So this will probably be long, so buckle up, we did a lot of awesome, semi-touristy stuff today.
We got up bright and early to drive over to Stonehenge, which was about an hour drive. There is also a lot of cool historical stuff just in and around Bath that I want to check out, like the American Museum, which I think would be interesting to see how America is portrayed to a British audience. Andrew, who is a tourist guide and also my ASE staff mentor for my internship, is incredibly knowledgeable and gave a lot of good information about the history of the area and all of that. It was a bit foggy, though, so we couldn’t see everything perfectly clearly, but he mentioned things like a long trail along, if I recall correctly, the canal, which sounds like it might be a fun hike some weekend.
But I guess the really important and cool part is Stonehenge (see photo below for proof I was there). First of all, it was definitely a lot smaller than I expected it to be, which I have often found to be the case with historical, have-to-see places and objects. Some people, so I have heard, kind of feel underwhelmed by it because of that. That was not my experience. I think it’s absolutely astonishing the amount of work that went into this structure, that it is still there, that it was something that once meant so much to a group of people, and that it is just so old (try dating to about 3000 BC). As someone involved in the arts, I tend to think a lot about the artistry and skill that went into this kind of thing. They had to come up with a way of erecting the stones, the standing up ones, bring the stones from south Wales, and a way of getting the ones that are on top actually on top of all of the other ones, which takes a good amount of creativity. As well, the rocks are shaped to be rectangular (see photo of what the rock may have looked like before shaping in additional photos), which is no small feat.
There’s also so much work that has gone into finding out about this structure. A “henge” is actually a hill and a ditch in a circle, and there are things such as wood henges. They believe that Stonehenge had to do with death and dying, they’ve found the ashes of a bunch of bodies there, whereas there’s a wood henge nearby that they believe had to do with life. Obviously that didn’t hold up as well, as wood decays while stone does not. I don’t know how much people are interested in the history of Stonehenge, but honestly, it’s super cool and I highly recommend looking things up and finding out more, there’s a lot to it.
We then took a bus to Salisbury (pronounced as if the ‘i’ isn’t there). On the way, Andrew pointed out a place called Old Sarum, which is a medieval new town dating to the 1200s. It was a fort on a hill surrounded by trees, there’s a bad quality, zoomed in photo in the additional photos. There is also a New Sarum, but it became Salisbury. The main attraction in Salisbury is the cathedral, which was too massive for me to get it into one photo, but I did my best (see below). It’s spire is 404 feet in the air, which is the tallest in England. Amazingly, the cathedral was built in only 38 years, from 1220-1258. Since it was built in such a short time, the architectural style is pretty consistent and together, which you don’t usually find with cathedrals. It also has the oldest working clock, which has been in use since 1386 (see additional photos). In 2008, it also got this incredible fountain that creates a beautiful reflection (see additional photos), which was consecrated by the Archbishop of Canterbury in holy oil, but the oil actually has not come off, despite attempts to clean the fountain. The cathedral has tons of beautiful stained glass and tombs and a lot of just truly wonderful art inside it, it’s absolutely stunning.
And of course, there’s a lot of history behind it all that’s pretty amazing. Such as there was a man named William Longspree (pronouned long-spray), who was the illigitimate son of King Henry II, who laid the first stone of the cathedral and was the first to be buried there. The fun part of it is that he was married to a woman named Ela (pronounced eel-la), and he was once gone and his ship never came back, so he was presumed dead, and so one man basically asked if she was free to be married again then (she had a good amount of money). But then William came back, and the man who wanted to marry his wife invited William to dinner, which he accepted. William fell sick and died a few days later and in much more recent time, they opened his tomb and found a rat in his skull, presumably that had gotten in there after his death, and the rat had large amounts of arsenic in its system. Happily though, widows were allowed to choose if they wanted to remarry, and Ela did not, and she went on to found the Lacock Abbey and become a nun and was the Abbess for from 1240-1257. (See additional photos for William’s tomb)
Salisbury is also just an incredibly cute and really old town. We had free time after the touring the Cathedral, so we went and saw one of the four original copies of the Magna Carta, which was very cool and incredibly difficult to read. We also went to St. Thomas Church, which features a large painting that has been white washed over twice, but happily recovered of the kind of fire-and-brimstone variety (see additional photos). That church also dates back to the 1200s. Some of my housemates and I then got some coffee and tea at an ale and coffeehouse that was established in 1411. We also found out, from the police officer who had lived in California, that Salisbury also has the house where Sense and Sensibility was filmed (see additional photos).
Then it was back on the bus to go to Lacock (pronounced lake-hawk). Lacock is another very cute town, it doesn’t have any yellow lines on the streets or telephone wires cutting across town (see additional photos), so it is frequently used for filming period pieces, such as Pride and Prejudice, Harry Potter, and Downton Abbey. I grew up reading Harry Potter, so I paid a good amount of attention to those filming locations that it houses. The Abbey, which was established by Ela, as mentioned above, has been used to film some scenes from the first two movies, such as Quirrel’s classroom. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to go in. But we did get to see the house whose exterior was used in the flashback in the first movie as the Potters’ house when Voldemort comes to kill Harry (see photo below). We also went to Tithe Barn, whose timbers, which are still there, are from the mid 14th century. We then went to The George Inn for a very yummy dinner and a surprise quiz on the things we had talked about that day so round up the day. My team did solidly not at the bottom, but not the top either.
I apologize both for posting twice today and that they were not short posts, but when we do touristy things, it’s gonna be a little like that. Classes start tomorrow, so posts will likely be a bit shorter, although the Bath Phil has a concert on Thursday, so that’s something for this week. I only have one class tomorrow, so that should be a nice easy introduction into doing classes. Most of the house is at a pub watching the Super Bowl, but I am tired and so am staying here, but hey, go Falcons.