Sunday, August 22, 2010

Bath to Stow

On our last full day in Bath, we picked up our rental car and headed out to Stonehenge and Salisbury. Driving on the left side of the street was/is interesting, but I think I've mastered it. I've only gone up on the curb four times!

Stonehenge was very cool and I was glad to have had a chance to visit it despite the heavy drizzle. One thing that I really appreciated was that I was able to get some photos without 6trillion people standing in the background.

Mum and I were both Anthropology students, and while we know it's completely unethical, if no one had been looking I think we would have started digging in nearby fields in search of archaeological treasure.

After Stonehenge we headed into the small town of Salisbury. When we arrived, there was a sort of farmers market/swap meet happening in the center of town and it seemed everyone, tourists and locals alike were milling around. We popped in and out of cute shops and wandered over to Salisbury Cathedral. The spire of Salisbury Cathedral sits way above everything else in the Salisbury skyline and so it was easy to find.

We spent our last night in the lovely B&B Queen Charlotte's Orangery and then we hit the road to Stow. It was an absolutely gorgeous day.

Along the way we stopped at Blenheim palace. If you just pronounced that as "Blen-Hime" in your head then the Red Coats are laughing at you. It's pronounced Blen-Um.

The largest residence in England, Queen Anne had Blenheim Palace built for the First Duke of Marlborough after his victory over France and the Bavarians in the Battle of Blenheim. The current Duke of Marlborough still resides there - and no, I don't think he rocks chaps and a cowboy hat. And he certainly doesn't smoke Reds.

After Blenheim we headed on to Warwick Castle. This would be the first castle on trip and it has what you would consider the typical military castle architecture. Warwick castle was built by William the Conqueror in 1068 and has seen many residents, prisoners and changes over the centuries.

Unfortunately the property has become exceptionally commercialized. Beyond just the kitschy gift shop they have completely Disney-fied the place. The tower is "The Princess Tower". There is jousting at Sunset and the place is utterly crawling with ye olde character actors. Truly, it was as though every family in Great Britain descended upon Warwick Castle on the same day, at the same moment.

I was glad to have seen it, and equally glad to get back on the road.

We arrived in Stow-on-the-Wold shortly thereafter. Stow is a small town that is part of the group of towns collectively known as The Cotswolds. The hotel we're staying at, The Royalist, claims that it is "the Oldest Inn in England" since the original portion of the building was built in 947 AD. It is a very charming building but the crooked walls/floors/ceilings make it seem like a cross between Ron Weasley's house and The Old Lady in the Shoe.

Since there is no elevator, the front desk offered to help carry our bags upstairs. As they lugged the two massive suitcases up the crooked staircases the young man began to giggle. I guess the joke was that our suitcases probably wouldn't even fit in the room. The room that he affectionately and with good reason refers to as "the Hobbit Hole".

At first we were super irritated and bummed that we'd have a three day stay in Hobbitown. But after a bottle of wine, it simply became funny and cozy. My mum, who is 5'4 on a tall day, has now hit her head three times on the ceiling.

We have two more nights in the Shire before we head on to Wales. More later!