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UK vacationing III

Starting two mornings ago in Aberystwyth, we took the “Cliff Railroad” up the nearby hill, kind of a Victorian funicular actually, and got these amazing views on a crystal clear morning:

This is looking at the town, southward.

This is the view north towards Snowdonia and the rugged northwest of Wales.

We drove across Wales and southward to Hay-on-Wye where King Richard Booth has an independent city-state and its known now as the “Town of Books”… there’s a big literary festival going on there, and we plunged into the midst of the smsll town’s annual frenzy. Dozens of used book dealers occupy Hay now, and we all had visions of finding various treasures… but no luck. I did meet a woman who had a poster from the recent SF Anarchist bookfair hanging on her bookshelf, so we had a chat about U.S. politics, the book business etc. She made me sign the poster (Hugh!)…

Here’s a couple of shots of Hay-on-Wye:

The first picture is looking down from the edge of King Richard’s castle towards the street. You can see some of his rusty bookshelves along the stone wall. This is where he offers books for 30p or 50p, but you get what you pay for and most of these are old, uninteresting books, randomly organized. Some of the shops were good used bookstores but most were really chaotic and unless you wanted old books about British history, gardening, or old British literature, you probably wouldn’t be able to find what you want…

From Hay we headed stayed in Abergavenny, and yesterday morning we headed south to go to Bath. Unfortunately we hit the worst traffic jam of any of our lives, sitting for 2 full hours in traffic that went barely a couple of miles before we finally got out of it. The traffic circles, or roundabouts, are usually pretty efficient, but once they gridlock the polite British drivers really can’t figure out how to get moving again… what a nightmare! Later we got stuck in incredibly slow inbound traffic into Bath too, and all I could do is remember how much I hate car travel, how incredibly inefficient it is, and sadly ruminate on how choked with cars England has become. We made it into the Roman Baths in the heart of Bath, which was interesting to see, juxtaposing it to previous visits to Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum in Italy…

Looming behind the Roman Bath is the medieval cathedral, and of course the structures enclosing the Bath now are both 19th and 21st century, so you can enjoy a strange historic layering while there…

From Bath we drove east to Avebury, one of the most impressive neolithic sites in England, compared to Stonehenge and the like. Here’s a few photos, with us in the standing stones, and also braving the freely roaming sheep (which made me think of the film Black Sheep, so I wasn’t entirely sure I wouldn’t be attacked by these ‘wild’ beasts!)…

Last night we stumbled on the lovely Hotel de la Bere just northeast of Cheltenham, and spent the night there. It’s in an old manor dating from 1485! We had a great dinner, meeting Caitlin and Julie, who were walking through the Cotswolds…

After all this driving around England and Wales I was heartened to see this sign this morning in Chelthenham while were hunting for this internet cafe:

This is even funnier if you heard the call-in radio show we caught on the BBC yesterday coming from Bristol. Just like in SF, people were calling in to complain bitterly about carsharing lanes, traffic calming efforts, Critical Mass (120 cyclists just getting in the way and creating bad PR for cyclists!), and one guy even called in to complain that cyclists don’t have insurance and what’s he supposed to do when his car is damaged by a bicylist??? The horror! the horror!… the media environment here in England and Wales has been amazing similar to the rightwing echo chamber in the U.S. If I didn’t know better, I’d think everyone was a rightwing loony here too…

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