Sunday, September 25, 2011

Day 7: Day trip to Wiltshire

Today we were going to spend quality time at the spa. But we rethought that plan after checking out our guide book and realizing how close we are to some extremely old, tiny towns. So we plotted out our journey and hopped in the car after yet another filling breakfast. Here's our route.
On our way to the first town, we saw this adorable flock of sheep. The coolest thing about it is that here in England, you're welcome on the majority of the land. So we could've walked through this fence following that footpath amongst the sheep and had ourselves a little stroll without trespassing.
First up, Castle Combe. Described in our book as "An idyllic English village ... claims to be the prettiest in the country and, frankly, this is hard to dispute." Eric and would completely agree with that statement. It's awesome. Walking around this teeny, tiny town felt like being in this scene from Beauty and the Beast:
 The 13th century castle.
 Cross-stitched cushions at the pews.
 Monument of Sire Walter de Dunstanville, lord of the manor.
The church smelled so good inside because it was completely filled with fresh white flowers everywhere.
 More details of the town.
 Breads made by a local man. I picked up a piece of the lemon drizzle. Delicious.
From there we drove about 20 minutes to the next town, Lacock. Lonely Planet says, "There are no TV aerials, no yellow lines and no overhead cables in this gorgeous medieval village where most buildings date from before 1800 - it's almost a surprise to see electric light in the windows." It was used as part of the set for BBC's Pride and Prejudice as well as scenes from Harry Potter. 
The entrance to a cell where the local disorderly drunks would spend the night if they got too out of hand.
 Eric trying out the cell bed.

 This is Harry Potter's house!
 We stopped in to a craft fair that was going on a bought some handmade soaps. The man selling them struck up a conversation with us. He was quite the talker and we had about a 20 minute chat about the differences between London and NYC. After, we went to a potter's studio and checked out his work. This also turned into another lengthy visit. The potter, David, told us he is a descendent of Winston Churchill, why most clocks with Roman numerals use IIII in place of 4 instead of IV, the rule of 3's, as well as a special way to get to the Avebury Circle. After leaving, I felt like I had to take a picture to remember the moment. Right when I did, he jumped in the doorway and said "I thought I'd be in your photo!". He was a special character.
 A few blocks from his shop sits the Lacock Abbey. It was built in the early 13th century as a nunnery. In the mid 16th century, it was converted in to a home by Sir William Sharington. Three centuries later, William Henry Fox Talbot conducted experiments in developing photography.
This hallway was used in the Harry Potter movies.
 As was this courtyard.
 As was this room, the Chapter House.
And this room, the Warming Room. The cauldron cooked food for Queen Anne. This room was for all things food related. There are stone troughs that would house fish, a staple food for the nuns.
 Additional rooms including the brewery (inside shots below).

 There was more to see in Lacock but we were starving so we drove to a neighboring town, Rowde, for some good eats that got rave reviews, George and Dragon. It definitely lived up to our expectations. Cozy inside and tasty meals.
About 20 minutes from there lies Avebury's Stone Circle. Stonehenge was much too far away so we visited this henge much closer by. It dates from 2500-2200 BC. It's one of the largest circles in Britain. There is an outer circle surrounded by a ditch. Inside is another circle and inside that, 2 more smaller circles. 
 Video of the area. Aside from the wind, you can hear the faint sound of church bells going off in the town.
 Another cool part about the henge is that goats were grazing freely in the area right along with the visitors. I wanted to pet them so badly but they weren't down for it. So I pretended to eat dinner with them.
Thatched roofs are still a big deal here.
I just don't understand. If the Brits can keep these 13th century homes kicking in great shape 800 years later, why is it that our landlord can't take care of our Victorian apartment? Mind boggling.
So needless to say, this was a long but exciting day for us. We went home, packed up for our departure tomorrow, got snacks at the nearby grocery and watched some t.v. One full week of honeymoon done. Can't believe we're only a third of the way through so far. Trip of a lifetime!

