Wed. May 18, 2016:
Stowerton to Bath
I woke up at 8:20am and rushed downstairs for breakfast. We had looked at the menu the night before and I knew what we wanted. It was nice to see that a table had been already reserved for us. It turned out that for the full English breakfast you did not choose between back bacon, pork sausages, mushrooms and baked beans, but that in fact you got all of those. I guess that is why it is called “full.” The only choice was the style of eggs and type of toast. Thankfully we had figured this out before ordering. Looking around we saw that the toast was a large portion, therefore I did not order any and just stole two slices from Brent. I opted for the buffet options instead. There was no way I could eat that much food. Yogurt, granola and fruit made for an awesome breakfast, along with toast and jam. The full English breakfast looked stereotypically British. I was all for trying the baked beans until Brent mentioned that they were in ketchup. I was already confused about the beans for breakfast part, but ketchup?! I was not on board with that. The back bacon was true winner, it was not super crazy salty as I am used to. It was edible! Because breakfast was served so early we had some time to chill before we had to leave. It felt so good to crawl back into bed and read my book.
As we drove to Wells Cathedral it started raining. It was difficult to find parking, after all we were in England’s smallest town. Eventually we found the public parking at the grocery store Waitrose. We walked in the rain with no directions, hoping we could find the cathedral. We walked towards what we thought was the cathedral but it turned out to be a small unimpressive church. For a brief second I was cheesed, this is what we were trying to find?! This small church?! Brent had mentioned that the cathedral was known by another name, St. Andrews. I laughed, I had seen a sign one block back pointing towards St. Andrews cathedral and I did not know that was what we were looking for. That was the only sign, other than pointing us in the right direction we were once again on our own. Thankfully the bells were ringing off in the distance and we followed the sound. I pointed at a building and said that the bells were somewhere behind it, as soon as we rounded the corner, lo and behold the cathedral was exactly where I had pointed, behind an arch.
We were suckered into paying a donation for admission because there were two people sitting at the front desk. The cathedral was beautiful, it had scissor arches that we had never seen before. The highlight was a 13th century medieval clock that rang on the hour and featured knights going in a circle through the clock jousting, a much cooler version of a cuckoo clock. One of the knights gets knocked flat by the other, it was very amusing. This cathedral was one of the best so far, it featured a resident cat. A friendly cat who let me pet him, who posed for pictures, who was just so darn cute I could not take it!!! I dubbed him a cathedral cat and was grateful for the unique photo opportunity he had afforded me. The library in the cathedral was a stand-out, they had old books that still had the chains on them (books used to be chained to the bookcase, for in-library use only to prevent theft). Unfortunately the titles, which at the time would have been written on the pages (the books were shelved with the spines facing inwards) were not visible. While we had been inside it had finally stopped raining, and now we could go back outside and get a full and proper grand view of the cathedral.
We walked across the street to The Swan (at the Best Western, oddly) to have a drink. I was still too full from breakfast to even contemplate having lunch. I tried to order a pint of cider but the tap was broken, so they gave me a pint of the other cider, Thatcher’s. It was delicious regardless. Across the street there was a patio with a beautiful full view of the cathedral. There was a sign stating that there had been a café there but in the 19th century it was demolished to build the patio with a view. It was nice to sit back and relax with a cider, talking… and then a cat strolled in. He had a little bell on his collar and was so cute, walking around with his tail held high. He came over to me and let me pet him, he rubbed against my leg but would not jump up onto my lap. I was sad when he left, but then he came back! And still refused to sit on my lap though. He more than made up for this by meowing his cute little meows at me. I was so tempted to pick him up and snuggle him and never let him go, but he was more interested in walking around the pub and checking everything out. He made my day.
On the way to the car we stopped at Waitrose for some road snacks. I was so happy to be reunited with my beloved Biscoff cookies. We also stocked up on some more British candies like Dairy Milk buttons and mini Toffee Crisps. We stopped by the alcohol aisle as well. There I found a Stella Artois berry cider and a strawberry-mint Pimm’s cocktail. We got ID’d at the checkout and my driver’s license (not being an EU one) got questioned. In the end it was all ok. We also fueled up the car, it was unbelievable how expensive it was, double what we would pay back home.
The Ayrlington Hotel, where we were staying had a really pretty exterior. We had an hour until our afternoon tea reservation at the Pump Room. I tried to read but was so sleepy I ended up napping instead. It was a short 10 minute walk but it was so pretty, all the cobblestone paths and crossing a river. We walked by the Roman baths and the abbey. We walked by a shopping arcade, so much potential shopping, I noted it for later.
