Europe 2010:
Day 11 - England


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Europe 2010: [Day 1 - Luxembourg] [Day 2 - Germany] [Day 3 - Switzerland] [Day 4 - Liechtenstein] [Day 5 - Austria] [Day 6 - Germany] [Day 7 - Czech Republic] [Day 8 - Poland] [Day 9 - Netherlands] [Day 10 - Belgium] [Day 11 - England]

Monday, July 5, 2010: At 5:45 AM, we were heading to the metro station.

Nineteen minutes later, we were at Gare Midi.
We waited in line to show our tickets and at immigration, where we got our passports stamped.
At 6:40 AM, we boarded the train. We were in Coach 11.
We had Leisure Select tickets, so we were in a first class coach.
At 6:59 AM sharp, we were off! We've wanted to take this trip for years, and we love travelling by train, so we were very excited.
Our car was fairly empty, so we asked to change seats so we could face each other and both have window seats. This is what the seats across the aisle looked like.
Trains are awesome.
Our attendant brought us breakfast menus. We had our choice of 1) Omelette with grilled bacon, sautéed potatoes, mushrooms and grilled tomato with parsley, or 2) Smoked salmon, mini choux pastry with fromage frais, flax seeds and organic Li blanc coucou de prés cheese.
Of course, we had to try one of each. Breakfast was also served with yogurt, croissants and bread, orange juice, and hot chocolate.
The train's route took us through France again, and we stopped at Lille to pick up more passengers.
This is the French countryside. It was overcast and we were confused. Where is the sun we've seen all vacation?
Ah, yes, there it is. Whew!
Our GPS tracked our progress showed us how close we were to the underground portion of our trip.
Tunnel! Or more accurately, chunnel!
After travelling under the English Channel, we arrived in sunny, beautiful England about 20 minutes later.
We arrived at St. Pancras Station in London, which is attached to Kings Cross Underground Station. Our arrival time was 7:55 AM London time, which was an hour behind Brussels.
Our guide, Nick, met us in the arrival hall and we were in the tour van and on our way out of town in minutes. Here is Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum.
Nick pointed out this Aston Martin DBS convertible in the London traffic.
Outside of the city, we saw this sign that pointed to Windsor Castle, Ascot Racecourse, and Legoland. Oh, if only we had a few extra hours to visit Legoland!
We glimpsed Windsor Castle from a distance and saw that the flag was up, so Queen Elizabeth was in residence.
About two hours after we left the train station, we were at our first point of interest in the Cotswolds: the town of Castle Combe. This is the beautiful Manor House Hotel.
We visited St. Andrew's Church. Here's the exterior, ...
... and the interior, ...
... and part of the grounds.
Nick gave us some free time to sightsee on our own.
It's a pretty village that has been used as a location for numerous films and television shows, including "Stardust," the original "Dr. Dolittle," and "Warhorse."
This is the market cross in the center of the village.
Looking up one of the streets next to the market cross.
Looking slightly to the left, this building has a small set of stairs on the side of the building. Our guide told us that it was to help drunk patrons get on their horses.
We passed a table of breads offered on the honor system. We purchased some tasty banana nut bread.
Debbie loved seeing all of the flowers in the village. Here are some pretty clematis in a tiny garden along the sidewalk.
Looking down the main street toward the creek.
This cute little building was called the Unicorn Cottage, according to the sign on the door. The slate roofs on these buildings were fascinating.
Pretty. We understand the appeal of a well-maintained English garden.
More clematis.
We exchanged photography duties with another couple at the river.
It's easy to see why Castle Combe is referred to as the prettiest village in England.
Back on the road again, we followed this highway maintenance truck, whose job it is to trim the hedgerows that line most of the roads in the Cotswolds.
Believe it or not, this is a two-way road. On the rare occasion when we encountered another vehicle, Nick and the other driver figured out how to get past each other. Sometimes, it involved backing up to a wider stretch of road.
Our next destination was Bath.
It's a picturesque city set on some hills, which makes for some interesting streets.
Looking down a street with more of Bath visible in the background.
Here's a crescent-shaped street; one of many for which Bath is famous.
Cute little pub in a triangular building.
Several of the homes have plaques noting famous past residents.
This was a circle of homes surrounding a small park. The lion statue on the left was one of dozens we saw in the city.
This is the Royal Crescent, probably the most famous architecture in Bath.
Each set of three columns is an individual residence -- a pricy, pricy residence.
We drove to the other end, verified that we were, in fact, at the Royal Crescent, ...
... then got out of the van to get a picture of it and the sweeping lawn in front of it.
Our guide told us that the wind up here can be a little strong, so this street full of buildings acts as a windbreak.
Here are some former windows that were bricked over when a window tax was introduced.
Jolly's is a department store dating back to 1831.
Bath is just a gorgeous city, no question about it.
It turns out that Bath has a pretty famous attraction: the Roman baths.
The first part of the tour circles the largest bath, topped with statues and towered over by the Abbey Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.
The water is just a little green these days.
This cool display shows the layout of the building and the water flow throughout.
We were in a hurry to get through the museum quickly, but we paused to check out this tomb visible through a plexiglass section of the floor. Spooky.
This is one of the places where you can see the water working its way through the various tunnels and troughs.
Here's another.
The is the lower level of the main bath.
Next, the tour passed by some well-maintained ruins.
Here's an indoor bath.
Here's another little water pathway.
This gorgeous lion statue overlooked one of the smaller baths.
After the tour, you can choose to drink some warm mineral water from the spring. We did. Nick wisely chose not to, having already had the experience. It tasted like licking a stalagtite, or so we assume.
Nick gave us some free time to shop and grab some lunch, so we headed to Sally Lunn's immediately.
We got the last empty table in the restaurant and ordered some British beer. We didn't know what we ended up with, but consulting the Sally Lunn's menu online, it appears that this was Becks. German. Oh well.
We both ordered meals that involved the famous Sally Lunn buns. Tom had the ratatouille trencher dish and Debbie had a ham and Cheddar sandwich.
When we were done with lunch, there was a line outside of the restaurant, so once again, we got really lucky on timing.
This was our favorite of the ubiquitous lion statues. It was mounted on the roof of a chocolate shop, of course.
We did a little bit of shopping and picked up a couple of "Claire" personalized birthday cards.
Then we scurried through town to meet Nick again ...
... with a brief pause to photograph these flowers and the very cool stonework on this building.
We drove through the countryside toward Stonehenge and spied the Westbury White Horse in the far distance. It's a large figure carved into the side of a hill exposing the chalk layer underneath.
We passed pig farms and we think we remember that these are Berkshire pigs.
We drove through the town of Shrewton and admired the thatched roofs on some of the houses, ...
... and this funny little round building that used to serve as a drunk tank.
Just as we arrived at Stonehenge, our camera battery died, so we had to switch cameras. Nick said that is a common occurrence here. On the walkway from the parking lot to Stonehenge, Nick stopped at a depiction of Stonehenge to explain a little more about what we'd be seeing. Nick looks and sounds like a young Sean Bean, which made the tour even more pleasant.
We're here! We can see it! It's right up there!
This was the first of about a zillion pictures we took from nearly every angle.
We were there.
So was Orchy.
This bird looked nice and spooky.
Here's a closeup of some of the stones.
The path goes all the away around the structure, so we got a photo from this angle, ...
... and this one.
Nick took a few more photos of us when we were nearly 3/4 of the way around the grounds.
This is the heel stone, ...
... and this is looking back toward the ring from the heel stone.
In the distance, there were earthen mounds.
Stonehenge is right next to a highway.
After our excellent private tour with the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide anyone could ever hope to have, we visited the gift shop, bought some ice cream, and felt the temperature difference between two of the different types of stone used to build Stonehenge.
These sheep were grazing in a field right next to the parking lot.
Soon enough, we were heading back to London after a perfect, sunny day in the British countryside.
Back in London, we passed this building called The Ark, ...
... and these gorgeous homes, ...
... and Harrods, ...
... and Harvey Nichols.
Can't remember what this gate was. Sorry.
We had a 5:45 reservation at the Absolut Icebar London, but Nick got us there just before 5:00, so we joined the 5:00 group instead.
The bar had an aquatic theme.

