Summer Hiking

Summer Hiking
Mt. Constitution

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

London Tour to Stonehenge, Bath, and Stratford-on-Avon

 Tuesday, April 23 was our "England in One Day" Tour

We took the Underground to Marble Arch and met up with the tour at The Cumberland Hotel.  We found a great coffee shop and our server was from Algeria.  He'd heard about Idaho and wanted to come back to the USA with us!  

 These pictures reminded me of my trip with Joan in April, 2002
We met our tour bus at the Cumberland Hotel, across the street from the Marble Arch

Karen and I were fascinated by the life-size sculptures inside the Hotel.

First we head straight for Stonehenge is the most popular prehistoric monument in the world. We marvelled at the huge 40 ton Sarsens and the volcanic blue stones that were brought from Preseli mountains over 280 miles away. We discovered the mysteries that surround the slaughter stone and see the numerous earth barrows where the beaker people lie buried before we headed through the Salisbury plains towards Bath. Stonehenge is probably the most important prehistoric monument in the whole of Britain and has attracted visitors from earliest times. It stands as a timeless monument to the people who built it.The stonehenge that we see today is the final stage that was completed about 3500 years ago, but first let us look back 5000 years.The first Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC. The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one metre wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms. They form a circle about 284 feet in diameter. Excavations have revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk filling, but the holes themselves were probably made, not for the purpose of graves, but as part of the religious ceremony. Shortly after this stage Stonehenge was abandoned, left untouched for over 1000 years. The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 BC. Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury.

This astonishing journey covers nearly 240 miles. Once at the site, these stones were set up in the centre to form an incomplete double circle. ( During the same period the original entrance of the circular earthwork was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. Also the nearer part of the Avenue was built, aligned with the midsummer sunrise.)

People were quiet as they walked around these historic stones, probably cherishing the feeling of connectedness to a primitive time.  I definitely felt the sacredness of the space as I listened to recorded messages describing various aspects of this historic site.  

First thing when we got to Bath, was to have lunch, recommended by our tour guide - a Pasty! A pasty is made by placing uncooked filling typically of meat and vegetables, without meat in vegetarian versions, on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular comestible.  We also noticed some dessert pasties.  Yummy!
We enjoyed our lunch, sitting on a bench in the square, listening to a musician singing American Folk Songs

I loved these stained windows in the Abbey Church of St. Peter and Paul.  It once was a Benedictine Monastery, but now it is an Anglican Church.

I spoke to this woman who told me, "It's a labor of love, I come twice a week for two hours and I've been doing it for two years."  She's polishing the brass on an on an old lectern.   She uses Q-tips and toothbrushes to get in all the crevices.  What a labor of love!

Bath was first established as a spa by the Romans sometime in the AD 60s about 20 years after they had arrived in Britain (AD43).They built baths and a temple on the surrounding hills of Bath in the valley of the River Avon around hot springs. Much later, it became popular as a spa townduring the Georgian era, which led to a major expansion that left a heritage of exemplary Georgian architecture crafted from Bath Stone.

The City of Bath was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city has a variety of theatres, museums, and other cultural and sporting venues, which have helped to make it a major centre for tourism, with over one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year. The city has two universities and several schools and colleges. There is a large service sector, and growing information and communication technologies and creative industries, providing employment for the population of Bath and the surrounding area.

We boarded this bus (advertising the show we plan to see tomorrow night) for Stratford-upon-Avon birthplace of William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in the English language, and home to the Royal Shakespeare Company. Stratford is a charming market town set in the heart of rural England. A delightful river winds its way through the town, past the beautiful Holy Trinity church, where Shakespeare lies buried. We enjoyed  iChampagne and Strawberry scones while watching these actors perform a scene from Romeo and Juliet. 

I noticed how small the beds were in Shakespeare's home.  Men and women must've been a lot smaller in the 1564.   The tour guide told us that holes were drilled into the bed frames to hold pegs intended to keep the blankets on the bed so as not to smother the children co-sleeping on a small bed that pulled out from under the bigger bed.

The actors
Primroses in Shakespeare's garden
We visited this historic city, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, on his birthday, April 23rd and there were no celebrations in sight!  Why not?


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