Tuesday: May 4, 2010
I wake up before my alarm because I always wake up before it when I am waiting for it to go off. I wake up a full hour before in fact at 6am when it’s not due to go off until 7. I close my eyes. I begin having dreams about the alarm shutting off, or changing times, or going off but I am unable to get ready in time. I wake up and check the time and it is 6:15. I close my eyes. I dream I am on the bus to Oxford but for some reason we are going the wrong way, we are actually headed towards Tennessee, this is frightening, so I wake up. It’s 6:25. I close my eyes. I wake up in my dream where my alarm is going off but it will not shut off. Beep beep beep beep beep. It was one of those old alarm clocks. Beep beep beep beep. It finally turns off and I get up and get ready. Shower, brush my teeth, decide on clothes, pack by daybag.
Doooo doot doooooo din din din dooo. Shit, my real alarm’s going off now. I am disappointed that I already got ready once in my dream and now I have to get ready again, but so it goes. I do everything over again that I did in my dream, except this time I actually get to leave and get on the tube. I take the tube to Victoria Station where apparently all the Coach Tours run from. I get there and am a little flustered because I only have ten minutes till departure and I need to get something to eat or I might dine on the tour guide once in the coach. There is terrible food in the coach terminal, but I haven’t got another choice so I get a blueberry muffin and an orange juice. This will just have to do.
At 8:10 it is time to board and I get on with 19 other restless travelers, who also look to be noshing on terminal eats and all have their tourist cameras ready to go. Our tour guide boards the bus and gets a good count, not that it’s hard with 20 bodies filling up the 65 available seats on the bus. He is tall and lanky and sporting a suit that from the front looks decent, but from the back is tattered and worn and looks like it has smudged fingerprints made of dirt on it. I know he is trying to look chic, but instead he is looking very boho. I don’t care much about that though since I know he’s just trying to make a living, I just feel bad that he can’t wear the jeans he is obviously dying to wear because he’s on the job.
This guy is funny and I wonder if they hired a funny guy or if he became funny because of the job. Then I wonder again if I can learn to become funny and if I can just buy a pack of jokes and put them in my pocket. This reminds me of course that there’s still that mini book I want to write called “comeback in my pocket” or is it “A pocketful of comebacks?” Damn, now I don’t remember. Sammy you’ve got to help me out. Either way, these titles are taken. Go get one of your own.
So… this tour guide is funny thankfully because I am tired and would likely fall asleep if I weren’t laughing so hard. Basically as we make our way on the two hour drive to Warwick Castle he gives us a short history of London and then gives us information on any major sites we pass. We pass a little area that he calls “dish city” because every single flat has a TV dish hooked up to it from dinner plate sized to kiddie pool sized. I would like to note here that a kiddie pool doesn’t look that big on the ground, but when you see a dish that size hanging from a small flat you think, “damn… they’re really watching some TV in there.” I mean that poor dinner plate sized dish has got to be envious of the TV it’s not getting right?
The coach takes us through the city and then into suburban area of London and it seems sudden, or perhaps I just wasn’t paying attention, but the countryside appears. The countryside (Cotswalds) is a beautiful expanse of rolling green hills spotty with trees and dotted with sheep! Okay, there were some cows too, but I am enthralled with the sheep because most are numbered since it is lambing season and there are babies! Yes, I love mini things. Who doesn’t like mini things?
I attempt to take pictures from the coach of any animal scene from sheep to horse, but it is difficult with both the bus speed and the bushes that line the road into most areas. I decide that fuzzy pictures are better than no pictures so I take as many as I can. Then we pass into an area full of rapeseed (mustard seed) and the hills are no longer just green, but the green is now intertwined with a vibrant yellow. It is beautiful and I realize I want to move to the countryside. The beauty is inspiring me once again and once the tour guide decides it’s time to give his voice a rest I write postcards and letters to friends and lovers, okay not lovers, but I wanted to say that. I figure that writing on a coach will be a little more novel than the typical cafe and I think my friends will be able to see the inspiration or at least see the coach influence because my writing is rather messy due to movement. As we head towards Warwickshire I am happy.
Warwick Castle is majestic and dominates the landscape around Warwickshire. It is a castle full of towers and chilled halls. When I first walk to the front gates I see that part of the tourist attraction to this are the actors and actresses portraying the parts of nineteenth century servants and royalty. There is a man shooting bows and arrows and a couple adorned in jewels laughing and preening themselves in mirrors. It is a lovely sight. Inside the castle they have set up re-creations of what life would have been like back in Henry VIII. I’d have to say along this trip the easiest King to identify has been Henry
VIII because of his portliness. Other people I seem to pass by without recognition, but he is unforgettable and I often wonder how so many women could have loved this man.
The inside is dark as all Tudor castles seem to be, but it is nice and is full of thick velvety burgundy tapestries. I am thankful right now that I didn’t live then because I am chilled and it seems it would take at least a hundred logs in one fireplace to heat even a single room, they are so large. I love central heating.
