DAY 3: London to Coventry

I thought yesterday was an early start.  Today, we awoke at 5:30 and left the hotel in London before 7:00 a.m.  The major task, it seems, is to get out of London.  The weekday traffic here is overwhelming.  To make matters worse, we had one portion of the tour group with "lost luggage", which delayed us another hour.

Nevertheless, we slowly crawled and turned our way out of London heading north.  It was a dreary, rainy morning, and I used the time to take a short nap on our way out of this enormous maze of a city.  I can only say I'm glad I'm not driving in any way, shape or form.

Douglas plucked away on the computer while I slept.  I awoke when we approached Hampton Court.  Hampton Court was a previous Royal Residence that has been turned into a retirement community for employees of the Crown.  We shot some video "on the move" and continued onward.

Next, we headed over to Windsor Castle.  Again, we were only able to take pictures from the outside, but at least we were able to stop for a short time and walk around.  I think Douglas actually took the best video shots when drove past the front gate.  The shots we took from the stop were down the hill and quite a distance from the royal residence.

Windsor Castle

We hopped aboard the bus and went on to Runny Meade, where King John I was forced to sign the Magna Carta.  I expected to see a significant stop, but all we saw was a relatively small memorial in the middle of field as we whizzed past on the highway.   We went onward to Oxford where we stopped for a few hours combined with a lunch break.  Finally, we were able to walk about and look.  As with everything else, there's too much to see and do with far too little time.  We concentrated on only one of the 40-something universities and colleges in Oxford.  It's something of shock to walk into a university cafeteria and see a tiny seating area which resembles a chapel more than a place to eat.  Both the students and staff we met were friendly and helpful.  The grounds of all the universities we were able to see into were more like small gardens than any college turf I've ever seen!  The amount of sandstone/limestone in Oxford is incredible.  Huge, old yellow buildings are literally everywhere.  The buildings and decorations are daunting, with incredible scale, spires, and domes.  The main library complex is immense.  They have somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 million volumes.

Several of the Coats of Arms of the 40+ Universities
at Oxford.

We gained entrance to the theater adjacent to the library, and were able to climb to the cupola in the top of the dome.  From the top I was able to take some spectacular video from every direction.  After the long climb down, we headed off for a local pub where we had another helping of Bangers and Mash for lunch!  This serving was quite different from the first, and from what we have gathered, it was more "traditional" style with onions, gravy, peas, carrots, and a long spiral of sausage which resembled a cinnamon bun!  We wolfed down our lunch and rushed back to the tour bus.

Our next stop was Churchhill's grave.  The graveyard is spread out through the entire church yard, not a separate  cemetery area.  The Churchill family plots are all located up near the entrance of the church.  I've never seen a cemetery like this before.  I guess viewing all the graves as you walk into church is a potent reminder!

We were able to make a short stop at the entrance of the Churchhill (Marlboro) estate -- a striking stone residence with immense grounds.  The current family has opened the grounds and much of the building to visitors to help pay for it's upkeep.  Little Winston had the biggest playground I've ever seen!

My ticket to climb the dome!

Finally, we headed for Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Shakespeare's birthplace.  This was my most enjoyable stop of the day.  We were able see an excellent exhibit on Shakespeare, and tour nearly the entire house where he was born and raised.  The family business was connected to the main house, and is accessible to the public.  The home is much larger than one might imagine, and has survived in excellent condition.  Unfortunately, the house Shakespeare had in adult life was torn down by a previous mayor who objected to the heavy tourist traffic!

Bird's eye view of
Oxford.

My poor feet gave out again.  Douglas wanted to forge on, but he hung with me instead.  We went and perked up on some Capachino (sp?).  It spiked my spirits, but me poor ol' feet remained flat.  I may have to go buy some *really* soft shoes tomorrow if my feet don't improve.   If I can't keep up the trek, I figure we have until the border of Scotland before Douglas  hikes out -- leaving me with all the sweet old biddies on the tour!

Keith standing in front of
Shakespeare's Birthplace.

We ended the day at our hotel in Coventry.  We had a very good multi-course dinner with desert, and long chat with all the folks at our table.  Douglas and I appear to be "the kids" on the tour.  You'll be happy to know our tour mums are taking good care of us! 

It's late.  I'm off to rest my body and my feet for the day ahead:  our trip to York.

Anne Hathaway's Cottage.

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