Day Trip: Stonehenge & Bath

When I began writing this blog post, I was so excited that it felt sort of silly. I began typing a manically happy review of my trip to Bath and Stonehenge. Upon re-reading, I became deeply emotional. And I began to question my happiness. And this is potentially very dangerous. Let me explain...

Two weeks into my semester abroad in London, and I am still practically euphoric at some point nearly every day. I love it here. I love my life. It's unbelievable. Unbelievable. See, there is a little voice in the back of my mind that keeps nagging me, trying to cast doubt, whispering that this incredible satisfaction can't last. 

Yes, I have been warned against the 'honeymoon stage' of study abroad, and the melancholy and frustration that, in theory, should be due within the next week or two. The culture shock/homesickness one-two punch is theoretically looming in the not-so-distant future. And the thought is worrisome. 

BUT I SAY NO.  I came to the UK prepared, and that includes mentally prepared. It will be a challenge - it already is - but I won't fall into despair in certain moments of vulnerability. When I can't count change to pay for my coffee (why is there a two cent coin but no quarter?)... During my 90 minute commute to work after early morning class on Friday... When Brits at the bar insist that my name is a boy's name. Yes, it sucks. But I've done this before - see France, spring of 2010. I struggled then, not always emerging victorious over sadness. But not this time. It won't always be perfect happiness, but it will be happiness. So now, strong and confident in my enthusiasm-realism balance, I can gush about Bath with no little voice undermining it :)

For Saturday, the CAPA team planned a full day excursion to Stonehenge and Bath. Getting out of London to see the countryside sounded great, though it would require responding to my irritating alarm clock at 6:15 a.m. instead of unplugging it. Ugh. It would be worth it, right? My eleven roommates and I reluctantly left our beds, pulled on jeans and sweaters, and headed to the pre-arranged meeting point in the pale morning light and calm weather. 

The buses and our tour guides were waiting in South Kensington. As with our bus tour of London, CAPA had chosen Proscenium. They provide a good service - comfortable buses and knowledgeable Blue Badge guides. At 8:00 sharp, we drove west out of the city, past Fuller’s brewery and Twickenham rugby stadium. The stories of Roman times – Claudius, invasion, the tribes of Britain, Bodicea, Hadrian – provided the soundtrack for our exit of the city, concluding as we passed Richmond and merged onto the motorway.
The drive to Stonehenge, which massively predates Roman times, took nearly an hour and a half. It is the oldest of the old (even by English standards). As we neared the famous prehistoric monument, our guide explained in great detail what is known about the site, including the most recent discoveries and the mysteries that remain… I won’t go into it, but if you are curious, here is a link to the English Heritage website had heard before going that visiting Stonehenge was overrated, but I disagree. The wind that morning was fierce, but the scene was very impressive. 
flatmates and stones

loving my Hunter wellington boots - thank you, AL & G Etz.

Our tour group only spent 45 minutes at Stonehenge, which was plenty of time to ponder its construction and to try to grasp how ancient the stones were. From Stonehenge to Bath, the drive was much more scenic. Despite the fall weather, the landscape looked as colorful and alive as during summer. I was excited to see a perched village near Limpley, which reminded me of France, as well as several pretty viaducts. (Stuart, our guide, mentioned that the viaduct that the Hogwarts Express traverses in Harry Potter is located in the Scottish Highlands – now, I want to visit Glenfinnan!)

Bath is charming. Beginning with the Roman baths was a smart idea - in doing so, we avoided most of the rainy weather that day. The indoor museum was unfortunately very crowded. Outdoors, however, the stately baths were waiting. They were incredible - the water is supposed to be very warm and rich in iron, but dipping your hands into it is out of the question. There was a wedding party inside, and the bride and groom were being photographed by the Great Bath, pictured below. 

All twelve roommates! My London family

The Roman baths

My friends and I used our free time that afternoon to search for lunch [Pasty Presto] and explore the city center. Later on, we gathered with the rest of the CAPA students at the Abbey. The Abbey's facade displays angels literally climbing the building towards heaven! From there, our tour guide led the group around Great Pulteney Street, the Circus, the Royal Crescent, and Royal Victoria Park, incorporating legends of the healing power of the waters and stories of the brazen architects John Wood Sr. and Jr. 

We boarded the bus at 3:45, and our timing could not have been better - it started to rain almost immediately after. I spent the return journey - a two and a half hour ride - admiring scenery, planning another visit to Bath, and napping. Some of the girls and I chose to go to O'Neils in Covent Garden last night, and we didn't return home until very late. I was at the Thames Festival all morning, but I don't think I'll make it back for the Night Carnival. I do plan on walking to the bridge in my PJs to watch the fireworks display - or pyrotechnics, as they're called here - later on. 

Cheers, friends. How was your weekend?

1 comment:

  1. What - not homesick? Bloody hell! No, Cheerio!

    You still have so many adventures over there, and then the memories will last a lifetime - enjoy every minute.

    Why can't you stick your hand in the water?