the huge coach squeezed its way through some impossibly narrow streets to the town square, where we stopped for lunch. The square itself was bustling with what looked like a flea market. There were canvas-covered booths selling everything from CD's to fresh fruit to army surplus uniforms. The town was completely charming, exactly what you'd imagine a little British village to be on shopping day. Donna and I wandered through the market, and I was sorely tempted to buy a couple of things, but we were hungry. We stopped into a little shop called Aragon's and sat at a long wooden table. Colin and Joan were already there. Colin had a glass of milk that looked kind of foamy. He said he ordered a "milk shake." It looked like they just took a glass of milk and shook it up! Donna and I shared an English panini, and I had a Shropshire Lad beer– a "bitter," with 5% alcohol, but smooth and very tasty. There was a castle adjacent to the town square, but I only had time to get a couple of pictures before it was time to catch the bus. By 2:20, we were on our way again, headed for Hereford (pronounced "HARRAH-ford"). 
We passed a town called Hope Under Dinmore. That sounded like a good title for a book. From the distance we could see the cathedral of Hereford. There was a funeral in progress at one little church. I saw lanes named Penhaligon Way and Canonmore Street. Somebody on the coach passed around a bag of chocolate. That was a very friendly thing to do. While passing the River Rye, I saw someone fly fishing from a shallow bank. Many more fishermen soon appeared. Further down the River Rye, about 4 PM, we stopped at the ruins of Tinturn Abbey. I was ready for the coach to stop. The "new bus smell" was the odor of industrial cleaners, and the air conditioning had been blowing it in my face all day. I felt dizzy and nauseous. It was nice to get out and walk around in the fresh air. 
There's not much left of the abbey, but the impressive skeleton of the 12 Century church remained. It even inspired a poem by William Wordsworth. There was a little shop around the corner where Donna and I got some Welsh Gold ice cream. I felt a lot better after walking around for a while. Brien took a picture of us next to the coach right before we departed. I sat away from the air conditioning from then on. We crossed the River Severn and back over the border into England. The road took us past docks on the river banks and under the Clifton Suspension Bridge, which first opened in 1864. For many years it served as a symbol of the city of Bristol. Queen Elizabeth I used to visit Bristol. The post city of Bristol was another British town heavily bombed during World War II and rebuilt as a modern industrial city. It was 5:30 on a Friday afternoon, and traffic was awful. The coach took us through the City Centre, which was dominated by a war memorial and a big ugly sculpture. We pulled into the Marriott Hotel. We got a very nice room, overlooking a park. The tour included supper in a Bristol pub, so after an hour we all met down in the lobby. 
The coach took us to the nearby downtown area. We stopped at a place called the Llandoger Trow –a 17th Century pub in the heart of Bristol. Robert Lewis Stevenson used to be a customer, and possibly got inspiration there for his book "Treasure Island." Another customer was writer Daniel Defoe, who met real-life castaway Alexander Selkirk at the Llandoger Trow and used him as the inspiration for "Robinson Crusoe." We all filed up the rickety narrow stairs to the second floor. Upstairs, it was more of a restaurant than a pub. I got fish and chips for the third time during our trip, but it was not the best of the trip. Still, I had a Speckled Hen Beer, recommended by Nick, and followed it up with a Black Thorn Cider. We all got to talk with each other during the meal. 
The street in front of the pub was full of college-age people. I kinda wished we could've joined them. It would've added to the whole British pub experience. After supper, several in the group decided to walk back to the hotel rather than ride back. It was still light out. I watched a little TV, then went on to bed.  
Preparations -- Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 -- Day 4 -- Day 5 -- Day 6
Day 7 -- Day 8 -- Day 9 -- Day 10 -- Day 11 -- Day 12 -- Epilogue
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