On Thursday, my fiance and I headed down to the more southern parts of England to visit Stonehenge and two medieval cities, Winchester and Salisbury, with a bit of camping in between. Stonehenge was first as it was on our way. I can’t tell you how impressive it is in person. Making the turn off the highway, it appears suddenly on a hill and is simply awe-inspiring. It’s even more so up close. You can’t touch the stones, but they do let you get closer to them than I’d expected.
Afterwards, we were off to the camp site, to set up our new tent. We had a lot of trouble with our tent and ended up with four people helping us put it up. The poles that came were a bit too long and for some reason the straps were not adjustable. Keith knew it was too good to be true, as he got it on sale. We made it work in the end and we have better ideas on what to do next time.
The next day, it was out to Winchester. Jane Austen’s house was fairly near Winchester, but not close enough for us to do everything we could in the city and go out there, so we didn’t. We did visit Winchester Cathedral, where she is buried, and the house in which she died.
Winchester was the Anglo-Saxon capital of England, so there were many memorials to Alfred the Great scattered about, including this Victorian statue, and the place where his bones may rest. No one knows what actually happened to Alfred’s bones, or those of his wife and son, which were moved at least three times. His grave was looted after Henry VIII’s break with the Catholic church and his bones were either scattered or re-discovered in the 18th century. The bones that were discovered by an amateur archaeologist were buried here, in St. Bartholomew’s Church, in a simple grave marked with a cross.
Yesterday, we went to Old Sarum and Salisbury. I’m not sure if any of you have read Sarum by Edward Rutherfurd, but these are the places that he mentioned. The castle is unfortunately in ruins now; in the 18th century, again, the king gave permission for it to be demolished and its stones used as building materials. All that remains is an outline and the rubble that occupied the interior of the walls. And in Salisbury, the best part was definitely the cathedral. It’s a miracle this cathedral is still standing; it has only four feet of foundation, the pillars have bent over from the weight of the tower, and the whole thing sits on a bed of wet gravel. They assume the wet gravel is holding the cathedral and check every day to make sure there’s still enough water beneath it. I’m not sure what they’d do if there wasn’t.
While there, I continued reading The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It’s taking me forever to read this book thanks to being away, but I’m completely loving it. I’m looking forward to sitting down with it and finishing it tomorrow – only to wait until next year for the sequel, and probably 2010 for the third installment! I can tell I’ll be revisiting this book before the rest of the series is out.
Of course, I managed to acquire a few books in Winchester and Salisbury; the camp site had a small shelf of books for 50p each, where I acquired The End of Mr. Y. There was also a sale on in Winchester to support the Deanery associated with the cathedral, so I picked up three more books there, and my fiance bought me Azincourt, Bernard Cornwell’s newest book, as a gift.
How was your weekend?