The Pump Room was super popular, probably owing to the fact that it was connected to the Roman baths. We were seated in a giant hall with a lot of other people, the place was huge. As we decided what teas to order, a pianist played in the background. It was all really nice. And the service was amazing. Our tiered-tower of sandwiches, scones and mini desserts arrived before our tea. On the second cup of tea we swapped and tried each others. Brent had a lemongrass green tea and I had the Darjeeling. I had chosen it because the description said something about it being rare. The sandwiches consisted of melba toast that you spread mushy salmon on, and a ham sandwich that for some ungodly reason tried to sneak a tomato by me. Who puts a tomato in a ham sandwich?! We had two scones each, which I still contend is too much. One scone is more than enough. They are dense. Also our scones did not come with clotted cream on the side. What kind of afternoon tea scone was this? The mini desserts were hands-down the best part: espresso cake, raspberry crème puff, a slightly-too-dense macaron and a nut tart.
After tea we wandered around through the shopping arcade, gawking at all the architecture. We stopped in at LUSH so I could buy a bathbomb. We were staying in Bath, therefore I had to have a bath while in Bath, and what better way than with a bathbomb? It all made sense. I had seen people with shopping bags from H&M and Primark, but I could not for the life of me find those stores. Until we turned and walked in the opposite direction, success! Primark did not have too much, it was a smaller store. I did find some nice tank tops and a package of fake pearl earrings for £4 which was an awesome deal. I did not spend too much time in there was I had planned to go to Primark later in the trip while in London anyways. I stopped in at the H&M, alas the shirt I wanted was not in stock. They had it in every other pattern but the one I wanted. As I left the store, dark and threatening storm clouds appeared out of nowhere. We speed-walked back to the hotel and were less than 2 minutes away when the sky tore open and it began to hail. It stopped as soon as we got to the front door of the hotel. By the time we got to our room it was sunny outside, as if none of that had just happened.
After resting a bit, Brent googled some nearby pubs and we headed back out. First we walked to Victoria Park which was really more of just a giant lawn. At least we scoped out where we would be having afternoon tea the next day. There was a guy taking pictures of a girl in flowy fabric. He was wearing white magician gloves, she kept jumping for the camera. It was all really weird.
We stopped in at The Raven because it was highly rated. Apparently so, as it was very busy and we got the last two seats at the bar. I started with a half pint of West Country Gold cider. By doing half pints I figured I could try more ciders, as they had quite a few on tap here. It quickly became clear that this was going to be more than just “one pint” at the pub. The wireless card payment reader was not working. One guy decided to give it a try anyways and when it failed he asked the bar tender if he had tried turning it off and on again, peals of laughter rolled through the bar. It was amazing, I could not believe it had just happened. Were all of these people really IT Crowd fans? Or were they all just really drunk? The second half pint I had was Sheppy’s cider, it was drier and less fruity than the first, i.e.: better. We met a guy who was out at the bar with his co-workers, celebrating that they had not met their quota. He said next time they will just fudge the numbers. In talking to him we found out that he was ex-military, when he mentioned visiting Medicine Hat, Alberta. He had also been to Vancouver and Australia, and he hated his boss. The guy was really chatty and friendly. The third half pint was Naish’s cider. The bar tender first asked me if I had ever had a similar cider, that it was different from the usual ciders. I balked, of course I had tried such ciders before. Of course I’d be fine. Of course I would like it. It was awesome, it had strong sour end notes and was unique and it won for the best cider of the night.
I watched a guy order a pickled egg, alas he must have eaten it in the few seconds when I had looked away. I will never know if he had actually eaten it or not. I am still content, having seen a jar of pickled eggs behind the bar. I guess it is a real thing. I had cleared through the ciders on tap. My fourth half pint was an Oteley No. 9 Belgian-style fruit beer. Or so I was told. I tasted no fruit. It was just beer. I regretted not having gone with my first choice, the Bacchus framboise bottle. My argument was that I had tried it before. I passed my half pint over to Brent and ordered the Bacchus and we split it. I had forgotten just how good it was. The Raven was an amazing pub. It was full of middle-aged drunks ready to start a conversation with anyone. It was an awesome atmosphere.
In a haze we walked down the street to McDonalds. We were in need of greasy food, stat. I ordered a sad-looking quarter pounder and some “taste of America” chicken strips. Alas, because it was not regular menu, the sauce options were limited. I would have to try the curry dip another time. Back in the hotel I brewed a cup of tea, grabbed some Biscoff cookies and the Pimm’s cocktail and had a bath, while in Bath, using a bathbomb. It was the perfect end to the day.