Why hello! I’m sure I only have about two readers left after my brief-ish hiatus from blogging (hi mom!), so I hope the long wait was worth it. I figured I’d come back with a post about a BIG DEAL.
OK, maybe not a big deal to you, but a really big deal to me.
You see, I got to mark an item off my bucket list that I really thought I only had a very, very slim chance of ever seeing. One minute it was way in the back reaches of my list, and then BAM! My friend casually offered to take me there while I was down visiting her.
I didn’t even realize I would be that close!
Anyway, let me back up a bit.
Living in all of these countries has meant that we’ve made friends with some pretty cool people from all over the world. Once in a great while we get to meet up with them again even after we’ve moved away. The stars aligned so that a couple who we loved from Brazil was moving back to the UK only a few weeks before we were moving back to Brazil (thank you Brazilian bureaucracy, for your many delays). Somewhere in that window of overlap we got the opportunity to jump on the train and go spend some time with them. Excellent!
Except that Brian had to go back to Brazil during that brief window. A solo trip was in order, which turned our double-date weekend into a sort of third-wheel situation. My friends are fantastic though, and didn’t seem to mind putting up with me for four an a half days without my more charming, kilted half.
Sharon and Neil quickly made a list of local sights to show off, bought their English Heritage membership and whisked me off. Let me tell you about the day we went to Stonehenge.
Only about thirty minutes from their house, we drove those idyllic English country roads through the farm fields and forested hills until we started noticing an increasing number of dread-locked backpackers. We were headed for hippie heaven and were clearly getting close.
We pulled up to the crowd between two farm fields, found a miraculously open free parking spot just outside the paid parking lot, and joined the throngs of visitors.
Good thing we were here on a weekday. I’d hate to see the crowds on a weekend!
You see that man with the bullhorn on the left? He is a Druid. He is protesting the in-progress new visitor center being built nearby which will house the bones of an ancient (presumably) druid person who’s grave was found very near the monument. I think he has a valid point that it can be considered disrespectful of their religion to display the dead body of one of their own. He made it very clear that if we walked around on his side of the fence we could see Stonehenge for free and not give our money to the National Trust. We figured it was worth a shot.
Not exactly a stellar vista. Still, this was my first glimpse and I was very excited. I couldn’t believe I was seeing it! Such an icon for my whole life, I remember reading National Geographic articles about it at my Grandparents’ house when I was very small, and here it stood just meters from me.
Since Sharon and Neil already had their NT membership, we decided to go back and enter through the official entrance and see it properly.
There was a bit of a line, but as members we were able to pass to the front pretty quickly. At this point, there is no real visitors center, only a gift shop, an ice cream stand and an audio guide station where you can pick up your little audio device. We all had read quite a bit of history regarding the henge, so we passed on the audio tour.
We kept walking an suddenly there it was:
Stonehenge in all it’s iconic glory. I was surprised how close we could get. I expected to be fifty or a hundred yards away, and instead we were only about fifty feet away and separated only by a small rope strung low to the ground which didn’t interfere with our view at all.
Surrounded by fellow tourists taking selfies, it took us a few minutes to jostle our way up to that rope, but the view was worth it. That first approach is the best spot for photos as it’s the spot where you can stand the closest, and the crowd on the other side is usually a bit thinner which means they don’t clutter up your shot. this next view was from the other side, and you can see the bigger crowd.
So what was my impression? Other than awe at standing so close to these stones which had filled a place of wonder in my mind for so many years?
It’s smaller than I though. The individual stones are quite large, but they’re grouped really close together. I thought it would be more spread out.
It’s just a little pile of stones that don’t do anything and are not interactive in any way, but they still somehow filled me with such a feeling of being connected to this world. A big part of my heritage is from England, so it is entirely possible that some of m direct ancestors used this site during their lives for whatever purpose it was built. That I might have a direct connection via DNA to those mysterious people who danced, or sang, or studied, or served here in some way was thrilling, and a bit humbling.
It’s easy to imagine what the stones looked like when it was completed four thousand years ago. The landscape would have been forested around the clearing, and there may have been additional wooden structures. I wish I could go back and see what was happening!
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop picturing the stones full of pigs à la Angry Birds.
I would love to be here during a solstice, but only if I could be in the middle of the stones alone and in silence. Not going to happen. Ever.
I felt really lucky to be there. Just a few days before I had no idea that I’d have the chance to see it, and was so grateful just to be standing in that spot. To walk a full circle around it and take it in has been one of the highlights of being here in the UK. I’m so thankful my friends took me out there!