Trains, Trains, & Stonehenge

Wednesday, October 08, 2014








On Saturday I decided I wanted to go on another adventure - but to where?  Since I hadn't planned out anything I didn't want to go to a city and end up missing everything that I would actually want to see.  Thus I decided to make the trip to Stonehenge which is only a few hours away...at least it is supposed to be.

The day started off with my first 'English weather' experience.  The rain here is fine and gentle to where you can barely feel it on your skin, yet if you are out too long you will start to feel drenched.  I leisurely went to the local train station and bought my ticket to Salisbury with a change of train in Basingstoke.   I asked a worker which platform to go to and he told me to get on the 11:40 train out of platform two.  There was only fifteen minutes before the train was to take off so I hopped on and settled in for my day of sightseeing.

Little did I know at the time but I had actually gotten on the wrong train.  The train I wanted was pulling in behind the train I was on currently and they were leaving within minutes of each other.  But since I was so early and didn't know how to read the train signs properly I hopped on.  Needless to say after forty five minutes I began to get suspicious and within five minutes the intercom said that we were soon to be arriving at our final destination of Bedwyn.  Bedwyn was west while Basingstoke was south - I went the complete wrong direction.  I got off the train and happened to pass by the conductor and asked him where I was to go and what to do.  He was very very kind and even looked it up on his smart phone for me.  It turns out, I just had to turn around and go back to Reading and start over.  Along the way there was quite a few sheep pastures and I think they were all pretty cute.
Once I got back to the station I went to a shop to get a baguette sandwich - sandwiches in the UK pretty much only come on white bread or baguettes - and a hot chocolate.  And needless to say I needed that hot deliciousness on a cold day like that and ever since I have been craving a hot chocolate every day.

Within minutes of arriving back at platform two I realized my mistake - the board had updated to tell us to move to the front train only and I made sure to ask a worker before getting on.  From there it was only a twenty-five minute ride to Basingstoke and then another hour or so to Salisbury. Basically... I spent over three and a half hours to get to Salisbury when it should have only taken an hour and a half. But oh well...

Once there I got on my handy dandy smart phone with Google map app! I asked it to tell me how to get to Stonehenge.  After about twenty minutes of me awkwardly moving back and fourth along the space of a block infront of the train station trying to figure out where exactly to get onto the STB bus, I finally realize that it is telling me to get a ticket for the Stonehenge Tour Bus.  Apparently there is no other way to get out there.  After buying my ticket (semi expensive) with admission to both Stonehenge and Old Sarum I set out on the tour.  The Salisbury Cathedral has one of Europe's tallest spires as well as holds one of the four remaining parts of the Magna Carta - a document signed by King John in 1215 which is one of the most influential political documents of the time.  In the United Kingdom there is no constitution.  If you want to find information about a law you need to go and look for it.  The Magna Carta is where some of these laws are. (Yes, I did just learn this today in my Society and Culture class).  As well as that fun fact, Salisbury was a large manufacturing town during the war but it was never bombed because the Cathedral's spire was a landmark for alpines.

It took around thirty five minutes to get to the Stonehenge visitors center - a very pretty building I might add.  Around Stonehenge itself there are many many burial mounds.  The tour bus audio guide said that this is one of the most renowned sites for burial mounds because it has all seven different types of mounds in one place.  Given the opportunity to walk to Stonehenge through all the burial mounds instead of taking the seven minute trolley - I decided that there was no freaking way I would actually walk through basically a graveyard willingly (those of you who have taken me through a graveyard without my previous knowledge know my feelings towards them).

Once I arrived to Stonehenge it is beautiful.  In many of the guidebooks I have read they tell you that most people are disappointed by the size - the rocks are still 21 feet tall!  I think many of them state this because you think that Stonehenge is spaced out more than it actually is.  You also aren't allowed off the path and the path only reaches about 10 yards at the closest distance from the rocks.  The free walkie-talkie audio guide I was given said that the reason for this is because up until the 1970's people were allowed within the rings and there was vandalism.  Due to the high number of visitors to the site each year if people were still allowed near the monument it would increase the erosion in the area which could eventually make the rocks unstable.  Overall Stonehenge is beautiful - even on rainy days.  I would compare it to Mt. Rushmore in the way that it is a tourist attraction, man made, and worth seeing once in your life.

Since I needed to make the six o'clock bus back since it was the last bus of the day I rushed through the gift shop and back to the double-decker.  By the time we made it back into town it was roughly six thirty.  I checked with Google and Old Sarum had closed by four that day thus I didn't go see it. Luckily I knew that by the time I got back into town I would be starving and thus was looking at places to eat.  Everyone back home had told me to go to Nando's and I spotted one!  Nando's was described to me as being the UK version of Chic-Fil-A.  It turns out that it is more of a family style restaurant with a family eating at table, a group eating while catching up, and a twenty something guy birthday party at another.  I was completely alone.  Completely alone sitting at a table meant for four... Every server who came past asked if I was alright... it was a bit embarrassing.  The waitress who seated me was kind and told me about the menu since I had never been there before.  You pick you meal and what kind of sauce you would like on it - I was suggested to try medium if you don't like a lot of spice.  You then order up at the front, pay, then go get your drink from the fountain and sit down to wait for it to be delivered.  Warning!  Most of the chicken on the menu comes still on the bones.  If you are like me and can't stand eating off the bone then just ask and they'll tell you which ones you would be better suited with.  Overall very delicious and I would suggest it.

Walking back to the train station after my delicious meal spent by myself at a table wishing I had a magazine to keep me company, was a bit rough.  It took about fifteen minutes and because I didn't bring enough clothes to keep me warm, I was holding myself with my cardigan looking all sorts of pathetic in the rain (not to mention the tremendous bad hair day I was having).  The streets weren't very well lit up either but passing over the River Avon was pretty. But after the day I had I just powered through it and made it back to the station.

Between trains I had about thirty minutes to sit and wait in the cold on the platforms but other than that delay and the wait for the bus once I got back into town I thought I had a pretty swell day.  Needless to say, the cold I caught is just now starting to go away.

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