Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Trip Report Part 6

Being a total ancient monument whore (I’ll do any of them, anywhere, any time, at every opportunity) I was quite keen to visit Stonehenge. Several past visitors warned me that it wasn’t anywhere near as good as they’d hoped-the site was crawling with like minded tourists and you can’t get close to the stones themselves. It was suggested that I give Stonehenge a miss and visit some of the lesser known standing stones that dot the area. But to me that would be like telling a visitor to Sydney to forget the harbour bridge, icon that it is, and go check out some other bridge, the city has heaps of them. But in deference to the advice I found a tour company that took a limited number of people inside the stone circle after hours. This nicely circumvented the crowd and distance problems.
The tour took us to Bath for the afternoon where we visited the Roman Baths then spent a couple of hours wandering about the city. My imagination was captured by the idea that over two thousand years ago someone else was sitting at the edge of the bath in the exact same spot that I was in. The day was sunny and warm, a band played in the park and a few characters wandered the streets in regency costume. Nature and man seemed to conspire to show off the place at its best.
After we left Bath we travelled to Lacock, a village pretty much unchanged since Saxon times, for dinner. The tiny township was dressing itself for its latest movie role (apparently it’s often used in this capacity) so the roads were all covered with sand and gravel giving an even better idea of how the place would have looked way back when. Dinner at the oldest pub in Lacock (there are two pubs in this four street town) was nothing to write home about but the service was efficient and the place charming. I’m sure they did their best with the volume of customers they had and it’s not as if they were advertising themselves as the home of fine dining. Even so they win the dubious honour of the third worst meal eaten out while away. If you ever get the urge to visit Lacock take a picnic.
We reached Stonehenge at sunset and were given free access to the site. Standing back behind the ropes I can completely understand why some people might not find the structure as impressive as its image would have them believe. But what a difference a few feet make. Once inside the circle your entire perspective changes. Up close I found the structure spectacular. I must have taken about a hundred photos (and if we hadn’t lost the memory card I’d be able to post a few of them-but that’s another story).
Did I feel any mystical connection to the site? No. I suspect that any magical vibrations the place may have held have long since been drained away by the thousands upon thousands of visitors and are now so slight as to only be apparent to the supersensitive, of which I am not one.
But it really is one awe inspiring piece of engineering and I’m glad I got close enough to touch the stones because, as I said earlier, the difference that contact makes is amazing. So maybe there is a bit of magic left in the old circle yet