Unlike our trip to Icebar Tokyo, there were other guests there for our session.

We studied the Icebar menu to see which vodka-based drink we'd be having.
Debbie chose the Absolut Icebar London, consisting of Absolut Vanilla, blackberry liqueur, apple juice, and cinnamon syrup. Tom chose the Absolut Submarine: Absolut, passionfruit liqueur, watermelon juice, and cucumber syrup.
Orchy had to get his picture taken as a deep sea diver.
This ice sculpture depicted a jellyfish.
Here are ice carvings of a giant squid, ...
... and some fish.
The bar was tiny but had different areas to sit and congregate.
We all wore the usual Icebar capes. We had worn them previously in Icebar Tokyo a few months earlier and at Ice Hotel's Ice Gallery in Stockholm in 2002. When we visited the Icebar in the Ice Hotel in Sweden in 2003, we wore serious snowsuits instead.
Tom managed to look like a man even in a fur-trimmed cape by chugging his drink.
Debbie was just giddy to be here, as usual, no doubt due to her love of all things Swedish.
We got one last photo of the beautiful Torne River ice, ...
... then bought a pair of ice block-shaped shot glasses at the gift counter.
We waited for Nick to pick us up at our meeting point, ...
... and Debbie got this artsy shot of a red balloon going by. Where were the other 98?
We bade farewell to our most excellent guide Nick and grabbed some soup for dinner at St. Pancras station.
We waited for our 7:34 PM train in the Eurostar waiting area.
We were fed dinner on the train, but inexplicably have no photo record of it. The sun was fading as we crossed France, ...

... ending with a beautiful sunset. We arrived in Brussels at 10:33 PM and were up and on our way back to the US via JFK airport the next morning.

** THE END **


Europe 2010: [Day 1 - Luxembourg] [Day 2 - Germany] [Day 3 - Switzerland] [Day 4 - Liechtenstein] [Day 5 - Austria] [Day 6 - Germany] [Day 7 - Czech Republic] [Day 8 - Poland] [Day 9 - Netherlands] [Day 10 - Belgium] [Day 11 - England]

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