Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Bath, Salisbury and the 'henge

The rain came down. I coughed and sniffled my way out of bed, feeling miserable. I looked outside. The wind howled and the rain came down in torrents. Ok, that's a fraction dramatic. A day trip out to Bath, Salisbury and Stonehenge was on the cards for the day and it was not looking to be off to a good start.

I threw all my cold medicine into my backpack I had thoughtfully packed the night before. I got dressed in the dark and did the worst makeup I think I have ever done. I was running late and left home a little bundle of misery at 6.45am. My little umbrella did little to keep my dry. The rain grew heavier and heavier as I hurried to the tube station, my cowboy boots proving themselves to not be waterproof. I sniffed and coughed.

Running through the tube station, I saw the train depart just as I reached it. Missed it. Panic. Ask the gentleman sitting there when the next train will run. Didn't know. Took a deep breath and soon the board changed. 2 minutes. Phew. I'll make it in time. Thank you Sasha for always scheduling to arrive a good 10 minutes before you have to. While waiting at the tube stop, getting strange stairs on account of my tights,  I stopped caring and popped all manner of cold and flu medication, ginger tablets - everything. Anything to feel a bit better.

I met up with Nicole at Gloucester Station and we mostly talked about the weather (and how dreadful it was). Once on the bus, we begged the driver to turn up the aircon - it was painfully warm - and thus began the adventure.

Suffice to say, this won't be a particularly positive review of the tour company. I was unimpressed with the tour but the sights and experiences were great. Does that make sense?

First thing to note: Do not suffer motion sickness. 5 minutes into the jerking trip through the city and I turned to Nicole, saying "I'm not going to make it if he keeps driving like this." I moved closer to the front of the bus and close to the toilets. Second thing to note: Air temperature was something that could not be tamed. For 10 minutes, it would be stiflingly warm. Then ice-bucket cold. Then warm. Jacket on, jacket off, air vent open, air vent closed. I eventually gave up and just decided to be cold - I was less likely to be sick that way. We got off to a bad start as a number of people were late for the bus. At about this time while we were waiting, Cory and his friend Charlotte joined us. I had been talking to a lovely Italian girl named Daniela and thus we were a bit of a group for the tour.

Our first stop was Bath, about 2 hours away from London. We opted not to do the Roman Baths tour here (something I ummed and ahhed about but was assured afterwards that I missed nothing) and instead wandered through the streets of Bath and grabbed a bite to eat. Bath is full of icecream shops. It actually bordered on the bizarre. Icecream shop next to icecream shop with an icecream stand out the front. Icecream everywhere. Our tour guide helpfully pointed out a particularly nice icecream shop.

We joined the tour guide for the walking tour of Bath. I was taken aback by the tour guide's rudeness towards myself and just in general, but in hindsight find it rather amusing. He didn't really have the right people skills to be a tour guide and it would have been like herding cats trying to get all of us to move in the same direction at a respectable walking pace. Bath was lovely, but not a lot to write home about. I think it would be nice to spend a weekend there; it was certainly pretty. We were told some facts but as I was rather unimpressed by the guide..honestly, I stopped listening. I'm referring to the pamphlet when I write that we visited "many magnificent ancient [sites] such as Bath Abbey, the Royal Crescent, the Circus [nb: which means 'circle' in Italian, I remember hearing that bit], Assembley Rooms and the famous Pulteney Bridge."

We boarded the bus and settled in for the journey to Salisbury. Here we alighted, and as we were walking towards the cathedral, the tour guide made a funny. Pointing to a dilapidated and small church to our right, he said And here we have Salisbury Cathedral! Our faces turned to shock and we tried to hide our disappointment. That? That was the church? What are we doing? He started laughing - he knew he got us. Up ahead, he said, is the Cathedral. It is huge, but it is completely obscured from sight. As we rounded a corner there it was in front of us, looming with the sun behind. It looked etherial. A little bit about Salisbury Cathedral from the pamphlet: "...built in the 13th century." That's about all from the pamphlet that's interesting, but the cathedral itself was a beautiful structure, complete with tombs, intricate stained glass windows and one of the last remaining copies of the Magna Carta, scribed in 1215. That's 800 years ago.

It was at Salisbury that the cloud cleared and the sunny blue skies smiled down upon us. "Don't get your hopes up for Stonehenge," I warned, not wanting to be disappointed if the heavens closed and begun bucketing down again, like it had that morning. Stonehenge was only a short drive away though, so the hopes and excitement for seeing one of the world's most famous sites began to build.

Piling back into the bus, we made our way to Stonehenge. We grabbed our audio packs (poor Cory's never worked - you can read everything about it right here on Wikipedia, anyway..) and squeezed onto the shuttle to go out to the middle of the field where Stonehenge is located. So many people. So very many people surrounded the standing stones. Many people look at it and go "Alright..it's some rocks." But if you think that these rocks were moved there, somehow, and placed in that intricate formation - and most intriguingly that no one really knows why, it adds a layer of mystery to the place (even if there is a highway in the background). Some theories include a burial ground, sacrificial land, summer/winter solstice celebrations and more, and were likely all of these things at one time or another. The rocks were moved there in roughly 3000BC. Like seriously? What even is that. 5000 years ago? I don't even know what to do with that number. I don't even.

We passed the time sporadically listening to our audio guide and taking ridiculously photos. Nomming the Stonehenge. Pointing at the Stonehenge. Lifting up the Stonehenge. Jumping infront of the Stonehenge. Etc. It was excellent fun! We completed our lap in about an hour, which gave us a little bit of time to peek into the gift shop (miniature replica of Stonehenge, "Stonehenge rocked!" tshirts, magnets, necklaces, teatowels) and a chance to cuddle the Bluestone (well, at least we think it was the bluestone) to try to absorb some of its energising properties.

Utterly, utterly shagged by this stage, we were quite relieved to be on the bus home and landed back in good old Hammersmith around 8.30pm. A long, strangely guided day was finished with a cider and a meal and we parted ways, desperately ready for sleepy bed times.


Selfie time in Bath

Jumping time in Salisbury Cathedral

Holding up the 'Henge. And yeah, those tights happened.

Turned out to be a stunning day. What a site!