Salisbury and Stonehenge

We had initially made plans to visit Millie, an old family friend who lives near Reading, on Monday, but when we landed at Heathrow on Saturday, I received an email to say she wasn’t feeling well and had to cancel. This was a shame because I’d missed seeing her last year for the same reason. I’m hoping she’s well enough for a visit the next time we’re in England.

I’d prebooked our rail tickets but was able to get all but £10 (per ticket) back, which was better than nothing. I contacted my mum’s cousin, Pauline, to see if she was free and she suggested Salisbury, so Monday morning we got up and headed to Salisbury. Glen was pretty excited as we had enough time to visit Stonehenge.

I’d been to Salisbury and Stonehenge about 13 years ago, on a day tour with London Walks (luckily we didn’t walk all the way), but was happy to see it all again. We arrived into Salisbury at about 10:30 and a Stonehenge Tour Bus was waiting outside the station. The bus takes you out to Stonehenge, then back via Old Sarum to Salisbury Town Centre. You can include the cost of Stonehenge admission and get a slight discount.

It was a bit of a grey day in Salisbury and the bus was cold (the windows were open) and we thought that maybe we should have brought scarves and earmuffs. The setup at Stonehenge has changed since I was there last. Previously the visitor centre was on the other side of the road, opposite the henge, and you had to go into it and under the road to get to the henge (but of course couldn’t go up and touch it).

Now, you still can’t go near it but the visitor centre is down the road and you can’t drive close to the henge. Instead you get off at the bus stop, go into the visitor centre and then catch a shuttle to the henge. It’s all well run — and completely full of tourists.

We forewent the audio guide, walked around the henge, had photos taken. It was all a bit atmospheric with a gale blowing, stormy clouds above and a bit of rain. I was able to get some good photos without people in the way. The rain kicked in then and we decided that once around was enough. A quick look in the gift shop, a couple of pasties from the restaurant, and it was time to catch the bus back.

Once back in town, we went to Salisbury Cathedral. The sun had come out a bit more by then and it was turning into a lovely afternoon. We paid our entry and walked around the cloisters (which are the largest cathedral cloisters in Britain) and went into the room where one of the four surviving Magna Carters is on display. The contrast between this and the Declaration of Independence was amusing. Whereas the Declaration of Independence has guards stationed around it, the Magna Carter has a kindly Docent who tells you not to use flash. She was much more friendly than the U.S. guards for sure. The writing is tiny and written in abbreviated Latin. The room it sits in has beautiful stained glass windows. I found it interesting that the carvings and decorations around the walls would have once been brightly coloured, whereas now they are whitewashed.

We then went into the cathedral. I wanted to climb the tower but it’s an hour and a half guided tour and we didn’t have time. A quick look around the inside of the cathedral, which once again struck me as an amazing feat of construction considering it was built in the 1200s, and then we met Pauline and Verity down the street.

We stopped into an English restaurant for food and drink and caught up on our various bits of news. They read our blogs so are well aware of what we’ve been up to but we still had plenty to chat about (not everything goes in here) and of course we heard all about them too. Most exciting was the presence of six fox cubs frolicking in their garden. While in Australia they’re pests, here they’re native. Either way they’re adorable. We whiled away a few hours catching up. This was also the first time they and Glen had met.

We all walked to the train station and said our goodbyes at the gate, before Glen and I caught the train to London Waterloo. We had been given theatre token vouchers as a wedding present when I was in London last year and so decided to make the most of our time and go see a show. We had to choose from three: Bad Jews, Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime and The Audience. The Audience was the only one that still had seats.

We got into Leicester Square and bought tickets from the Apollo for that evening’s show. Unfortunately the good ones in the orchestra had gone so we were in the dress circle. With the vouchers, we only had to pay an extra £20 so it worked out well for us. We then went for dinner at a local Thai restaurant, then back to the theatre.

The seats were so uncomfortable! Our knees were touching the row in front of us. Damn you, tiny Victorians! Other than that we could see perfectly. It was a little distracting having the subtitles on the sides, particularly when the subtitles didn’t match what the actors were saying.

I’d seen the original version with Helen Mirren (thank you, NTLive) but this was an updated version (so up to date that it included the recent UK election result) and the Queen was played by Kristen Scott Thomas. There were a few rough bits in it (we even heard prompting from the side). Apart from that though, it was an enjoyable show and we were both glad we got to see it.

What do you say, eh?

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