Bristol,Bath,Oxford&Stratford-upon-avon(spacebarnotworking!!!)

Birmingham Travel Blog

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I arrived in Birmingham to Sam’s smiling face and torrential rain. It was great to have someone here to meet me (a rarity) but the rain was something to see. We weren’t going to let that stop us though and off we headed to see the sights of Birmingham. High on Sam’s “to see” list was THE BEACH. Photos attached and self explanatory, but I have to say – unlike any beach I’d seen before. And, being land-locked, quite unexpected for Birmingham.

The next day we set off on our roadtrip, Bohemian Rhapsody blaring, as planned. We hit Worcester first off and this was one of my favourite towns.

The cathedral here sits along the Severn River and is a must see. It’s enormous in size (as cathedrals generally are) but kept in pristine condition – for a church that is hundreds of years old. After this, we walked the streets of Worcester and explored this area of the Cotswolds which has winding little alleys and ancient old tudor housing that leans into the streets and over the cobblestones. I love this part of the world – it’s beautiful.

Our exit from Worcester was not so grand, our car displaying a parking ticket. As the responsible party for feeding the parking machine, I felt I was to blame. Clearly, I have no grasp of the English language and how to load a parking meter. Talk about steep – GBP25. Not a great start to the day. But onwards and upwards, we wont be defeated. Off to Bristol we head to find the place where Dad used to live, but we go via a small town called Stroud for a lovely pub lunch.

Now, Dad, you did brilliantly with the address here – full address with postcode. The satnav had an area to put in the postcode too so – too easy. Only the satnav didn’t recognise it, nor did it like the suburb ‘Downend’. But we did get to drive around aimlessly through the streets of Bristol in peak hour traffic. I met at least half of Bristol as we pulled up and asked for directions with many Bristol locals. Wow – what an accent!! Everyone, incredibly lovely and helpful but one lady, with the strongest accent, said “Nah, you’re miles from Downend, sorry luvva” and walked off. Dad, we tried!

Off to Clifton to see about the place where Deb was born but the same sort of luck there. We set our sights on a large landmark this time – Clifton suspension bridge. As a whopping bridge in Clifton it was an easy target and un-missable, you’d think.

Nope – we managed to miss it again and again. I caught a glimpse of it in the distance and was thrilled but getting to it from where we were took another hour of driving and asking for directions. Along with the many Clifton locals that I met that day, was a petrol attendant, mechanic and finally a family on a day trip with a big 4WD that was heading over the bridge and told us to follow them. Yay! As we followed, we re-traced our steps and also followed about 5 massive signs reading “Clifton Suspension Bridge” and a big picture of a bridge – all of which we’d missed over our traipsing through here earlier. But we found this one and it was well worth it for me. Think I may have turned Sam off the whole Bristol & Clifton area for eternity, though.

On to Bath.

Like Bristol, I’d grown up hearing all about how beautiful Bath was but to see it, I now know why. This is a place that if I was ever to get married again and I was living in the UK (ok, two highly unlikely’s to start off with but...) this is where I’d honeymoon. Such a romantic city with the Avon running through it & architecture to dream of. Once again, I could go on and on about beautiful little streets but Bath is different to Worcester in that it has this grand presence. Maybe it’s the Circus and the Royal Crescent (pics attached) which are not only unique and grand but so very beautiful in the way they sit high on the hill and overlook parks kept well groomed with a scattering of walkers and squirrels busy eating konkers (a Sam term – these are hard acorn type things a bit smaller than a tennis ball. Sam described a game in school where you tie string to one end and then hit your mate with it – fun!! This sounded genuine, more so than the other game he recommended which was ‘chase the squirrel’.
Apparently, if you’re a tourist you have to play this naked as well.)

Our trip was turning into a true connoisseurs tour. With pub lunches and dinners daily my clothes are getting tighter and tighter. But the food has been incredible, and from emails received, a bit of a highlight for you guys as well, so I plan on keeping the photos coming of my dining pleasures – by popular demand.

Spent the night in Bath and it was the best hostel I’ve stayed in to date. It had a gym and pool table which aren’t the norm with the hostels I’ve been to. Also, the rooms and public areas were quite modern. The guy at reception was really helpful and it was in the dead centre of town. They don’t come much better than this. Breaky included in the morning and we were set. Off to see more of Bath before heading off again.

The next place was a mystery inclusion on the trip. The research that Sam did for this trip made me want to offer him a job. There were 3 pages of information on sights, accommodation, etc. I was duly impressed. But the next stop was one he kept close to his chest. It was between him and the satnav and I was to be kept guessing. Only 5 seconds away, I got it – Stonehenge. What a treat to just throw in there. I hadn’t anticipated seeing Stonehenge so was pretty blown away – literally too as it gets very windy on that hill. True English weather provided the rain that stayed long enough to just get you wet enough to get your brolly out, then it would disappear.

After Stonehenge, it was on to Oxford. The town of scholars. What another beautiful city as well. Again, the rain, but we soldiered on.

This town is really one big university sprawled out with pubs and shops amongst it. You see the campus is all over town and historic buildings pop up everywhere you look. There’s so much history here. Another pub lunch and the friendliest pub owner I’ve met to date. He took a liking to me as soon as the accent came out but I soon discovered it was only to constantly rib me about the Aussie’s dismal attempts in the world rugby and to repeatedly refer to me as a Kiwi – ah, he knew how to charm a girl.

After Oxford, it was off to Stratford-upon-avon, home of Shakespeare. Here, the weather turned it on for us. There were blue skies at last. We went straight to the theatre to book our tickets for A Midsummer’s Night Dream which was playing at 7pm. Being one Shakespeare play that neither Sam nor I had read in school, we were worried it may be a bit on the boring side and hard to understand. I pictured some high-brow performance of pompous actors. To be told that it was sold out bar 2 seats that weren’t near each other (how could we nudge each other awake through this 3 hour performance if we weren’t near one another?) or standing in the stalls. Standing it was – this was going to be a long 3 hours. Off to see the sights and, yep – another pub meal complete with a quick beer in the outside garden. Back to the show and up to the stalls we went. Let the performance begin. It was fantastic from the opening scene. Not pretentious at all but easily understandable (for us simple folk) and very funny. The first half flew by but there was a bit of shifting the weight (which has grown with the pub meals) from foot to foot. We asked to sit in one of the empty seats where ticket payers hadn’t shown up and – yay, they let us. So, we sat through the 2nd half and it was a great show. Best 5-er I’d spent all trip.

Home to Birmingham after this. Our road trip was over 300 miles of driving, included 7 towns of interest and provided 5 pub meals. I think that alone shows the success. But in seriousness, hats off to you, Sam. You are a true friend who showed me a side of England that I’d never seen before and one that I could never see on my own. The effort that you put into the planning here – incredible. Thanks for giving me a magnificent few days in the Cotswolds!!!

Well, it’s another train for me today out of Birmingham and up to Manchester. Meeting up with Dim again and we fly out to Prague tonight to meet up with Billy from Belfast.

Easy, liver!

debbiej says:
wow now that sounds really cool you got to see so much stuff its a shame about downend but the journey to get there would have been fun love the pics good to see sam what a travel agent on to the next adventure love deb
Posted on: Sep 10, 2008
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