A brief detour to Stonehenge

Trip Start May 27, 2009
Trip End Jun 17, 2009

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Thursday, June 18, 2009

Because today is the summer solstice and only a few minutes of daylight remain on this, the longest day of the year in the western hemisphere, I want to take you on a slight detour to Stonehenge before we wend our way to our B&B, the Wooden Cabbage.

First of all, let me say that it is refreshing when travelling to look out a car window and see the mystifying arches of Stonehenge rather than the golden arches of McDonald's. The Salisbury plain, located in central southern England, is 300 square miles of mostly grasslands. I was treated to the unexpected vision of those famous pillars rising out of the landscape about 80 miles south of London.

Claire and I were pressed for time on our way to Dorset County due to the massive traffic jams in the city and the wacko signage around Heathrow Airport where the theory seems to be that you can never have too many arrows.

Tired and hungry, we decided to save the world heritage site for our way back to the city. Damian would be with us by then, and our little trio could stroll together amongst the ancient rocks at our leisure. Besides, when I phoned our B&B hostess to give her a progress report, she said she was readying our gin and tonics. Stonehenge could wait.

We would live to regret that decision.

The following Sunday, after four days of pubs and pheasants, hedgerows and author haunts (we went to Agatha Christie's house and pubs frequented by Thomas Hardy), Claire eased the car off the highway at the Stonehenge exit.

Signs warning drivers to expect traffic jams the following weekend were posted everywhere. On the evening before the solstice, some 35,000 Druids, pagans, goddess worshippers, and partyers were expected to gather at this holy-to-them site to wait for the June 21 sunrise.

Today, though, only about 35 people strolled under the arches. We wriggled in our seats as we anticipated joining them when we saw this sign: Stonehenge is closed.

Damian spoke to the guard at the gate but it was the Tower of London all over again. No entry. We walked along the chain link fence that lines the road and measured our chances of climbing it when the guard wasn't looking. Minimal.

We were disappointed, but we had to laugh at ourselves. A group of teenage boys, also shut out, had piled into a pyramid that was taller than the fence for a photo with the distant monument in the background. We settled for this Druid-free (and teenage-boy-free) mother-daughter shot which Damian took.

"Honey," I said. "We'll always have Stonehenge."

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