Last Saturday was our big adventure day. We got up early and headed directly to our first stop: Salisbury.
My mom came to England about thirty years ago while still a drama teacher with several of her students. One of the tours they took was to Salisbury Cathedral. My mom tells the story that she was walking around looking aimlessly at all of the gravestones mounted into the floor and walls and came across her name on one. Her name is rather unique, so this alone would have caused her to take notice. But, the man’s last name was Robinson. My father’s name is Robin. So imagine coming across a man buried at Salisbury Cathedral with both Jocelyn and Robin in the name.
My mom didn’t take a picture of this headstone but instead, sent me to do it. This was no easy feat as the cathedral is not a small space.
We arrived in Salisbury after about an hour train ride and were met with an absolutely gorgeous day. We could not have asked for better sunlight and weather. We made our way toward the fourth tallest spire in the world (interesting fact: during WWII, the Germans were told not to bomb Salisbury Cathedral because they used the spire as a landmark). On the way, we came across a small pond with some ducks wading in the water. Jeff took great pride in feeding these ducks with an apple we snuck from the B&B breakfast bar.
When we made it to the cathedral, we couldn’t help but just look up. It was extraordinary. I realize that’s becoming my new favorite word, but honestly, there is no other word for some of the things we’ve seen. The church was massive and looked so beautiful against the blue sky. I wanted to stare at it, and memorize every detail, but alas, we didn’t want to miss out on the magic inside.
If the outside was beautiful, it was no match for the interior. Much like Westminster Abbey, the space just went on and on forever and the walls were lined with monuments of those who have passed away hundreds of years ago. We saw the oldest working clock, which from the looks of it, you wouldn’t realize it was a clock except for every hour, the chimes would ring. There is no other way of telling the time.
In the center of the space was a large mirror-like fountain which poured water beautifully from four edges. It looked like glass which perfectly reflected the ceiling and the detail work above.
We walked around the entire cathedral marveling at the worn stones beneath our feet, imagining the hundreds of thousands of people who walked before us. I didn’t forget to study each stone looking for my parents’ names to no avail. We scanned each rock in the floor and every single wall mount, but we couldn’t find a single Robin(son) or Jocelyn.
I decided to not worry about it and just take in the sights from the stained glass to the tombs on display. We then walked around the cloisters thinking maybe Mom was mistaken and “they” were outside rather than in. But the closest thing I found was my sister’s name, and considering the time my mom was out here, my sister’s name was probably not even in her mind yet.
In the Chapter House was the Magna Carta. There are only four surviving copies of this document from 1215. Supposedly, if my grandmother is correct, I have an ancestor that either contributed to it or was involved in some way of that document coming to light. But the version that was there was in the best condition. You can still see legibly the old Latin words which some were abbreviated to save on space. Imagine an old school Twitter so all the words can fit inside a box.
We walked in the door, and as usual, the first thing I did was look up. The woman greeting us said I had good taste since so many people forget to look up. That’s what I marvel at. The detail so many meters above you whether the design was carved on the ground or not, it is also how they got it up there.
Anyway, we were needing to head off to the tour bus to take us to Stonehenge, but I couldn’t bear leaving the cathedral without locating my parents’ names. I approached a caretaker and asked if they had a book or manifest of everyone in the building. Sure enough, they did. And there he was: Mr. George Jocelyn Robinson.
Now it was a matter of finding the headstone. It took two older ladies, a priest and a groundman to locate it (please refrain from all, “walked into a bar” jokes) in the middle of the sanctuary. We had to move a few chairs out of the way, but there he was. Died in 1788 at the age of 45. I took a few pictures and hugged the woman who tracked down the others to help us and Jeff got his first English woman kiss on the cheek. I was so grateful and I know my mom will be very happy to know she isn’t crazy.
We left the cathedral and headed toward the tour bus. It was a great deal, so we do recommend the Stonehenge Tour. It takes you to Stonehenge, Old Sarum, City Center for Salisbury and back to the train station for £26 per person, and it runs every hour on the hour. We hopped up to the top and rode the thirty minutes to Stonehenge.
Click here for my virtual tour of Stonehenge. I took way too many pictures to overload this blog post.
We got to the location, and I love that you are not brought to the stone’s front door. It was hidden from the main road so it’s not spoiled for several minutes before getting off the bus. We had to walk about 2 miles up the road (we could have taken a transport, but that’s not like us). We followed the empty country road and soaked in the green fields and very windy breeze.
Then we saw them. The legendary stones were in front of us and it was unnerving. We really lucked out with there not being too many people there. We were able to take several pictures without people in our line of sight. We circled around and saw off behind the stones was a highway! Can you imagine driving your daily commute passed Stonehenge! Also, just past an electrical fence was a large herd of sheep grazing away.
We stared at these stones and tried to imagine what it took to move these massive rocks from the far reaches of the United Kingdom and hoist them on top of each other. After looking at the alignment, it really was quite intelligent how they were laid out. It seemed to act as an archaeological calendar and now with a little wear and tear, it was just a relic from the past.
We made our way back to the visitor’s center and looked around the very modern layout. The inside was a small exhibition with a circular virtual video of the stones through the thousands of years. They had some things they had dug up from the site as well as how historians through the seventeen hundreds also viewed the rocks.
All in all, Jeff and I were prepared to be underwhelmed by the experience, but we got more than we had bargained for. It’s safe to say we were “properly whelmed.”
We missed the time cut off for Old Sarum, so we will have to go back another day. So, we made it back to Bath around five in the afternoon. We still had the sunlight, so we thought we would do some walking around Bath, as if we hadn’t done enough walking already. For the entire weekend, we clocked in walking over 20 miles.
In mild pain, we decided that we would search for The Circus and The Royal Crescent: two marvels in 17th century architecture. The Circus was on the top of a very steep hill and was a large roundabout of apartments encircling the road. Not three blocks west was the famous Crescent. An even larger circular building full of flats and businesses. I stared at both buildings in awe. It must have been quite a feat of engineering to get all of the minuscule measurements to make a perfectly rounded building. But it really was beautiful and difficult to imagine the building under construction.
With our feet throbbing, we made our way back to our hotel and prepared for our last day in Bath. Keep reading to find out about the Bath Abbey, Roman Baths, and what else there is to do in a town when you have extra time.