Stonehenge & Bath

“In ancient times, hundreds of years before the dawn of history, lived a strange race of people, the Druids. No one knows who they were or what they were doing. But their legacy remains, hewn into the living rock, of Stonehenge”  –This is Spinal Tap

Some times I’m not very good at taking things seriously. I like making jokes out of art and history. I look at it this way, my experience of the artifact is just as valid as the intention of the creator. So if I choose to bring my own set of interpretations and understandings to the experience, then that is just as valid an experience. This whole approach, while fun, does sometimes get to the point where I just can’t take something seriously, no matter how hard I try. This is what happened at Stonehenge.

If you haven’t yet watched the mocumentary/rockumentary that is This is Spinal Tap, you really should. It’s a cult classic for a reason. My favorite scene involves a song (quoted above) about Stonehenge and a rock monument that is made to the scale of 18 inches rather than 18 feet–“I do not, for one, think that the problem was that the band was down. I think that the problem *may* have been, that there was a Stonehenge monument on the stage that was in danger of being *crushed* by a *dwarf*. Alright? That tended to understate the hugeness of the object.”

So why am I telling you about a movie in my travel blog? It is because this was ALL I could think about on my recent trip to Stonehenge. I tried to take it seriously, and failed utterly.

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That particular day started raining and cold–an average day in London in March. I met the coach in central London and headed out on a day trip to Stonehenge and Bath. If you’re visiting London and have the time, Stonehenge is one of those wonders of the world that you really should make the trip to see. When the the coach rounded the hill and Stonehenge came into view for the first time, it did take my breath away. It doesn’t matter how many photos of it you’ve seen, to stand beside those rocks is truly something else.

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The earlier you get to the stones, the better. When we pulled up, there were only a hand full of other visitors, by the time we left the site there were streams of them. You get an included audio tour with your ticket, however, with that many people around all on the same tour, it got so crowded that I gave up on learning and just took photos.

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There is also a visitor center with museum to teach you about the three stages of construction at Stonehenge, what we know about the site, and the life of neolithic Britons. I sadly didn’t have time to go through it as there was only so much time on our tour before we had to get back on the coach. That is something to think about when booking any day tour–you get only a  limited number hours to do all the sites and all the driving. I have heard complaints that there is not enough time at Stonehenge on a tour, but also complaints that there was too much. I think I spent equal amounts of time in the cafe as I did at the stones themselves. The rain that we had started with in London had past, but it was still cold and very windy on the top of that hill. If you have ever struggled to understand why the English love tea so much, experience the weather for a while and you’ll get it.

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It was impossible for me not to toss about a few Spinal Tap quotes–all of which sadly no one there got. Thankfully there is modern technology so I could share my irreverence with my brother back in Canada–at least someone would get my jokes!

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We did have one other stop on our trip that day, the city of Bath. I have been keen to get to Bath since I first arrived in London. I’ve read more than a few books set in Regency England and Bath is a place were the lifestyle of Georgian England was heavily defined. My trip included a walking tour of the city, but the wind and cold kept my photo taking very much in check. I paid to go into the Roman Baths, which I couldn’t enjoy for the fact that there were so many people that I couldn’t even see any of the exhibits. Historically, people used to drink the waters for their health, and you still can get a glass and give it a try. Have yours quickly to say you did it, and then sit back and watch your friends try it for your own amusement. It tastes heavily of iron and salt. This is not wine, so don’t smell it before you drink it. If you do you may not be able to get it down.

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The rain came back, meaning that much of my experience of Bath was from the inside of a Pub. We had Sunday lunch and a couple pints while waiting for the weather to change. Not complaining about that way to spend a Sunday afternoon though–who could actually be disappointed with local cider, roast dinner, and a cozy pub on cold day. But I do feel that it does Bath a bit of a disservice. It’s a beautiful city (if you enjoy the clean lines of Georgian architecture as I do), and the kind of place that you want to spend the day wandering around. There are also other modern baths in the city that you can visit and actually get in the water.  Also, at the Jane Austen Center, you can dress up in period specific costumes and have your picture taken! If that’s your kind of thing…clearly it’s mine and I ran out of time to do it.

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Bath really should be a trip on to itself. Or if you’re driving yourself, do Stonehenge in the morning, and then drive on to Bath and spend the night. With a year still left to go on my visa it is definitely on my list of places to go back to. Hopefully this time with someone who will get all my movie references.

 

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