Off to the Cotswolds now
OMG this was a day filled with history. Not so cold but still wet and dreary of course. It is London afterall. We took a taxi to Paddington Station and yes we did see Paddington Bear and bought the book for our little Grand daughter, Jenna. As planned, we took the train to Bath to pick up our Hertz rental car which was practically brand new. A Nissan Juke with only 5000km on the clock. Very comfy and a real treat after the crap car we rented in Sweden with Tony and Kristen. With this lovely car, with not a scrape on it, we were very wary of all the narrow country lanes and old stone walls at the side of the roads in the Cotswolds. We were very careful and never got a mark on it the whole week we rented it.
We got a taxi from Bath Railway station to the rental car firm and didn't really even watch where the driver took us unfortunately. Results proved it as we then spent about 1 hour getting lost in the outskirts of Bath's industrial area, trying to find our way to the centre of town to view the Roman Baths. Yes there was a GPS but it gave us completely the opposite directions we needed so we soon gave up on that. We have never used one before and found it all too confusing and only made us more stressed listening to it telling us to turn left when later we should have turned right. Needless to say, we never used the stupid thing ever again..... and there were certainly times when we needed it, as you will read later.
Des used the old fashioned way and actually asked about 5 people directions in the end and finally, we found our way to the Baths and the town centre. This was really good as we had headed up the same hill at least 2 or 3 times and although the view of the town was brilliant from the top each time, we were getting a bit sick of that view. Definitely must be time for another Pub lunch to settle our nerves and feed the brains, to actually find our way out of Bath. We needed to head south to Somerset to our first stay that night in a prebooked B & B.
The roman baths are just so great to visit with all the history and learning how clever the Romans were to make spas from hot springs fed into the baths and how they achieved all this. The Romans have popped up everywhere we have been practically. They were certainly very well travelled and very intelligent wern't they. The Baths were discovered in the 1800's but date back to 72AD when the Romans tapped into an underground hot spring.
We then visited the cathedral next to the Baths, which dated back to 1499. Sally Lunns tea shoppe is just nearyby also and is supposed to be the oldest tea shoppe in Britian, dating back to the 1400's. Hands up who knows "Mrs Miggins tea shoppe" from Black Adder. Well perhaps it was similar to that? What a lovely town Bath is with the river running through it, as so many of the little towns in the area have. Next back in the car to find our way to Shepton Mallet in Somerset, south of the Cotswolds. We stopped on the way at Glastonbury Abbey which is Britian's oldest Christian Santuary built about 600AD, where the legendary King Arthur was buried. King Henry VIII had the Abbey destoyed in the 1500's of course and also had 2 of the Monks living there at the time, beheaded up at Glastonbury Tor, which is high above the village. We would have loved to have gone climbing up to that but more pouring rain prevented that pleasure again. The Tor, looks from a distance, like a turret of a castle. Maybe it was a castle once but that turret is all that is left now. We will have to go back there, for a closer look another time. Legend has it that Monks from the Abbey discovered the buried remains of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in 1191 and in 1279 they were reburied in the chancel of Glastonbury Cathedral, in the presence of King Edward I and Queen Eleanor. The Abbey is just a ruin of course, thanks to King Henry VIII so there is not so much to see although the adjoining museum about it, is very interesting. We also visited another really old church in Glastonbury which we soon discovered, had a man inside who was a raving lunatic, ranting on loudly about something he didn't like about the church and the people and what was happening to his dog. He worried all us inside the sanctity of this lovely old church. He apparently was a local man, according to the ladies who were on duty that day in the church. We later found out there are many drug addicts and mental people living in this place. Really interesting people watching here though. Many women definitely looked like witches and many men looked like warlocks. A very medival town and it looked like the people had stepped out of that time as well when you studied their attire and looked at what was being sold in the shops. Although Glastonbury Abbey was really interesting with all its ruins, the town itself actually had quite a satanic feel to it and in the end, we were quite glad to leave. We definitely felt like we were being watched by some unsavoury people there. Such a pity as it was such a pretty little medival village.
Now to find our way to Shepton Mallet and Maplestone B&B in Quarr. This time we had googled directions making this easy to find. NO not so easy. How hard can it be to find your way into a very tiny village with a street called Quarr I hear you say? VERY! Again, Des got out of the car to ask for directions. Seems there was 2 ways into this tiny town and we had only travelled the other one. Its the turnoff by the cider Factory, he was told at the local pub. Easy? We hadn't even seen the cider factory from the other road. OK we could see that coming up. Yep there's the turnoff down a little cobbled lane with silk and woolen mill stone cottages dating from the 1600's, on either side of the lane. The lane just fitted the flash no scratches car down it with no room to make a mistake in your judgement, on either side. At the end of the lane was a sharp turn up the Quarr with the tiniest sign in England that read Maplestone B&B. Yay, finally we had found that too. The lane widened enough for us to turn into the driveway of this gorgeous mill cottage that was our B&B from the 1600's. The friendly male owner came out and helped us upstairs with our suitcases. What a relief that was as the stairs were so steep and so narrow that your feet hung over the edge of them making you feel very insecure on the climb up and down and especially with suitcases. A very large and luxurious room with ensuite was ours at the top of those stairs. The most beautiful cottage garden complete with pet hens fossicking in the pouring rain amongst the rose bushes, Granny's bonnets and daffodils. It must be so beautiful when the sun shines there. It was just as you see on an old chocolate box. The owner suggested dinner at... wait for it.....the local pub. Hell yes - why not! It was a 2 minute walk down the narrow road to the old stone pub built in 1660. A wonderful sumptuous meal and a great chat to the publican and others in the pub then a walk through the whole village. This takes about 1/2 hour if you walk slowly like we did. This little town, Shepton Mallet has actually stood there for 3000 years as a small market town amazingly. It is nestled in the Mendip hills in Sommerset. The Romans had left their mark there too with the Fosse Way nearby. In 1988, a lead coffin was found and in 1990 excavations there revealed signs of a whole Roman Industrial town beside the Fosse Way. They think there is much much more to unearth there. Wow - like I said, a huge history cramming day for us before we went home to sleep in our 1600's B&B. We also walked past the tallest old brick wall we saw anywhere or maybe like the wall to Vatican City. We read a small notice on the wall that it was the prison. We later asked the owner about it and yes it was still used today as a prison and houses the most hardened prisoners in England. Wow in this cute little village. AMAZING!
What we have decided about England so far - there are few road signs and any signs which may be important to you, are either very small, non existant or too close to where you need to turn off. We miss our road signs in New Zealand.