this bird can sing.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

England 2014, Part Three

Before leaving for our trip, we had booked tickets online for Stonehenge on September 17th. We knew this would be our plan for the morning. Stonehenge is about a 1.5 hour drive from Wendy's house. You book tickets for a 30 minute arrival window.

We managed to navigate our way to Wiltshire without much incident and arrived at the Visitors Center.

We picked up our tickets and audio guides, then hopped on a shuttle. You take these little cars that are connected together in a little train. The shuttle takes you up to the stones. As you walk up to the stones, you can really feel it.

The audio guide tells you about each view as you walk around a large circle. If you go left around the large circle, you start at the "front." Numbers correspond with each spot on the audio tour.

It was interesting to learn about the different that comprise Stonehenge. There is a large Heel Stone standing outside the circle. 

As you continue to walk around the circle, you begin to see different views of the stones. 

As you reach the "back," there are fewer stones in the outer circle, so you can see a bit more on the inside. The solstice axis crosses through the center.

As we neared a complete circle around the stones, I spotted a raven and had to get a shot with it in the foreground.

We returned to the entrance and got back on the shuttle to the Visitors Center. We picked up a cool print in the gift shop and a few souvenirs. We then looked at the huts sitting outside the Visitors Center. They believe the builders of Stonehenge lived in huts such as these.

You could actually walk into the huts and see what the inside may have looked like as well.

Since we hadn't eaten anything all day, I picked up a cheese and onion pastry on the way out. I ate mine on the short drive to Old Sarum. I mainly wanted to see Sarum because I'm a big Edward Rutherford fan, and he has a book based here (aptly entited Sarum). When we arrived, I learned that Pillars of the Earth is also set in this area. 

We ended up buying English Heritage passes, which were a good deal because we were refunded the amount we had already paid for Stonehenge tickets. We thought we could get a bit more use out of them before they expired, especially since Irish Heritage sites were included.

Old Sarum is an ancient settlement. It's an Iron Age hill fort where Romans, Normans, and Saxons have all been through 5,000 years of history. 

In fact, Henry II kept Eleanor of Aquitaine here. A little known fact about me is that Eleanor of Aquitaine is probably my favorite historical figure, so this really excited me.

You could see the original cathedral here. As you walked around the perimeter, there were bits of history to read about each area.

And then on the other side, there was a nice view of nearby Salisbury, which is about two miles away. You could see the Salisbury Cathedral from here.

The plan was to head back toward Guildford after this and check out Jane Austen's house & museum in Chawton, Surrey. We got lost at this point, and were only marginally saved by the fact that we had Wendy's road atlas with us. Getting lost ate up some time, and we ended up in Chawton with only about 45 minutes before closing time.

We picked up a couple things in the shop, and then headed toward the house. There was a nice garden in the back.

Back of the house
The whole place is very pretty and peaceful. Just a lovely place. As you walk to the entry of the house, happy flowers greet you.

There were two nice ladies inside the house available to answer questions. As I told them, I love Jane Austen and she is one of my heroes. However, I felt that I didn't know as much as I should about her as a person and about her life. My mom read a lot of Jane Austen as she was learning to read in English, because her writing is just so clean and beautiful. She got my started on Jane at an early age.

We learned that Jane lived here from 1809-1817. Her adoptive brother Edward inherited several houses, one of which was this one. Jane then lived here with her mother, her sister Cassandra, and her friend Margaret.

The house actually had a number of costumes on display from Mansfield Park. You can take photos inside the house as long as you don't use flash.

Near the entrance of the house
You then continue on into the dining room.

In this area, you could see cabinets with tea supplies, as well as some of the objects Jane had around her, such as a little wooden alphabet. These objects pop up in her books.

Her writing table is also in here!

One of Jane's manuscripts can also be viewed on the lower level.

When you go to the upper level, you can see the bedrooms, family room, and a dressing room. Jane probably shared a bedroom with her sister Cassandra.

The admiral's bedroom is also on the upper level.

At the end of the hallway, you can read a letter than Jane's sister Cassandra wrote shortly after Jane's death. The letter describes Jane's final days. It is unclear what caused her death, but she was only 41 when she died.

We finished looking around the house, and went outside and into the kitchen. This was an airy, sunny area where you could create your own little pouch of lavender to take home with you. I did take one with me.

We walked around to the front of the house to take some pictures after closing time.

Jane Austen lived here from 1809-1817 and hence all her works were sent into the world. Her admirers in this country and in America have united to erect this tablet. Such art as hers can never grow old.

After finishing up in Chawton, we headed back toward Guildford. We wanted to stop by a microbrewery called Hogs Back on the way. We were a little disappointed that the tour was already booked for the evening, but we did explore the bottle shop and buy several bottles.

We returned to Guildford and decided to check out Sainsbury's, which my cousin described as an English Walmart. I was able to find an 8gb SD card for only £4.99. I knew I was going to fill the 1 gb card I had in my camera, so it was worth it for me to buy a larger card and know I could take as many pictures as I wanted. (We later saw the same SD card at London Gatwick for over £20).

Because we were tired, and also because we wanted to stay in and drink some of the bottles we had picked up, we decided to order "takeaway" for dinner instead of going out. We ended up finding a place called Pizza Express where we ordered dough balls and pizza. We brought it home and enjoyed with beer.

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