That sums our experience up pretty well! Not to be blasphemous, but aesthetically Stonehenge is nothing special. The real “woah” factor lies in how long the stones have been there, the fact that they were carried there all the way from South Wales, and the fact that people have been fascinated by them for hundreds of years. The weather was apparently the best it’s ever been in all of ASE’s years of going there!
We walked around the Stones through the throngs of tourists (SOOO many, kinda cheapens the experience) for about an hour. We were encouraged to take tons of pictures, and we did, although I get the feeling people were not so fond of the crazy Americans laughing at the ridiculous pictures we were taking….we did get a few laughs at some points. At us, probably, not with us, but that’s fine!
After Stonehenge we went on to Salisbury, which has one of the last truly all-Gothic cathedrals. Although Bath Abbey is beautiful, I preferred Salisbury’s for the architectural style. It was in amazing condition, with a beautiful altar in the shape of a cross, pouring water down into vents with mathematical precision. It also housed the oldest clock in the world, although only the gears remained. It humbles you to stand in a place that tremendous, with vaulted ceilings so high you have to crane your neck, and think of how people hundreds of years ago made something so amazing with nowhere near the tools we have today. It made me not want to talk above a whisper and be mindful of the squeaks my hiking boots were making. Also, Salisbury Cathedral houses one of the original four copies of the Magna Carta!
The Cathedral is deceptively small from the outside view, inside there were so many prayer rooms, mini-cathedrals for special ceremonies, and amazing ceilings. It was filled with ornate carvings, vaults for burials, a museum, gift shop, and restaurant out in the courtyard.
From Salisbury we went to Lacock Abbey, founded by a widowed Countess in the early thirteenth century as a haven for nuns. But in more recent years, it was the filming location for the halls of Hogwarts—that’s right Harry Potter fans. I walked the same halls as Harry, Ron and Hermione. 95% of us at the program are English major and Harry Potter fanatics, so this was quiiiite a treat. The rest of the house was restored and beautiful of course, but the real pull was the hallways surrounding the courtyard.
The town was also the site of Lily and James Potter’s house, the location where Harry and Hermione were exploring Godric’s Hollow, and the place where Dumbledore and Harry went to recruit Slughorn from his house. The 2010 Benicio del Toro film “The Wolfman” was also filmed in Lacock. It has its perks as a filming location because it maintains thatched roofs and Swiss siding, which gives it a quaint old English village feel. We had dinner at The George Inn, second oldest pub in Britain, with the original fireplace from medieval times still intact. I sat there chowing down, wondering how many Viking-like warriors had sat in that exact same place, gnawing their teeth at a leg of lamb and guzzling tankards of ale. It makes me appreciate the history, and really enforce how young America is in comparison.
As for my classes so far, every one of my “tutors” (still sounds strange to call them that) is from Oxford University. I envision a lot of work, they don’t call it Advanced Studies in England for nothing! They all want you to call them by their first names though, they say “professor” is only a label given to extremely high up tutors who have been teaching for at least 20-ish years. They’re very easy to talk to, and not the slightest bit pretentious despite the prestigious school they’re from. They do expect a lot from you in class discussion, which is a lot more rigorous than back home. It makes me really appreciate the scholarly environment I live in right now! haha