Monday, 12 September 2011

Stonehenge


The day we left Scotland we were off to a rocky start. John developed some sort of ear infection overnight and we spent the better part of the day a) trying to locate the Stirling A&E and then b) waiting to be discharged from the Stirling A&E. Eventually we got some drugs for him and were able to hit the road. Looking back there is definitely space to be grateful: for one, because we were at an emergency ward we didn’t have to pay for his drugs or doctor’s visit, and for another, we had no sightseeing planned for that day. Although we had a long drive from Edinburgh to Bristol it wasn’t *too* long.

Watching the landscape change on the drive was interesting, as it always is with long drives. There was lush greenery in Scotland, and then a seemingly barren dessert as we passed by Manchester, and finally a hint of water as we drew near Bristol. We arrived quite late at our Victorian hotel in Clevedon and, to be honest, I cannot remember much after we arrived, other than my & John’s luck in finding ourselves in a ridiculously giant room that had a double bed (for John) and a queen sized bed (for me). We didn’t have a view of the water, like our parents did, but our room was about three times bigger so we didn’t mind.

A lot was improved by morning, especially since John was feeling better. Since we had spent the previous day driving, I didn’t fancy spending a lot of time on the road. So we decided to drive to Stonehenge and spend an easy day exploring one of the wonders of the world.

The drive was going well, and our map (for once) made sense, when I noticed we had zoomed by our turn. After some navigating we located our ‘road’ again, although I was a little concerned that it wasn’t well marked on our road atlas. Nevertheless, that was the road stated in our directions so we took it, and there passed the most harrowing hour of my life. It was one of those delightful English country lanes, wide enough for 1.5 cars but accepting two-way traffic. It was full of curves and high hedges, which meant we couldn’t see the oncoming traffic. The ‘shoulder’ was pitted with potholes, and once when we pulled over to let an oncoming car pass it sounded like the car had gotten stuck in a hole. My cell phone wasn’t working and the road was just quiet enough that if we got stuck we could be waiting for awhile. And, if all this wasn’t harrowing enough, every so often a giant truck would come speeding around the corner. Mum was sure glad that her car mirrors could flatten against the car sides at the press of a button!

When we finally emerged on the other side I was quite shaky. Dad and John, of course, had spent most of that drive sleeping and were now wide awake and bothering me with questions. Juggling our map and our road atlas we tried to place ourselves in relation to Stonehenge. We were arguing over where our next turn was when I looked up and saw IT—on a strip of plain between two highways, the ancient stones stood in their solemn circle. I exclaimed, John shouted, we both started yelling to mum “go right, go right” and miraculously she found her road and with little fuss we arrived in the parking lot.

We had lunch in a picnic area just outside of the Stonehenge entrance, and then it was time to pay our fee and explore the stones. Going there was an incredibly moving experience for all of us. We spent a good hour or so walking around, listening to the audio tour, and marvelling that we were actually there. One of my favourite pictures from the day is one of mum sitting on a bench, sheep grazing behind her on the plain, and a dreamy look on her face as she sits looking at Stonehenge and the Salisbury Plain. It sums up the magic of the day.

It is so difficult to write about what we experienced. In one sense, it is a big circle of rocks and all the pictures and all the words you use just keep reiterating that point. On the other, it is so much larger than all that, and has inspired whole novels. How do you even begin to blog about that? I could have just sat and looked forever, letting my mind wander down imaginative twists and turns. So, slowly, we walked counter clockwise around the stones, and then found ourselves at the exit, pausing for one last look. 




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