BBC day finally!
This was a day that was much anticipated, where we were going to go to the locations of our favorite shows: Downton Abbey (Highclere castle) and the Doctor Who experience in Cardiff. I also had a big surprise for Joey in Cardiff as well.
This was a roller coaster day, with some big highs and some big lows. Definitely our most challenging day thus far. We had a car with Zipcar, which I have used in Seattle for a couple of years now. I was excited about the prospect of using Zipcar in London since the cars are more what I’m used to driving and the cost of gas is included in the price. We had to pay for mileage but it ended up being fairly comparable to a rental car and without all the deposits and fees and hassle. Plus, there was a car parked 3 blocks from our hotel and we could return it late, well after the hours of a rental car company. What I did not take into account was not having some type of Nav system. I foolishly thought that our detailed google maps and directions would suffice. Hahahahahahhaha! No.
We got lost at least 5 times per destination and it was very stressful as we had to be to each place at a certain time. Even with the 45-60 minute buffer built in, we were late. At Highclere castle we stopped for directions many times, and although the English and Welsh are very friendly, they suck at giving directions. Finally in some random neighborhood we found a truck driver, asked him for directions looking very hopeless and he said “well I’m driving there next, you could follow me but I might be too slow for you”. Oh- another thing about the English and Welsh- they drive really really fast!
We made it to Highclere castle though late, and very much enjoyed our visit. The “slow” sign pictured would have come in handy for our dear cousin Matthew I am afraid…
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside but it was even better than the show. It was a grey and drizzly day but it was still awesome! We had a lovely tea in one if the side buildings and got to see all the bedrooms etc… Even poor Mr Pamuk’s room.
The inside if the main room is actually glass ceilings which was so cool! I was tempted to take a photo but the ladies there looked like they meant business. Very Carson like if I may say so.
One thing that Joey and I both enjoyed were the Egyptian treasures. I knew that they had the exhibit there but I didn’t make the connection. Apparently Lord Carnavaron was a former owner of Highclere vastle and it was he and Carter that famously discovered King Tut’s tomb. There were treasures from Egypt and also a recreation of the tomb as they found it, along with tons I the history etc. it was Joey who recognized his name and put it all together for me!
After lingering as long as we could, we left for Cardiff, the home of Dr. Who. Again, hopelessly lost a few times in Cardiff, we headed for the docks knowing that was near where the Dr. Who Experience was. On a side note- google maps will forever be banned in our house. There were some swear words used- just sayin. We were supposed to be there by 3 for the surprise, and finally at 3:30 we found some nice soul down by the docks to give us “directions”. It’s really easy he said. I implored him and offered him £10 to show us the way. Eventually he took pity and obliged, but for free. And there was no way in heck that we would have been able to find it in our own! He also led us to the wrong place but we knew we were close. We asked another lady on a bike with a BBC tshirt and she pointed it out but said “you are too late, the last tour went in.” Cue the tears. We parked and ran and threw ourselves in the mercy of the front desk and he let us join the last tour. We had run so fast from the car I left my regular glasses and had my sunglasses in, so I do the whole experience in the dark. It was still awesome. It was a 20 minute multi room simulation with a forest of weeping angels, a Dalek war, and flying the Tardis. We were thrilled! And after again throwing myself on the mercy of the amazing team at The Doctor Who Experience they fit us in for the surprise- a real set tour of the show! Joey was beside himself excited. I figured it would be a tour of just the regular set, maybe a Dalek ship or a village. But no- it was the actual TARDIS!!!! We got to go inside and touch handrails that Matt Smith would have touched! Aaaahhhhhhh! So cool! It was a great tour and we enjoyed but a lot.
Next we were supposed to go to Bristol to find Wallace and Gromit sculptures but we decided to cut our losses and get back to the hotel. It was 6pm and we were 170 miles from London.
I took the car to the gas station and it took me 10 minutes to find the prepaid gas card and another 10 to figure out how to open the gas hatch. Yeah yeah- I’m an Audi girl. What can I say. By that time and having to take the card inside to pay twice, I was too flustered to notice the diesel only sign on the gas hatch. Te car was empty and I filled it to the top with petrol, feeling very proud of myself. We got about 15 miles. Luckily I had pulled over because in my attempt to open the gas hatch I opened the trunk and stopped on a nice wide shoulder to close it. Well the car wouldn’t start and that’s when I figured out what I had done. No cell phone, 150 miles from London and a dead car. Awesome! I started to wave down cars, and finally a nice buff group of construction type guys (!) pulled over and talke me through what to do. Using the nearby emergency phone box the lovely Welsh man called Zipcar and got us a tow. Out tow guy took us to some garage where his guy showed up (it’s now 9pm) to drain the tank and flush the lines. We got back on the road at 11pm $400 lighter. The very nice mechanic them had us follow him to the petrol station and even pumped in the diesel for us, and them he led us back to the highway- about 10 miles. Serioulsy nice people all around. We rolled into London at 2 am. It took me another 45 minutes to find the hotel and we were back in bed. I was never ever so happy to park a car as I was that night/ morning. 6 am wake up call to get to the Eurostar was rough but we did it!
Moral of the story? Nav. Diesel. Keep left. Actually driving in the left was easy. Go figure.
And also, I firmly believe in karma. Always have and always will. I felt like every person I ever have directions to, especially working so close to the touristy market, came back to me this day. Everyone was so incredibly nice!!! The folks at the Dr Who Experience and all those who helped us get where we were going will forever have our gratitude. And to see Joeys face when he got to the Tardis was all worthwhile!