|May 10: Bristol and Bath|
Although sorry to say goodbye to Doug, I set out with none of the nervousness I imagined I would feel at traveling alone.
First I caught a train to Bristol to check out two sights: the Clifton Suspension Bridge (designed by famous engineer Brunel way back in 1830) and the SS Great Britain steamship (also designed by Brunel). The bridge was a long walk from the train station, up narrow and very steep roads. On a scorching hot day and carrying my full backpack, this was quite a disgusting journey, but well worthwhile - the bridge and surrounding valley were spectacular!
A 15-minute train ride brought me to Bath in time to visit the famous Roman baths which give the city its name. Afterwards I spent the evening admiring the buildings and hanging out with the other guests in the hostel, possibly the coolest hostel I encountered [Bath Backpackers], where I decided to stick around for another day.
train to Bristol
|SS Great Britain student admission||5.00|
|train to Bath||5.00|
|Roman baths student admission||8.50|
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol, England
SS Great Britain Steamship, Bristol, England
Roman Baths, Bath, England
|May 11: Stonehenge and Avebury|
The next day I signed up for a tour of Stonehenge and Avebury. Stonehenge was disappointing. Unfortunately, tourists aren't allowed anywhere close to it, which is a shame because it's hard to appreciate from far. There were ugly fences all around and, unbelievably, a highway right beside it (you have to walk under the highway to get from the parking lot to Stonehenge itself).
In contrast, Avebury is a similar, larger site, where tourists are allowed to get close to the remaining stones (many of the stones were destroyed by Christians who tried to discourage the pagan religion). And in addition to the central site, there is a great path marked by stones, called "The Avenue", leading about 1.5km from Avebury. Most people aren't interested in walking that far, so I was the only person there, which was cool.
The tour also made stops at Lacock and Bradford-upon-Avon (preserved 18th century towns).
In the evening I joined Bizarre Bath, a walking tour of Bath where the guide is a comedian. I happened to have exact change for the student fare: "A Math student!" proclaimed the guide. And when he discovered I was Canadian he produced a fake baby seal from his jacket and pretended to club it. This wasn't the only time I was chided about the seal hunt; it must be a headline story overseas.
Stonehenge (zoomed in), England
The Avenue at Avebury, England
The Avenue surroundings, Avebury, England
|May 12: Exeter and Plymouth|
The next day I left Bath and found my way to the Exeter Cathedral. At this point I was overdosed on cathedrals and didn't stay long. Afterwards I stopped for a Leonardo DaVinci exhibit, but the ten drawings on display weren't too inspiring either... Eventually I made it back to the train station after getting lost twice, which left a bad taste in my mouth.
But my bad temper was alleviated when I discovered the city of Plymouth! A wide street, split in the centre by trees, fountains, and walkways, led as far as the eye could see from the train station. Walking along this street, in an uphill direction, I couldn't help but feel charmed by the pleasant surroundings and the relaxed mill of pedestrians. Unlike London where everybody is trying to get from A to B, these people understand the joy of procrastination. It was contagious. A smile came across my face and slowly grew into a full-fledged grin as I approached the top of the street. My anticipation was running high as I wondered what could be hiding behind the horizon...
And before I knew it I heard laughter from all directions, passed a wedding photoshoot and tried to avoid soccer balls and frisbees flying through the air. I had arrived at "The Hoe", a large public space overlooking the seafront of Plymouth. Amidst the celebration, I found a comfortable spot to lay back and watch the sun set. And it was glorious.
(As an aside, while at the Hoe I was approached by a suspiciously normal-looking man who invited me to go for a ride on his boat to watch Amsterdam porno movies together. Feeling slightly tired from all the walking, I chose to pass on the anal rapage...
But I did feel flattered. )
train to Exeter
|train to Plymouth||11.60|
The Hoe, Plymouth, England
Sunset at the Hoe, Plymouth, England