OK – I have to say, I prepped myself more for Stonehenge than any other place we’ve been to. I did internet research, read 2 books, and even watched a Nova special. Everything I read said you need to know what you are looking at, or it will be a letdown. But first we have to talk about Salisbury – and I’ll tell you why.
I was really excited about all my new found knowledge and figured the best way to see Stonehenge would be to rent a van and drive out there. We invited Katrina, Pierre Luc and Zane since we wanted to hang out with them and thank them for their hospitality. Well, it turns out to rent a van for one day in London costs 650 pounds, or over $900 (and remember, the pound is weak right now). That was sooooo not going to happen! But, we never let snags stop us and we got lucky since London Walks was doing a Salisbury and Stonehenge daytrip on Saturday. OK – wasn’t really planning on Salisbury, but, why not? Pictured right, you can see Zane and Griffin sharing a seat on the train – they are less than a year apart and loved playing with each other.
Salisbury ended up being a wonderful addition to our journey. Zander was pretty pissed off that we weren’t just going straight to Stonehenge, which I had been chatting up for months. He spent his train time making a model, as you can see! The adults spent our time chatting and having a debriefing (from me) on Stonehenge. It was wonderful to have a trip with another family. Katrina is an American, now turned British citizen who is partnered to a French man. He recently moved to Britain as well to be with his family. So, here we are, international travelers, hanging out with another bilingual family – of course we found tons to talk about. It was especially interesting for me to be staying with a family in a foreign country that could really tell me how things were there – like schools, immigration, health care and life in general. Straight from the source!
When we got off the train it was a short walk from Salisbury station to the cathedral, which was located in the old central part of the town. It is yet another city ringed with a river and I loved the verdant fields, dotted with sheep grazing and a beautiful river bank that had a green grassy bottom that reminded me of mermaid’s hair flowing. This is a very ancient town and is still locked up every night at 10pm for the people who live inside the old city walls. We got to walk through one of the gates on the way to the cathedral. You can see Callie is holding Katrina’s hand – Katrina played with our kids and was quickly rewarded with little ones who simply glued themselves to her at every opportunity. That’s what you get! Over the center of the gate was this royal seal – a lion and a unicorn with the saying “Dieu et mon droit”. This symbol is all over England. I looked it up on wikipedia of course and found out it is the official Royal Coat of arms for the UK. Read more about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_coat_of_arms_of_the_United_Kingdom There are 2 things I found interesting about this. First, that the motto is in French – I realize that French was the official language of royalty etc… back in the 15th century – but those days are long gone – shouldn’t they switch it or something? Also I was curious about the unicorn. Turns out she is a symbol of freedom and is depicted as chained to the seal to represent the dominion the crown held over the wild Scots! Poor unicorn.
Then it was on to the Salisbury Cathedral. I copied the photo above from Wikipedia – I hope that’s legal. I really enjoyed this cathedral for several reasons. First, it was not in a large city so was surrounded by nice grounds instead of having buildings squished up all around it – that made it easier to appreciate from the outside. Secondly, it still had an attached cloister – I have never seen a cloister before (except for when visiting the cloisters in NYC – but those are imported) and it was breathtaking. It actually has the highest church spire in all of the United Kingdom,so it is quite impressive. I loved the interior as well. At one point or another in history, a more puritanical strain came into power and whitewashed all the ceilings and walls, knocked out much of the stained glass (tragic), and moved most of the ornate tombs, etc. out of the building, burying them in the front lawn. (Yes, that’s right, the same lawn we just walked over to get to the cathedral – a bit creepy). This makes this cathedral particularly austere inside, which I rather liked, and also made it so there were some really cool more modern features, like a continually flowing, mirror-like baptismal font. For a photo of this font, and more info about the church see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salisbury_Cathedral We wandered around for a bit and then broke for lunch. Griffin was absolutely knackered once again and fell asleep in Katrina’s arms – so very sweet! (Knackered is one of my favorite English words. I learned it years ago when working at IOP and, every time I used it in the past, André complained that it wasn’t a word. I was so happy when we got to Katrina’s and one of the first things she said was: ‘You must be knackered!” – Ha!) We got a chance to walk into the side chapel where they have the best preserved copies of the original (1215) version of the Magna Carta. That document was the most important of many that led to our current democracy and it was awesome to see it, but frustrating too because we couldn’t read a word of it—it was in archaic latin calligraphy—with NO translations nearby. Then we had lunch at the cafeteria attached to the cathedral. Convenient and, I confess, delicious. I was absolutely horrified by the food in England when I visited over 10 years ago and had warned the family not to expect much but this trip we had lots of good food. They had chicken korma and moussaka that were both delicious – and a chocolate cake that was actually moist – happy day – can’t find that in France. I also enjoyed scones with clotted cream and jam a couple of times and (the day before) fish and chips that were super yummy! Did things change so much in 10 years or did I just get lucky?
After lunch we gathered to get on the tour bus – we met by the red telephone booth. These are all over England. The kids had a great time joking around together, Zander was doing ‘silly guy’ which always is good for tons of laughs. Here they are, joking around….
I took a few final pictures of Salisbury as we were leaving town….
One of the things I really remember our tour guide saying was that, when in old towns, look up! That’s because the lower levels of the shops have all been modernized but, when you look up, you can see the old architecture and even, like with the black and white building above, how time has made the houses settle and be quite crooked. I wished we had time to partake of lunch at “An Old English Chop House” named, as you can see, Haunch of Venison! I think it’s great that when actually in an old English city – they spell ‘an old’, A-N O-L-D but when in America, and they are attempting to imitate such places, they spell something like ‘an old’ Y-E O-L-D-E (and they probably would have spelled ‘chop’ c-h-o-p-p-e as well). Why? I took the photo of the giant teapot in honor of my mother – who loves tea – wish I could have brought that home to give to her as a souvenir. And then, there is the Double Angry Whopper. I didn’t realize that whoppers had feelings in England! Is this ad campaign running in the USA as well? Do people in either country want to eat angry food? Wouldn’t you be afraid the anger would end up ingested and affect your own mood? And remember, this burger isn’t just angry – it’s double angry. It includes ‘hot-headed jalapeños and angry onion strips’ as well. The bottom tag reads “Can you handle one?” Well, maybe, but there is enough anger in this world without it also being a part of my food – thanks anyway.
Off to Stonehenge…..