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Saturday, 01 July 2017

Exploring Wales and England through the Eyes of Friends - Page 2

Written by Dale Fehringer
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Steer Clear of the Yanks!

Driving in England is an adventure for Americans! The steering wheel is on the right, cars drive on the left, and there are numerous roundabouts to be negotiated. We constantly reminded each other to “stay to the left,” and hoped the other drivers would be patient. Over the river, into England, and on to the Cotswolds we drove, watching the terrain turn to grass-covered hills and small villages of golden colored stone buildings. We passed through quaint and pastoral towns with names like Bourton-on-the-Water, Broadway, Chipping Norton, and Stow-on-the-Wold, and stayed overnight in the medieval town of Burford, drinking ale in a pub, eating Indian food in a small restaurant, and strolling down the main street, exchanging greetings with everyone we passed.
We stopped in Oxford, home of the oldest university in the English-speaking world, and climbed up the tower of University Church of St. Mary to get a glimpse of the expanse of the university. The sense of history, scholastic atmosphere, and diversity of students was inspiring.

Onward we drove, gradually getting used to driving in the left lane and navigating the roundabouts. As we approached the east coast the terrain changed, becoming more populated and industrial. Our destination was Mersea Island, south of Colchester, on England’s east coast. This former Roman vacation spot has been important for centuries as a harbor, fishing settlement, and tourist destination. Our friends, Julian and Chris, were waiting for us in West Mersea, one of two small towns on the island (the other is East Mersea). We arrived at their house just minutes after the last workman left, and we were treated to a remodeled home; including a new bedroom, kitchen, and dining room.

Fishing is king on Mersea, and we enjoyed feasts of seafood and oysters, fresh from the sea. We joined our hosts on a hike around the island, a bicycle ride, and friendly conversations with neighbors and friends. The pace of life here is slower than in London, and people have time to visit. We found we had a lot in common with them, including an appreciation for nature and art, love of family and friends, and concerns over political changes. We felt a sense of optimism, similar to what we had noticed in Wales, and a general agreement that while things are shifting, they will be OK.

Sea breezes and the smell of the ocean followed us around the island, keeping things cool and fresh. We walked to the piers to watch the sun set into the water and happened upon the end of a youth sailing class and a line of teens dragging their sailboats out of the water.

West Mersea 1

Too quickly our time at Mersea came to an end. We packed our car, said our good-byes to our hosts, and pointed the car west, back into traffic and roundabouts. This time we took a southern route, through Reading and Basingstoke, to Stonehedge. We could see it from miles away – massive stones strategically placed on top of a hill, with little around it but farmland and sheep. We parked our car, bought admission tickets, and rode a shuttle to the site, which is now roped off, to keep tourists from climbing on the stones. We walked the perimeter and read about the prehistoric monument and burial grounds that date back more than 4,000 years. We were impressed by how long man has lived here and how advanced those ancestors were.

We spent the night in Bath, a modern city on an ancient site. Here, Roman soldiers discovered hot mineral springs and built an elaborate mineral bath, much of which still stands. We toured the site, listening to how Romans used the waters to relax and find cures for health issues. The city of Bath is filled with tourists during the days, but in the evenings it is quiet, peaceful, and filled with good shops and excellent restaurants.

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Last modified on Friday, 30 June 2017

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