LAX to Stonehenge
Wednesday & Thursday 10/18 - 19
We are in Salisbury!!!! But let me start from the beginning…in true Janet and John travelogue fashion something always happens. So, the flight is at 1:08pm. We are actually on time meaning a little more than an hour before the flight. We will disregard the fact that you need to be at the airport at least 2 hours before an international flight. There is only one person maybe two at counter and considering there were only 5 people ahead of us it took us almost 30 minutes to get to the counter and get checked in. Security lines are long and slow moving so we kill another 20 minutes anyway between that and hitting bookstore there is no time for the lounge (our only time to try it out) and we get to the gate with a little under 10 minutes to spare.
All is good and we push back from the gate and we are rolling along till we are called for take off. Mid roll the captain comes on and says we are veering out of line to a gate because the cargo hold needs to be rebalanced. It sounds like a joke and a fib till we actually stop at a gate and feel the plane rocking a bit like some is really rebalancing stuff in the cargo hold. Well, there goes an hour. So we take off for Heathrow a little after 2pm.
The flight was uneventful other than we decided in mid-flight to get Tony a present for his 70th birthday and Jane a bottle of perfume. So we got a $10 off for the purchase for using the United Mileage card and when the attendant swiped John's United Airlines credit card it also offered a 15% discount on the purchase. Unfortunately, we could not make good on both discounts so we chose the 15% off. Well, somehow she could not figure out how to ring up the purchase and it came up to $15 which was great and the best was it came up with $0. She was so frustrated with the machine! It was funny to watch. Thank God we were only buying 2 items!
Eleven hours later on a flight that was supposed to take 10 hours we get into Heathrow! We have no gate because we are quite late (2 hours!!). So, we cruise around a bit to get one. After the long trek to customs and passport check, luggage claim and car rental and we are good to go. Before I get to the car rental can you imagine Heathrow with no lines? There was barely anyone in line and almost no one in the reception area after we got out. That is the emptiest I have seen Heathrow ever! There was no one!!!
About the car rental, they tell you to choose any car that is in row D. There were 7-9 cars in row D! So John ran around for a while from car to car trying to figure which one was worth the time of day! What a pain! I hate the system! Should we choose a plain Vectra or a Vectra SRI - how the bloody hell should I know? Just tell what space my rental car is in and we'll be on our way. What do you mean I have a choice between 7 cars??? Totally increases stress and stretches my sanity after a long flight! I wasn't participating in the frenzied dash from car to car so I stayed put and waited for John to come to a rational decision. After all of that we chose the plain Vectra with the least scratches on the carpeting in the trunk.
We are off to Stonehenge! We took the M25 to the M3. On the M3 John decides he can't wait any longer for a good ole English breakfast in spite of my pleas to the contrary so we stop of off at one of the rest stops which has a large sign attesting to the fact that Little Chef will cater to our breakfast needs. We both get the English breakfast - I am too delighted there is no fried bread in sight. That stuff is evil. But the thing that is equally evil that I have entirely forgotten about is black pudding? There is this huge patty of it sitting on my plate dark red wine in color with nuts embedded (like that's going to make a difference!). Anyway I taste in and pray it is haggis and they only got the coloring wrong. Well, it is black pudding and when I ask John for verification he says in a small voice that he did not want to tell me what it was because he knows I am not crazy about the stuff. The other thing I can't stand is runny eggs or more specifically a runny yolk. So, when I made the mistake of breaking my yolk both it and the black pudding got transferred to John's plate in a hurry. I was definitely not eating any more of that mess!!! Ugh!
Getting out of the parking lot was another feat. John just about burned out the clutch because he thought he was in reverse while he was actually in the first gear. About 4 tries later he discovered that you can't go into reverse without lifting a safety on the gear stick. Gawd! The whole area around the car stunk with burnt clutch.
