Friday, September 14, 2012

Saturday, September 8 On to the West Country

After a pleasant stay in London, not including the Marriott Hotel, we check out and take a taxi across Westminister Bridge a last time to the Hertz office near Victoria Station. With minimal bother and time spent we are in our brand new (11 miles on the odometer) VW Passat. This one is diesel with a 6-speed manual transmission. OK, plug in the GPS, let it determine that it is no longer in France, and head out. We have no difficulty getting onto the M4 toward Heathrow. The problem is in moving once we get on it. It is Saturday. The sun is out, unusual in England, and the whole population of London is heading for Brighton and a day at the beach!

We crawl along and, according to the car’s instruments, we average 11 MPH for the first hour of our drive. We reset the GPS to avoid highways and it takes us off into the countryside on typical two-lane British roads
where everyone who is not heading for the beach, is out driving around for the fun of it. There are dozens of convertibles with their tops down blasting down these roads that would have a 35 MPH limit on them in Texas. Here the limit is either 60 or 70 MPH except in town limits where it drops to 30 MPH. After another hour of this, we give up and ask the GPS for the main highways again and, once we get back on the appropriate one, we do better and clip along at or near posted speeds of 60-70 MPH.

Our first planned stop is in Salisbury to see the town and the cathedral. We find a shopping mall parking lot near the cathedral and pull in as its electronic sign shows empty spots. On the second level we spot a handicap space and pull into it. Carolyn has been told that England does not honor US handicap stickers but Dick takes the position that it is better to big forgiveness than ask permission.

Just outside the garage, we spot a pub where we split an order of fish and chips with a coke and a beer to wash it down (14.80GBP) or about $21 US. Ouch!!

After our late lunch, we walk to and through an open-air market that goes on each Saturday and Tuesday. The motto of the market, that has been going on since ancient times, is "We yell it. We sell it!" The vendors are selling everything from old comic books to jams, jellies, sun glasses and fresh chickens.
We then walk over to the cathedral compound and pay to enter, 13GBP or about $19 US. The cathedral is quite nice and worth seeing. Once done and after seeing one of four original copies of the Magna Carta from 1215 we head back to the car and continue our trip to Bath.

Dick has put the address of our hotel, Oldfield’s Hotel, in the GPS and, as usual, it is off by several hundred yards on the exact location. While Dick is turning the car around in a narrow little driveway, Carolyn asks a lady who walks by for the hotel’s location and we are off down the street. We check in and find that the hotel has on site parking for perhaps half the guest’s cars. The late comers, like us, have to park on the street and display a pass the hotel will provide. Parking is easily the number one traffic issue in this country. There is none!!

We select a restaurant from a list provided by the hotel and head out with, once again, the address in the GPS. The GPS knows the restaurant by name. How cool is that? But, and our recent days have been full of buts, the GPS thinks it is located on Forester Lane and it is actually on Forester Road! It is only a matter of a few blocks but, if you don’t know where you are going, the miss is as good as a mile.

We finally get to Bathwick Boatman Restaurant, overlooking the Avon River, and have a very nice meal. We visit with some locals at the next table and generally enjoy ourselves.
Returning to the hotel, the room has cooled down enough to give hope for even cooler to come and we turn in, tired from our all day 80 mile trip.

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