Day 6: Bath

Since we arrived in Bath late the night before, it was too dark to see the city and surroundings. It was a nice surprise when we woke up and saw this was the view from our hotel room.
Our B&B is nice, a bit oddly decorated but, it has a huge claw foot tub in the bedroom! I get to take a bath in Bath...a dream come true :)

We made it to breakfast and filled up on more eggs, sausage and toast before hitting the road. The center of town was less than a mile from our place. We walked down and first stopped to book massages at Thermae Bath Spa; the only spa in the country where you can bathe in natural thermal waters. But, here’s a shock, it’s a super popular place and you have to book your treatments a month in advance! We were pretty bummed but   it’s Bath; we were confident that there’d be other things to do. So we headed to the Roman Bath Museum just up the street. The baths date back 2000 years. People came from all over to bathe in the thermal waters believing that it would cure their ailments. The Romans built this huge bath house with multiple rooms, pools, and even a temple all for the public.
 The Great Bath. The statues on top are of Roman Emperors.
The Pump Room. That fountain pours hot spa water safe for drinking. It contains 43 minerals and is said to have a "unique" taste.
 An acrylic model showing how the water flows through the baths.
 Some of the oldest graffiti ever. Martin, you bad boy.
These are the steps at the entrance of the spa.
 This is an alter from the courtyard; believed to be used for sacrifices.
 This is a sculpture of Sulis Minerva's head; the goddess who was worshiped at the spa. It sat in the center of the temple.

 A curse. When someone felt they had been done wrong, they would visit a scribe, explain their problem and what they want the gods/goddesses to do about it. The scribe would write down their complaints and wishes in a way the deities would understand it on these pieces of thin lead. They would then get folded up and thrown in the spring. Here's one below with its translation beneath about someone's money being stolen.

The Sacred Spring. 
 Overflow from the spring.
 Us at the Great Bath.
 Water flowing in to the Great Bath.
 One of the pools.
 A treatment room where you could get massages.
 The heated rooms. These rooms were basically saunas. The floors were set upon these stacked tiles. Hot air from furnaces would flow under the floor making it nice and warm for bathers. The floor would get so hot they'd have to wear sandals so they didn't burn their toes. It was some lucky slave's job to crawl under the floor and clean out the soot.
 Circular plunge pool.
 Pigeons getting their spa fix.
 More tile stacks in the hot rooms.
It was a pretty amazing thing to see. We were there forever and right when we left, we turned the corner and there was Bath Abbey! Another amazing site.
Included in our Roman Bath admission was passes to the Bath Fashion Museum. Since I missed out at the V&A, I got really excited for this. However, when we got there, I was a little disappointed. They had a lot of great things but they just don't have the funding to make it a nice exhibit. The mannequins the clothes were on looked like Sears rejects or something. But here are some of the highlights. This is one dress I particularly liked. Behind it are stacks of boxes containing more garments that they don't have the space to display. Such a shame.
 One of Queen Victoria's mourning outfits.
J Lo's dress! Hahahaha. (see what I mean about the mannequins?)
There was this great spot to try on corsets and crinolines. This was a very exciting moment for me. I love corsets and didn't want to take it off.
Eric had to try one on after lacing me up. Another great moment for me. What a sport.
After our quick stint at the fashion museum, we walked up to the Royal Crescent. So chic.
By now we were starving and headed to an Italian restaurant recommended to us by a woman working at the Jane Austen Center. Saturday was the last day for the Jane Austen Festival. She lived in Bath for 5 years so they have a small museum filled with things from that time period as well as some of her belongings. I would've liked to see it but we were both over museums at this point (plus I think that would be pushing it for Eric). We settled for the gift shop and headed over to the restaurant. We worked off our hefty meal with a walk around the town.
For a late night snack, we stopped by a local pub near our B&B for some great food and drinks. We are eating so much on this trip. It's fantastic!