Sunday, November 14, 2010

Three World Heritage Sites... one day!

  I hopped on a bus this morning at Victoria Coach Station and headed out on an all day excursion to Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath. It was a long and absolutely amazing day.
  Windsor Castle, as one would expect, was indescribable. The royal family has lived there for 900 years. I can barely wrap my head around that. I got a few good pictures of the exterior, but to my extreme dismay, NO pictures were allowed in the interior. It's a shame, because it was beautiful in there. Endless, huge rooms, beyond elaborate. Suits of armor. Frescoes. Collections of swords and old musketts. Staterooms and dining halls. The luxuriousness of it all was something you would have to see to believe.
  In the lower end of the castle grounds was St. George's Chapel, where Henry VIII (among many other monarchs and Royal notables) is buried. I love these old churches, and England is littered with them. Towering spires, stained glass, ornate woodwork. The sense of history, glory and devotion you get within their walls never fails to inspire. Again, no pictures. Windsor Castle, on the whole, while a feast for the eyes, was just about a bust on the photography front.
  Here are a couple of shots I found online; first of one of the staterooms, and then a couple of the inside of St. George's. I'll be running some of my own pics, of course, on The Shot (link on the right) over the next few days.

  My second stop, though, Stonehenge, was much more forgiving. You know, I've seen a lot of famous monuments and buildings in my travels, and somehow, for some strange reason, this one really didn't resonate with me like I thought it would. I mean, it was impressive, and it was a site I had wanted to see since I was a kid. I just didn't get that leap in my heart that I sometimes get when I see something in person. I can say definitively that seeing the Statue of Liberty, the White House, the Moai of Easter Island, and the snowy peak of Kilimanjaro were far more affecting.
  By no means, though, did that detract from the experience. I took many pictures from all lengths and angles and marveled at the age of what I was looking at. People put those bluestones up around 2400 BC. How many people had since trod the ground I was standing on? And to what purpose? Incredible to imagine.
  I have a custom of taking a stone from the ground of famous places I visit (especially mountains I climb), but there were no stones to be had on the grassy plains of Salisbury. I tried to fit one of the 50-ton slabs into my jacket pocket, but I was stopped by an overreactionary guide. I settled for a clump of dirt instead.
  Then it was time to visit the city of Bath. I want to say that I fell in love with this place, but I'll feel like a broken record. I'm always falling in love with everything around here. This country is a feast for the heart.
  Bath has a population of about 86,000, and all the buildings in it are cut from the same golden Bath Stone. This gives the town an amazing "glow" as the sun bounces off the facades.
  Our coach came into Bath from high atop an opposing hill, giving us the most beautiful view of the entire city, which builds from the valley floor and then up into the hills on both sides. It was impossible to take pictures, and I was dying for them to pull over somehow, so I could run to the edge of the road and snap a few shots. Suffice it to say, my shutter/trigger finger was frustrated a LOT during the day.
  We drove through a good portion of the city before stopping at the Bath museum, where the Great Roman Bath was located. Passing many incredible views, I felt like a hyperactive puppy trying to jump out of his seat. I got my chance once we stopped. We only had an hour and a half (all of our stops were too short) and so I pressed ahead of the queue and made my way through the exhibits at a pretty quick pace.
  The Great Roman Bath itself was impressive, and the system of pipes and irrigation was a serious piece of engineering. As soon as I had taken it all in, I fled my tour group and walked into the city in a random direction.
  I could only cover so much ground in the roughly forty-five minutes I had, but I saw some great sites. Winding streets banked with those wonderful golden stone buildings, more giant churches, enormous stone bridges over cascading rivers, charming old-world houses, and a hidden park full of fall colors.
  I made it back to the coach with about five minutes to spare, and as we climbed up the hills out of the city, a blood-fire sunset burned up the skies behind us. Again, there was no way to capture it from the bus, but it was beautiful seeing the entire valley coated in those colors as all the lights of the city twinkled on like stars.
  Not only were these three sites amazing, but I have to say just how stunning the English countryside is, too. Vast green, rolling hills, roads bordered with thick-trunked oak trees, rivers and creeks gently sweeping, quaint villages. Absolutely incredible views. I'd love to live there someday, or at least have a second home or something.

  Ah, dreams.


  1. Your pics of Windsor Castle remind me of Versaille.

  2. Hmm, never been there- hopefully soon!