This picture shows London as we left it. We crossed the 2nd bridge (straight ahead) and it gives an overview of how far you had to drive to leave this marvelous city. Now for the relaxing influence of the rolling hills and the English Channel.
Bournemouth, with its unbroken sweep of sandy beach and overshadowing cliffs, was perfect.
On our way we caught a glimpse of the ruins of Carfe Castle. It was an 11th century fortification and had sweeping views over the Channel. There is a fascinating history about its demise.
When we arrived in Bournemouth, there were many hotels overlooking the beach, but only one really stood out: Hotel Menzies-Carlton.
An elegant facility : originally a private home in 1861. Over time it became a luxury 5 star hotel and revamped the original suites into bedrooms and added a “lift” in 1911. We were assigned a lovely 2nd floor room with a large terrace overlooking the English Channel.
Needing some exercise, we went for a cliff top beach walk. The breeze was warm and the view magnificent. We decided not to climb down the 300 plus stairs to the beach today.
The Pier has maintained much of its antiquity and one can almost see the thousands who came to Bournemouth to board the ocean liners at South-Hampton. Returning to our room, we noticed people swimming in the lovely pool (always a good sign) and an indoor-outdoor hot-tub ( a better sign).
Later, entering the original 1860’s dining room, the smiling Matre’d checked our name and said “You may choose any free table and it will be assigned to you for the 2 day stay.” Naturally we took one overlooking the Channel. I noticed a crowd in the back of the restaurant and discovered they were “bus” people on packages and had assigned tables. Afterward Mike carried our unfinished wine through the elegant bar to the outside balcony.
While we were enjoying the sunset, Mike mentioned that in 1944, Generals Eisenhower and Montgomery stayed here to set up operational tactics for the Normandy landings. Good chance they sat out here, with cigars and brandy, looking across the Channel to Normandy, discussing strategic moves for the Omaha Landing.
Good weather the next day so we did go down the 300+ steps to the beach. Walked out and around the old pier, peering into a new “Coffee Shop”, “Beer Pub” and “Hand-made Stuff” plus restaurants, boat and fishing facilities.
Walking up the hill to this garden area, we read this sign “This valley was created by ‘channeling’ the river”. You are looking down the hill to the Channel and the pier. On the left side, behind the trees, we had lunch at an outdoor restaurant. Sunburnt and tired, we ate at the hotel that evening.
Off to Wells the next morning, but our luck ran out in Yeovil. Mike hit a curb and the front tire tore: a big flapping hole! On to a side street, remove luggage-“ But no Fkytrs spare tire~!” yelled Mike.
The catastrophe reversed when Isabella, an elderly woman from the house overlooking our car, came out offering coffee, tea and a bathroom. Then Jamie, 40 and recovering from a job injury, came from across the street carrying a jack. Nothing in the rental trunk but a can of spray to inflate the tire!??!
Noon on Saturday and the stores close- but Jamie took Mike to a friend’s shop and he got a new tire.
All this took about 2 hours so we needed Isabella’s hospitality and Jamie’s generous help.
What wonderful people!
And again, on to Wells and our reserved Hotel Swan. Checked in and crossed the street to the hotel’s outside patio facing Wells Cathedral.
This overwhelming structure was our view! Our lovely 600 year old Hotel Swan (chosen for its antiquity and location) gave us a great 4th floor room-with-a-view, but had no elevator. Also they were repainting the outside, but thankfully not on the weekend.
Looking out the window, I took this picture through the scaffolding, to show both the Church and the patio.
Sunday morning coffee on the front terrace and people-watch. The Bells of Wells were serenading enticing many to head to the Cathedral. And we followed.
The sermon brief and the music wonderful! Afterward we strolled the grounds to a moat that surrounded “The Bishop’s Palace”
The information said that these elaborate defense walls were built to project wealth – and scare off future invaders. Apparently it worked! Dinner that night at The Crown Pub on Main Street with 2 (slightly tipsy) Irish gentlemen Singing folksongs. Very well done.
The next morning, off to Cheddar Gorge.
An apt name for the village, wedged between mountains, that made and sold not only cheddar cheese, but all things cheddar: cheddar beer, cheddar sweaters…. A delightfully touristy village.
When we drove out, there were people climbing the steep gorges. And on to Oxford.
We found our reserved and expensive MacDonald Randolph Hotel but no street parking or entrance (busses only) except for the $28.00 Valet service.
Elegant hotel but a very limited floor plan. Small registration area (packed) and one small bar in front (packed). Smoking outside front entrance only. Two elevators… but posted “under repair”. So we lugged our luggage to the 4th floor. A mammoth dining room but only open at mealtimes but, no problem, we wanted to walk the city. And it was lovely. Classic academic buildings and delightful alleyways with tiny shops and bars along the cobbled streets. We found a local pub with a patio over shadowed by classic academic structures.
There were many students, talking, reading or writing, but all eating. Some people our age eating…an even better sign. Later we did see the “Oxford Bridge of Signs”…. and it was beautiful. I was disappointed in the original background: an old and new building linked across the road. (I’m not sure about the “signs”….we didn’t see any. Must be a story there.)
The next morning we cancelled our 2nd night’s stay and requested a 2 o’clock check-out, and done! We toured several of the college campuses walking through the green courtyards. Students were scuttling from their dorms across the yards to the classrooms and vice versa. The tardy ones ran.
This view of a downtown area shows how compacted Oxford is. Classic buildings with Tudor and Dutch Gothic, among others, and many pedestrian streets. The one off to your right was pedestrian only.
The elevators were working when we left. On to discover the Bull Hotel near Beaconsfield—only 20 miles from Heathrow and our departure flight tomorrow.
And it was lovely. Nice room, great bar and restaurant with a beautiful garden out back. What a leisurely way to finish our stay in England. And what an extraordinary visit!