Four years ago when we were in England for the summer we went to Tintern Abbey. It was not the only national monument we visited, nor the oldest, but we loved it. I don't think we actually said out loud, "we have to come back," but we knew we did.
This is our first "free" weekend on this year's England trip. We had a quick jaunt into London yesterday afternoon, where we saw The Importance of Being Earnest at Regent's Park--a lovely setting and a fun production. Despite the threat of rain all day, we were almost too hot in our sunny seats.
Not so today. Today was our planned return trip to Tintern Abbey. We decided to take in Avebury along the way, since we'd never been before and we'd heard good things. The day dawned grey and rainy, but we were undeterred. And when the agent from the rental car company actually showed up early we took it as a good omen.
Maybe it was, but not for the weather. We (OK, Mark) drove through some of the heaviest downpours we've ever been through on our way to Avebury. And, remember, he's driving an unfamiliar car on an unfamiliar highway--on the wrong (left) side of the road! I played navigator, a role I'm spectacularly unsuited for. I can read a map, and directions, but reading road signs at the same time is, um, not my best skill. Roundabouts are a particular problem--I go into them confident of which sign to follow, then panic.
Mark is amazingly patient. And we really only went about 12 miles out of our way on the way to Avebury, I think. Maybe a little more. But we go there, and when we did the rain clouds cleared away briefly and we walked among the stones and the sheep and marveled at the things that humans do.
The rain started coming down again just as we were finishing our circuit, so we took that as a sign to get back in the car. Again my directional sense was problematic, but we did eventually make it to Tintern Abbey--ten minutes before they closed. (Side note: when the sun doesn't go down before 9 p.m., do you really need to close off access to an outdoor site at 5?) That gave us just time to hit the gift shop and then walk around the outside of the abbey--not quite the wonderful views we'd had last year from within, but in the cold and rain (by this time it was pretty unpleasant) we were happy just to see the site.
Back in the car again, we decided to take an alternate route home, up the Wye River Valley and then through Monmouth, Gloucester, and Cheltenham and so home to Oxford.
What a great decision! Cheltenham was particularly lovely, and we made it there just around the time we all needed dinner. We stopped at an inn for a terrific dinner, then drove the rest of the way home through glorious countryside. The rain stopped for us and the sun came out and yes, there was even a rainbow. No pictures, but we'll remember it.