Today is our last official day of touring and our destination is Stonehenge.
I had intended this blog to have more of my personal impressions and thoughts, but the time I had to write every day did not allow me to be as free form as I had envisioned. It’s much more of a record of what we did and what we saw, which has a certain value.
We are once again in level terrain, with farm after farm, separated by hedges rather than fences as you see in the USA. There were many different crops along the road and we wished we knew what they were. We never thought to ask. As we approached town, the farms got smaller and smaller. Aside from crops, we saw the largest pigs that I have ever seen. One notable thing is that we found the grazing animals were totally mixed. Cows and sheep were grazing together, and the colorations were mixed. My experience in the US is that you see only a particular animal and coloration grazing in a field.
We passed through the Cotswolds, a 35 x 90 mile designated trading area, the main trading commodity being wool. The trading area charter was granted by King John.
We passed by Oxford, and Geoff named an astonishing number of people who attended the University, artists, writers, scientists, mathematicians, and other fields.
We passed an 11th-12th century Norman church which was characterized by square towers or turrets. We are on the Salisbury plain which is rich in history, and historical sites. There is Salisbury Cathedral in particular, and Old Sarum, the the remains of a prehistoric settlement. “Sarum” is a wonderful historical novel by James Rutherfurd which tells the story of families in this area from prehistoric times almost to the present. Also, there are other stone and wood circles in the area, notably Woodhenge and at Avesbury.
We had lunch in Marlboro. I told Geoff I wanted a hamburger, and he said, “You won’t get one like you can get in the US.” I said, “I know, I want to see what a British hamburger tastes like.” On the recommendation of three young men on the sidewalk we went into a pub, and I ordered their hamburger with pulled pork, which turned out to be delicious.
At Stonehenge there was a new system set up for handling huge flow of visitors, which involves parking two and a half kilometers away from the rings, and taking a shuttle to the site. I’ve been to Stonehenge a number of times dating back to the 60s, when you could just drive up, park on the side of the road, and walk among the stones. To my great disappointment years ago, a parking area on the other side of the road was added, with a tunnel under the road, and a fence around the area so you could not get close to the stones. The new system installed this year, has the advantage that the circle is more isolated from civilization and you get a better feel of the history. Also they have added an audio tour which I thought was helpful. Also, the previous highly obtrusive fence has been greatly lowered and you can get closer to the stones on one side.
Coming back, we stopped at Bourton-on-the-Water, which is also called “Little Athens” because of the several bridges over the river that passes through town. Geoff pointed out an “Elderly Crossing” sign which looks more like a woman picking the pocket of the man ahead.
We had our Farewell Dinner in the Romeo Room at the hotel, and it was a convivial occasion. We thanked our guide Geoff, and our driver, Meclan, who did wonderful jobs. Regarding driving, I think it is astonishing that there are not more accidents. There is so little space between vehicles as they pass on the road, or park in the parking areas. Not only do you have to be a steady driver, but you are depending on everyone else to stay exactly in the middle of their lane. It’s amazing.
Teresa and I are headed for Dublin early in the morning so we have a car provided by Collette, which will take us and Margo to the airport earlier than the rest of the group. So we said our goodbyes tonight.
In the next week or two I will be adding my pictures to the blog, so my advice is to wait until then, and then start reading from the beginning of the trip. There are instructions just to the right that explain how to find the first message of the trip.