The temperatures have been topping 100 degrees F pretty much every day here in Córdoba, so Tonya and I decided that it was time to visit England and get out of the heat. We have to take advantage of these travel opportunities, because God knows we won’t be in any financial position to do so when we return to the USA. We did escape the heat, but I must admit that I didn’t expect to need sweaters and coats in August. Umbrellas, of course; it is England, after all. You’ll see spots on many of the pictures…. these are genuine English raindrops on the camera lens.
This was a very pleasant trip; it was the first time we’ve been in an English-speaking country since last September. We’d visited the north of England a few years ago (York), but this was our first time down south in London. We had about two and a half days in London, and reached the conclusion that it wasn’t nearly enough. There is a lot to see! Celtic, Roman, Saxon, Norman….all these different cultures, as well as those which came before, have left their marks. On this trip, we managed to hit several (but not all!) of the big tourist draws: Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Tower of London, St. James Park, Hyde Park, St. Paul´s Cathedral, Buckingham Palace, and others. We’ll see if we can manage to get back.
We headed west from London to Salisbury, where they have possibly the most beautiful cathedral in the world. Here they have one of the best-preserved of the remaining copies of the Magna Carta. This was the list of laws signed under duress by King John in 1215, one of the first to place practical limits on the powers of the king. It forms one of the bases of Western law to this day.
One of our big goals for this trip was to visit Stonehenge. We got our first glimpse of it on my birthday. This is another of those sites that ended up impressing me more than I’d expected. The sheer size of the stones is overwhelming, and moreso when you consider that all of this was constructed between 3000BC and 2000BC, without the benefit of the wheel or metal tools. We even got to see a group of modern-day Druids doing a ceremony in the middle of the circle.
A bit further north in Avebury is another of the stone circles which seem to abound in the area. The main ring there is a good quarter-mile in diameter, with many of the original stones missing. (Medieval priests encouraged the faithful to destroy the pagan works.) Nobody is completely sure of the purpose of the stone rings. Stonehenge has many alignments with the position of the sun on midsummer and midwinter day, too many to be coincidence….but why? An observatory? A temple? Whatever they were, they were important enough for these ancient societies to devote a staggering amount of manpower to them.