Back to the highway to the A303 to the A344 and just over the hill in the distance towers Stonehenge it was a breath taking sight with just a little sun peeking between the clouds. I can see why it creates so much awe in everyone who sees it for the first time. Some cheap folks were walking along the fence and taking pictures along side. We, good members of the British Heritage sites, paid 4.99 pounds to get in. With came a little free gizmo that gave you a walking tour of the site. It is hard to describe the amount of awe you feel when you see the stones tower above like that and wonder how they stay upright. Also, the fact that it was rebuilt a number of times is also amazing. It is unfortunate that there is no real record of what they were used for other than maybe charting the sun. The mystery makes it a very compelling site to see.
After spending more than an hour at Stonehenge we decide it is time to head on to our hotel in Salisbury. Before this, we had tried to figure out the navigation system in the car and had failed but once we were stationary in the parking lot we figured it out. We got back on the road and it took us on this crazy short cut and we ended up in Salisbury and to our hotel the Pembroke Arms. Checked in and all we asked the receptionist where to go - she mentioned the Salisbury Cathedral. John, being a true brit asked for a pub and she coughed up the Bear Inn as a good place to go. To get to the Cathedral she indicated parking was expensive and we could take the city bus outside the hotel, get off at city center and walk to the Cathedral. No problem there and that is exactly what we did. We paid 6 pounds total for the bus including return trip and wouldn't you know that is exactly what it cost to park there!
The cathedral was lovely and there was a choir practicing and they just crowned the experience. It was great to walk around and read the tombstones - like in most churches in Europe. This seems to be King John country (you know the King who Robin Hood made miserable) so there was a lot of references to him on the tombs. The blue stained glass in the center of the cathedral is just exquisite. It was in bad shape and it is going to take a total of 14m pounds and another 2 years to complete the restoration.
The other quite interesting thing was in the small museum next door. It is called the Magna Carta and it is basically the first version of a constitution ever written and the one on which the American constitution was founded. About 40 copies were made by scribes and only 4 survived and you get to see one of those original copies up close. It was written in Latin on vellum and it is pretty well preserved. There are 63 clauses - it is hard to imagine so many clauses came out of a one page document but it is really small script and most of the words and sentences were abbreviated.
We decided to honor John's wish to go to a pub after that. He had a beer and I had a diet coke. It is interesting how the bartender can ask you if you would like ice in the drink like it is an utterly unacceptable thing to request. I disregard the disdain in his voice and say yes.
After the quick drink we head back to the evensong at the Cathedral which is like mass but with mostly music. It turns out the choir that was practicing earlier was visiting. This time they sang without instruction interruptions and it was heavenly. The high ceilings of the church just enhance their voices and the boom of the organ. Unfortunately we were both running on E at that point so it was hard to stay awake because the singing was so soothing.
After that it was back to the hotel on the bus and the hard decision about where to eat. The restaurant downstairs was looking a little empty and the lady said dinner ran from 7 - 8:30pm. Who would ever think dinner time was so short? Just enough time for another quick drink at the bear inn and check it out for food. The bear inn proved to be just a bit of a disappointment in the food department in that there was none. John got another pint of beer and the British version of pork skins only they call them pork crisps. None for me, thank you very much - I don't care if the packaging if different and they have a classier name they are still pork skins to me. Would not be caught dead eating them (my apologies to my sister who loves the mess out of them and to John of course). The highlight of the bar trip was the dog fell in love with me and wanted to play catch with its little red ball. Since dogs are not my thing and the ball had dog slobber all over it I had to figure out how to do this without touching the ball. I was not very successful at not touching the ball but the dog had this big brown eyes and I could not resist. She even left me alone when I looked her straight in the eyes and said "sweetie that's enough" now if I could do that with other dogs we would get along just fine.
We hustled back to the hotel with 15 minutes to spare before dinner ended. We were the only ones there. Dinner was a bit pricey but it was good. My dessert was a lemon cheese cake. You know how in the south they say "hmmm-hm that's some good". That embodies how I felt about the cheese cake. It was not dense like cheese cake in the US it was light and almost fluffy. I was in hog heaven. It is from my food stupor that I say good night with a promise that I will sleeping on my back and don't wake me till 8am. It is 11pm and I think I have done the best I could to stay up till now without crashing due to jet lag. John can't say goodnight because he fell asleep an hour ago.
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