Welcome to Day 6 of Janet and Randy's London Trip 2015
Monday, August 31, 2015
Woke up to a wet, rainy day. We took our time having breakfast and getting ready, and then walked over (in the rain) to Gloucester Road to catch our bus tour to Windsor Castle, Oxford and Stonehenge. Along the way, we stopped in at a Starbucks to get some hot drinks.
The bus picked us up at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel at 11:15am, (standing in the cold and rainy weather - some foreshadowing here), and we headed straight to Windsor Castle. Our guide walked us up to the gate of Windsor Castle, and we were given instructions to be back to the bus by 2:20pm. We had to go through security before going into the castle (we were told that any sharp objects like nail clippers might be confiscated). Our entrance included an audio guide, which we had a couple technical difficulties with at first, but managed to get it sorted out. I'm not sure why but the Japanese language should have been fine !
We went straight to the State Apartments to start our tour. No photos are allowed in the State Apartments, so the photo I have here is downloaded from the internet. (the picture is of St. George's Hall - where they hold the big banquets - the hall is impressive). It was a very impressive palace to tour through - especially since all the furnishings and objects are original (unlike a place like Versailles - well not entirely original since the fire in 1992). The Queen wasn't in residence, so we didn't bump into her on our tour (housecoat and hair in curlers).
Once we were done touring the State Apartments, we wandered around the grounds a bit, but skipped St. George's Chapel so that we would have time to eat lunch. Because our tour was scheduled around getting to Stonehenge at a specific time for sunset, we were told that we would have to try to fit some meals into our stops during the day. So, instead of spending more time at Windsor Castle, we opted to go to a nearby pub (the Duchess of Cambridge) to have a hot lunch (as they asked that people not bring hot food on the bus because of the smell). The pub had table service (instead of ordering from the bar), so we told our waitress that we were on a tight schedule. She quickly took our orders (3 fish & chips, and 1 breaded scampi). Shortly afterwards, our food came out, and we wolfed it down quickly. Paid for our meals and beetled out of the pub.
We had a bit of time to wander through some of the shops before heading back to the bus. Next it was off to Oxford, which was an hour and a half drive. We didn't have anything to do on the bus, so most of us nodded off for a bit on the drive. English countryside wasn't overly exciting.
Once in Oxford, it was still raining and the temps were getting colder. We were taken on a walking tour of Oxford University. It was fairly interesting, but we were mostly outdoors, and so we were all getting a little chilled in the rain. At the end of the walking tour, our guide gave us about 40 minutes to do any shopping, hit a bathroom, and get some food for dinner. We went into a department store to use the bathrooms, and then went next door to Sainsbury grocery store to get some food to take on the bus. Sainsbury had a Meal Deal where you could get a sandwich, a beverage and a bag of chips for 3 GBP. So, we all went with that. We also picked up some cookies and mini donuts.
Then it was another hour and a half drive to Stonehenge (more English countryside - snore). Luckily, when we arrived, it had stopped raining, but it was kind of chilly (read: very considering we didn't have warm jackets). We had a little time to peruse the gift shop before getting on a shuttle bus out to the stones.
Our tour had private access to actually go inside the stone circle and wander around. They only allow 30 people at a time inside the circle, and our tour had 43 people. So, we were split into 2 groups and had to take turns going into the circle. When we weren't in the circle, we went all around the outside of the circle taking photos. Luckily I had brought a tripod, because near the end of our time there, it was getting quite dark, and I had to take long exposures in order for the pictures to turn out.
The clouds had let up a bit (however the wind did not, so we were starting to get very cold at this point), so that we could see a bit of a sunset - so that was nice. By the end of our time in the circle, it was pretty much full on dark, and we had to use our phone flashlights to guide our way back to the shuttle bus.
We had a chance to use the bathrooms at the Stonehenge Centre before getting back on the bus for a 2 hour ride back to London. We arrived at Gloucester Station at 11:00pm, and then it took us about 15 minutes to walk back to our flat.
It had been a long day, so I spent some time sorting through the pictures, then went to bed.
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