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Travel Diary England

Wednesday, May 18, 1988

We arrived at London Gatwick at 10:15 a.m. where we proceeded through customs quickly. At Budget office for the rental car we found they needed a deposit of 250 pounds plus a 400 pounds insurance waiver, about $1,300. That was more than our credit cards would approve, so Dick called Central-Rent-a-Car. We had attempted to contact them Monday but couldn’t get through. They picked us up with a van and took us to the rental place, then took Dick to the bank to change money. We got a Ford Fiesta, bright red with only 4000 miles on it, which cost us 187 pounds for 12 days. Dick got his first experience at driving on the left side of the road. As we came to our first round-about (traffic circle) we almost got smashed into the side. Wow! After stopping at a Texaco station to get a map, the traffic made it hard to get back on the street, but we made it.

We stopped at one of the B and B’s on Massatts Street that looked nice; the Jessop’s Lodge. I couldn’t understand the lady through the box at the door so Dick got out and talked. The fee was 28 pounds for the two of us. Since it was now about 1 p.m. we decided to rest instead of going to London. I walked downtown in Horley to the bank to change traveler’s checks; the rate was $1.8745 per pound. I walked back in a light rain. It was really rather nice and I don’t even like rain. We slept for several hours that afternoon. The room had an electric tea kettle and a jar with cookies so we had some tea and cookies.

For dinner we went out to find the 6 Bells pub. We tried to follow the directions the hostess had given but after not finding it we asked a pedestrian directions and he told us to go back the other way. After exploring several streets we asked again at the Texaco station. Following those directions we came to a pub called Monks Pantry, in a church yard. We turned around and again asked a pedestrian who told us it was back where we had been. When we got there no seats were available and they said we would have to wait until after 9; it was then a little after 7. The young man of whom we asked directions had reservations and said we could take his place if we could be through in an hour. This quaint pub is supposed to be the oldest in the world. You go into the kitchen to order than go back to your table and wait for them to bring it to you. We both ordered Turkey Carribean and soup. Dick’s soup was potato and I had a tomato and barley; both very good. We weren’t too fond of the main course though. It was turkey in a sauce with peaches. Back in the room we watched a movie on TV before we turned in.

Thursday, May 19, 1988

Breakfast this morning of corn flakes, toast and tea at 8 a.m., then prepared to go to London. We made sure to arrive at the train station in Horley after 9:30 when the fares are half price after the rush hour. We bought a capital pass good for all day on any bus or train in London. It took approximately 45 minutes to get to Victoria Station where we went to Tourist Information to see about a tour of the city. We found long lines (queues) at all the windows. I bought a ticket for the 1 hour tour of the city’s highlights on a red double-decker bus.

After the tour we got a couple of sandwiches and coffee at a deli. I had forgotten how strong European coffee is. It bothered me all afternoon. Next we took the underground, which is quite easy to get around on, to tour the Tower of London. Upon leaving we wanted to take the bus but couldn’t find the right one so took the tube back to Westminster. Unfortunately, Westminster Abbey was closed for a ceremony commemorating Florence Nightingale so we weren’t able to tour it.

Back at Victoria Station we picked up some sandwiches, cokes and apples and looked for the train to go back to Horley. We asked which train to take and they told us platform 12. We confidently got on the train and settled in for the ride. We were so surprised when we arrived in Reigate, everyone got off and the train started back toward London. We got off at the next stop and took the next train back on the other side of the tracks, finally arriving, very tired, back at Horley about 7 p.m. We ate our sandwiches and went to bed.

.Friday, May 20, 1988

After our breakfast of corn flakes and toast, we left the room in Horley where we had stayed two nights with the young couple and their two little girls. We took off in a westerly direction through Southern England staying as much as possible on the highways rather than freeways. Dick had a few scary times on the narrow roads. The country side was beautiful and green; reminded me of the bluegrass country of Kentucky. There were many horse chestnut trees in bloom; some red and some white. Much of the country was rolling hills; the crops were mostly hay, something with a yellow bloom and a grain which we guessed to be barley.

We drove to Marlborough where we got info about Stonehenge and learned we must go back south. We parked in the middle of the street (public parking) and found the town’s public toilets very clearly marked. It seemed fairly easy to get about because of the clear signs and we soon got used to the roundabouts. At Stonehenge I found it smaller than I had imagined. We stayed outside the fence rather than paying the fee to go across the road and walk around it.

From there we went on to Bath. This was more of a challenge. We still didn’t know where we were going and followed a yellow sign that said Royal Bath and West Show all over town then on out in the country. By that time we decided it was time to turn around and go back. Finally we stopped and I asked directions at a post office. It took some doing because if you take a wrong turn you can’t go around the block as there are no such things. Eventually we found the Abbey and the car park. We walked across the bridge over the Avon River and found the Baths behind the Abbey. These hot baths were built by the Romans when they occupied England. They were filled in during the Dark Ages and only discovered about 100 years ago. Many interesting things were found after extensive archeological excavation.

Just outside of Bath we stopped at a B & B owned by an elderly English gentleman. We went to a nearby pub, The White Hart for dinner where we had fried scampi with French fries. Back in our room we were sooo tired we went right to sleep as soon as we climbed into bed.
P.S. The countryside we were driving through today reminded us of a patchwork quilt because of the hedges bordering the fields.

Saturday May 21, 1988

We learned this morning what a full English breakfast is. The old gentleman served us ham, sausage, poached egg, fried bread w/mushrooms, plus the cereal and toast, at 8:30 a.m.

From there we traveled north to Stratford-upon-Avon to tour the birthplace of Wm. Shakespeare. I felt a cold coming on so we found a shop to buy aspirin, a writing tablet and envelopes and some handi-wipes to use as wash cloths since none of the rooms have them. The post office was located so I could mail the cards I had written the night before. From there we traveled north and picked up the Motorway( equivalent of our freeway). There was much level land in this area.

Dick became tired of wrestling the car through the narrow roads so we took the motorway north. North of Nottingham we left the motorway to drive through Sherwood Forest and visit Robin Hood country. Near Edwinstowe we found the Robin Hood Centre and the famous Major Oak. It is doubtful that it had anything to do with Robin Hood, but it is a wonderfully large tree to see anyway.

Continuing on, we drove towards York, staying for the night at a lovely home outside York. The room was large and light with color TV and tea in the room. It being a Saturday night, the nearby White Swan where we ate was very crowded. We had lasagna and after dinner delicious liqueur coffee; only problem when we got to bed we couldn’t sleep and was up until about 1:45 a.m.

Sun. May 22, 1988

This morning we didn’t want to get up because of going to bed so late but having told the lady 8 a.m. for breakfast we had to. Another huge breakfast of ham, scrambled eggs, sausage, tomato and, of course, cereal, toast and tea. We really hated to leave this home.

At York we toured the Jorwik Centre which was a ride through a diorama of the founding of York and past the archeological dig which has found a Viking village. Many interesting objects have been found. We also enjoyed seeing the walls which surrounded the original city.

From York we traveled on north through the hills of north England. The hills became steeper and the roads more narrow as we got closer to Scotland. At the Scottish border there was an interesting Scottish gentleman playing the bagpipes in front of the stone announcing the frontier. The weather was dreary as one might expect of the area.

Thus began our travel through Scotland which will be left for another time.