Exhaustion hit last night, so when some sort of alarm went off at 1:45 AM that quickly turned off again, I couldn’t be bothered. Like a cat in a bath, Sandy instantly levitated from the bed, evidently concerned about fire or some such and kept talking to me and waking me back up until I asked her to look out the window and see if people were exiting the hotel. When she reported in the negative I sank back to unconsciousness without a worry. Today we discovered an alarm in the kitchen went off, but all was fine. Which is good, because I wasn’t going ANYWHERE at 1:45 AM. Somehow in the hub-bub, our clock alarm became unset, so, had we not ordered a breakfast delivery for 7:45, we would not have awoken until the call from our delightful tour guide, Jannine.
Breaking all records for showering, make-up and hair styling, Sandy and I staggered into the back seat of the van and fell prey to the soothing tones of what can best be described as a blonde Emma Thompson. I could swear our guide sounded just like her in “Love Actually.” I just hope she introduces us to her brother, the Hugh Grant look-alike.
Our tour today was laid out in a sort of triangle. We headed for the first stop, Avebury. The village of Avebury has a ring of standing stones running right through it. Many are missing, but small pedestal type rocks mark the places where they are missing. Here, unlike Stonehenge, we are able to touch the stones. A large ditch surrounds the inner circle. These are Neolithic ruins, and the process for raising them involved a great deal of ingenuity. Also unlike Stonehenge, these stones are not shaped to specifics. They are more organic looking, as if boulders rose to stand at attention. One third of their length is buried in the ground.
As we left the field and made our way out the gate, Sandy took a misstep. By the time I whipped around, it appeared she had tumbled head over arse down the three stone steps. I have since been informed she merely SLID. There was no flipping involved. Although slightly damaged, she bounced to her feet and carried on. Bully for Sandy! I could not have recovered with quite the aplomb.
Next stop was Glastonbury, reputed burial ground of King Arthur and Guinevere. On the way there, Jannine pointed out the hedgerows lining either side of the road and told us many are being destroyed to take advantage of as much planting field as possible. There is actually a group now named “Save the Hedgerows.” I envisioned Hugh Grant earnestly speaking to me on the telly saying, “Join me and Save the Hedgerows.” I’m in, Hugh, I’m in.
At Glastonbury we visited the thorn tree, reputedly from the crucifixion of Christ that Joseph of Aramathea planted when he stuck his staff in the ground. (Joseph was an uncle of Jesus’ and helped him carry the cross.) According to legend, the tree weeps blood at Christmas. This is confirmed by a friend of our tour guide, who claims to have a cutting. How said cutting was acquired has not been answered.
We also saw the spot where the bodies of Arthur and Guinevere were found. The woman had long flaxen hair, but when the priests touched it, it turned to dust. They moved the remains to another spot near the high alter, where a marker sits today.
Next, we ventured on to Stonehenge. Approximately a jillion people were in line. Buses unloaded hordes of Japanese tourists and elderlies. Jannine skipped ahead to speak with the ticket agents, purchased two passes for Sandy and me, and we happily pushed our ways through the jumble to enter the walkway that leads to the stones, no doubt cutting half an hour off our time.
Awesome is the only word to describe this mystery. TV, movies and photos do not reveal the amazing sensation of being in the presence of the stones. Every angle reveals a new perspective that must be photographed. The stones are aligned so on the day of the summer solstice and winter solstice, the sun is perfectly aligned with the structure. Jannine said the people who constructed it must have watched for two years. They are fitted together like giant Legos, with knobs on the standing stones allowing the cup of the top stones to seat. Also, the stones used were not from this area. each portion of England has very distinct strata layers and within a fifty mile radius, you could have villages and fences made of gray stone, cream colored stone, chalk, etc. These stones, which weighed tons, came from Wales and another location approximately 50 miles from the site. Why haul stone from such a distance when they could use local stone? Who knows. However, you can tell why people are not allowed to tough them anymore. The green lichen are visible on the upper most part of the stones, but are non-existent on the lower 2/3rd.
After snapping a ridiculous amount of photos and remarking on the way the clouds in England make us strangely happy, we left for the hotel. Our assumption about the clouds is that we see so few in Texas in Summer they seem romantic and mystical now.
To entertain us on the way back, I asked about tourist behavior. Having experienced a number of obnoxious tourists at the site, I tried to get our guide to reveal the worst country of origin in her experience. As I determined, Germans are among them, as are the Italians.
Told ya’ so.
Tomorrow we go to “Buck House,” Buckingham Palace, and on the The Globe to see The Tempest. I look forward to viewing a play by Shakespeare in the exact manner Elizabeth I would have viewed it. Unless I fall asleep, which is possible.
By the way, if you visit, make sure you get a blue badge guide. They are certified by the government. Apparently around 1,000 apply each year and they are weeded down to 200, many of whom speak multiple languages. They are graded on knowledge, entertainment, and presentation ability. It is well worth it to get a good one and maximize your experience. Sandy and I were lucky enough to be able to book ours for a private tour, but group tours are available as well.