31 July 1999
Six o'clock in the morning, and a rush through the shower, we carried our bags downstairs and had a quick breakfast.
The Magical Mini Coach from Astral Travel picked us up at 7:30am, for the "Stones and Bones" tour. David, the driver, is a long-haired spacey Brit, and seems to fit the intended flavour of the tour. He quietly told us of a fresh crop circle out toward Avebury, and he would tell our other driver about it.
After picking up other passengers about London, we met the other bus at Earls Court. Jody, our driver to Salisbury and Stonehenge, took us on the scenic 90-minute drive west to Salisbury, through villages and farmland.
There in the quiet green valley stands the tallest spire in all of England, crowning the Salisbury Cathedral. It is a beautiful and ancient structure, built in the 13th century, to replace its predecessor at Old Sarum.
We had almost 2 hours inside the cathedral, where we took a guided tour. Inside was artwork, memorials and sepulchres from the early days of England - the days of the crusaders. The stonework was beautiful and light.
Once through the cathedral proper, we went to the attached Chapter House, where there is on display an original copy of the Magna Carta. There were originally a dozen or so drawn up and signed, and dispersed to the corners of the realm. This was one of those originals!
From Salisbury it was a short bus ride to Old Sarum, now piles of stone rubble atop a high hill. It was awesome to feel, smell, and see the history of the site all around. Filling in the picture was an old Faire, where re-enactors had set camp in old-style English tents, and were dressed in period clothes, selling period wares.
The driver took us to lunch at a pub in a small town. Laura and Dad had fish and chips. We sat with two architectural students from Venezuela. The heat was oppressive again, and there is not much air conditioning in England.
From the pub we drove straight on to Stonehenge. The tour included admittance into the larger fenced area, but no one is allowed inside the "inner circle" except by special permit. After slowly walking around on the paths and marveling at the henge, we stopped in at the gift shop and picked up a few items.
On the trip from Stonehenge to Avebury, our driver showed us several large chalk drawings on the surrounding hills. These were hundreds of feet in size, and were carved into the hillside down to the white chalk, to expose the "drawing" in contrast with the green surroundings.
Suddenly at Avebury, our driver had a nice surprise for us. A fresh crop circle, just up the hill from town. Much larger and fresher than the one that David, our first driver, had spoken of. We walked up to it, through the standing grain and were suddenly in the middle of it. Grain flattened in surprisingly symmetric patterns.
Within the circle were two other couples, and an older woman who proceeded to explain the whole thing to us. She hails from Ireland, and is a member of the Order of Isis. She and another visitor, an artist, spouted much about the earth-mother and other pagan themes, conjecturing "why always corn?"
After returning to the Cardiff, we checked in with Carol at the desk, and then went to the Dickens Pub for a BLT and Meat Pie. After gathering our bags, we went one last time to Paddington Station, for our trip to the Comfort Inn near Heathrow Airport. It was very nicely appointed, but had no air conditioning. Because we were on the first floor, we didn't dare open our windows, and slept poorly because of the heat.