A UK road trip – Stony beaches, mystical paddocks, and old baths

by Sep 2, 2012England, United Kingdom4 comments

We’re back!  We finally have internet at home again so hopefully we’ll be able to update this a little more often now.

We have been working pretty hard since we started our jobs here so last weekend we rewarded ourselves with our first UK road trip out of London with our NZ buddies (and fellow Clapham residents) Jono and Cath.

We hired a car but since Dayna and I are somewhat lacking in the ability to drive a manual car, we just got chauffeured around for the weekend (going to have to add manual driving lessons to the list of things to do here).  We will have to wait a bit longer before our first taste of driving in the UK although based on our trip, we’ll have to get used to driving a lot faster than in NZ.

We had a Bank holiday on the Monday so that meant 3 days to set off and get a taste of what’s around London.

Our first stop was a classic UK beach destination – Brighton.  Compared to pretty much any beach in NZ, it was a bit rubbish from the beach perspective (stony, grey etc) but that didn’t worry us too much as we were also getting some classic UK summer weather which meant the beach wasn’t really an option any way.

Brighton Beach

Brighton Beach

We had left super early thinking that traffic would be terrible (thanks pessimistic English co-workers) but it took no time at all so we got there early and had time to kill.  We wandered aimlessly around for a while and found a cool little free museum (which are everywhere in the UK – a great idea) and had a look at a bit of Brighton’s history.  Apparently Brighton got really popular in the 18th century when some crazy doctor decided drinking and bathing in sea water could cure pretty much everything.

Royal Pavilion

Brighton Eye

Brighton Pier was our next stop which was about as cheesy as I imagined it would be.  A lot of those funny pictures with cut out faces everywhere and I Heart Brighton t-shirts on sale at every second shop.  They also have some dodgy looking rides (all built on a pier jutting out in to the ocean) that we decided to take a spin on.  A silver lining of the rough weather was that a few of the dodgier rides were closed so we ended up going for the slightly safer looking Log Flume ride and the bumper cars.  Both good choices despite everyone deciding to go on the Bumper cars at the same time as us (turned in to a bit of a traffic jam but at least we could smash people out of our way).

Brighton Pier

Playing around

After the log ride

So excited!

We refueled at a pub for lunch before I made the huge error of buying some of the dodgiest donuts I’ve ever eaten from a stall by the pier.  We got 12 between us for cheap (it sounded like a great deal) and I got stuck with nearly half of that and, of course, had to finish them (I think it’s a trait of an accountant that I struggle to throw food away after spending money on it).

After a quick power nap at our dodgy maze of a hostel, we ventured out in to the pubs and clubs of Brighton.  Since it was a Saturday night we got to see Brighton’s finest out and about.  Some of the local’s attire was a bit interesting.  The best example was the girl who appeared to have forgotten to put pants on and was just walking around in her underwear.  We felt quite overdressed really.

Brighton looked much nicer in the sun the next morning as we set off for our next destination – Stonehenge.  We detoured pretty much all the way back to London all in the name of finding a Macdonald’s for breakfast but still made reasonable time on the drive.

We were all thinking Stonehenge was going to be miles off the road so we were quite surprised to see it right there on the other side of a fence as we drove up to the car park.  I can see why some people don’t pay the £7 admission fee and are just happy to take photos from the road.  Those people all miss out on the amazing audio tour that we got though.  The gist of the audio tour basically being “we actually have no idea what this stuff is here for or how it got it here but it’s really old and here are some stories that could be true.  Possibly.”.

Stonehenge in the distance

Stonehenge was actually pretty cool though despite getting off to a rocky start having to wait in a queue next to crazy people for half an hour.  I don’t know if I would agree with the audio tour’s parting line though – it  went something like this: “Look behind you and spin in a circle slowly.  Even if you took away Stonehenge and everything else, this would still be a mystical and special place”  Take away Stonehenge and you have a paddock between a few roads so I really don’t know what they’re talking about there.



So leaving the mystical and special paddock behind us, we set off for the home of everyone’s favourite world cup winning All Black, Stephen Donald – Bath.  Finding our Hostel felt a bit like we were completing a challenge on Amazing Race.  They had hidden the place up a steep, winding driveway with a tiny sign and Google showed it as being on a completely different street.  We found it eventually though.

After a quick wander and snack we joined a winding queue for the modern thermal baths.  We ended up waiting about an hour but after paying a whopping £104 for 4 people to get in there (more than we paid for our accommodation), we thought it was going to be amazing.  Unfortunately thermal baths is another area where we are spoiled in NZ I think.  The water here was more tepid bath than hot pools.  We had to make the most of it after paying that much to get in so we sat around until we were all suitably pruned.  We did also get to watch a nice sunset from the rooftop pool so it wasn’t a complete waste.

The next morning we ventured out to the slightly older version of the thermal baths – the original roman baths and museum.  These are really well preserved considering they are 2000 years old so I loved looking around everywhere and listening to another audio tour (this one even featured one of my favourite authors Bill Bryson).  Walking on the same pavement that the Roman’s did 2000 years ago is a cool feeling plus you really get a good feel of what it would of been like all those years ago.  I apparently enjoyed the baths a bit too much as everyone else was waiting (im)patiently for me in the gift shop.

Matt, me, and Jono

Trying to fit in

The main bath

The baths with the cathedral in the background

We were pretty hungry by these stage so we headed to another Bath institution, Sally Lunn’s, for some morning tea.  Jono went for the classic Jam and Clotted cream version of the bun while the rest of us chose the Lemon Curd option.  Both were as good as expected and capped off a pretty fun weekend.

Sally Lunns buns!

So our first trip away since arriving in the UK was a good one but we do have a few more trips booked this year already and they will take us slightly further away from London too.  But that’s another post!