Outside it is bright but there is still a chill. I decide that a walk up the towers would do me good and hopefully heat me up. The stairs like in most towers swirl around getting smaller and smaller both in size and in space as I ascend to the top. My feet are too big for all these little stairs I think, but perhaps I think that about most stairs. I have an irrational fear of going downstairs because of my large feet, though perhaps not necessarily irrational because I have sprained my ankle three times on my descents downstairs in my lifetime. It will be a great feat if I make it through the entirety of this trip without spraining anything.
I am mesmerized by the beauty of the landscape from up in the towers. Yellow and various greens blend together amongst mini dense treescapes. It actually looks a lot like a Final Fantasy landscape and now I know where the inspiration came from. Time runs quickly though when you are on a tour of many places and my time seems to end too quickly with the castle, though I am excited about our next stop, Stratford.
Our coach winds around little roads and we see numbers of tiny towns in the Cotswalds with Church centers and houses adorned with tiny thatched roofs. I love the look of old towns and I wish at this point that I could stay in one.
Stratford is a close drive from Warwick, so we arrive in no time. Our coach slows down in this densely populated small town or perhaps it is just densely tourist populated. I look for Shakespeare’s birthplace on my right when our tour guide tell us to and notice it surrounded by a clothing shop and a tourist shop. I look to my left and everything there looks very modern as well. It seems that in Stratford, the only thing that isn’t modern is Shakespeare’s birthplace, saved only by its history.
The tour itself is not too bad. It is once again setup as historians believed it would have been in Shakespeare’s time. This is the home of Mary and John Shakespeare, his parents. From the outside it looks quaint and rather unassuming, but inside I see that it is very much larger with a family room, two bedrooms, a guest room, and a kitchen. It is actually a very sweet house, one that I rather like. My favorite room to visit is one of the bedrooms converted into a tourist information center that houses Shakespeare’s old bedroom window that has the engravings of numerous writers that have come to visit his house. Writers like Wilde, Thoreau, Woolf have all come to visit for inspiration and I can see why. There is something about knowing that I am standing in a house that has been full of great writers of our time that inspires me. I officially want to add write a novel to my list of things to do. Isn’t that on everyone’s list of things to do though?
I am not very impressed with the rest of the town because of its complete modernity and so I decide this would be a perfect postal stop. I find a little post office, which is also a market and send off the cards in which I have been promising people for a few weeks now. Only a select few will actually be receiving these cards because I have been much too self involved to be active about getting these darn cards done. These cards are all beautiful and I don’t really want to part with them. I think… why not just write them and keep them for myself, but I take pictures and send them off.
It seems that it is soon time to leave Stratford and head off to Oxford and see Christchurch, the school that inspired Harry Potter. I still don’t know why I like HP so much and blame all of this on Rene for basically making our entire Starbucks read the books before the seventh one came out. I ended up reading books 1-6 in the month of May 2006 and then pined away for the seventh after that. The seventh happened to come out the weekend I was visiting the San Juan’s with my ex and we found we couldn’t afford more than one book and so I read the entirety of it aloud to her. Thankfully I love reading aloud. I am fairly sure that is my calling but alas there is not exactly a huge market for book readers, it seems they always get Oprah to do it.
After passing through even more Cotswalds, which never end in their beauty, we make it to Oxford. It is simple, elegant, and bustling. There are lots of college aged kids roaming the streets on bikes and it is reminiscent of Cambridge, which I figured might be the case. Our tour guide, excited to take us through Christ Church College walks a brisk pace to the entrance. “We are here!” He is excited until he sees the scaffolding up at the front. He asks one of the staff what that’s about and mumbles under his breath, “great, another damn thing I’ll have to learn for this tour.” I don’t think anyone else hears it, but I chuckle even though I feel kind of bad. It’s the only moment I ever see that he doesn’t enjoy being a tour guide because the rest of the time he is smiling and in good humour. The only part I care about really is the dining hall and this is the first part we see. It is magnificent! The only thing missing are floating candles. Where can we get some floating candles around here? Also, I say a food and it doesn’t appear like in HP. Hmph… I suppose the elves aren’t doing a good enough job then. The college is gorgeous and has big unusued lawns just like in Cambridge. I think it’s a shame for lawns to be so well manicured with nothing but birds and flies to sit upon it.
We look around the city and get history here and history there and suddenly it is time to go. It’s always time to go. This is the last stop on our tour and I wish I could just stay in Oxford for longer. I almost contemplate not getting back on the coach and just staying behind but then realize tomorrow I go to Paris and I really wouldn’t want to miss that.
It is on the bus ride back that I make more goals for my life because the day once again inspires me a little too much. I wonder where I will have time to fit things in and then remember that I am funemployed now and so I should have plenty of time to do all of the stuff I keep thinking of. We drive back through more Cotswalds and I know that if I do come back here I will certainly stay here for a few weeks because it is peaceful and charming and I think I could get a lot of writing or music done out here. Though, I will certainly come when it’s warmer.
The trip ends and tomorrow another leg of my trip will begin.
Tuesday: May 4, 2010