Finally, back to the London trip…who would have thought that the trip would be more novella than blog post? I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan of the Rick Steve’s guide books and our trip to Stonehenge is another example of how useful his book was. I booked the three of us on a Mad Maxx tour of Stonehenge, Avebury, Castle Combe and Lacock. Our tour bus met just behind the Abbey in Bath (after a fabulous full English breakfast from our dear Sue at Cornerways.) We boarded a small bus (12 or 15 passenger, quite nice) and away we went.
Our first stop was Stonehenge itself which was an hour or so away so I spent the time snapping pictures of the English countryside so I could show my kids how much it resembled Oregon! If, of course, Oregon had really old buildings and thatched roofs! I was amazed at how expensive he told us it is to thatch now. Apparently, the straw has to be grown specifically, then harvested by special means so the straw isn’t destroyed. We were even able to see a quick glimpse of a thatching project in progress.
Apparently birds are quite fond of thatch, too, and if you saw the roofs up close you would see that they have a metal guard over them like chain link fencing to prevent the birds from taking off with the roofing materials.
When we arrived at Stonehenge, I had quite the camera scare. My camera slipped off my lap in a moment of inattention and when I picked it back up, the lens was out of true and wouldn’t retract! First, let me say that I took over 1800 pictures in 14 days on this trip and the very idea of being on this tour camera-less made my blood run cold. I took a very deep breath and, ever so gently, pushed the lens back into place. To my great relief, it popped right back in place and voila! I was off and clicking once more.
I’ve heard a few people complain that you can’t go right up to the stones anymore but I still thought Stonehenge was amazing and impressive. In fact, I was happy you couldn’t go right up or I wouldn’t have been able to get “people-free” photos like this one.
I did take a few with people in them, just to get the sheer size of the stones. Our audio guides pointed out that the stones are even bigger than they appear – fully one-third of the standing stones is buried underground! The stones themselves made terrific models, every few steps I found a new angle for a photo.
This trio of arches gives some hints as to what the whole thing might have looked like. My personal theory, based on the number of burial sites surrounding it is that Stonehenge itself was a mausoleum or temple. (Of course, I have no archeology knowledge to base that on but I’ll hazard my guess anyway!)
I loved this grouping with their stones set to create a curve and the lintel pieces intact above them. Our guide told us that they used to rent picks to tourists so that they could chip off their own little souvenir piece of the rocks, hard to imagine now, isn’t it?
Here’s another view from further along the path. When you arrive at Stonehenge, you pick up an audio guide and there are small signs in the grass that indicate which number to press on the guide. Eventually, the path leads you around in a circle so that you’ve had a chance to view Stonehenge from every side.
In all honesty, there are about ten more shots I’d love to share but time is getting short so I’ll just add one more favorite.
After ogling Stonehenge, we retreated to our van where our driver awaited to take us to the town of Avebury, where we could see another set of stones up close and personal…but that story will have to be Part 2!