This posting is a bit late because Stonehenge was one of the first things I did on this trip. I arrived at Luton airport on Sunday morning, on time (believe it or not), found my taxi driver, and reached Heathrow in 40 minutes. To my surprise, Shalom’s flight was still unloading bags and I had to wait about a half hour until he appeared. We picked up the rental car and hit the road. Getting to Stonehenge wasn’t very difficult, even after we accidentally got on the M4 instead of the M3. I adjusted my plan so we went past Slough and Maidenhead, turned south at Reading on the A33 at Basingstoke, joined the M4 and continued along the A303, turned off past Amesbury, and continued along A344 to Stonehenge.
Piece of cake. Gorgeous weather with great clouds and sunlight. Was that clouds or crowds? There were a lot of tourists. The setting on the Salisbury Plain is stunning, with rolling downs on all sides. The parking lot is in a field (large enough to accommodate buses; it reminded me of Meron on Lag be’Omer).
We stayed about an hour and I took some postcard shots of Stonehenge. Although it’s smaller than you might imagine, it’s still an impressive site. It’s also a challenge to get a good angle that shows the stones and doesn’t have scores of tourists in the background. You can’t get very close to the stones. You’re restricted to a path that runs around the edge of the site (in my husband’s day they were allowed to climb on the stones, but that was a long time ago). A free audio guide is available.
About 50 pagans arrived in costume with drums for a ceremony at 5 p.m. They were just getting started as we left.
Seen in the Stonehenge gift shop:
The real problem began when we tried finding crop circles. Crop circles aren’t easy to spot on the ground from a car and they aren’t always clearly marked on Google maps. I think we went past the Yarnsbury Castle crop circle (the castle itself is no longer standing). To make a very long story short, we got stuck on the A303 and it was hours before we were able to find a roundabout to turn around. I jumped out of the car a few times, waving my map and asking for directions. People were very helpful, but the clearest answer was, “Best place to turn around is Stonehenge. Soon as you see the country looking real pretty, you turn around. Otherwise you’re stuck with it until you get to Exeter.” Um, gee, thanks. I’m sure Devon is lovely at this time of year but it was a bit farther than we intended.
The whole countryside was very beautiful and the weather was superb. It looked like a Turner landscape. But I was starting to worry about how long Shalom could continue driving after a long trip from Israel. In the end we managed to turn around at Wincanton, about 150 miles southwest of London. At least it stays light very late at this latitude and the weather and scenery were stunning. Shalom thinks he spotted the Yarnsbury Castle circle some distance after Stonehenge but I’m not positive. We couldn’t get a very good look at it from the opposite side of the road, moving along at 70 mph. An accident on the M25 slowed us down to a crawl. Eventually we got to Staines, I jumped out several times to ask directions across the Stains bridge because London A-Z doesn’t cover that area. It’s a good thing English is my first language. England has a bewildering range of accents (like the three guys running an Indian restaurant who were all trying to answer me at once).
We got to the hotel. Shalom hadn’t brought any kosher food, so I gave him half a can of tuna (I’d only brought one), crackers, a container of instant noodles, and a granola bar. He repaid me with a bottle of beer from the bar. The Runnymede-on-Thames is a posh hotel, certainly by my standards! I’ve never slept on so many feathers in my life — feather comforter, feather mattress pad, FOUR feather pillows (the bed is probably queen-size).
The hotel backs onto the Thames and you can walk along the Thames River path and see the locks.
Ducks at the Bell Weir.