Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Last week, while attending our second Cambridge United game, we heard an announcement for buses to the following week's game in Exeter, in southwest England. Hmm, we thought. That'd be a good way to visit other towns. Other than the fact that 1) we'd be traveling on a bus with English football fans, 2) you drive up, get off the bus, watch the game, get back on the bus, drive home, and 3) the bus was 28 pounds per person, and that doesn't include the ticket to the game.

So, being the devoted Cambridge United fans that we are, having seen them twice and all, we rented a car and drove 270 miles one way to see Exeter beat them. But, gosh, it sure was fun.

For starters, I went to pick up the car on Friday night. We were getting a VW Golf automatic. We'd been driving a VW in the US, so I thought the brand similarity might be useful in the whole everything's-backwards driving thing. "Oh, you've been upgraded," the woman at the rental counter says. "To what?" I ask.

A Mercedes Benz.

Right. Okay, then. I have exactly 2 hours of driving experience in the UK, and now I'm driving off in a Mercedes. Brilliant.

It turned out to be OK -- both of us drove, and we had only a couple of scares. The hardest part of the whole thing was probably parking in our own narrow carport.

Anyway, off we went on Friday night to get some miles behind us. After a night at your average Best Western equivalent in Swindon (home of the Magic Roundabout), we had some time to meander before pressing ahead to Exeter. Also, we have, uh, borrowed National Trust passes, so we definitely wanted to go to some National Trust sites while we were wandering about.

First stop: Avebury, a stone circle that's 4,500 to 5,000 years old. It's 14 times larger than Stonehenge and older.
(You can read more about Avebury here, and see more of our pictures in the album linked at the bottom.)

Next stop: Lacock Abbey, a 13th century abbey.

I should mention that John drove all day Saturday, and this was his first time driving in the UK. Straight away he was on narrow, twisty, turny roads and at one point got caught nose-to-nose with a little old lady on a single-lane bridge. For future reference, B roads on the map only loosely mean "road."

Both stops were beautiful, but now it was time to make our way to Exeter for the game. We got into town, parked, and walked straight to the stadium. The turnout from our side?

Pretty low. Ok, I'm being unfair. There were about 100 people there with us in the visitors stands, but, alas, U's lost 2-0.

After the game, we made our way to our hotel (a room above a pub!), where we could hear the bells of the Exeter Cathedral, which rang for more than an hour. We finally wandered over there to check it out:

On Sunday morning, we made our way back, stopping first at Sidmouth, right on the coast.

It's a sleepy little beach resort town this time of year, but it gets absolutely jammed in the warm weather. We had a lovely time here walking the beach and lingered for two hours, as much as we had paid for parking. Then, it was time to make the long drive home. We were home by 6:30 or so -- making it exactly a 48-hour road trip. We can't decide whether the experience made us realize how easily we can rent a car when we want to, or whether we should buy a car. The 65 pounds (about $120) in gasoline that we spent will likely factor in to that. But we're very happy that we took our first UK road trip, and no doubt there are many more to come.

[Full photo album of the Exeter Road Trip here.]

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