Seeing Salisbury and Stonehenge

Trip Start Aug 08, 2007
Trip End Sep 05, 2007

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

Today started out on a very somber note. We got a call on our emergency global phone in the middle of the night that Chris's aunt had passed away. The inherent risks of traveling were realized as he tried to make arrangements to make it home for her funeral. Unfortunately it was not logistically realistic. She would have loved in in Salisbury!

Yesterday we decided that today we would take a tour through a company called London Walks to the town of Salisbury and Stonehenge, which is nearby. We got up and checked out of our hotel and paid a pound for them to check our bags for the day. We met the tour guide at the ticket office at 10 am at Waterloo station as indicated in the brochure and paid about 40 pounds each for the round rip train, tour, and admission to all of the attractions. When we got on the train, however, we soon realized while looking over some of our travel documents that we had read the tickets, which were in French, for our train to Brussels that night. We thought we were leaving London at 10pm when in fact we were arriving in Brussels at 10mo Belgian time and leaving London at 6:45! Since we weren't schedule dto get back from Salisbury until 6:30, this was not going to work. After some concern and speaking with our guide, de discovered that if we broke away from the group midday to see Stonehenge on our own we would probably be able to make it back, and so we proceeded. After enjoying the views of the cows and sheep on the beautiful English countryside, we arrived in the old town of Salisbury, home of the famous Salisbury cathedral. The town is beautiful and quaint with creeks and mallards and whitewashed row houses and lots of gardens. Our tour guide took us through and explained the history, finally ending up at the famous cathedral. This is the highest cathedral spire in England and was, for a long time, the tallest in all of Europe. The church was amazing and also houses one of only four copies of the Magna Carta in the world! After seeing the church and the Magna, Chris and I proceeded to the train station to catch a guided tour bus to Stonehenge which is about 20 minutes away. In the interim we enjoyed the only meal we can afford in England- tuna sandwiches eaten while standing on a sidewalk! We learned a lot about the history and many mysteries surrounding the monument and we when able to deboard the bus and walk around the stones which are roped off and set amongst fields of sheep.
It was great! Apparently it took them over 500 years to build Stonehenge over 3,000 years ago and no on even know why it was built in the first place. We got our bus back to Salisbury just in take to take the 4:20 train back into London. Unfortunately the train ride took 10 minutes more than advertised, which put us in jeopardy of missing our train to Brussels, so we had to splurge for the cab to take us back to our hotel for our backpacks instead of taking the Tube. We made it and boarded safe and sound (with another tuna sandwich in hand!) and off we went through England, under the Channel, through part of France, and finally in to Belgium and Brussels Midi station! We took a Eurostar train which is not part of out Eurorail pass but was clean and comfy and took about 2.5 hours total. When we arrived we got a bit lost wandering to find out hostel but made it there just in time to check in before 11pm as required! We are staying at a place called the 2go4 quality hostel, one of the newest in Brussels, and it is really nice- much nicer than out London hotel. The common areas are very modern- it looks like an Ikea in here- complete with lounges with flatscreens and an internet café. We booked a Double room with a private bathroom which is basically two bunkbeds and just enough room for a person to squeeze between the wall and bunkbeds! The bathroom is at least larger then the one we had in London and it was clean and even has comfy down pillows and blankets. Linens and towels also come with the private rooms. After some relaxation on the train we got a second wind and decided to explore Brussels a little bit. The receptionist at the hostel told us that on Saturday, places stay open until 4 or 5am! Once we got out into the city, it seemed very un-populated at first. After getting a little lost again and wandering through the tiny red light district, we finally found the buzzing nightlife and tourism areas. These blocks are cobblestone, winding, pedestrian only streets lined with dozens and dozens of cafes and pubs housed in old brick and whitewashed buildings. Our hostel receptionist had recommended a pub called Delirium Pub (named after my favorite Belgian beer!) We were still a little hungry despite the two tuna sandwich today so we stopped at one of many "Kebap" joints where you can get chicken or a number of other mystery meats shaved off a giant rotating spit into a pits with cucumbers, feta, etc. There seems to be a lot of Greek and Middle Eastern influence here. The pita was delicious! From here we managed to find the Delirium Pub in a small back alley lined with Absinth Pubs and other questionable establishments. We entered a warm basement filled with smoke (although as or January Belgium outlawed indoor smoking in establishments) to find a great band specializing in American classic rock playing to an enthusiastic crowd. We met lots of new and interesting people here who spoke English pretty well and Chris got to practice his French a bit. The guitarist for the band was amazing, the best I have ever seen in person. Eventually the band stopped playing at around 2:30 and we headed out- getting lost once again on the way home- and went to bed!
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