Day 1 – Landing in Heathrow -> Bath UK

Flight Tracking

Sleeping on a plane is tough for me. While I did get maybe an hour or two it wasn’t restful, and when I felt turbulence it shook me awake. Air Canada offered an eye shade in their complimentary travel kit provided to all Premium Economy customers, and that helped a bit. I woke up about 90 minutes before landing and the sky outside was already lightening up a bit. When I looked at the flight track, we were just outside of the British Isles.

The flight at this point was really smooth, the hum of the G90’s was nearly drowned out by the air rushing over the fuselage at 460 Knots. The speed of the aircraft was interesting to me, as when we took off and left over Newfoundland we were cruising at 570 Knots. But then I remembered that London Heathrow doesn’t open their airspace to landings until 6:00 AM due to noise reduction requirements. In fact, London Heathrow is closed between Midnight and 6:00 AM every day. That means we can’t arrive TOO fast, or we’ll be flying in circles for an hour or so…

I took a few pictures out of the window – check these out:

Northern Ireland through the clouds
English / Welsh coastline
Descending over the English countryside
These fields of yellow flowers were everywhere – it’s a plant called “Rapeseed” and is apparently used to make Canola oil.
Flying over a lords castle
Landing at London Heathrow

So, the process for getting into the UK is as follows:

  • Walk to UK Border Security – in a LONG que line that would make any amusement park ride jealous.
  • Scan your passport and look into a camera
  • Become approved and walk through
  • Collect your bags at the baggage carousel
  • Either walk through or bypass customs (we bypassed – noting to declare)
  • Find your way out of the airport

This is where we picked up a couple of SIM cards for our phones so we didn’t have to pay AT&T’s international fees, and off we went to the rental car shuttle bus. The bus driver was extremely friendly, and since we were the only ones on board, we had his full attention. The attendant at the Rental Car area was equally as nice, and after a quick video of the cars condition, we were set to go.

Driving in the UK

And now – driving from the wrong side of the car on the wrong side of the road…

I thought it would be pretty easy, but it certainly requires your full attention. And having someone to help Navigate is extremely helpful too. Here are the differences that I experienced first off:

Physical driving:

Driving from the right side of the car means you have to “place yourself in the right center of your lane”, not the left center as you typically would while driving in the US. This is something that becomes second nature because, well, that’s all we know. But that turns out to be a big adjustment. Next, turning into lanes requires you to look the opposite way, expect traffic from the opposite direction and then turn into a different set of lanes than you’re use to. For example, when you turn left here in the UK, it’s curb to curb. Turning right requires you to turn to the far end of the road.

Driving Etiquette

People use their turn signals here – they actually communicate with each other and it makes things SO much nicer. They also know how to merge, and people leave room and flash their lights to acknowledge their willingness to let you in. And roundabouts make traffic move smoothly without stopping and without issue – all you have to do is follow the rules.

Speed Cameras

Speed cameras are EVERYWHERE, but they are properly announced, and in remote areas not only are they announced, but they are placed in large marked vans so they’re not hiding the fact that their watching you. It’s also been our experience that penalties for infractions are not overly punitive. In other words, they’re not using traffic tickets as a means of generating income. We received a parking citation in Bath our first night there because we were confused as to where we were allowed to park. The cost of the ticket? £35.00. Perfectly reasonable.


“Stonehenge! Where the demons dwell
Where the banshees live and they do live well
Stonehenge! Where a man’s a man
And the children dance to the Pipes of Pan

So not only is Stonehenge a historical wonder, it has become the focus of musicians thanks to that wonderfully irreverent but mostly accurate musical movie, “This Is Spinal Tap”. So I had to add my two cents as well:

If you don’t get the joke, you’ll have to watch the movie.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury – also know from Peter Gabriel’s song about his separation from Genesis “Salisbury Hill” – is home to a historical cathedral. Built between 1220 and 1258 in a style we now call Early English Gothic, Salisbury Cathedral is knows for having the tallest spire in Britain (404 Feet tall). This is the history I came to find, and it was a fantastic jump start to our search.

Inside the walled area of the abbey, the large door is still maintained.
Our first view of the cathedral and grounds
At 404 feet, it is recognized as the tallest in Britain.
Front entrance with many statues of historical figures adorning the outside of the building.
One of the many toombs covering the floor of the cathedral.
View back towards the front of the church from the base of the altar. You can also see the pipes of the organ.
Outside of the church but under cover, you can see the courtyard.

One of 4 surviving originals of the Magna Carta survives here in a separate but connected building called the Chapter House. The Chapter House was the place where the leaders of the church / community gathered to discuss issues and make decisions for governing those around them. While we are not permitted to take pictures of the actual document, it is housed in a protective display inside a small tent inside the Chapter House.

Panoramic view of the Chapter House
Only 4 originals survive.
A final look of the tallest spire in Britain.

Wells Cathedral

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