Our tour started in London. Zegrahm had given us vouchers to use on the express train from Heathrow to Paddington Station. We would be staying at the Paddington Hilton, but our rooms weren't ready when we arrived mid-morning. That took care of any temptation we might have had to check in and snooze. So off we went to explore!


Greenwich Observatory

Jim had seen it before, but I had a long-deferred dream of visiting the Greenwich Observatory. The hotel staff gave us directions to get there using our favorite "multi-modal" forms of transport: subway to the Thames Clipper "river bus," to Shanks mare up the hill to the observatory, and back again on the river & subway before meeting our fellow travelers for an afternoon reception and dinner.

I was happy for a first-time-ever ride on the London "tube."

Greenwich did not disappoint! I had not expected the extensive and beautiful parkland surrounding the observatory. Or the exhibits referencing such seminal figures as Halley, of comet fame, or ....


Stonehenge

The following day started at Stonehenge. Jim had visited in the past, but I had not. Visitors' experience at this site has changed over the years. When he was first there in the mid-70s, Jim was able to walk amid the stones and touch them. In later years, authorities sequestered the stones behind distracting fences. Nowadays, the monument is appropriately protected, but without disruptive visual barriers.

This was an early introduction to the "ancient" part of the program's title. I was interested to note that Stonehenge is much more ancient than the Druids, who may or may not have made use of it.


Salisbury Cathedral

The massive structure of Salisbury Cathedral has been standing since the 14th century on a slurry of gravel and water! I was astonished to learn that the foundations are quite shallow, about five feet deep, and caretakers monitor the groundwater levels constantly: too high and there is a risk of flooding, too low and there is a risk of collapse!

Unlike most such structures, it has not collapsed over the years or been extensively modified as tastes have changed.

We saw the best preserved of the original copies of the Magna Carta on display here.

After lunch and our visit to the cathedral we proceeded to Plymouth to board our ship. The last time we sailed on her she was called the Sea Adventurer and had a reputation of being prone to breakdowns (although we didn't know that tidbit ahead of time!). She is now called the Ocean Adventurer and has new engines and propellers plus several new staterooms. We were disappointed to find that improved creature comforts in the original staterooms had received short shrift (there were still limited electrical outlets!), but the common areas had received upgrades.


Tredgar Garden

The next day we visited two gardens in Cornwall. Historical climate patterns predicted that we would see misty, rainy, blustery, foul weather on many, if not most, days of the trip. We lucked into beautiful sunshine at most places!

Trebah Gardens is contained in a narrow ravine that slopes down to the sea. The stream running down the ravine provides many water features.


Eden Project

The Eden Project features gardens within a garden. There are two biospheres contained within the domes: tropical and Mediterranean. They are designed to be self-sustaining with compatible fauna to augment the flora.

The surrounding park had its own attractions including a train and a zip line.


XXX Garden

Our visit to the Isles of Scilly featured the Tresco Abbey garden: . The expedition leaders expressed some embarrassment at the tame fare so far. The "Wild" component of the title hadn't really kicked in yet.

This was, however, a birder's paradise. There was a separate group of birders included in the passengers and they had their own agenda at most stops. They could be identified from a distance by the bristling binoculars and loooong camera lenses.

We were now off across the Celtic Sea to Ireland.

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