The day the tour guide quit

Tuesday, August 4, 2015
On our third day in London we left the city and went on a day long tour out in the countryside. It was an ambitious plan: to visit Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor all in one day. We booked a small group tour through Viator that had great reviews and were all set. Little did we know that the Viator review we would be writing after the fact was not so glowing...and included the words "then the tour guide announced that he quit." But I am getting ahead of myself.

We were up bright and early and booked it across town on foot to the meeting location for the tour. We figured we would be on a bus all day so a little walking would do the body good. We got there in plenty of time and met the cohort of people we would be spending the day with...all Americans from various parts of the States. The van showed up on time with the driver for the day, who asked us where the tour guide was. We had no idea of course. We all boarded the bus and proceeded to sit there for 30 minutes waiting on the guide to arrive. He finally did and we knew within a few seconds it was going to be an interesting day. He started telling us all the reasons it was not his fault he was late which included a long tirade against electronic buttons, big corporations, and potentially even ISIS. He also told us that he was pretty sure he was going to get fired for being late so he was going to give us an "unfiltered" tour of England. ha. We looked at each other and just said you know what we could choose to get upset or we could just laugh and know that this will be a fun story to tell later. And regardless we will get to see the places we want to see. So we chose the latter option.

We headed out to Stonehenge first. It was spectacular. One of those places you hear about and see pictures of but never really think you will get to see. It was raining when we arrived. Really one of the only times we got rained on the whole trip. So we didn't stay out there with the rocks as long as we might have otherwise.

Then we boarded the van again and headed off to stop 2 - Bath. The drive out to Bath was beautiful. I really wanted to leave the big city one day and get out and see grass and the English countryside. And after seeing it I would love to go back and spend more time out in some of the smaller towns soaking in that culture and scenery.

We had pre-purchased tickets to the Baths as part of our tour so we all went and saw that first. Then we had about an extra 45 minutes to roam the city a little bit, shop and grab a quick bite to eat.

The baths were really neat to see and the way they had it set up to tour was impressive. I think we were both blown away by how well it was done.

Funny (not so) coincidence - Bathrooms at the baths were pretty spectacular (see above right), with windows overlooking the actual baths. I am easily entertained and thought it was funny and photo worthy.

One thing our tour guide did well was give us food recommendations. He pointed us towards this little hole in the wall place to get cheap sausage rolls for lunch and amazing ice cream for dessert. The place pictured in the middle below has absolutely no importance to our story, other than it was a pretty building with amazing flowers on it. I have a thing for flower covered buildings.

The area around Bath was so pretty. Seriously I could have sat right here all day long...

When we got to Bath we were given explicit instructions by the already tardy once tour guide to be back promptly in an hour and a half. That we would be left if we were not back on time. And back we all were. Everyone except the tour guide. For the second time in one day he was late. This time he was 45 minutes late. And folks of the van were unhappy to say the least. We all wanted the driver to just leave him like he would have us, but understandably the driver was hesitant to leave considering he was the subcontractor for the tour company. He kept calling the tour company asking what to do and they kept thinking it was a tourist that was late and no, it was the guide. We were wondering if he had literally just decided to up and quit. But he eventually did show up...with arms full of fresh strawberries. Apparently that is what held him up...he was buying strawberries for everyone that he claimed were the best strawberries on earth. They really were quite spectacular. But not worth the stress and headache it caused. And pretty sure that was not the whole story to the tardiness.

infamous (and delicious) strawberries

The bad part was that by the time we left Bath late, we arrived at Windsor too late for anyone to go in the castle that wanted to. We didn't have pre-purchased tickets for that and it was an optional extra. We had already decided to not go in since we only had an hour or so and it just wasn't worth the admission price. So it didn't really hurt us. But it made some other fellow travelers very unhappy and rightfully so.

We spent our time in Windsor just gazing at the castle from the outside and meandering the town and doing a little shopping. It was nice to just walk around after being on a van all day.

After Windsor we headed back to the city. This was the point where our tour guide came over the speaker and said "you will all be happy to know that I have just called and turned in my resignation." Awkward. No one was all that excited since his quitting does not really affect anyone who was on the tour...but glad that future travelers will not have to be subjected to that madness. He dropped us all back off pretty much wherever we wanted in the city to continue to appease us. But not before we head some more conspiracy theories and colorful stories of London past.

It was a day we will not forget. Thanks to the bizarre tour guide. And thanks to a really great time exploring areas outside of the city of London. It was a really great day despite all the crazy.

We were exhausted when we got back. We got off the van and went and found some food and drink.

We realized we were not far from Lamb and Flag, a little pub that Charles Dickens used to frequent. We ducked in briefly to share a pint and then went and found a hole in the wall fish and chips joint that our cab driver the first day told us about. It lived up to its reputation and some fish and chips and mushy peas hit the spot after a long day.

Then we promptly went back to the hotel and pretty much collapsed, laughing about our crazy full day.

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