In the morning we enjoy breakfast and head out for neolithic monuments. We also slather ourselves with sunscreen because the surprise pink cheeks from yesterday cannot happen again! It is mild but the sun is out so better to be safe than guilty I sunburned my kiddos. It is then that we realize our late starts happen because breakfast at 8:30am with a dawdling toddler takes a good 45 minutes, then we pack up, then nursing and bathrooming all around puts us out the door around 10am on a good day and 11-12pm on really slow ones (you can take the family out of Tennessee but you cannot take the slow as molasses out of the family!). That has put us at our “morning activities” usually around 11-1pm which isn’t exactly great because then it is lunch so we stop, eat, nurse, restroom. THEN finally we see what we came for!
But back to Thursday…we head for Avebury via chalk white horses and roman ruins. Both of which we find and see successfully. We did not ever find the chapel that was on the map but that is okay. The roman ruins are worth the side trip. One of the best mosaic floors of its type that I have seen. Also, one of the larger villas with out buildings that I have seen. The chalk horse was interesting too.
Avebury was awe inspiring as always. One of Britain’s many stone circles, this one’s claim to fame is its sheer size. The circle’s circumference is large enough that there’s a TOWN inside it. I didn’t see any information about how many stones make up the circle, but I’d be surprised if there was a stone circle anywhere with more. If the site was used for astrological functions and calendar calculation (as they say these things were) you have to wonder what the folks at Avebury were up to that needed so much more real estate than your average henge, which is usually big enough to house a Boy Scout troop. It took a driveby and turn around for us to get on the processional road the correct direction but that is alright. Mr. T seemed suitably impressed. I was hoping AU would Tula nap, instead she Tula fussed. That was alright. We got to feel smugly superior to the dopes carrying their strollers as their toddlers ran hither and yon. Neolithic sites are not particularly stroller friendly! She did like touching the stones and seeing the sheep (oh, and she is now saying, “More farm animals please!” which really cracks me up, when we go a minute without seeing the ver present sheep or cows.). She also liked the bites of ice cream we enjoyed as snack on the way to the car!
She and JU slept while we headed south toward Salisbury. I remembered en route that in 2006 when I was here the plan was to build a new road and educational center near Stone Henge so that you could not drive by it. I decided not to say anything until I saw for sure. Due to the road construction it took 3! tries to find stone henge. They were omidproject, scheduled to be done in the fall. We took some pictures from the road but did not tour because the girls were sleeping. We headed to wood henge. Both girls woke up, AU with shrieking (which eventually lead to her sitting in the car by herself while Mr. T and I discuss our plans for the weekend) and JU with crying. We were all hungry and tired. We decide that the priority is filling bellies so we head into Salisbury to a Rick Steve’s recommended pub.
It reminds me of a place I would have enjoyed as a 25 year old backpacker. In fact, there are youth with their backpacks scattered amongst the locals who were just off work. 10 years and 2 kids removed from that type of scene I felt out of place and old. The food wasn’t that great either. It was curry special night (did you know that the English are the highest consumers of Indian food outside of India?) and neitherof us prefer curry so we ordered off the regular menu.
I run upstairs to see how much a room would be for the night (lots of pubs are inns with rooms upstairs; this was one) but ultimately due to not knowing about our parking spot for overnight decide to head out. We wind up staying at the “premier inn” which seems to be a Baymont/Red Roof Inn equivalent. Just a basic but clean place. We pay an extra 5 pounds to get AU a bed because we have not done more than sink laundry and her sheets were soiled by her sister the night before.
We are thankful in the morning that there is a hairdryer in the room so we can ensure all sink laundered items are dry. Meanwhile, Mr. T and I use the 30 minutes of free internet to see if it is possible to rent a cottage in Keswick, Lake District, for 3 days. Surprise! It is! Plus, it is on sale for being last minute! We decide to head that direction and decide at lunch if we were for sure going to do it/make it. An almost 6 hour drive is not lightly undertaken with a 2 year old and an infant.
We set out, still discussing whether Cambridge/York would be a better choice. We made coffee in the room to take but stopped at a farm shop for some breakfast bites. Mr. T wanted baked goods which seemed like a no-brainer for a farm shop but alas, they had none. So, we enjoyed the first toasties of the trip.
A toastie is a hot sandwich made from special “toasting bread” with toppings of cheese and ham typically. The bread is toasted first, then the toppings are put on and the slices are put under the broiler to melt/heat up. Then two,slices are put together. It is different entirely then a grilled cheese or even cheese toast. It is sort of a hybrid of the two.
We drive forever. We encounter our first rain drops. A few sprinkles is all, not even “rain” really. The traffic gets difficult. We get hungry for lunch. We stop at their version of a rest stop. It has 2 separate facilities–a gas station with a burger king, and a grocery store with a coffee shop and food court. We pick the latter.
In the grocery it takes a while to navigate all the sandwich and salad choices. We sit in the food court and eat. As in the States there are big screen TVs showing commercials and news. The news reports that M62 is closed and Bangladesh is having strife. AU and Mr. T go outside to play on the playground while I get on the internet to book our cottage. We have decided! Keswick!
While playing AU slides down a slide (English slides start out wide and narrow at the bottom. Then the bottom instead of ending like in the US the slide continues with a straight part (for stopping safely I guess?). Most kids would slide, wind up with their feet on either side, put their feet down and stop. AU who is a “fast” slider winds up feet on either side, unable to stop, face first into the ground.) and winds up skinned and bloodied. Poor thing! We use the restroom and stop into a book/CD/connivence shop to buy a book on tape–Dick Barton Super Spy, a BBC radio show. Then we set of again. We are only 2ish hours from Keswick. Easy peasy!
We leave the car park, come round the corner of the on ramp, and stop. Then we look at the map. M62 is about 30 miles north. Ah, that explains the bad traffic. England only has a few interstates and the one we are on heads north with the M62 shooting off of it north east. So, the closed highway is causing the one we are on to also back up. Excellent!
We enjoy our book on tape and the girls sleep. It only takes us an extra 2-3 hours to get there. It rains and rains but we are in the car so it doesn’t matter. We wind up eating dinner in the grocery store cafe before buying groceries for eating in a few meals at the cottage.
At the grocery we discover on the toy aisle kids magazine/workbooks prepackaged with stickers and toys for around 4£. We buy one to entertain AU with and are very impressed…ours is “spring” themed with plastic ladybugs, a bug catcher net, a box of 3 miniature cars, and a frog catapult with the magazine/workbook and stickers. AU is in love and keeps busy for hours.
After finding internet to get directions to the cottage and entering the secret code to obtain the cottage keys we are finally, finally arrived! Only 12 hours, not bad! We unload and collapse into sleep.