Sunday, August 09, 2009

The rest of the England trip... it's a rather long post

***Note: the layout of this post changes with the width of internet page or "window" you are using to view this post. I've tried, I've really tried to make it pretty, sane, orderly, and readable. I give up.***

So the Brits have this new idea, charge people VAST sums for internet access.

Blow that, I'd rather have a good meal.

So this post comes to you rather late and is a bit condensed for time and space.

Tuesday, July 28th
We got up early and made it to the Roman Museum in Canterbury where I spent some time yakking with the docent in charge of the children's activities. I got to make a Roman coin. It was a fabulous museum for children and childlike Archaeogoddesses because you get to touch EVERYTHING. There are clothes and shoes to try on and different wefts of fabric to feel and ceramics to play with and catapults to aim and fire. I am very interested in how museums present the past and ways in which they create a link between the general public and archaeology. Especially in regards to children. The various places we went were all very children friendly and had plenty of things for them to do that would interest them in the past. It was GLORIOUS! I think the museum in Canterbury was the best for kids, though. It was the most hands-on. Bath was a close second, but it was mainly for older people. But I get ahead of myself!

From Canterbury we headed over to Dover. Here we joined English Heritage, an organization that oversees numerous historical sites in England. They have special memberships for all kinds of people, including oversees nut-jobs who are only staying for a week. It gets you into places for free, you get a HUGE book about all the different sites they manage and you are contributing to maintaining historical sites. End of plug. :-)

This is what remains of the oldest Roman building in Britain, a lighthouse. It was built around 50 CE, after the Claudian invasion when Romans began traveling to and from England with greater frequency. There used to be two lighthouses on either side of the port, but only one survived. There was a massive castle also on the site, but it was closed for renovation. We also went to a small museum that held the remains of a Roman inn. The museum hadn't been updated since it opened in the 70's, at which time it was cutting edge in regards to children's activities and other stuff. The head archaeologist is still in charge of the museum and you can tell this is his site and his baby and no you are not going to take pictures if they can be used for personal gain.

From there we went on to Pevensey, to see the Roman fort within a ruined castle.Unfortunately, due to the traffic in Hastings (if only William the Conqueror had had this problem, Harold would have easily won the battle, having gotten to the battle site in Battle with PLENTY of time to spare) we got there just after it closed. It looked very lovely though. I again took some purple shots and, over the course of this vacation, discovered that sometimes my camera does this for no apparent reason. It does seem to happen when the battery begins to run low, but before the low battery light appears. Hm. ANYWAY.

We then went on to Brighton. Brighton is somewhere I'd like to see more of. Especially since Jamie Oliver has a restaurant there and we didn't discover it until AFTER we'd eaten. My husband, for whatever reason, ordered Spaghetti Bolognese. He knows he likes my bolognese best, so what was he thinking? Me, I had this duck in plum sauce over penne. *Kiss* Smashing! I have a duck breast in the freezer and I think I now know what I'm going to do with it! Walking about a bit in Brighton, we decided it was not entirely unlike San Francisco. Seaside town, tones of restaurants, happening gay scene (the parade was in a few days and the town was getting it's rainbow on, very festive, I'd have love to stayed to watch), and overall relaxed feeling.

Wednesday, July 29th
The next day we got on the road to check out the Downs. We climed Cissbury Ring, which is a ring fort now populated by cows with very large horns. The weather was gorgeous and the view was spectacular. It was the kind of place that makes one want to take up being a naturalist and sit in a field and count flowers.

We then went to
Chanctonbury. Um. Someone should have told me it was SO tall. And the walk was going to be s
o long. We didn't make it to the top. We went part of the way, and it was GORGEOUS. I mean, look at this tree!! It was also very slippery. We passed a woman who'd fallen and possibly broken her collarbone (don't worry, she was being attended by a paramedic). I actually slipped and fell myself, right next to the EMT, which, had I hurt myself, would have probably pissed him off, since he already had one injured person to remove. I carried a bit of the South Downs on my bottom for the rest of the day. Some of it is still in my coat.

We then hurried off to Bignor Roman villa, because we were now a bit late and damn it all, I was going to get to Fishbourne Palace if it killed me. Bignor is a very overlooked farm villa. Probably because you can only get to it if you have a car. Speaking of which, British roads, once you are off of the main highways, are all one lane. It gets very tricky when you meet a car going the other way, but all of the drivers were so nice about getting over or backing up (we also got over and backed up when needed) and there was much waving and smiling. We had to do this in Denmark last week as well, but there was far less smiling and waving. Cultural differences. (By the way, that photo is upside down, don't ask me why, it's complicated. It's also one of the few photos I have since the camera started acting up. It "fixed" itself by Fishbourne.)

Fishbourne was fantastic! It's HUGE! It also has a rather amusing children's section, where you learn to sort ceramics, find rim diameters and examine soil samples. Possibly not for every child, but great if you want to practice your ceramic sorting while on vacation. *grin* I also got ridiculously excited when I saw rabbits and used up the rest of my camera battery trying to get a good shot.We got to Salisbury just in time to NOT see the inside of the Cathedral.

Thursday, July 30th
We started the day with the fastest tour of the Salisbury Cathedral as one can. (Did you know that William Golding, who wrote "Lord of the Flies" lived in Salisbury? Neither did I, but then we saw the school where he taught. There was a helpful sign.) We saw the Magna Carta. My husband was really impressed once he realized what it was and got to read the translation. (Notable points in the MC: the beginning of what would become "Habeas Corpus," making unlawful imprisonment unlawful.) He was also impressed that I could read some of the original text. We then booked it up to Old Sarum, where we got a face-full of English weather. Thankfully it had mostly cleared by the time we got up to Stonehenge.

