Went on a wifi hunt as I needed to get the flight info downloaded for our trip to Bath today. Went to the evil Starbucks, bought a drink, filled out their intrusive online form, then discovered you have to pay seperately for it and it wasn’t working anyway and the barista was kind enough to wink and nod us into the direction of the evil McDo’s where I managed to get sorted on the iPod without a form or password or any other such nonsense. Had our last lunch with Genevieve back at her flat, thanked her profusely, then took the train to the airport. Nothing too exciting to note there except for dozens of tiny princes and princesses coming from Eurodisney which was super cute. We arrived at our hotel, Hadrian’s Lodge, in the town of Wallsend, named for it’s location at the end of the last portion of Hadrian’s wall. Nice and quiet and only a few train stops from Newcastle which we explored a little. My mom thought there were a lot of prostitutes but they weren’t prostitutes, there’s just a large percentage of young ladies here who seem to have a unique concept of fashion.
Boo rain, rain and more rain with a large smattering of chilly. We went to the ruins of Segudenum, one of the more important forts along the wall and was the last one built. Most of it is long gone but they were able to mark out the original layout so it was neat to get a proper perspective of size and type and use of the structures they would have had there. In the museum they had a video depicting the area timelapsed over the last 2000 years which was pretty cool, seeing it built, taken down, built again, left to crumble, at one point there was even a parking lot on top of it. The museum itself is really aimed at kids and I could only imagine how much fun my niece and nephew would have had there. After our first proper Hadrian’s wall exploration, we went into Newcastle where there was a street fair where we found a fellow selling manchego and salchichón and he even gave us his last hunk of chorizo! Went on a hunt for information on the bus that crosses the wall with stops at the major sites along it. Took forever with stops at different info booths, train station and the library (where I printed my airline tickets for India too) we finally got what we were looking for and spent the evening at the hotel planning our route and eating baguette sandwiches of manchego cheese and salchichón. Oh and funny story, the hotel had the same pamphlet we had spent the day tracking down…
So we spent the last night planning our path with precision, but forgot about the train that takes us to the start and being a Sunday, wasn’t runnig nearly as often enough as we had been counting on. Fortunately we had scouted out the bus stop on the previous day’s adventure and we spotted the bus as it was about to depart, I booked it and stood in front of the bus and the driver was kind enough to stop and wait a minute until my mom could catch up. There is only one bus that leaves from here and only one that will bring us back, the on/off thing wasn’t as flexible as we’d hoped so we were only able to choose 2 stops to explore that would leave us with a connection to continue. Our first stop was Homesteads Fort, the most complete one along the remains of the wall. This one housed 1000 soldiers and was much larger than Segudenum and as it was out in the countryside with no modern construction nearby, you had a much better feel of what it must have been like. I also found it interesting to recognize the difference between these ruins and ones I had seen in more established roman cities. Here things were much rougher and morter was used for the stones, this was the frontier and there were no luxurious feats of roman architecture, this was built strictly for defense. Our next stop was Carlisle, the other end of the wall, we essentially crossed the country, albeit at it’s narrowest point of about 80 miles, it’s not as big of an adventure as it sounds. On this end there was nothing left of the wall but there it was a nice town to explore and we also checked out Carlisle castle where Mary Queen of Scot’s had been stored until Queen Elizabeth I chopped off her head. This was also where the prisoners from the failed war to put Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne were hung for a couple minutes, then had their guts ripped open and burned in front of their eyes, then had their heads cut off. Lovely. We skipped the bus back and took the train which cut our return time by half and we were glad we did it the way we did instead of the original plan of a 4 day hike which would have killed the both of us, especially with the weather, we were lucky that it was decent for this one day.
