Herald and Journal, April 12, 1999

Catch that leprechaun . . .


Last week, I wrote about my trip to England with my daughters.

It was a great time, with lots of sight-seeing. We were constantly on the move by bus, train, subway, and, mostly, by foot. It was certainly not a "lay on the beach" type of vacation.

Remember, we had left Minneapolis-St.-Paul at 6 p.m. on March 15. If you add eight hours on to that, we arrived in London at 2 a.m. our time. London time is six hours later, so it was about 8 a.m. when we got there.

Then we headed for Bath.

You would think that after being on a plane for eight hours, traveling to Bath by train, and then trudging up a steep hill to get to the hotel, we would be ready to settle in for the day. Instead we hauled our luggage up to our room, freshened up, and off we went.

We started by walking through the gardens of our hotel, and enjoying the view of Bath. We set our sights on Bath Abbey, a beautiful and picturesque landmark. The abbey is an impressive piece of architecture, and the stained glass was glorious.

We spent quite a while snapping pictures inside. When we came out, we saw that there were two gentlemen standing in the square calling people over to them for walking tours of Bath. Sure, why not?

We queued up with about a dozen other tourists in front of our guide, John. John looked to be around 65 to 70 years of age. He was about 5 foot 7 inches tall, with a slight build. He seemed somewhat frail, but lively. What took place next could only be described as a "jogging tour."

We had just walked down a steep hill, across the river bridge, and up a few blocks to the abbey. The sights we were about to see were all uphill from there.

John knew the history of Bath well. He gave an interesting description at each stopping point. We marveled at the architecture and the history of the buildings. As the walk became longer and the hill became steeper, we noticed that our guide was not slowing down. We were.

After describing one bit of history midway up the hill, John turned and pointed toward another building that seemed to be an impossible distance above us.

He said, "That's where we're going next."

He proceeded upward in his usual near-gallop.

I waited until he was out of earshot and turned to my daughters. "Surely he's got to be kidding," I exclaimed.

Of course, we could have dropped out of the walking tour. We hadn't paid anything to join in. We weren't obligated to finish. This was only our first day in Bath and we could try again. But there was something about that little sprite of a man forging ahead that made us follow.

We were treated to a grand view when we arrived, puffing, at the Royal Crescent. This splendid white building curved out and away in front of us. A hill of green grass rolled downward in front of the Crescent. There was wide-open space here where people strolled and children played.

This historic building had once been used by royalty, but now it housed offices. I imagined a scene from the past with fine horse-drawn coaches pulling up and immaculately dressed people stepping out of them.

We had a beautiful view from the hillside, and I would have to say that it was the high point of the tour in more ways than one.

When we talk about our trip now, the four of us laugh about how foolish we were to go out on a walking tour so soon after arriving in town. It's a part of the trip we will always remember. I guess we were charmed by a little leprechaun of a man who led us on a merry chase though Bath.

Thanks, John.

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