eating my way around the world

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” --St. Augustine

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Location: Chicago, IL, United States

Twitter @nikonjunkie

18 June 2005

29 May 2005 :: Stonehenge, Bath & London

Woke up this morning to experience our first true English breakfast, only to find that the breakfast buffet too closely resembled something off of Fear Factor. The scrambled eggs had what I can only describe as a questionable green tint, and a consistency I can kindly describe as watery. The "bacon" bore a slight resemblance to pork, although in its light pink state, I can hypothesize that it was either (a) actually ham in bacon form, or (b) uncooked. Since I'm starving, I decide it's the former, and dish it out.

On the plus side, there was toast! Lots of toast! And jam. I decided to forego what looked like fish parts soaking in some liquid bath, as well as the iffy soft-boiled eggs. I'd save my gastronomic adventures (and potential hospital visit) for France. After a thrilling breakfast (and several glasses of OJ), we set off in our comfy sightseeing coach (read: bus) to Stonehenge. Some pics I snapped on the way out of London:

I admit, I've never been intrigued by Stonehenge. OK, so it's some extra large rocks that are inexplicably shoved into the English countryside when no other such stone exists for hundreds of miles, but come on. Still, one more thing checked off my Life's Things To Do list.

The English countryside is gorgeous. Rolling green hills dotted with cattle, fluffy white sheep, charming farmhouses (all with a Land Rover or two in the garage). I bought a fluffy commemorative stuffed sheep in the Stonehenge gift shop to mark the occasion. ;)

We're driving and driving and driving, and once we start getting close to Bath, the roads narrow, and all we can see out the windows are ivy-covered stone walls and trees encroaching on the lane, then BAM, you look ahead of you and the whole city of Bath is just right there. I expected it to be small and quaint (I admit, I was sort of bored by the idea of going there), but it's jaw-dropping, really. Pictures don't do it justice, but here are a few anyway.

Bath Abbey

Incredible stone architecture - everything is somewhat Gothic in style, and the streets are narrow and hilly, with an interesting pub or shop on every corner.

Some of my tourmates and I found a little pub tucked away in Bath and tried to order a traditional Sunday dinner (pot roast and vegetables). That's it - The Oliver:

Only one problem - it was lunchtime, so again, I end up eating a non-English meal - a "Chicago" cheeseburger, which was actually pretty good, although the delicious cheese on it is probably unknown to Chicago. Also, we all decided to try what was on tap, and (*trumpets sound*) it was a hit - Kronenbourg 1664, a French lager (but don't hold that against it). We'll enjoy many more of these before the tour is up. Check out the Hobbit-sized purple bathroom. I'm glad I wasn't wearing heels . . .

Our first stop after lunch was the Roman Baths, the town's namesake.

Fed by a natural spring, this site was revered from ancient times and millenia later was adopted by the Celtic, and centuries later, the Roman people, which built at the site a healing shrine known as Aquae Sulis. Many of the Roman pipes used to feed the bath complex are still in use today, nearly 2000 years later.

Inside the Roman Bath complex

I thoroughly enjoyed Bath, and yes, I managed to shop. In one shop, I left admiring a buttery bronze tote, only to keep thinking of it and turn around to go back and buy it later on. This tote carried much of my junk around nicely for the rest of the trip. Excellent find. I was running for the 3:30pm bus pickup when I spotted a gorgeous top in a store window at about 3:25. I ran in, grabbed one that appeared to me my size, tossed down the Visa, and it was love.

Some more countryside on the way back to London

After arriving back to London, we all met up for dinner at the Friend at Hand pub within walking distance of the hotel. I enjoyed some real fish & chips (regular peas instead of mushy peas, please), several Kronenbourgs, and a raucous good time was had by all.

Not satisfied to sleep off our buzz at the hotel, we decided to head down to Piccadilly Circus to have even more pints of 1664.

As in America, I managed to get cornered at the bar by some guy. This one asked if I'd been in the immigration line at Gatwick yesterday at approximately 9am. Um, yes, I had. How nice of you to notice. Sufficiently creeped out (OK, he was nice, but not hot), I excused myself to go find the ladies room. Note: asking for the "ladies room" will probably get you ridiculed, and at the very least, will confuse the Brit you're asking. After being told there was no ladies room, only a men's room, I decided the bartender was messing with me and went off on my own to find the "loo."

We ended the evening on the dance floor, and the DJ was kind enough to realize he had a bunch of Americans on his hand and started queuing up the booty music. Somehow we made it back to the hotel. I can't remember if we took the tube or a taxi - that should tell you I had a damn good time.

Today's Discoveries:
1. "Green Eggs & Ham" isn't just a nursery rhyme.
2. English breakfast tea with milk can get you through any breakfast.
3. Our Aussie tour driver Gareth (aka GT) can drive like nobody's business. All hail GT!
4. Kronenbourg 1664, because France isn't all bad.
5. Fish and chips! Yes, what you've heard is right - chips are actually fries, potato chips are crisps, and I have no idea what cookies are. Biscuits?

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