Our second day's itinerary included a visit to Warwick Castle. Now armed with my camera,husband, and trusty bottle of Diet Coke, I hardly minded the 2 hour drive to get there. Our Scottish tour guide(whose name I don't remember) gave us some UK Road System 101 in the meantime.
Motorways- the "interstates" of England.
A Roads- other major roads.
B Roads- backroads, non-important. Coaches do not travel on B roads, it is too physically difficult to maneuver and impossible to get off, should you get stuck.
Motorways have a "M" in front of their respective number. Otherwise, you just have to guess whether its an A road or a B road. There are a heck of alot of roundabouts in England, to better manage the flow of traffic. No such thing as a stop sign. And it was all backwards, so you get off the motorway on the left, as well as merge to the right. Periodically, you'd see these areas where you could pull off to get gas, food, etc. Like a rest area but it didn't go off the highway system. I really liked that, because at least in my state you have to get off the interstate and go hunting a good 5-10 minutes for a restaurant, etc. Finally got to Warwick Castle.
Didn't have time to do much of anything..there was 1.5 hour time limit at each place. Every place was so big that you could spend the entire day there, so you had to just try to get some of the more interesting aspects of the site. But we did see a catapult, go through the state rooms(lots of regal stuff and portraits) and get some photographs of the drawbridge, etc. All of which were taken with hubby's instant camera, so I can't post the pics here but it was very interesting.
Warwick Castle website
A quick lunch...of salad,diet coke, and chips. Chips were kind of rough on the throat going down but I needed it for carb energy, had a lot of walking to do that day.
Then it was off to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. Avon is just another Old English word for river-there are several river "Avons" in England.
Went through the visitor center..went through Shakespeare's birthplace.Shakespeare had an incredibly brief(51 years?) and tragic life. His only son died at 11(Hamnet),and shortly thereafter, Shakespeare decided to go to London(leaving behind wife and two daughters).Shakespeare stayed there until he retired,at about age 43. Moved back and died just 3 years later. Both his daughters married, but only one had a kid that got married, and later died without children. Hence ended the direct line of William Shakespeare. There was a garden,and a town full of souvenir shops begging to be explored. Discovered the UK equivalent of a "penny puncher" machine. I collect stamped pennies, so I thought that was pretty neat. In a regular penny stamper, you put in a penny and two quarters, select the design, and turn the handle to flatten the coin. In the UK version, you put in a pence and a pound.(coin) So it costs you about $1.61 to do it. I didn't have any pence so I tried a penny, since they are about the same size/thickness. It didn't work-jammed up the machine, much to my embarrassment. Had to find another machine.
And then we drove through the Cotswalds, which is a very rural, agricultural part of England. They grow alot of wheat,canola, strawberries, etc. there. It used be to be a very big sheep-raising area, sheep owners lived like kings and their were alot of castles, manors, etc. Drove by the birthplace of Winston Churchill(Blenheim Palace),didn't go in though. Saw alot of thatched roofs, which they cover with wire mesh to keep the bugs/birds out of it. Thatched roofs are very expensive to maintain-and the sad part is, even if you wanted to change your roofing you sometimes can't because its protected under some "historical preservation" laws. So every 10 years you have to shell out another $10,000 or so to get another roof.And they burn really,really easily..our tour guide pointed out one that had been rebuilt after the house burned to the ground. The insurance on those things must be horrendous too.
The town of Oxford:
Oxford was interesting..because Oxford University is not really an actual university, its just the governing body for the 39 collages that make it up.And all of those collages offer the same degrees,there's really no difference in them. It's really just one big fraternity/sorority deal, if your family has always gone to Collage X then you are going to apply to go to Collage X.(and hope you get in) Oxford was founded by some monks,(in the 12th century?) who were trying to provide a non-French alternative for schooling. Initially, the townspeople and the students did not get along well at all(at one point,there was a battle)..it was like any university town.(down through the ages-funny how that is) Students can be a pain in the gluteus maximus.
So we walked around the town, seeing a few of the collages and doing some more shopping.
In Oxford, we popped into a pharmacy because I wanted to see what kind of meters that use in the UK.(Only my long-suffering husband would put up with something like that..normal people do not go into foreign pharmacies unless they have to) Their "One Touch UltraEasy" is the exact same thing as the One Touch Mini. However, the number on that meter was 8.5 mmol...which converts to 153 mg/dl! which would never sell in the US. All our meter displays read somewhere in the neighborhood of 104 mg/dl, because we're all dedicated PWD who take control and never,ever,ever had evil readings that high. (yeah,right)
Back on the bus by 4:50, we drove back to London. The traffic was pretty horrific(Sunday night, all the weekenders were returning). Suddenly,a long sleek black Saudi Arabian(I assume) car streaked by our bus, jaunting me out of a doldrums reverie. It was one gorgeous car, no doubt owned by some rich oil tycoon. The lisence plate was in Arabic, and the steering wheel/driver was on the left-not something you see every day in England.
Our tour guide dropped us off near a Tube entrance. We'd arranged to meet Caro and her fiance Ian at 7(it was then 6:40). After 30 minutes of us getting nowhere,she called my iphone and eventually found us/took us to the restaurant.(Porters-they have great traditional English food) Otherwise, we would have never found it.(the street signs in London are incredibly obscure/non-existent)
That was so much fun-I don't remember what all we talked about, but I remember Spi-Belts,weddings and UK/US healthcare being part of it.(and I concur-SpiBelts are awesome!!) I couldn't go to London and NOT meet them,it was just as important as all the other things on my to-do list.It felt like a little bit of familiarity, to meet up with another blogger. We wish you guys much happiness together!
And amazingly, I was only 200 after the (lots of carbs) meal,and 123 by the next morning. Sometimes things actually work out.(all the walking I did that day definatly helped)