Tuesday, November 02, 2004

England Trip Notes - 10/11/2004

Day 3. Plans today call for Warwick Castle (pronounced WA-WICK), and the Cotswolds. These are a ways from our resort, so driving may be a challenge. I think I will have to buy gas today, so that should be a whole new experience.

Update - Well, the first paragraph was written at the start of the day, and now I write after the fact. Day 3 was, indeed, an interesting one. Let's hope that no such days occur again!

The drive to Warwick took about 2 1/2 hours, and was only mildly difficult. A recurring problem here is making a wrong turn off a roundabout and then having to back track. We seem to do this every so often, and lose time when it happens. Beth is a great navigator, however, and managed to direct me to the car park at Warwick Castle.

The castle was impressive, exactly what I imagined a great medieval castle would be. Containing Madame Toussaud's wax figures recreating period scenes, the entire setting took us back to the middle ages. We lunched at the Underground Restaurant in the lower level of the castle. Beth had cottage pie, which was quite good, and I had Warwickshire sausage in a Yorkshire pudding, which was smothered in gravy and served with roast potatoes and vegetables. Delicious. Once again, I am
surprised by how good the food is here.

We departed the castle about 4:00, and drove a short ways to Statford-upon-Avon. Everything was closing, however, so we did not get to see much. We saw Anne Hathaway's cottage from the outside, but they were closing so we could not enter. We took a few pictures and headed home, deciding to forgo the Cotswolds until another day.

Now the fun began, as we tried a different route for the return trip. Thinking the major roads would be quicker turned out to be our undoing. The chosen route took us through Leicester. The parts of the city we saw were drab and uninteresting, and seemed to go on forever. The fact that we traversed this area during what appeared to be rush hour only increased the tension. Roundabouts in this town were large, multilane affairs containing several traffic lights as you went around. Failure to
position ourselves in the correct lane when approaching usually meant we were forced off the roundabout into a multilane road going somewhere mysterious. After a few dozen of these mishaps my language had become something it should not be, and we were both reaching the end of our patience. Unfortunately, during this endless period in Leicester, it got dark, and that multiplied the problems as well as the stress level. Somehow, probably due to Beth's great navigational skill and not my
driving, we eventually came out of the nightmare and found ourselves driving away from Leicester and toward Oakham. Lessons learned from this unpleasant turn in an otherwise wonderful day - don't drive in the cities, don't drive during rush hour, and don't drive at night.

One last bit of joy occurred as we drove through what we thought was familiar territory - Oakham. Having had no problems with my driving technique throughout the entire day, here at the end of the day, I drifted too far left, smashed viciously into the curb, and blew the tire. The driving portion of our day ended with the car on the jack, and me installing the spare in the dark. Lesson learned from this
experience - keep the car rental agreement in the car at all times (we did not have any means to call the rental agency even if we wanted to), and NEVER DRIVE IN THE DARK!!!! Fortunately, there was no damage to the car, only the tire.

Piloting our wounded steed into its parking place at the lodge, we both slumped in our seats and breathed a prayer of thanks. Thanks for a beautiful day at Warwick, and thanks for safety on the roads in spite or our many mistakes and learning curve.

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