Jun 28, 2012

Stonehenge and Salisbury: London Day Trip

Travel Tips and Info. at the bottom.

In our recent "Flashpack Across Europe" trip, we wanted to take a day trip out of London to visit Stonehenge and Salisbury.  I knew Stonehenge would be pretty much what you see in a book -- and it was -- but still.  It's Stonehenge.  You kind of have to go see it.  What I didn't expect was the color of the English countryside in May.

Fields and fields of these yellow flowers!  And guess what?  These beautiful things are members of the cabbage family.  These beauties are part of an ugly family and even have an ugly name -- rapeseed.   It's primarily used for cooking oils (canola) and its secondary use is industrial.  I saw them in France also a few days later.

Another thing I didn't expect was....
 the vigorous weather.  London is drizzly most of the time.  But Stonehenge?  It was crazy.  Torrential rain alternated with light rain every few minutes.  Strong winds made our umbrella useless and our audioguide impossible to hear.  Our nice clothes, our nice hair-dos: worthless.  And you know what?  We had a blast.

Once we adjusted to the insane weather, I couldn't help but stand in awe at these stones that were placed here sometime between 3,000 and 1,000 BC.  These blue stones come from Wales or Ireland and nobody really knows how they were transported here.  Stonehenge and other circles like it apparently were used as some type of celestial calendar back in the day and even today, during Summer Solstice, people go nuts.

The town of Salisbury dates back to 600 BC.  Today the Cathedral is what draws most visitors to town.  The Market Square is the main city center and where I fell down the stairs of the cute little double decker bus because they were wet from the rain and the driver started moving the bus before we got off. You can do a little shopping and a little eating here.

Be sure to get a potato, cheese and onion pasty at Pasty Pesto along the walk.  Maybe a chocolate twist sticky, too.  This pasty was to die for.

We made our way through the town to the North Gate of the Cathedral Close and got goosebumps thinking of people in the 13th century going through this gate.

The Cathedral Close is a fancy way of saying the greens around the Cathedral.  This is one of the largest in England, tucked right in a bend of the River Avon.  The church owns the houses on the green and rents them out to churchy people.  You can tour a couple of the houses; we didn't.  The church spire, by the way, just out of my picture's range, is England's tallest spire.

The Cathedral was begun in 1220 and completed in 1258, a marvel, really, at a time when Cathedrals took up to 200 years to complete.  I don't understand how these beautiful churches were built without modern construction equipment and today with all our tools, our churches are so drab and unremarkable.

I will point out two things of note, then just post a bunch of photos.  This was Marj's first Cathedral visit in Europe and she took tons of fantastic photos. 

Housed inside the Cathedral is a Medieval clock dating back to 1386.   This is the world's oldest working clock.  It has no face and only strikes the hours.

The next photo is the Font (baptismal) located in the center of the church.  This is the most beautiful baptismal I have ever seen.

Enjoy the rest of the photos.  Travel Info. is at the end.

Travel Info:

Trains to Salisbury leave Waterloo or King's Cross pretty much every 30 minutes.

When you exit the Salisbury station, you'll see a double-decker red bus that goes to Stonehenge. Buy tickets online ahead of time or at the bus.  Tickets include your entry to Stonehenge and the audioguide.   http://www.wdbus.co.uk/

Stonehenge has a small gift shop and very tiny concession stand.  Otherwise, nothing.  Don't plan to spend hours here.  One hour is more than enough.  Don't go June 20-22 during summer solstice.  It'll be packed or else closed entirely from too many people.

Historic Salisbury is a 20 minute walk from the station.  Go down the hill and turn right.

Salisbury Cathedral Info.  This is a working church, tour around service times.

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