Continuing from the last Postcard, in this edition, I write about my visit to the Botanic Garden & the Fitzwilliam Museum and the grand tour to Bath & Stonehenge…
Next on the itinerary was Cambridge’s Botanic Garden and the Fitzwilliam Museum. My wife, Jyothi, had already visited these places when she was here last year and as she had not yet arrived in the UK, I was still playing catch-up with her last year’s agenda.
Moving around like a local
By now, I was moving around in Cambridge like a local. There are convenient University buses – U Bus – from home to the City Centre. I had planned to take an earlier bus from home and hang around at the City Centre for some time before entering the Botanic Garden.
However, I was carrying the book, ‘Nothing to Envy’ by Barbara Demick, from home. This book is about the reality in North Korea. The book is so engrossing that, as I read a few pages, I settled down on a wooden bench near the bus stop at home and let a few buses pass. The book is a page-turner.
A vacation is meant to be a break from the routine. One must be able to pace oneself, slowing down or stopping at will, move the agenda around, and if possible, visit a favorite place more than once. There is nothing to prove…to anyone.
In my bag, I had a box lunch packed from home carrying my favorite Falafel wraps.
Eventually, as Sid would be waiting for me at the Botanic Garden – being a University staffer, he was to hand me over the pass to enter the Garden – I took the bus and reached on time.
The Botanic Garden is one of a kind. There is a mind-boggling variety of exotic plants. Families had come to visit with toddlers while there was a school delegation comprising tens of boisterous students. I recalled my own school excursion trips – all of us had different motivations to participate in the school excursion trips and the teachers would find it quite a challenge to keep the flock together.
The weather was particularly hot but in the garden, there were a number of wooden benches – many of them in the quiet shade – and I enjoyed the garden after picking up a glass of cool lemonade from the cafe. With a souvenir shop, restrooms, and plenty of seating, the Garden Cafe is very well appointed.
I had my lunch sitting on a wooden bench in the shade. There were gurgling fountains and playful children around me.
After lunch, I headed to my next destination, the Fitzwilliam Museum. The Museum is known to house over half a million pieces of art and artifacts from around the world.
I enjoyed spending over a couple of hours there going back in time to the empires of the past reflected in these pieces of art and artifacts. The Museum is very spacious and well maintained. Huge rooms were designated to different eras and it was as if I was straddling centuries walking from one room to the other. Time travel!
Honestly, I didn’t have the ‘art’ to leave.
At home, when Sid and Prerana asked me which part of the Fitzwilliam Museum I particularly enjoyed, I immediately responded, ‘The Egyptian Section!’ When they wanted to know why, I remarked, ‘I was missing Mummy!’ Jyothi was to arrive in a couple of days’ time. For some odd reason, both of them turned towards the window at the same time. I presume both of them must have found something interesting going on there.
What’s Life without humor!
Bath & Stonehenge tour
Sid and Prerana had booked me on a tour of Bath & Stonehenge via Roots, a travel company. Roots is represented by Matt, a middle-aged teacher who had switched his profession to turn into a guide. Jyothi had gone with Roots in the last year and she had some great feedback about Matt.
I was carrying two Meal Deals from Sainsbury’s. Each Meal Deal comprises a sandwich, a snack and a drink. I was carrying two such Meal Deals in my backpack. In addition to the Meal Deals, I was fully armed with my Insta360 X3 camera, the retractable selfie-stick and the heavy-duty tripod. Both Bath & Stonehenge would offer me opportunities to experiment with my camera, so I hoped.
Sid & Prerana had accompanied me to the pick-up point. Matt’s van came exactly on time and picked me up – I was to be the first pick-up and the last one to be dropped.
My wife, Jyothi, had already arrived from India the prior night and was resting.
Matt specializes in taking small groups in a van that can seat about 15 people. Our particular tour was Matt’s 476th to Bath & Stonehenge. Obviously, he is seasoned. Given his bent of mind as a school teacher, booming voice, wry Brit humor, and his rather strong political views on Britain, it was an interesting experience to be chaperoned by him.
Matt didn’t mince any words while speaking about Brexit, the monarchy, and the present government in the UK. He felt that the present government is directionless and that it will go very soon. I have never been affected by the goings-on in British politics but for some reason when Matt mentioned that the present government is set to go, I did feel a sharp stab of disappointment – the reason could be ascribed to the first brown PM of the UK.
We headed to Stonehenge first.
Archaeologists believe that Stonehenge was constructed from around 3000 BC to 2000 BC. The surrounding circular earth bank and ditch, which constitute the earliest phase of the monument, have been dated to about 3100 BC.
It consists of an outer ring of vertical sarsen standing stones, each around 13 feet (4.0 m) high, seven feet (2.1 m) wide, and weighing around 25 tons, topped by connecting horizontal lintel stones. Inside is a ring of smaller bluestones. Inside these are free-standing trilithons, two bulkier vertical sarsens joined by one lintel. Stonehenge could have been a burial ground from its earliest beginnings. Deposits containing human bone date from as early as 3000 BC, when the ditch and bank were first dug, and continued for at least another 500 years. (Wikipedia)
To imagine that, by the time the construction happened, metal had not been discovered – workers dug the earth using deer antlers, and that there were no wheels to move such massive-sized stones from someplace else to the site, made me view the monument with awe and wonderment.
I stuck my camera in my backpack, enabled the voice command feature of the camera to begin video recording and circumambulated the monument to get different perspectives.
Bath is a city known for and named after its Roman-built baths. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 97 miles (156 km) west of London and 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Bristol. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987, and was later added to the transnational World Heritage Site known as the “Great Spa Towns of Europe” in 2021. The city became a spa when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious centre; the building was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the 17th century, claims were made for the curative properties of water from the springs. (Wikipedia)
The city of Bath is beautiful. It was a hot day and we moved around in the city with Matt helping us with the context of the city as a guide. I couldn’t get tickets to visit a bath – tickets were sold out.
I took the below picture at Bath’s Royal Crescent. Here, I used the Tiny Planet feature of my camera.
Kya Bath Hai!
Coming up next: My wife, Jyothi, is here and that opens up a whole new world of sight-seeing…