I first visited Stonehenge on a cold Saturday morning in January. It was frosty and sunny and we were not dressed for the weather. Something that happens to Canadians when in England, we lose all common sense regarding dressing appropriately for outdoor experiences. Each morning, after undergoing inner turmoil over whether I want to burn my face or freeze my face whilst washing it in the sink (hot and cold taps are separate), I struggle to decide what to wear. Sometimes I choose a heavy sweater and freeze, sometimes I go for a wool coat and sweat. When you are accustomed to -30 degrees Celsius and snow in January, everything else seems warm... initially. We did not have mittens or hats or scarves, or even proper winter coats, that morning at Stonehenge, all of these things would have made the experience more pleasurable. What we did have, was sunshine, time, and no children to run after. My parents and I took scores of pictures, from all angles, and spent quite a while observing and marvelling at the wonder that is Stonehenge. There were tourists from all over the world, I enjoyed people watching and listening to all the different languages almost as much as I enjoyed gazing on the stones themselves and shivering to stay warm as I tried to fashion my shirt sleeves into mittens. We enjoyed hot chocolate, coffee, and pasties for lunch, followed by a leisurely visit at the Stonehenge museum, where I read EVERY SINGLE PLAQUE. One of the best things about Stonehenge is, you can read everything there is to read at the site, read the official guide book cover to cover, and still not have a clue about how or why Stonehenge exists. No one knows. It's marvellous.
The second time I visited Stonehenge, it was a blustery day in March. We piled all three children and my father-in-law into our rental van and drove the winding disappearing roads (honestly, they become barely a walking path in some places). The weather was intermittently inclement, but we had high hopes that it would remain clear when it was our "moment" to view the stones. The boys, both little and big, were excited as we took the shuttle to the site. We walked through the crowd toward the stones, pointing and explaining as best we could to the children something that cannot be explained. The winds started to pick up, I can only describe it as violently. We took a few pictures, and didn't even make it to the end of the main path when it started pelting rain, sideways. We each grabbed a child's hand, one-to-one adults to children is a wonderful thing. I looked to make sure that we were all together and couldn't spot my father-in-law for a moment. He had pretty much started running, with Mr. L, to the area with the shuttle buses. ABORT! All umbrellas in view were casualties to the wind, and the queue for the bus was growing quickly. It stopped raining while we waited, only to begin hailing a moment later. We were soaked and cold, and very much enjoyed our coffee and pasties at the café. We then explored the huts and the museum. I didn't read a single thing on a plaque and spent most of my time chasing brand new four year olds, who were feeling ALIVE and probably more than a little confused as to why we drove all that way to look at something for two minutes. Perhaps my father-in-law felt the same, he did travel 6747 km for a very fleeting glimpse at the stones. He may have travelled to England to see his grandchildren as well... maybe.
I am told by a friend, that the sixth time you visit Stonehenge, it's not so magical. Twice might be all I need to feel I have experienced the world's most famous and mystifying prehistoric monument (hint hint to future visitors). It is beautiful. The English countryside surrounding is enough to take your breath away, either that or the raging wind.
Only 8 *miles from Stonehenge, is Salisbury, home to the highest church spire in the United Kingdom, the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta, and the oldest working clock in the world. Salisbury is full of character and charm, I really enjoyed it BOTH times I visited. The first time I did more reading and learning, the second time was more about herding and shushing. One of my children replied, in his loudest possible voice, "Mom, I don't whisper," every time I asked him to do so.
Salisbury Cathedral has a very dreamy café with excellent food. This was our view overhead as we sat and ate scones with clotted cream and jam, Bakewell tarts, and doughnuts, to go along with our fresh pot of tea. This cafe is also a wonderful place to visit if one of your New Year's Resolutions was to gain some weight (whose isn't? more to love I say). It was nice to have a place to relax whilst Pépère took his time learning about and inspecting the Magna Carta. **Side thought, why are scones so awful in Canada and so lovely in England? If you order a scone from a Starbucks in Canada, they will give you a flour flavoured rock in a triangle shape. Driest thing you could ever eat. If you order a scone in England, you receive a circle shaped moist slightly sweet fluffy piece of heaven adorned with clotted cream (like the most delicious creamy butter you have ever encountered), and perfect jam. It's not even close the the same food item. What happened when scones made their immigration to North America to make them taste so different? Obviously, this is something I need to research in all my free time. Maybe write a book about it. Maybe eat a lot of British scones during the process- for research purposes.
There was a very cute French student waiting in front of me in the queue at the café at Stonehenge. I know that she was a French student because she was speaking to her professor, who was standing behind me, in fairly good French. He was answering in flawless French, and there were other students around. Every time they mentioned the wild weather or she didn't know a French word for something, she would follow by saying, "It's all part of the experience." It really is. Life is stories, and I have two amazing stories to add to my life book, chronicling my adventures at Stonehenge. Perfect weather and children are not real life, not mine anyway! The second time I visited Stonehenge, I learned, "sa partie de l'expérience." And I prefer it that way.
*England is making me do a lot of weird things, like use both miles and kilometres in my everyday speech.
**This was when the pizza arrived.
Things that happened while I wrote this post,
-I yelled at my children to stop fighting, at least 57 times, the yelling did not stop the fighting or even slow it down in anyway
-I took a break to do the school run
-I heard a loud crash and ran to the kitchen to find one of my children climbing the cupboards, evidently, the meagre snack I had provided was not enough
-I cleaned crayon off of the fireplace
-I ordered pizza for supper
-Husband came home ("thank Jebus"- is exactly what I said to him when he walked in the door)
-I cleaned up blood from a bloody nose (caused by rough-housing) off the carpet, child, and toys
-I stress ate 2 Tunnocks Milk Chocolate Caramel Wafer Biscuits
-the pizza arrived
-I ignored my family AND THE PIZZA to finish writing
I love to blog/write, but there are reasons it does not happen as much as I would like! Anyone want to borrow some beautiful (rambunctious) children?