Woke up to the realization that Rasputin had been looping on my iPod the while time I was sleeping, I’m goin to boycott it for a while now. We packed up, ready for our next adventure. At breakfast we met a woman on her way to be interviewed for a story because she had been born in Queen Victoria’s bedroom and she was making the pilgrimage to her birthplace for the first time. At the train station, I got through to the airline to start the process of changing my route, I hope for confirmation later this week. My original plan was to end in Poland at a friends wedding but as my ‘date’ was pregnant and not able to go, I figured Amsterdam would be a better place to end my adventure. I’m trying to switch my flight and hoping it won’t cost too much more than having to fly to Poland just to catch a flight I no longer need. The train was for 5 hours today with no leg stretching stops but we arrived in Bath without dying. We made it to a lovely B&B, far from the chaos but within easy reach of everything we wanted. Prices were a little steeper here but it was the summer solstice and there were 30,000 at nearby Stonehenge that day. We walked to a great nearby pub and had a proper dose of fish & chips, as requested by my Pop. Also managed to polish off the book I started the day before. ‘Songs For The Butcher’s Daughter’, best book I’ve read on this journey so far and I highly recommend it.
We were going to take the double decker tour bus today but got sick of waiting for it so instead we stuck our tongues out at it everytime we saw it in the future and took the regular public transport. We went and saw the Abbey which was stunning, as well as the 5000 hour quilting and illustration project a woman did after being inspired by the Abbey. Went to see the Roman Baths, a little disappointing as a lot of it was added on afterwards for tourists and I’ve now been spoiled by being able to see so many raw ruins in Turkey and Croatia. Still worth seeing though, a lot of history there. Then it was time for Stonehenge, it’s been on our list of things to do since forever. The last time I was in England it was still impossible to get closer than 5km so this was a treat to get within 20ft. There are ways to see inside but right now the private viewings are off the schedule until after all the solstice stuff dies down. During the solstice celebrations you can go right in but I wasn’t into squishing through that crowd with my poor mom. It was better than I imagined, the way the paths have been arranged, you can get an almost completely unobstructed 360 view. From Stonehenge, we visited the village of Lacock where some of the filming for Harry Potter took place. It’s an easy village to modify to be able to go back in time for filming. More exciting for the kids but still interesting. I should note to anyone who thinks India is smelly, they have never driven past a pig farm in the British countryside, smelliest smell I have ever smelled. Also, some of the vineyards in Bordeaux had a pretty vile stinkyness too, Marie and I would plug our noses as we drove by. After getting back to the hotel, my mom and I took advantage of the 300 long distance minutes I got as a bonus with my sim card and caught up with our nearest and dearest at home.
My mom and I decided to start our last day with a walk to the city center along the river path. Once in town I found a couple books to take with me to India, not the ones I wanted but at least by the same author so I have high hopes. We took a public bus back to the hotel to get our luggage and took a cab to the train station. Took the train which turned out to be a total gong show. Some thieves had stolen copper from the cables wreaking havoc on the whole train system, entire quadrants of the country could not get through to London. Ours turned out to be the first one let through so we adopted passengers from the other trains that had been stopped. We decided to get off at Reading since we figures Paddington would be a nightmare by the time we got there and from Reading, took an airport bus to Heathrow where we took a hopper bus to the hotel. Were you counting? That’s 6 modes of transport in 6 hours! Back at the hotel, I passed off some stuff to my mom to take to Canada and went to sleep, I have tonsilitis at the moment and need as much sleep as I can get! I suspect my first couple days in India will be a write-off. As it’s my last full day in the UK, I would like to expound on how amazing everyone was to us, random people carrying my mom’s suitcase for her, people offering to help us find something when they saw us with a map, actually walking us to where we’re looking for, printing documents for us, I was pleasantly surprised and grateful, these were some of the most warm, helpful, and considerate strangers I’ve ever come across.
Woke up early to say goodbye to my momma and head to the airport. It was so fantastic to be able to travel with her like this even though I’m sure I drove her nuts half the time, we have different ways of doing things as we come from different villages :) but we managed to get to know eachother better and had a lot of fun. We managed to see everyone we’d hope to and more, gotta keep the expanding family tree connected! Got on the plane and took something to help me sleep, I completely lost about 3 hours of the 9 hour flight which was bonus. The plane was nice, my economy seat was more comfortable than the first class one on Iberia. The throat is surviving but I’m sure it will be terrible once I reach my final destination in another 6 hours. No liquids allowed in carry on at all so I had to pack my throat spray in my pack when I transfered terminals. Called my dad to let him know I had reached Bombay and he was on his way to pick up my mom in Edmonton. Next weeks blog: what to do during monsoon in Goa!