Monday 29 August 2011

Bath & Stonehenge

Today (Monday, 8/29) was a Bank Holiday (i.e. day off).  I've pledged to not let an opportunity pass so we headed south for a 3-day weekend.  This was notionally a weekend in Bath but we really only spent Sunday there.  On the way down on Saturday we stopped in Cheddar, Wells and Glastonbury before ending up at our B&B near Bradford on Avon just outside of Bath.  On Monday we visited Stonehenge and Avebury before heading home.

Bath is around 3 hours drive from Derby.  I expected horrendous traffic as bank holiday weekends are notorious but it wasn't that bad.  We had a little traffic on the way down that cost us 30 minutes tops; none on the way back.

We all had a great time.  Bath was fascinating and we clearly could have spent more time there.  In fact, this was somewhat of a "survey" weekend as each of the various stops could have used a little more time.  However, those are the choices that have to be made.  Kuk's already planning a return visit with her sister (whenever she comes).

I changed our plans right out of the gate and decided to stop in Cheddar.  This is a beautiful area (Cheddar Gorge).  There is a company that runs tourists through caves and such but we just admired the view this time.  Perhaps we will stop again as part of another trip further south.

Yes, this is that cheddar.  From the website,  "The land around the village of Cheddar has been at the centre of England's dairy industry since at least the 15th Century with the earliest references to Cheddar Cheese dating from 1170.  With the absence of refrigeration or adequate transport the problem of what to do with surplus milk was solved by turning it into cheese. Cheesemakers discovered that if you pressed (squeezed out moisture with a heavy weight) the fresh curd, the cheese lasted much longer. This method of cheesemaking along with other refinements was perfected in the Cheddar area and so the first authentic Cheddar Cheese was born."

We enjoyed the behind the scenes tour/video and free samples (though some were a little mature for our simple tastes).

The kids along Cheddar Gorge.

more scenery in Cheddar Gorge

and another

Alex spotted this water vole in the creek along the way back to the car

Next stop, Wells, and its wonderful cathedral.  England's first completely Gothic cathedral, dating back to ~1200.

unique double or scissors arch

vast stained glass

Dating back to 1390, this is considered the 2nd oldest working clock in the world (it's 3:27 by the way).  You can supposedly tell the lunar phase as well.

another shot of the scissor arch

family shot outside (too bad the photographer clipped the top)

Next stop, Glastonbury.  Here the ruined abbey (Henry VIII ruined all monasteries).

In the distance, you can see the tower atop the Glastonbury Tor (hint:  foreshadowing)

I don't know what it is with abbeys, but there was another birds of prey exhibit.  Recall back in May on Holy Island that the kids also got to hold an owl.  Nicole really enjoys this as the owl is one of her favorites.

Nicole's wouldn't look at me so I had to move around.

 great shot with the little guy

hmm, bacon (prop in the kitchen on the abbey grounds)
 kids and the abbey

Glastonbury has a few legends (marketing?) surrounding it.  The first is that Joseph of Arimathea (Jesus' uncle) brought vessels containing Jesus blood in AD 37.  The other is that 5th century warlord Arthur and Queen Guinevere's remains were dug up at this spot (above).  There's a chalice well (Holy Grail) as well, but we were too late for that.

 A ha, we made it up to the top of the Tor.

 view down to Glastonbury below

a reflective (okay, resting) moment with mother and daughter

Next day:  Bath.  What a fantastic day.  We really enjoyed the tour provided by the Mayor's guide which focused on the change from medieval mud pit to tourists mecca in the 1700's.

The Pump Room is now a restaurant, but used to be the place to get your own healing water.  Samples for sale, but we passed (it's evidently quite nasty with all the minerals).

A little further out in the planned city is the crescent building.  My photography doesn't do it justice.

Inside the abbey (after the guided walk).  Notice the bright light inside.  Minimal stained glass so that the sun can shine through.

Ah, but there is some stained glass as well.

Now, on to the Roman Baths.  These were actually covered/hidden until the late 1800's.  The other baths (Kings, Queens and 1 more ???) existed in the 1700's ++ without knowledge of the Roman ruins close by.

Not a pretty site, but actually another fine examples of Roman engineering.  This was the planned overflow of the spring/bath that was directed downstream and out of harm's way.

standing where Roman's once did ~2000 years ago

From the Roman Bath looking back at the Abbey (quite close).

Alex drilled this poor Roman soldier with about 20+ questions.  Nice photo afterwards.

This was not your ordinary street performer.  He just climbed up a 10 foot unicycle.

 Now on his own power, though he jokingly used the street signs to balance at first.

 adding in a little fire juggling -- we happily shared a few coins with him

back after dinner to view the Abbey at night.  We also participated in Bizarre Bath, a wonderfully funny comedy walk (the kids liked it too even with 1/3 of the jokes flying over their heads).  It made for a long day, but we paced ourselves well (sleeping was not a problem either).

Next day, Stonehenge.  We had been warned to be underwhelmed.  In some ways, it is.  You can't get close to the stones and despite their size, you somewhat expect bigger.  However, it is still quite a site to see and even more amazing to think about the how and why of it all.

On our drive from Stonehenge to Avebury, we saw this white horse cut into the clearing.

Next (and last stop) was Avebury, a "pre-historic open air museum".   Their stone circle is about 16 times the size (diameter) of Stonehenge though many of the stones have been destroyed over time.  It was nice to be able to walk among them and think of the people that put them there many thousands of years ago.

Of course, I had to get a sheep shot.  More photos with the stones of Avebury below.

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