Europe 2008 (London to Manchester) Day 4 – May 28

28 05 2008

We woke up at 0730 this morning and had our last breakfast at the Holiday Inn.  It was nice that the they had mango pieces again.  Today was the day when I was going to have to learn how to drive on the "wrong" side of the road – on less than wide roads!  Liz came and got us at 0845 and we headed out to the National car rental in Chelmsford.  The car we picked up was a Vauxhall Asta 1.9 diesel.  It was an automatic.  There was no way that I was going to try to learn to drive on the left side of the road AND work on shifting with my left hand.

We headed out of Chelmsford and onto the M25 to get over to Chingford which is where Gilwell park is located.  For those of you not in the Scouting world, Gilwell is the home of Scouting, and the 1st Gilwell troop (which we joined when we completed our Woodbadge training).  It had started to rain pretty solidly and there were only a few breaks.  We saw some scouts that were camping for the week (as it was school break week) and having the usual joy that kids camping in the rain have.  We bought a couple of polo shirts and some badges to take home as souvenirs.

By the time we got down to Stonehenge we were into a full out downpour.   I swear I saw a smaller vehicle flowing DOWN hill against the way he was driving ;)  We wound our way out to the countryside and almost felt like we were going the wrong way had it not been for the GPS.  Well, we found it and it was WET.  We honestly thought about NOT going out.  We went up to pay and were convinced to buy a "Heritage England" 7-day pass which would get us into Heritage sites throughout the country.  We grabbed the free audio guide to take us along the route describing the building of the structure.  As we walked along in the downpour, it quickly became evident that we probably should have brought some kind of umbrella or at least some serious rain gear.  It rained so heavily that our audio guides went on strike and decided to stop :(  The upside to the heavy rain was the fact that the crowds were low.  This meant that we could get some photos of Stonehenge with it seeming to be standing solo WITHOUT the tourist appearance.  After we were thoroughly drenched we wrapped up our tour at the gift shop and acquired a souvenir  Stonehenge umbrella as it seemed that the rain would NEVER stop.

We drove down to Bath, through some tiny little towns.  As much as the roads were numbered as secondary roads, a more appropriate name for them might be small paved track! One of the challenges in driving on the left side of the road was that I have a habit of drifting left (probably to stay away from the oncoming traffic which felt too close) On these little paved tracks they call roads there were also cars parked here and there.  Between the narrow track and avoiding parked cars, while I was driving down I heard SMACK!  This sound, it turns out, was my passenger side mirror smoking a pole or tree or someshuch.  Ooops… Hello Visa Gold card insurance. Bath was a large town.  It was also rush hour.  We tried to find our way around but we only saw the royal crescent.  There was no way that either of us had the desire to get out of the car and "swim" around the streets. Too bad.  Perhaps if the weather had been nicer and it had been earlier in the day we could have walked around.

Bath to Manchester via M4-M5-M6.  We drove hard.  Certainly put the 1.9L Vauxhall wagon through its paces today.

We arrived in Sale at 2100 having stopped for a few rests along the way.  With heavy rain, it’s not much fun doing a driving tour :(  Perhaps a bit too ambitious to throw in Gilwell to our tour.

After passing it twice, we found our hotel. The Amblehurst Hotel is old but nice.  We got in and called Liz as well Aunt Phyllis as soon as possible.  (2130)  What a long day.  The hotel was simple but nice.  There was even WiFi!  After having had a some quick pub grub before the kitchen closed at 2200 we got settled into the room.  I went to sign up for the WiFi as it was only $8CAD/day!  The drawback to this whole system was that you had to purchase a credit before you could use the connection.  Of course to PAY, you had to hit the Mastercard secure site, which was blocked… Basically, if you had access, you could pay for access (chicken and egg scenario).  Sent an email to the support with the hope that they might fix it fairly soon.  Alas, no Internet for me again 😦

Tomorrow we’re off to Chester and then dinner with Auntie Phyllis and other family!

Sweet slumber… here I come!


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