Thursday 6th October 2022.
Woke up to sunny blue skies and fluffy clouds. We had a nice breakfast and headed south down the A12 trunk road for London. Well, we were going as far as the M25 which is essentially the London Ring Road which goes all the way around London and is 125 miles long. It’s a bit like the beltway that goes around Washington DC. As we got closer to London there were warning signs advising of 45 minute delays at the M25. Nothing much we could do about that, but we had plenty of time and plenty of gas in the tank, so we were OK. We finally got to the M25, yes after about 45 minutes, too, and the junction had a massive roundabout underneath the Motorway, and this roundabout was jam-packed solid with traffic, all trying to get around it and go somewhere or other. We were in the worst position because we needed to go right around it and come off at around 4 o’clock on the dial. Police cars with sirens were trying to get through. Everyone just left them alone to get through as best they could. We had nowhere to go to help them. Then we noticed four or five cars slipping up the inside of us and disappearing up a road on the left. We decided to follow them just to get out of this jam. We got lucky as it was the slip road (on-ramp) to the M25 but going in the opposite direction to where we wanted to go. No worries, it didn’t bother us none as we had nothing but time and a tankful of juice. So we headed east instead of west, but it was all the same and eventually we would end up where we wanted, although our way was going to be about 50 miles longer. Ah, more scenery to see, Betty said.
As we headed east, the traffic was wide open and no jams at all. We could see all the back ups on the other side resulting from whatever had caused the jam in the first place. We were headed for what they call the Dartford Crossing. It was the crossing of the River Thames which was quite wide in this location. It was one of those fancy new bridges – similar to the new one is Boston, Mass. Now this is where it got a little tricky because nowhere in this world would you be able to cross a bridge of this magnitude without paying a toll. We wondered how this would be done because they cannot just stop traffic on Europe’s busiest motorway to take some money. Then we saw the signs: Pay Your Toll Online Within 48 Hours. Hmmm, we thought. How as this going to work? Then we figured it out… every car that went over the bridge was photographed – they really are big on Traffic Cameras in the UK – and each vehicle had to pay in arrears from their crossing and had 48 hours before you got a ticket for much more in the mail. When we got to our hotel that night, we would do this.
We got off the M25 and headed south along the M20 for Folkestone, Dover and the channel tunnel. Branched off again just before Folkestone for a place called Hythe just to the west and followed the coast (south) road along through such places as Dymchurch, Romney Marsh which were little seaside towns as you headed west. Before long, we were nearly into a place called Hastings which is a much larger town and a major seaside town. The actual name of Hastings is named for the famous Battle of Hastings in 1066 and all that stuff, where William the Conqueror invaded England and we had a battle which was called the Battle of Hastings. The actual battle site was in an area area, now actually called Battle, about 10 miles inland from Hastings. It was good for Betty to see and learn about that. We carried on and headed inland up towards west London, Surrey etc.
We had booked in at the Holiday Inn Express in Swindon, just off the M4 Motorway about 80 miles west of London. Now the only thing was finding our way up to Swindon on all these back roads that were quite busy with local traffic. I used to know these roads like the back of my hand many years ago, but things had changed dramatically, new by-passes were built, other roads had closed in favor of others and everything was different to what I remembered. And rightly so. Eventually after a few yewies and double-backs and that type of traffic maneuver, we got onto the A4 which runs parallel with the M4 Motorway. We got on the M4 and put the pedal to the metal, so to speak, and headed for Swindon and got to the Holiday Inn at 6:30pm. We had a really nice room, very clean and tidy and we liked it. We had a very nice meal there as well. After a short discussion we decided to finish out our vacation at this hotel, mainly because it was quite central for visits to the Cotswolds with their honey-colored stone buildings, Bristol 40 miles to the west, and the South Coast including Salisbury and Stonehenge. Nothing was more than a couple of hours away.
This hotel, for some reason, was quite cheap at around £60 a night when compared with others we had started at. The most expensive was the one in Newport, South Wales which was £145. Looking at this Holiday Inn in Swindon, it was £60 a night and that included breakfast too. Pretty good deal, which also helped to influence our decision to stay here for the duration.
So we had set the scene until next Monday when we leave for home.
This has been part 17 of a series of posts highlighting the trip of a British ex-pat in the US when he returns to the UK for a vacation. He shares the experiences with us here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the next few weeks. I hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I have, and seeing the areas he (and his lovely wife) visit, through my friend David’s eyes. ~ Sherry
David invites you to visit his eBay store while you’re in the neighborhood!
Need to catch up on David’s story? Day 1 ~ Day 2 ~ Day 3 ~ Day 4 ~ Day 5 ~ Day 6 ~ Day 7 ~ Day 8 ~ Day 9 ~ Day 10 ~ Day 11 ~ Day 12 ~ Day 14 ~ Day 15 ~ Day 16