2003 Discovering Britain & Ireland – Day 25

PLYMOUTH to STONEHENGE to LONDON – megaliths and goodbyes

Wednesday – the last of the big English Buffet Breakfasts – juice, cereal with yoghurt, bacon, sausage, tomato, mushrooms, toast & jam, coffee – – I really pile the plate and don’t waste a thing.  Looking out the window of the restaurant at Plymouth and sadly realise, as I am eating my way to a heart attack – this is the last day of the tour.  Our bags are on for the last time and we all board the coach and begin our journey to London.  Paul our Tour Director asks Kenny (the driver) to slow down and informs us we are approaching The Pixie House (see photo above).

For everyone on the left side of the bus (I am) get your cameras ready. Is there a time when my cameras are not ready?  This is what we see – I wish we could stop but then again everyone would be buying little pixies and we would be here for hours so maybe it’s best we don’t stop.

Heading north east we cross the Exeter Bridge and arrive in Glastonbury to have a look around by ourselves.  In June of every year Glastonbury plays host to a big music festival – – we are only 3 months too late – – I think it is the English version of Woodstock without the tumultuous music.  Very folksey – very hippy! I, however decide to visit Glastonbury Abbey – ₤3.00 entrance fee and I am through the gate to discover the fabulous ruins of a once proud church.

Traditionally the first great Christian sanctuary in Britain it dates from the 7thCentury.  It is also said that the remains of King Arthur and his Queen were discovered here.

This abbey along with many others like Tintern Abbey – were part of the Dissolution of the Abbeys carried out by good old Henry VIII.  Thousands also come here for the Summer Solstice on Midsummer’s Day.

Over the years history and legend have become intertwined and the monks who founded the Abbey, found it profitable to encourage the association between Glastonbury and the ‘Blessed Isle’ known as Avalon – alleged to be the last resting place of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.

Growing in the grounds – so legend has it – is a cutting from the famous Glastonbury thorn which is said to have miraculously grown from the staff of Joseph of Arimathea.

According to myth, he was sent around AD 60 to convert England to Christianity. Back on the coach we pass by Glastonbury Tor – it is of course the aim of every photo fanatic to have the camera always at the ready so I am lucky enough to get some good photos as we zip by.

This is Glastonbury Tor. In early medieval times there was a monks retreat on top of the hill. The Tor is said to be home to the Lord of the Underworld and King of the Fairies – Gwyn ap Nudd and a place where ‘fairie folke’ live.  This place is also said to be mythically connected to Avalon.

 Next stop is our last place of call for the tour – – the incredible Stonehenge.

There is a path right around the outside of the monuments and you have to stay on it – you can’t wander between the stones. The highway is not so far away and we are told that maybe this will change in future due to pollution and danger to the monuments. Lots and lots of photos – and lots of tourists.

Looking at these magnificent stone towers – or mysterious megaliths – as it says in the Insight itinerary – is incredible. The stones we see now date from about 3000 BC and they are the most important prehistoric monument in Britain today. Stonehenge was first commenced about 5000 years ago and added to over the centuries.  The Ancient Order of the Druids conduct ceremonies here during the Winter and Summer Solstice.

There are places away from the path where you can sit on the grass and just look and wonder about this place. As this is the last stop on our tour it seems to be the right thing to do. A little bit of solitude and reflection – – –

I find a nice grassy patch and think about what I am seeing now and also remembering all the good times and the great places I have been – it has been an incredible experience that I wouldn’t have missed for anything.  The time has gone so fast and I have seen so many wonderful things. I have taken about 35 rolls of film (and I still have a week to go) so I’ll have a lot of photos to help me remember.

Back on the coach for the last time and we head east into London Town and soon our Insight Tour is over. Making sure I have everything – I bid farewell to Paul and Kenny and thank them for such a fabulous, memorable tour. I say goodbye to all my fellow tourers who are going their separate ways. It’s hard to realise that I am now on my own after having had 50 people around me for nearly 4 weeks and I lasted without any major incident – – – or giving anyone a black eye!

I have another 4 days in London to do some more exploring and see some of the things I didn’t see last time. I have to find my own way back to my new lodgings – The Ramada Jarvis in Kensington – I get a taxi uptown with some people from the tour who are staying in the same area.

Arrive at the Ramada and it is a really nice looking place don’t you think? It is in a really nice up-market street – Queens Gate Road and there are lots of trees around. It is late afternoon so I book in and and find my room.

It is a small room – no bath, only a shower but it is clean and is right on the main street and serves the purpose. That is my room on the top floor of the picture on the right. Decide I might go for a wander and a bit of a look around and get some dinner – the hotel serves only breakfasts – so I amble off.

I discover that the hotel is just around the corner from Albert Hall – so really I didn’t have to walk all that way up here in the first place.  Wish I had known but doesn’t matter.

I find a little supermarket and get some food. There is no fridge in the room (???) so I can’t buy anything I need to keep cold. Settle down for the night and all of a sudden the fire-alarms go off. Great – I grab my cameras, films, passport and anything else I can shove into my shoulder bag and take off down the stairs to stand out in the street with all the other guests.

We are all wondering what the hell is going on – can’t see or smell any smoke. The fireys arrive and after about half an hour we can go back inside. It is a false alarm.  Back up to the room and settle down again – until I hear the sounds of a dirty big truck or something out the window.  I look out and lo and behold it is a truck going along picking up cars that are illegally parked. There is a police woman taking photos of the car before it is hoisted onto the truck – during the hoist and after the hoist.

Apparently it is resident’s only along this street and you have to have a parking ticket displayed on the window.  They don’t just fine you – they confiscate your car and it costs about ₤100 to get it back plus the fines. A rather nasty shock awaits those who will come back to their car – and it isn’t there. Anyway, after they have gone, I wonder is this going to be a nightly occurrence? I finally get some sleep.

Highlight of the day: Stonehenge

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