Monday, July 11, 2011

Tourist nerdishness yields new appreciation for certain old Brits

We have tried not to seem too much like tourists by avoiding the white "trainers" and adhering to proper Tube and pub etiquette. But at least for a day, we abandoned that and embraced our inner tourist nerdishness.

On Friday, we boarded a tour bus to three iconic English sites outside of London.

First stop: Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle in the morning. It was cold.

My biggest takeaway was that Prince Philip, 90, is more useful than I ever gave him credit. Truth be told, I guess I never thought much about him. But as we toured the state rooms of Windsor Castle, we saw on display some of the books he has written with such titles as A Question of Balance, Birds from Britania, and Down to Earth, in which I'm guessing he's not trying to be ironic.

But perhaps his most memorable contribution was a cool snapshot he took of two lizards sitting on a rock on the Galapagos Islands as one lizard has its arm around the other.

After looking at the various treasures, paintings and ornately-decorated rooms, we had to hustle out of the castle to make our bus on time. We weren't able to stay for the changing of the guard, but got a few quick snapshots on our brisk walk out.

Next stop: Bath

I wonder if the original entrance to the Roman Baths was so well marked?

Being American, it's odd to think of going from a country's east coast to the west coast in an hour and 40 minutes. But you can on this island.

The Roman Baths site was interesting to see and learn about, but the most amazing quality of the western city is its architecture. All the buildings are made with sandy colored bath stones or built with concrete and a bath stone facade, giving the city a uniform and warm gothic-Mediterranean feel.

Final stop: Stonehenge

Stonehenge in the late afternoon. It was cold.

This was the stop to which I was most looking forward. And it did not disappoint, although I would have liked to have had more than 40 minutes there.

What's most amazing is how many mysteries still surround the rocks, such as who built it, why they built it and how the heck the got 30 of those 25-ton stones from 20 miles away and the 4-ton blue stones from Wales - more than 250 miles from there.

Twelve hours later, we returned to London happy to have seen the sites we did and to get the tour bus experience, since you see so many of them in London. But Elizabeth and I were glad we only decided to do this type of activity once during our trip.

To see more snapshots from our daytrip, check out our slideshow:

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