Sunday, October 19, 2014

London Day 3 - Stonehenge and Bath

The next morning we had to get up a little earlier to meet for our Stonehenge and Bath tour with Evan Evans. The drive to Stonehenge was two hours long but our tour guide, Rohan, kept us entertained. She was one of the best tours guides I’ve ever had, presenting lots of information in a funny and easy to remember way.

When we got to Stonehenge, we had a little over an hour to explore, which sounded like plenty of time but wasn’t nearly enough. For one thing, the new Visitor Center was a mile away and we had to take a slow tram ride to the site. We had the option of staying on the tram the whole way or getting off at the half way point and walking. We decided to walk, which in retrospect was probably a mistake since that ate up even more of our limited time. But it was kind of neat, walking down into the valley the same way that ancient people would have approached the mystical stones almost 5000 years ago.

I’d read that if you don’t learn about the history of Stonehenge before you go, it just looks like a big pile of rocks. :-)  So I was glad that I had done at least a little research, but the truth is that there is a lot we don’t know about Stonehenge. The Sarsen stones, the largest stones weighing 20-30 tons each, came from the Marlborough Downs, 20 miles away.  How did these supposedly primitive people move them to the Salisbury Plain? And why? We can only guess. It made me wonder what theories people would have about our society 5000 years from now.

walking to Stonehenge

Mary walking to Stonehenge

with Mary and Jenny at Stonehenge


heel stone
the heel stone

Mary and Jenny

We had gotten only half way around the walking path surrounding Stonehenge, taking lots of pictures, when Mary and I suddenly realized that it was 12 o’clock. We only had 15 minutes to get back to our bus! Ack! We rounded up Mama and Jenny and said, “We have to go NOW!”  Jenny was determined to make it all the way around the henge, so she went one direction and the rest of us went the other, Mary and I running to hold a place in the tram line. Thank goodness we made it to the bus in time! A few other people weren’t so lucky and got left behind. (We heard Rohan say that they were picked up by another tour group so I guess they eventually got back to London.)

Next we were on to the Georgian city of Bath. The landscape around London and Stonehenge had been flat and dull, but as we rode down into the Avon Valley, it became more and more scenic. Then we saw Bath itself. Wow! It was gorgeous, the only place I’ve ever seen that could rival Florence. We made a quick loop around the city, stopping briefly at the Royal Crescent then driving around The Circus, three curved townhouses that formed a large circle. The Circus was inspired by the Roman Coliseum, each of the three floors having a different style of column – first Doric, then Ionic, then Corinthian. Rohan explained that almost all the buildings in Bath were designed by two architects and made from the same golden-colored stone, giving the city its cohesive look.

Royal Crescent
the Royal Crescent


Mama at Bath

When Rohan turned us loose to explore on our own, we headed to the Baths. Around 75 AD, the Romans constructed a temple to the goddess Sulis around a hot spring and later added a public bath, basically a Roman-day spa. The mineral-rich spring waters were believed to have healing powers and so the Baths attracted visitors from across the Roman Empire. If a person felt they had been wronged (for example, if their toga was stolen while they were bathing), they would write out a curse on a piece of metal and throw it into the springs for the goddess to read. Eventually, the Roman Empire fell and the temple was buried under layers of silt and forgotten. But it was rediscovered in the 1700s and once again the Baths became a fashionable spot. At the end of our tour, we had the chance to take a drink of water from the springs. Unlike the springs in Florida, which are a cool 72 degrees, the Bath springs come up from the ground at 115 degrees. It was funny watching person after person take a sip and say “Oh, it’s hot!” :-)  The water may have had healing powers but it wasn’t very tasty.  It was kind of like drinking the warm water left after you boil an egg.

We ate lunch at the Bath Bun Tea Shoppe, a cute little restaurant next to Bath Abbey. Alas, they had run out of Bath Buns (sweet rolls with a lump of sugar baked inside), but our sandwiches and scones were delicious. Too soon it was time to board the bus for the ride back to London. We all wished we’d had several more hours (or days) to spend at Bath. What a beautiful place and what a perfect day!

Bath Abbey
Bath Abbey

Roman Baths
the Roman Baths

Bath Bun Tea Shoppe

Bath buns
Bath Buns

Pulteney Bridge
Pulteney Bridge

Day 4 - Cathedrals

1 comment:

  1. The pictures are great and I love the history lessons.