England

Salisbury and Bath

Day Trip to Salisbury and Bath, England

After our visit to Stonehenge, we traveled just 15 minutes to Salisbury. This city has an old-world charm, with some buildings dating back to the 13th century. There’s a wide range of pubs, restaurants, and tea rooms. We ate lunch at one of the quaint pubs and had a traditional fish and chips meal which was mighty tasty!

Exploring History inside the Salisbury Cathedral

After lunch, we went to the Salisbury Cathedral. It was built using Early English Gothic architectural style, and it is one of Britain’s finest medieval cathedrals. The city added the tallest spire a generation later.

The cathedral is home to nearly 800 years of incredible history. Inside, there is the finest preservation of the Magna Carta (there are four total). It is one of the most celebrated documents in English history, and it has influenced the modern day world in different ways. There are three clauses from the document that are still in use today.

Seeing the document in person was definitely the highlight of our trip to the Salisbury Cathedral. We also saw the world’s oldest working clock, which is thought to be from 1386. The clock has no face, and was designed to strike the hours.

There’s Something in the Water in Bath

After our time in Salisbury we took the one-hour trip to Bath. Aside from many restaurants, shops, theaters, and museums, the city also houses the Roman Baths. Yes, we left Italy and went all the way to Bath to see some ancient Roman ruins! Here, the water from the springs are so hot you can see bubbles and steam. The Romans thought the bubbling water was from the gods, so they built a temple around it in 60-70 AD. They added the bathing complex over the next 300 years.

There is also a museum that holds artifacts from the Roman period, which were thrown into the spring, probably as offerings to the gods.

The actual spring water in the Roman Bathhouse is extremely unsanitary and has bacteria and parasites. The staff warned us about the filthiness of the water before we even went into the site. We did see many people touching the water to feel the temperature of it so hopefully they didn’t pick up something they didn’t want to get!

However, at the end of the museum there is a restaurant that features extremely filtered hot spring water. We didn’t eat here, but they have a water station with a bartender serving the hot spring water. We tried the warm water and it had a strong sulfur taste to it.

Drinking sulfur water. Day Trip to Salisbury and Bath, England
Mmm… sulfur

Strolling through Bath before our Departure

Afterwards, we walked around the cute city of Bath. We walked in and out of shops and found ourselves enchanted by the old buildings, music, and people strolling along for a nice day out.

Before we knew it, it was time to board the bus and head back to London.

We’re really glad we saw these two places in England. The bus tour saved us from driving on the “wrong” side of the road and it allowed us to see sites that we otherwise might not have seen.

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visiting stonehenge

The Mystery of Stonehenge

During our trip to London, we decided to use one of the days to see Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Bath. We used London Golden Tours to drive us between these sites, get our tickets into different venues, and provide us with some useful information and funny tidbits along the way. During our first stop, we were mesmerized by the mystery of Stonehenge. This famous landmark is 1.5 hours from London, and you can see it clearly from the highway. Once inside, there’s a path around the site so you can see it from all angles without getting too close.

(Spoiler alert: It wasn’t anything like European Vacation where Chevy Chase backs his car into the stones.)

A Brief History

We have to say that the main draw of Stonehenge is the mystery behind it. It’s a very unique monument and an important part of prehistoric history. Some of the stones date back to 3100 BC! It was built it several stages, demonstrating 2,000 years of continuous use. It began as a circular ditch and bank, which you can still see. The stones are large, with the heaviest weighing about 45 tons, and they come from places up to 150 miles away.

The Stories Behind Stonehenge’s Mysterious Past

The stones are carefully fitted together and leveled for alignment with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset, but its exact purpose remains a mystery . Historians know that it was used as a burial ground because they found 64 cremations and about 150 buried individuals. They’ve also found objects that accompanied the burials. These include small ceramic pieces, a stone macehead, flint tools, and bone skewer pins.

Historians say it also appears to have been a ceremonial site; a temple to mark the passing of time, seasons, and cycles of life and death.

Theorists have proposed many other ideas about Stonehenge, including that it was a place for Druid worship, a place for sun worship, a huge calendar, an astronomical computer, a center for ancestor worship, or as a cult place of healing.

The Mystery of Stonehenge depiction
A painting showing what Stonehenge would have looked like

Historians and visitors alike also question how ancient people managed to carry these huge stones from so far away. Plus, how were they able to build this amazing structure using only primitive tools?

The mystery remains at Stonehenge, but it will never fail to impress!

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first trip to london

Things to Do Your First Time in London

Although he’s been there twice, Jon was more than willing to come back to London so I could visit. What a fun city, steeped in a rich history! The architecture in London is amazing, and even as the modern buildings try to take over, we don’t think it will ever lose that old school charm. Even though we’ve seen our share of history, the history in London is more relatable to us. Here, there is really no shortage of sites to see and activities to try out. But, I think we chose well and found the perfect things to do our first time in London!

Bike Tour of London

We looked to Fat Tire Bike Tours to give us an overview of the major sites. Our four-hour bike tour took our small group to famous sites such as Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, and Princess Diana’s memorial.

We rode through all four royal parks and heard anecdotes about each place from our guide, David. These stories included the numerous break-ins to Buckingham Palace, an arrogant but successful general (Wellington), the city’s reaction to Diana’s memorial (they didn’t like it and thought it was too plain), and people jumping into the fountains at Trafalgar Square after Spain won the World Cup in 2010.

Honestly, this was a great thing to do our first time in London, because it introduced us to the sites and the history all at once! Plus, we got some exercise – win, win, win!

Jack the Ripper Tour

That night, we went on a Jack the Ripper tour. Our guide brought this mysterious crime to life and led us to the actual places where the Ripper victims were killed or found.

It was very eerie to know that 124 years ago, in the then-impoverished area of Whitechapel, with no lights down these streets and alleys, these gruesome murders were committed. Our guide also carried with him something they call “Ripper Vision” which is a handheld projector. Through this, we were able to see the actual shocking photos of the victims, letters sent from the Ripper, and sketches and headlines from the newspapers of that time.

Very creepy stuff, but a great tour!

Our hotel was right across from Parliament and Big Ben so we walked across the Westminster Bridge over the Thames River quite a few times.

Tower of London and the Crown Jewels

One day, we walked along the water all the way down to the Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. This castle, first built in 1066, was used for different purposes, including a palace, a fortress, and a prison. Throughout time, different monarchs added to the fortifications of the tower, making it almost like a small village.

We were also able to see the Crown Jewels. This included a number of magnificent items such as crowns, scepters, orbs, rings, swords, spurs, bracelets, and robes. The Imperial State Crown alone had 2,868 diamonds, 273 pearls, 17 sapphires, 11 emeralds, and 5 rubies on it.

One scepter had a 563 carat diamond on it! Yikes!

Guarding the jewels. London
Guarding the jewels!

Eating and Strolling

Besides touring the sites, we ate at a few of the many pubs in London. We thoroughly enjoyed all of the food on the menus of these fine establishments! Usually, we’d find fish and chips, banger, beans, mash, hamburgers, many lunch pies, and a ton of British beer. Yum!

Final (Important!) Reflections

One observation about the city was that at almost every intersection “look left” and “look right” were painted on streets. I guess the city has had a lot of close calls with non U.K. members looking the wrong way. I can’t say that we always looked the right way when crossing (or was it left?).

Overall, our first time in London was a fantastic experience, and we really enjoyed the city. It’s easy to get around, there’s no language barrier, and there’s so much to do!

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