Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Thoughts on Adventure - Installment 7

Day 8 (Tues)
Lacock village, Bath - Aquae Sulis-Minerva, STONEHENGE

I reinjured my ankle again - probably just from all the walking.  So... not auspicious beginnings.  It was overcast & drizzly throughout the morning as I piled into a bus with 58 others & headed west out of London & into the *stunningly beautiful* English countryside.  Rolling green meadows bordered by low stone fences & hedges, absolutely everything is green/blooming.  

Lacock is an English Heritage village of less than 1000 - all the jobs are related to the heritage site (like Colonial Williamsburg probably).  We were there for 30 minutes.  I didn't walk through because of the ankle.  Got some soup instead & was the last back on the bus.  (Of course)

Bath - or Aquae Sulis-Minerva as the Romans called it - was amazing.  The site was worshiped by the Celts etc. long before the Romans horned in on the action at the natural mineral hot springs (only one in England).  Celtic goddess of healing Sulis was the original star of the show, the Romans added in their goddess of wisdom/healing Minerva & built a massive spa around the formerly open-air spring... and the rest is history.  I found it really interesting, and the architecture of the city is just beautiful.  I wouldn't mind staying a day or two there just to explore.

Bath Abbey
Bath - gallery above the pool

Bath - park by the river
 Then the (decent) meal at the Stonehenge Inn (a selection of roasted meats, veg & apple-rhubarb crumble for pudding/dessert) that we had to eat a lot quicker than my stomach likes... and we were off again to...

Things to know:  1.  It's a world heritage site.  2.  You are not allowed to touch the stones, pick the grass or flowers, pickup dirt or rocks or pebbles...  and there are security personnel around to make sure you stick to the rules.   That said... it was AMAZING!!!
The stone circle is somewhat smaller than you might think, but the stones tower over you & are massive.  There are ravens guarding the site, squawking and sometimes diving at people... as if to ward them off.  
The air reeks of sheep dung (yep, hundreds of them grazing nearby).
There are +200 burial mounds/barrows in the immediate area.

Cursus Barrows in the distance
There is a pervasive feeling of something ancient, something powerful, something... present and aware...  and beyond comprehension.  Magic?  Otherworldly?  You decide.
I was stunned - overwhelmed - & grateful that I was able to fulfill this dream.  
Tears may have been involved.

The Circle

Standing with the Standing Stones

Thoughts on Adventure - Installment 6

Day 7 (Monday)
Uxbridge - Battle of Britain Bunker
Took the subway/train to Uxbridge - 40 min. ride.  I could get used to this!  Had my map w/ the walking trail/path shown.  Then I got off the train & this little town has more twisty roads/lanes than last year's Christmas lights.  I couldn't get oriented & couldn't find the buses...  so took a taxi & was so glad I did.  I would never have made it there if I hadn't.

Sixty very steep steps underground, this is the site from which the Battle of Britain was coordinated.  With Churchill sometimes in the phone room above, the women RAF would move pieces around on the map table below, showing the exact location of the air squadrons.  The wall behind the table showed all air squadrons available, and their current status.  State of the art in its day, primitive to us now; this simple technology/system defeated an enemy that was thought initially to be far superior.

Seeing the places, actually being there where the action took place, has made a huge difference for me.  I may have known what happened, but this experience has really deepened my understanding of events.

No 11 Group "Battle of Britain" bunker

Entrance - Flag, monument & Spitfire


Map table
Phone bank

Thoughts on Adventure - Installment 5

Day 6 (Sunday) - Blitzwalk tour "Thames on Fire"
The weather was supposed to be cold & rainy.  I wore layers of clothes & a scarf & my rain jacket.  Within 30 minutes I was sweating like a pig.  UGH.  Took the bus to Piccadilly Circus.  This is the area with all the theaters.  It was early in the morning, but I passed several well known actors whose names I cannot remember. Walked 30 minutes before I came upon the place to meet for the Blitz walk tour.  It was a long way, but I found several places that were on my list, including the church of St Martin In The Fields - the bells were ringing to call parishioners to service... it was lovely!
St Martin in the Fields
The BlitzWalk tour included the St Clement Danes church, which is dedicated to the RAF & all things air force.  This did not actually happen until after the war.  The church was almost completely destroyed during the Blitz bombing & the exterior still has the deeply embedded scars from the bombs.  When they rebuilt, they commissioned the church for the RAF.  To give you an example, my hand fits completely inside some of the bombing scars.
St Clement Danes - RAF church

St Clement Danes - bomb damage
St Clement Danes - bomb damage
We walked for nearly 3hrs, back & forth from the Strand to the River, up & down stairs & along very narrow alleyways, looking at buildings that had been destroyed completely & either simply removed or rebuilt in a modern style.  I learned a tremendous amount of history, and saw things I had not really thought about seeing:  St Paul's Cathedral (and the Firemen's Memorial), the pretty glass buildings across the river - The Shard, The Gherkin, The Wedge - Tower Bridge & The Tower of London.  
** The Church below has some interesting history.  St Dunstan in the East Church Garden. This church was originally built in 1631 but severely damaged in the Great Fire of 1666. Rather than being rebuilt, the church was repaired and a spire added to the design of Sir Christopher Wren in 1695-1701. The church was destroyed on the night of 10/11 May 1941 and rather than rebuild the church, it was decided to retain the ruins as a garden.**  As soon as we turned the corner to the interior, this place felt peaceful, for all its rather violent past.

St Dunstan in the East Church Garden
St Dunstan in the East Church Garden

St Dunstan in the East Church Garden

Across the Thames
St Paul's Cathedral