A Mad Max Tour of the English Countryside
Every year we're always asked, "Do you travel with an organized tour or are you independent travelers?" We're independent travelers. We create our own itinerary and figure out the most economic and convenient way to get from place to place. But today we did something different. We spent the day with 16 other people in a mini bus touring the English countryside with Mad Max Tours.
There was an air of excitement in the bus as we approached our first stop: Stonehenge. "I can't believe it. We're actually here! Get excited everyone!" a tourist from Hawaii joyfully proclaimed. I have actually been there in the 70's when my mother and I were able to pose with the stones, but today to protect them from erosion, you can only walk around the perimeter of the 5,000 year old circle. Stonehenge is easily one of the most recognizable sights in the world. As we walked the grassy perimeter we noticed a woman meditating with bells to feel the energy from the ancient stones. "Step into England's story," said the sign and I felt as if we truly did.
The old postcard below we found in the gift shop shows when people could touch the stones.
As we drove on down through the winding hedgerows, our guide Charles pointed out two white horses carved into the land on separate hills. These horses were created several hundred years ago by scraping away the land to reveal the chalky soil below. It's amazing they are still there, but we found out that the owner of the land for each horse throws a party every five years and the guests help to restore the horses.
The village of Avebury has a stone circle dated over 5,000 years old. Standing in the grassy field looking at the stones, we wondered as do all archaeologists, why it exists. This site is still an archaeological dig where you can see archaeologists at work. The stones themselves which had toppled over time, were placed back erect in the 1930s. What's truly amazing is the circumference is 1 mile wide.
On the way out, Charles pointed out Silbury Hill. It is a 130 foot high pyramid built 4,000 years ago and covered with earth. It is the biggest man-made prehistoric object in Europe and once again, no one knows why it was created.
Lunch was at The George Inn in Lacock. It is the oldest pub in England. Our guide kindly called ahead everyone's order and our fish and chips was delicious. It was crispy and flaky and as usual was served with peas. Little has changed in this village in 100 years except for the addition of cars. Walking around town, Charles pointed out numerous Harry Potter filming sites which got all the Harry Potter enthusiasts excitedly shooting photos and sharing memories of favorite scenes.
Castle Combe has only one Main Street winding through the village, but some say it is the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds. Dr. Dolittle and War Horse were both filmed here, but the only evidence of this town being used as a film set are photos hung in the church.
In the evening we toured the highlight of any trip to Bath: the Roman Baths. Built during the first century, the baths here in town were considered the best during the Roman Empire. People came to bathe, relax, and for spiritual reasons. Often people bathed daily. The water which comes from underground springs is naturallynheated to over 40 C and full of minerals. There were rooms for the ladies and rooms for the men. There was even an exercise room, steam room, all followed by the cold plunge. Because it was night, the largest pool was ringed with torches which gave the place an amazing ambiance. Many people sat on the edge of the pool just relaxing in thentorch light. I decided to do this too and it was great until it was time to stand back up. With very uneven cobblestones and nothing to hold on to, I had visions of toppling into the steaming hot pool with a splash, but fortunately got away safely. The museum was enhanced by technology with life size people in costume appearing in videos on the walls. Bath is a place we want to return to again. We head for France tomorrow.