Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Salisbury and Bath

After Stonehenge, our day trip out of London took us to Salisbury, which is about 15 minutes away from Stonehenge. Salisbury is an old city with some buildings dating back to the 13th century. There's a wide range of pubs, restaurants, and tea rooms. We ate lunch at one of the quaint pubs and had a traditional fish and chips meal which was mighty tasty!

One of the oldest buildings in Salisbury.
Mom, we thought you'd like this.

After lunch we went to the Salisbury Cathedral. It was built using the Early English Gothic architectural style and is one of Britain's finest medieval cathedrals. The tallest spire was added a generation later.

Inside the cathedral there is nearly 800 years of incredible history. Here is where the finest preserved Magna Carta is (there are four). It is one of the most celebrated documents in English history and has influenced the modern day world in different ways. There are three clauses from the document that are still in use today. Seeing the document in person was definitely the highlight of our trip to the Salisbury Cathedral. We also saw the world's oldest working clock, which is thought to be from 1386. The clock has no face, and was designed to strike the hours.

World's oldest working clock.
After our time in Salisbury we took the one hour trip to Bath. Aside from many restaurants, shops, theaters, and museums, the city also houses the Roman Baths. Yes, we left Italy and went all the way to Bath to see some ancient Roman ruins! Here, the water from the springs are so hot you can see it bubble and steam. The Romans thought the bubbling water was from the gods, so they built a temple around it in 60-70 AD and the bathing complex was gradually added over the next 300 years.

Hot spring water on its way to the bath.

There is also a museum that holds artifacts from the Roman period which were thrown into the spring, probably offerings to the gods.

Ancient Roman coins.
Yep, that's a skeleton.

Gorgon's Head from the Temple Pediment.

The actual spring water in the Roman Bathhouse is extremely unsanitary and has bacteria and parasites. Before going into the site, everyone is warned about the filthiness of the water. We did see many people touching the water to feel the temperature of it so hopefully they didn't pick up something they didn't want to get! However, at the end of the museum there is a restaurant that features extremely filtered hot spring water. We didn't eat here, but they have a water station with a bartender serving the hot spring water. We tried the warm water and it had a strong sulfur taste to it.

Mmm... sulfur...
Afterwards, we walked around the cute city of Bath. We walked in and out of shops and were enchanted by the old buildings, music playing, and people strolling along for a nice day out. Before we knew it, it was time to board the bus and head back to London.

A lot of signs!

English countryside.
We're really glad we saw these two places in England. The bus tour saved us from driving on the "wrong" side of the road and it allowed us to see sites that we otherwise might not have seen.

Sunday, February 26, 2012


During our trip to London we decided to use one of the days to see Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath. We used London Golden Tours to drive us between these sites, get our tickets into different venues, and provide us with some useful information and funny tidbits along the way.

It was about a 1.5 hour trip to Stonehenge from London, which you can see clearly from the highway that we were on. Once you're in with your ticket there's a path around the site so you're able to see it from all angles without getting too close. It wasn't anything like European Vacation where Chevy Chase backs his car into the stones.
Taken from paperblog.fr
We have to say that the main draw of Stonehenge is the mystery behind it. It's a very unique monument and an important part of prehistoric history. Some of the stones date back to 3100 BC and it was built it several stages demonstrating 2,000 years of continuous use. It began as a circular ditch and bank, which you can still see. The stones are large, with the heaviest weighing about 45 tons, and come from places up to 150 miles away. The stones are carefully fitted together and are leveled for alignment.

It is aligned with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, but it's exact purpose remains a mystery. There are many ideas as to what the area was used for. They know that it was used as a burial ground, finding 64 cremations and guessing that 150 individuals were buried there. They've also found objects that accompanied the burials such as a small ceramic piece, a stone macehead, flint tools, and bone skewer pins. They say it also appears to be have been a ceremonial site, a temple to mark the passing of time, seasons, and cycles of life and death. Various theories have been proposed about Stonehenge including that it was a place for Druid worship, a place for sun worship, a huge calendar, an astronomical computer, a center for ancestor worship, or as a cult place of healing.

A painting showing what Stonehenge would have looked like.
Along with this mystery includes the questions about how the people managed to carry these huge stones from so far away and then, using only primitive tools, build this amazing structure? The mystery remains at Stonehenge, but it will never fail to impress!

Thursday, February 23, 2012


Although he's been there twice, Jon was more than willing to come back to the great city of London so I could have a look. What a fun city filled with an abundance of history. The architecture in London is amazing and even as the modern buildings try to slightly take over, we don't think it will ever lose that old school charm. Although we've seen our share of history over the past six months, the history in London is more relatable to us.

We looked to Fat Tyre Bike Tours to give us an overview of the major sights. Our four hour bike tour took our small group to famous sights such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Princess Diana's memorial. We rode through all four royal parks and heard anecdotes about each place from our guide, David. These stories included the numerous break ins to Buckingham Palace, an arrogant but successful general (Wellington), the city's reaction to Diana's memorial (they didn't like it and thought it was too plain), and people jumping into the fountains at Trafalgar Square after Spain won the World Cup in 2010. This was a great way to see the city in just a few hours.

Trafalgar Square

Kensington Palace

Duke of Wellington

Part of the Princess Diana Memorial
Princess Diana Memorial

Buckingham Palace
Westminster Abbey
Westminster Abbey

That night we went on a Jack the Ripper tour. Our tour guide brought this mysterious crime to life and led us to the actual places where the Ripper victims were killed or found. It was very eerie to know that 124 years ago, in the then impoverished area of Whitechapel, with no lights down these streets and alleys, these gruesome murders were committed. Our guide also carried with him something they call "Ripper Vision" which is a handheld projector. Through this we were able to see the actual shocking photos of the victims, letters sent from the Ripper, and sketches and headlines from the newspapers of that time. Very creepy stuff, but a great tour!

Our hotel was right across from Parliament and Big Ben so we walked across the Westminster Bridge over the Thames River quite a few times.

One day we walked along the water all the way down to the Tower Bridge and then into the Tower of London. This historic castle, which was built in the 11th century, has been used for many different purposes such as a palace, a fortress, and a prison. Throughout time different monarchs added to the fortifications of the tower making it almost like a small village.

Tower Bridge

Walking between towers.

A torture device for prisoners.
Another torture device.
We were also able to see the Crown Jewels, which included a number of magnificent items such as crowns, scepters, orbs, rings, swords, spurs, bracelets, and robes. The Imperial State Crown alone had 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies on it. One scepter had a 563 carat diamond on it! Yikes!
Guarding the jewels!
Besides touring around, we ate at a few of the many pubs in London. Fish and chips, banger, beans, mash, hamburgers, many lunch pies, along with a ton of British beer frequented the menus of these fine establishments.

One thing we found funny about the city was that at almost every intersection the words look left and look right were painted on the street. I guess the city has had a lot of close calls with non U.K. members looking the wrong way. I can't say that we always looked the right way when crossing (or was it left?).

Here are some more pictures from our long weekend:

Fun taxis!
Fun in the phone booth!
Double decker buses!

Overall, we had a fantastic time here and really enjoyed the city. We definitely need to plan another trip back in the future!