dimarts, d’agost 09, 2005

Rainbow Tour 2005 Travel Log - Day 2 - Friday 7.8.05

I awoke around 8AM, dressed and went downstairs to enjoy my "free" breakfast, considering the ridiculous price of the room, it should have been free. I had some nice black currant yogurt, some fruit, orange juice, toast and eggs. I collected my things and schlepped them down three two flights of stairs (the Romsey Manor had not yet installed an elevator!), and by 10AM I was off, heading west toward Stonehenge on the motorway. On my way to the motorway, I got a closer look at Shepperton, and it really is an stereotypical English village, with an old 16th century church, the Romsey Manor itself, and a collection of other tudor style and Victorian (English Victorian of course, not American) buildings.

By around 11:30, I was in the vicinity of Stonehenge. I got lost a few times, but eventually found it. I had always wanted to see it, and I was happy to be there at last, but it was a bittersweet moment. For one thing, tourists can no longer, generally, walk inside the circle itself, rather you have to walk around it on a well-worn path and observe it from a distance. Secondly, eventhough this was still a weekday, the place was mobbed. Additionally, the tourist infrastructure was quite vast, and actually dwarfed the structure itself, although it was set off down the hill, generally invisible from Stonehenge itself. Finally, the structure was really a lot smaller than I had imagined, and while I was still awesome, and I took some relaly nice photographs, it is not something I would rush to see again.

After about 2 hours of wandering the field around Stonehenge and trying appreciate it from various angles, and trying to appreciate what my ancestors had to do to build it, I walked back to the tourist buildings, and bought post cards and a sandwich. As I was nibbling my bacon and cucumber sandwich (the English are the kings of the interesting sandwhich combo!) at an outside café table overlooking the field of Iron Age barrows, I overheard and Englishman decrying how English Heritage (the organization entrusted with the maintenance of Stonehenge) weren't doing enough to make the place a world-class attraction. I was horrified at his suggestion that they should build a theme park next to it and make it the centerpiece of a whole entertainment complex. Since I was eavesdropping I chose to say nothing, but in my opinion Stonehenge is already too touristy as it is.

After my lunch I drove southward, to where else, Southampton. As I drove the weather turned cloudy and humid, but the rain stayed away. I arrived in Eastleigh outside of Southamton and checked into the Corus Potters Heron Hotel, a modern hotel, but one with an old English façade, including a real thatched roof, which is typical of older homes in this area. This hotel was much less expensive (£50) and much nicer, and more modern. My room didn't have airconditioning, but it did have a nice balcony and was very nicely appointed. The hotel had a restaurant and a pub, the latter of which I ventured to for a pint before taking a nap in the late afternoon. With the approach of mid-evening, I opted to go to the hotel restaurant, but this turned out to be a disappointment. The menu consisted entirely of "English Guilt for Centuries of Bad Food" and included all sorts of "fusion" food trying to be something posh. The only thing on the menu that looked appetizing was a mushroom and saffron risotto, which when it arrived just tasted bland and underdone. Before my meal I ordered a martini which came in a tall class (not a martini glass) and contained inferior vodka. I decided I would tempt the coffee after dinner, but it too was foul tasting.

I returned to my room, watched a little television and went to bed, but the combination of little sleep, little protein, cheap coffee and the events around me and various personal feelings about my trip that I brought with me all contributed to a massive panic attack in the middle of the night. Luckily, I was able to fall back to sleep and sleep relatively soundly after the panic attack passed.