Actually I have a couple of trips - Kicking Horse and Sooke - that I haven't blogged about, but all in all, we haven't been traveling nearly as much lately. However, in keeping with our 4th of July tradition of being out of the US, L and I made a quick trip to the UK last week. Our friends Sean and Stef have been living over there for 9 months (check out their blog at 12 Dunworth Mews) and it was their last weekend in town. We decided to go over and watch the Prologue of the 2007 Tour De France, which was starting in London for the first time, and go to their going away party to meet all their new friends!
We arrived on Wednesday, July 4th, and since they were actually out of town for a couple of days, we decided to go see some of the English countryside. I'll leave it to L to decide if she wants to tell the chaos story that ensued, but suffice it to say after 5 airline counters, 5 train stations, 2 tourist information offices (where they laughed at us in Cambridge if they had any rooms), and numerous phone calls, we ended up in the bustling metropolis of Bury St. Edmunds. For those of you who haven't heard of it (i.e. us) - it is quite a cool little village, with a ton of history. It was in Bury St. Edmunds that the barons of England met and swore that King John would be forced to accept the Magna Carta. It is also somewhat of a beer mecca, with a brewery called The Greene King that was founded in 1799.
We spent the night at a very cool little inn far off the beaten path called Ravenwood Hall. It was in the middle of the countryside on 14 acres with a pool, beautiful grounds, goats, sheep et al. After finally sleeping for the first time we headed out on Thursday to see the town. The two main attractions are the brewery (unfortunately the tour was 2 hours long and we just didn't have the time) and the abbey. Our first stop however was lunch at the Dog and Partridge, which featured a "Yorkshire Beef" wrap - yup - roast beef and gravy, wrapped in a huge yorkshire pudding. Oh my. We thought we had found the coolest out of the way place, that was until we discovered that the Greene King actually owns over 1600 pubs in Britain, and they all have the same food...
After that it was off to the abbey, which was insane. It was built from 1000 to 1200, and then it's decline began in 1300. Through a series of raids, battles, and plain old age, by 1540 it was reduced to a little less than a shell, after which it was used as a quarry by local builders. As we walked through the ruins there were small signs indicating where you would have been standing in the original structure. In some cases they would show a drawing of the original structure overlaid on the ruins. It was unbelievable to think of the scale of the original abbey.
After the abbey we hit the smallest pub in Britain - the Nutshell - the public area was 6'x15'. It is small. Very small. I figure you could get about 20 people in there if you were really friendly. More like 9-10 comfortably.
After that it was back to Cambridge by train (where we had a room already booked for the night). We went for Indian at a neat little spot, followed by drinks at The Eagle, which was another Greene King pub, but in its day it was one of the oldest pubs in town, dating back to the 1600s, and it is said to be the pub where DNA was discovered. The next morning I went for a 5 mile run around the town, which is always a cool way to discover the world.
We started our tour of Cambridge by hitting the market, where we got some sausage for the next day's picnic, and decided to come back later for snacks and coffee. We wandered through the college area, passing King's College, Trinity College, Clare College, and St. John's College. The grounds were unbelievable. I've never been anywhere quite like it in the world. It really did feel like Harry Potter ville... We had lunch at the teri aki restaurant, and then did some serious sightseeing. We started by climbing up the stairs to the steeple of St. Mary's church, which afforded us an incredible 360 degree view of all of Cambridge. In the following you can see shots of King's College, Trinity College, and St. John's College.
After that, we actually got to walk into the King's College Chapel, and around the grounds. The chapel was amazing, with great stained glass windows, a huge pipe organ, and amazing woodwork/benches.
From the grounds we walked out to the area called "The Backs" which, in fact, is a large park like area off the backs of the colleges. I first stumbled across these on my run, where out of the blue on a path by the river I could see these immense buildings with huge lawns, like I'd never seen before. I was doubly amazed at the fact that were wild cows hanging out by the river.
In any case, after walking around the backs, and checking out the cows, L and I had one more pint at a pub called the Mill, which was the first non Greene King pub we found all trip, and then it was back to the train station for the trip to London.
Net net, a great start to our trip. Check back in tomorrow to see photos and stories from our Saturday in London, featuring the Prologue!