For those following the Father-Daughters 2008 Tour, we high-tailed it Sunday in the pouring rain for two hours up to Leicester (US English: "Lester") and gave my new SatNav (GPS) navigation unit a test. It insisted on taking us there via the weirdest back-roads route you can imagine, with about 200 roundabouts, but otherwise it worked pretty well and we arrived on time. In Leicester, daughter Lindsay met up with an old girl friend who now attends Leeds University and the girls socialized and went to a few museums for the afternoon. I took myself off to a sports pub and watched some golf and had a fine afternoon with a pint and the Sunday London Times. Visiting over, we drove back in the evening, bullying the SatNav unit into taking the big motorways instead of back country tracks.
Monday was a “Bank Holiday” here, corresponding with Memorial Day in the US, and we generally lazed about and visited the local mall (“The Oracle”). We had a change of plans when we found out that the only seats left for new Indiana Jones movie were in the front row. The girls did some window shopping but found nothing they just “had to have”. After the past few days "on the go" it wasn’t bad doing nothing.
Tuesday, we fired up the SatNav once again and headed for Stonehenge! The site is about an hour from Reading and the SatNav took us right there. What an impressive sight! The massive stones, their arrangement and hillside prominence, and their mysterious history combined to create a wonderful experience for us. The girls found them enchanting and, even though you can no longer walk among the stones, it’s still a very interesting and engaging place.
The surrounding countryside is also impressive, with great open vistas across the Salisbury Plain, dotted here and there with burial mounds. It’s something to think about: the construction and use of this site was going on at about the same time the Egyptians were building their pyramids, yet we know comparatively little about the builders of Stonehenge and so much about the ancient Egyptians.
After an hour we saddled up again and headed for Avebury, another stone ring site nearby. It’s much larger than Stonehenge (so large a road goes through it and there’s a little village with a pub and post office within it) but much less impressive. None of its stones are rectangular which somehow makes them less esoterically pleasing and all of them had fallen and were re-erected in 1938 by an English archaeologist. You can walk freely among the stones and touch them, but the experience was diminished by the fact that sheep are used to keep the surrounding grass "cut" and their copious poop was everywhere. We spent most of our time watching our steps rather than enjoying the stones. My advice to you, prospective tourists, is to see Stonehenge but pass on Avebury.
We agreed that we enjoyed our day among the stones. The sheer mass of them (up to 100 tons) and the amazing effort it took to transport them to their places 3,000 – 5,000 years ago fires the imagination and it’s inspiring to visit them.