Monday, September 28, 2015

Stonehenge and Epsom

Stonehenge. I grew up with a dad that always had possession of the remote control. When I wanted to watch ScoobyDoo, Smurfs or The Flintstones, Dad would come in from working on his car and make some comment about how the show was dumb because a.) the plot was always the same, b.) it had no point, c.) Fred was always lying to Wilma and was therefore a bad example. Then Dad would plop down in his chair and switch the station to PBS or the Discovery Channel so we could learn about mating habits of pelicans. I grew to love shows like This Old House, Masterpiece, and Nova. If there was a show about history, nature, science or different cultures or countries that's what we would watch. From the time I was a little girl and I first learned about it on public television, I have wanted to see Stonehenge, so this was a pretty awesome way to start off our day. We bought early tickets so we could be at the inner circle when the site opened at 9:00 AM. That meant an early departure from Sannacott and more driving for me--about two hours of it.

Stonehenge selfie. I thought my hair was an accurate representation of what the weather was like that day: windy.

Stonehenge is every bit as impressive and mysterious in person as one might think. We downloaded a walking tour and were able to make our way around the circle at our leisure then we checked out the museum and neolithic houses. I'm not sure what else to say about it without going into a history lesson except to say that Stonehenge rocks! <----See what I did there?

From Stonehenge we had another hour and a half drive to Epsom. Epsom is where my mom lived when she was in England with her family in the 60s. We visited the street where she lived: Walnut Close, and she pointed out her old house and the houses of the other families they knew there.

Mom in front of her old home on Walnut Close.

We had an appointment with the headmistress at Rosebery School for Girls where my mom had attended school while she lived in Epsom. She gave us a very long thorough tour of the school (more than what we had in mind actually--we got the impression she wanted us to make a donation) and we got to see what a first rate institution it is.

This is where my mom went every morning for prayers when she arrived at school. I half expected to see Miss Trunchbull and Bruce Bogtrotter with an enormous chocolate cake on the stage at the front.

The amount of lines painted on their gym floor was mind boggling. Mom told us about learning the Scottish Sword Dance in physical education when she was at school there.

By the time we were done at the school we were ready for lunch so we headed into downtown Epsom. It was probably one of the most stressful places we drove due to the traffic. It is more of a bedroom community for London now--much larger than when Mom was there.

We saw that there was some public parking and were trying to find our way to it. We ended up going the wrong way down a one way street. There was a man standing on the sidewalk waiting for someone and he looked at us like we were total morons and gave us a big "What the heck are you doing?" shoulder-shrug gesture so I did what any reasonable person would do in this situation and I stuck my tongue out at him as we were making our 8 point turn around to get back to the parking garage. Once we were parked we ended up leaving Mom in the car and Anne and I went into the mall (after two different people that we asked told us "you can't miss it" when we asked directions to the entrance) to get some cash and some lunch.

We committed what I would have considered a cardinal sin before this point and just bought some cheeseburgers at McDonald's--I mean really, who eats at McDonald's when they are in a foreign country? I certainly didn't think I would, but for expediency and economy we decided it would be best. In our defense their burgers were slightly different than the burgers you get in America. For one thing they are made with English and Irish beef instead of American; for another the patties are huge and stick out all around the bun's edges. Anyway, it mostly just tasted like McDonald's but it held body and soul together.

We managed to get out of the car park going with the flow of traffic this time and had to fill up the car and then track down the rental car office so we could return it. I was so relieved that my driver's license had arrived just that day from Ireland. When we found it was missing at the Birmingham Airport, Anne thought that maybe the guy in Donegal had forgotten to give it back. She called when we arrived in Stow the first day in England and sure enough it was still in their copy machine in Donegal. She told him to mail it to Leatherhead near Epsom where we would be returning the rental. It had taken all that time to arrive, but it made it.

The employees at Enterprise in Leatherhead were great. One of the guys was from South Molton where we had been a couple of days earlier so we talked about driving in the hedges. He drove us to the train station so we could ride into London. We had to ask for lots of help with the train since it was our first time ever riding a train in England, but as we found during our entire trip, people were so kind and willing to help us. We got our tickets and took the train to Kings Cross Station.

I loved riding the train. It was very low stress and it made for good people watching. The tracks were slightly elevated above the houses in several areas--the train tracks must have been situated on a hill. As we got closer to the city we saw the roofs and chimneys of hundreds of houses stretched out for miles. It seemed like a scene from a Dickens novel. I wish I had gotten some pictures, but if you need help imagining it, I'm sure if you read Hard Times or Oliver Twist you'll get the gist.

To Be Continued. . .

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