England and Paris, August 1999
Page Three

Tuesday and Wednesday we spent with Harry Norman, who runs an outfit called London Tours, and he and his sense of humo(u)r carried us through two absolutely terrific days out into some fascinating areas close to London.

Tuesday we started out by popping through Windsor to see Windsor Castle, then Eton (to see where the Princes go to school -- the very historic "college" where -- according to the Duke of Wellington, the battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields), then on to the far more historic Avebury, Stonehenge and Winchester. We stopped for a morning tea and a late lunch --and let me assure you that everything you've ever heard about British cooking not being good is just so much rubbish. Both in quality and quantity, the places where we ate can't be beat. Even Ian got filled up!

Avebury stone Avebury and Stonehenge are simply spectacular. The stone circles are very different in the two locations and well worth seeing. Avebury is more primeval in a way -- the stones [such as photos left and right] are not as close together, not as engineered and (it seems to me) older and even more mysterious than Stonehenge. Ian with Avebury stone
At Stonehenge [photos below], I was very pleased to see that there's been an audio tape tour added since the last time I was there (nearly 20 years ago) that's very nicely done.
Stonehenge And I could be wrong but it also seemed to me that tourists are now allowed a little closer to the stones than before, though at a nice distance to see what the narrator is describing as you listen to the audio tape. Very well done. Stonehenge
By the time we got to Winchester, the afternoon sun was just beginning to throw a golden glow onto everything we saw [see Cathedral, right]. It was too late to really see any of the interior of the buildings (Winchester was a major city in medieval England and Alfred the Great, who died in 899, is buried there), but it surely whetted our appetite for a return visit. Winchester Cathedral
Oxford Wednesday we started off to Oxford [photo left]. That place is enough to make anyone who loves learning green with envy. Gads, would I love to spend a year as a student there...! (I keep wondering about trying my hand there after I retire...)
Then we took a long, leisurely drive down through the Cotswolds [photo right], especially the beautiful towns of Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, and the Slaughters (Upper and Lower). It's hard to describe the Cotswolds -- they're small, lovely towns with a distinct architecture -- stone and with gabled roofs ot stone or tile, and often with creeks or rivers running through the center of town. Lots of tourists, of course... Like us.... We had a pub lunch (if you like cheese, you have to try the ploughman's lunch: it's basically a wonderful slab of tasty cheese, fresh bread and salad). The Cotswolds
Warwick Castle From there it was on to Warwick Castle [photo left], ancestral home of the Nevilles and particularly home to the Earl of Salisbury known as "The Kingmaker" for his role in the War of the Roses. If you're an English history buff the way I am, the Kingmaker is a fascinating character and it's interesting to see the castle where he lived. It's been purchased and is now run by the people who own Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum in London and, I regret to say, has an element of Disney-ish schlock in its current presentations. I was last there in 1981 and it was very authentic then; I was sorry to see the changes. Ian, on the other hand, loved the whole thing, including the audio-visual exhibits. So I suppose in part it's what you're expecting: I like my castles real and the kids will love the schlock.
From Warwick, our last stop for the day was Stratford-on-Avon [photo right], a quick run through Shakespeare's birthplace and (sigh) a major-league cream tea at the Shakespeare Hotel there. I don't know about anyone else, but personally I think fresh scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam are about enough to die for. Stratford on Avon
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