Sunday, October 24, 2010

Stonehenge and Bath in a Rush.

Geee, I just can't believe how time flies. Octobre is coming to an end and half of my internship is over already. :< I am honestly considering applying for my master's degree at a uni here in London. Just a thought I had without any definite plans or anything. Who knows... I just... Going back to Hanover will be difficult.

Anyway, on Octobre 9th I went with Katja to... STONEHENGE and BATH! We booked one of those bus tours for 54GBP I think it was which is great on the one hand as the price is not too bad I'd say but on the other hand, the time you actually get to spend there is completely determined by other. They gave us 1 hour for stonehenge which is plenty considering that despite stonehenge being stonehenge - mysterious, fascinating and so on - in the end, there are just some stones in a circle; you've pretty much seen everything after 60 minutes. Entry was included in those 54GBP so we did not have to queue at all as was the audioguide available in quite a few languages. I made myself listen to it for a while but just gave up after maybe 10 minutes - c'mon, I'm was not there to listen to some boring ass crap I would have forgotten ten minutes later anyway. I know me and how that works - I listened to it all the way through Fontainebleau when I was in Paris and does anybody think that I retained at least on thing in my head? Nope.

I want to be honest - stonehenge was pretty much a letdown. Not only was it way smaller than I thought it was but also way too crowded and they would not even let you get close to the stones as it was fenced off. So all the pictures are from quite a distance. I mean, I completely understand why they do so - they want to maintain the formation as good as possible but is kinda destroys the amosphere. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad I was there and I don't want to miss the experience, but it just cannot keep up with its reputation. Interesting - but just too tiny to be impressive.

Speaking about tiny. So was our tour guide. That short, sturdy dark-haired early thirties woman I'd say being just a little too perky and friendly to be real. I'm with the client service girls - I know how that works when they're on the phone. I'm not complaining here, that is exactly what her job requires and other people (want to) buy that so she was pretty good at it. What I am complaining about indeed are people that don't know how to be on time when a whole bus (well, it was not really full to be honest) is waiting for them. When you are told when to be back - be back. I don't want to see you leisurely getting on the bus late because you just had to get into that 10 minute queue for a bloody overpriced SAMMICH. What I WANT to do in those cases is to rub that bloody thing in your bloody face especially when looking at your ignorant, completely oblivious face. I hope it gave you heartburn or something. I just cannot stand that kind of inconsideration, you gain in lunch is my loss in time - keeping in mind that WE actually abandoned to get something to eat (much less staying in the souvenir shop for more than a minute). Nevermind.

The drive was alright. Not too long, not too fatiguing. Wheather was cloudy all day long which was okay for stonehenge but maybe a bit of a pity for Bath. Bath. Beautiful. The first sight of this 86.000 resident city was stunning but difficult to catch on camera as the bus did not stop and due to the weather, the visibility was rather misty. What makes Bath so special besides having an actual Roman bath built about 60-70 AD are its architectural characteristics. The whole town - or at least the facades - are made from a kind of limestone found in that area carying its name (Bath Stone, duh) and being beige-yellowish colourwise. Even buildings built today are obliged to be covered in that precious, hence pricey, material to a certain degree to keep the flair of the town.
They gave us only 3 hours for the Roman baths (now a museum) and sightseeing which is simply not enough if you want to do it right. Katja and I quickly agreed on three main sights we needed to see (The Circus, The Royal Crescent and the Pulteney Bridge) and set off to the museum (which was included again) with me taking pictures and Katja shouting random facts at me she listened to on the audioguide. Hurrying through the baths in about and hour, devouring a nice yet overpriced lunch (steak with chips, some salad and garlic bread) in a quite posh restaurant (Grand Pump Room) with live ensemble in 30 minutes, we continued to view the town in a rush, taking most of the pictures while walking. Jane Austen 'museum' with weird costumed guy standing at the front our guide was befriended with as she greeted him already when we were still on the bus (she commanded us to wave and blow kisses at him. Well...) - check. Never read Jane Austen but hey, while we're here. It seemed to be one of those privately-ran small town museums closer to a junk-shop than to anything else we might even have checked out when there would have been more time on our hands.

The Circus

The Circus first (we were given a map while still with the group which turned out to be quite adequate so the orientation was not too bad apparently; Katja was completely in charge of that as I'm a person that seems to constantly go into the exact opposite direction than desired). Check. Alright, interesting and quite a nice view with the trees in the centre. Moving on up to The Royal Crescent. Nice. There seemed to be some kind of festival on the green areas around that place.

The Royal Crescent
As I said, we completely hurried through the town withouth having had enough time to really get a strong impression of the areas and to put deeper thought in it, inhaling the atmosphere which is such a shame so my two cents are rather shallow on these ones.

Next and final "must see" was the Pulteney Bridge.  Alright, the route was not too difficult. Go to the left at this junction, to the right at the next and - lost. Well not really. It took us only about 10 minutes to realise that the way we were on was certainly not the right one and go back. Whatev - we saw some more of the town and a 'mini Camden Market' as she named it - a small vintage car boot sale.

When we finally arrived at the bridge, we had some more time to linger. From architectural perspective is this bridge finished in 1773 not only beautiful but also quite unique with only 3 of this kind existing all over the world. One here, one in Venice and the other... somewhere else. You cannot really see that it is a bridge when directly on it as it appears to be a common street lined with terrace houses, then. We stood there for a while enjoying the view, regretting that we did not have enough time to drink some coffee (cocoa for K√§tcha that would have been) and rest in the little park beneath the bridge. I was trying to squeeze out some pictures of my low battery-ed camera while she was trying to be on those (Me: Let me just take another picture from this side... K, saying  'What? You want to take a picture of me?' merciless striking a pose all over the railing...).


On the way back to the coach we grabbed some hot chocolate at Nero along with some yummy brownies and made our way back to London, taking a short unspectacular walk at Earl's Court before calling it a night.

Would I recommend those coach tours? Yes and no. It was a convenient and practical way to see those two locations with the time we had at stonehenge having been more than enough and due to the tickets already been included there was no need to get in the rather long queues at any place. However, when moving on to Bath, I came to the conclusion that one should either take their time to enjoy the city or go to the museum, as there honestly was at least one hour missing to do both properly.