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Food and travel captivate Janet Podolak, who chronicles both for The News-Herald. Get the back story of her three decades of stories here. Guest bloggers and fellow News-Herald staffers also periodically share details of their trips.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

stonehenge & salisbury england

Stonehenge was on our itinerary en route back from Southampton to London following our two-day cruise aboard the new Celebrity Solstice. We'd departed and were on the coach when we learned that we would also be visiting Salisbury Cathedral, which was especially exciting for me since I'd spent two days there in 1982 and climbed up to the spire on a tour. Then we discovered three passengers who had overslept and missed the departure, had been left behind. We'd all been informed that if we missed the 9 a.m. Friday departure, we'd have to take the train back to London. But the bus turned around to retrieve them anyway. It was annoying to learn our visits would be cut short since we had to go back, but my fellow travel writers were polite and refrained from booing and hissing them as they boarded the coach.

Salisbury was ever bit as charming as it was nearly 30 years ago. The Cathedral itself was clad in scaffolding for one of the country's endless rehabs. Built in 1220 it escaped bombing in World War 2 and its spire remains one of the tallest in Europe. Inside was as amazing as I'd remembered.

And our guide, Rosamund Forester, made it even better. She's a Blue Badge Guide member of the Institute of Tourist Guides...reassuring for writers like me who depend on having accurate information for our whirlwind visits. Forester pointed out holes behind the angel statues on the front of the cathedral. "The choir sat there and sang through the holes so villagers would think they were hearing the songs of angels," she told us. Built originally as a Catholic cathedral, it switched to Church of England (Anglican there, Episcopal here) during the reign of Henry VIII, who abolished Catholicism so he could get a divorce.

Next came a quickie visit to Stonehenge, made all the quicker with the traffic jam encountered upon our approach. Legends and theories abound for the origins of the prehistoric stone monument on the Salisbury Plain. Begun more than 5,000 years ago, it consists of stone brought from 240 miles away before the wheel had been invented. Some think it was built by aliens, and supporters of that theory and others make themselves known to today's visitors. When I was last there, a tall chain link fence surrounded the stones and no one could approach closer than 50 yards. People on my coach who visited in the '70s said back then they were able to walk among the stones and actually touch them.

Now there is a low knee-high barrier strung around Stonehenge so people can't approach the stones but are able to take photos without having the fence in view. A free audio tour is included with admission to give background, but we had less than 40 minutes for our visit so there wasn't time.
Rosamund, however, told us that discoveries about Stonehenge continue to this day and now there's a plan in the works that would assemble visitors at a visitor center a mile or so away where they'd learn about the monument. They'll then be shuttled in small groups to the stones where they could take up-close tours with a guide. English people are generally displeased with this plan, she told us. But it's similar to what's in place at Newgrange in Northern Ireland which I visited last year and wrote about for the Dec. 21, 2008 travel section. (Enter Newgrange in the blank at the top of web site and you may be able to see it)

Newgrange was a simply amazing experience I'll remember the rest of my life. It was not diminished at all by the small group controls. I think the need to preserve these ancient sites dictates that we must put in place plans to minimize human impact on them so they'll be there for people to view in millenniums hence.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That cathedral looks STUNNING. Did they say when the work on it will be done?

August 3, 2009 at 9:12 AM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating! Two very different pieces of history, both likely built with devout spiritual intensity and certainty. Thanks for taking us there.

August 8, 2009 at 1:58 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for explaining the history behind these great places. You do a wonderful job bringing history to the people just like your article about the Lake County Historical Society village move.

August 12, 2009 at 12:23 PM 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When last in the UK I was fortunate enough to find a small tour group that took only a dozen people to Stonehenge at dawn before opening and again at dusk after closing. During that very special tour, we were permitted beyond the barriers and allowed to walk amongst the stones. It was an amazing experience to be at Stonehenge at dawn with fog covering the Salisbury plain. I wonder if that is still available to do. It was pricey,but well worth the £125 each

August 15, 2009 at 7:49 PM 
Blogger Steve Green said...

Fantastic destinations.

Private tour of Stonehenge
Guided Stonehenge tour
Tour guide Stonehenge
Private day trips to Stonehenge

February 17, 2016 at 9:19 AM 

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