My god the crowds of people!!I have better pictures but I thought you should see the crowds. It also has the LONGEST free audio tour on the planet. It tells you wonderful things like "Stonehenge is made of stone." And "some people think ALIENS made Stonehenge." Thankfully, there are benches where you can set your butt down while you wait for the voice to say something interesting.

We were much happier tourists when we got to Avebury. Here my husband tries to avoid stepping in sheep droppings while taking a picture of one of the standing stones. As you can see, you can just walk up and touch them... the rocks. Maybe the sheep too, but they looked a bit... well... like they wouldn't put up with that kind of nonsense, let's just say. We also began stopping at other random Neolithic sites because the area around here was simply covered with them.

There was Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow and a crop circle....

Wait, whut? Crop circles aren't Neolithic!!

The mythology of crop circles was not known to my husband, obviously a part of his education that he's missed out on. I filled him in and he was amused and impressed. But not as much as I was. I've seen a real live CROP CIRCLE!! (No, I do not believe they are made by aliens, I've seen the documentary on one of the groups who have done them and I believe in highly organized groups of pranksters far more than aliens who come to earth just to leave patterns in the wheat fields.)

All in all, I think this was one of my favorite days because there were so many more things to see than I'd ever known were there. It's nice to be surprised while on a very well planned vacation.

Because of all the driving and climbing about, we didn't get to Bath until ridiculously late. But we did finally get to eat Indian food.

Friday July 31st
Took my husband to see the Roman Bath in Bath. See the obligatory Bath picture? We then drove to Chedworth Roman villa in the Cotswolds. We were running rather late because we needed to be in Cambridge at 6 and so some things got dropped. No Cirencester. No Cotswold rambling. My camera acted up once we left Bath and so there are no more pictures taken by me (but don't worry, I'll steal some off the internets). We only drove through two villages, neither of which were on the plan, but both were lovely. We decided that we will obviously come back here at some other date. We were ridiculously late to the barbeque, but thankfully there was beer and friends to make the evening fun.

Saturday, August 1st
Got to the wedding in time. It was lovely. The Anglican ceremony (meaning I had to explain to some of my Danish friends and husband that, yes, this is what a normal wedding looks like to me) took place in the 12th c. chapel at Jesus College. We were asked not to take photos during the service itself, but the bride was radiant and the groom very dashing. The bride was a Danish friend of ours (my husband met her WAY back when) and also a Byzantine scholar. Her new husband is Australian and also a Late Antique scholar and many of the guests were also Byzantine/Late Antique scholars so there was a lot of networking and discussing research, making it half wedding, half conference. Great fun for me!

Dinner and reception were held at Trinity College. First we had champagne in Neville's court, in the Wren Portico. Then we ate in the Great Hall (yes, that is a picture of Henry VIII on the wall) and drank and danced in the college bar until it closed at midnight. We then stumbled off to a dance club. I managed to keep my shoes on the entire time, but never did get to dance on a table.

Sunday August 2nd
We had a full English breakfast for brunch the next day with the wedding party and guests, but this still isn't the longest wedding I've ever been to. The wedding we went to two years ago in Israel was longer, there were more events and even tours of Israel arranged for the guests! I highly recommend being a guest at a destination wedding. They are great fun and you are more likely to get to talk to the bride and/or groom. However, planning one is a pain in the butt.

Speaking of our friends who threw the longest wedding, they now live in England and so we went and visited. They have a lovely house that they've done quite a bit of work on and it was delightful to visit and catch up. Funnily enough, of all the places we stayed while on this mad trip, they had the most comfortable bed in the quietest area and a really good shower. They're also great cooks and I got my cardamon fix for the month. Sigh, I really need to get out and buy a big bag of cardamon seeds, the ground stuff just does not cut it.

Monday August 3rd
Got up and breakfasted with our friends. Walked the town. Got in the car and waved goodbye (made a bit harder because I was frantically trying to change the GPS from "pedestrian" to "driving" before we ended up going the wrong way down a street) and drove to Stansted.

I have to say, I was not so impressed with RyanAir this time. Probably because we had real luggage. We could have fit everything in one suitcase, but because the weight limit was 15 kg per bag, we ended up taking TWO suitcases. Seems like a stupid rule. It should be a weight of 15 kg per person, not bag, so we could have used one 25 kg bag instead of two. I guess it made it easier to get the bags up stairs, but it would have been easier to have ONE bag because hotel rooms in England are TINY. Whatever. We very much enjoyed our car from Enterprise. It was a small car without much oomph, but easy to drive and the service was lovely. I forgot how friendly and chatty Brits can be.

All in all, it was a good trip. We had a lovely time and saw so much. There is plenty more to see, we'd really like to do some more walking in the countryside, and if my husband is REALLY nice to me I may plan another trip someday.


  1. The trip sounds very interesting - especially when told by you!

    (We have a wild rabbit over here in Karup if you want to take any more pictures!)

  2. It sounds like such a good time!

  3. Sigh....this would be the perfect vacation for me! I love taking vacations where I learn something, and have always wanted to explore this part of Britain.

  4. This is a great site that you have here.I have a humor blog myself and I would like to exchange links with you. Let me know if this is possible, either through email or by a comment on my site when you get the chance. Thanks. Jason

  5. I only recently discovered that the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge and remains at Avebury were both discovered by _the_ John Aubrey of "Brief Lives" fame. I'm not sure why this tidbit of knowledge tickled my imagination, but I just thought I'd share.


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