> SlowTrav > Stories > Pauline's Pages > 2005, England

Spring 2005 - Southern England - One Week in Salisbury, part 1

April 29 - May 29, 2005: Four weeks in England

We spent our first week in Salisbury, Wiltshire. This page covers the first half of that week.

Sunday May 1, The Day of Jetlag

Weather: Sunny and very warm. We wore short sleeved t-shirts. By evening it had cooled and we needed jackets.

The first weekend in May is a bank holiday weekend in England and was the first weekend of summer weather - a great time to arrive. On our first night in England, we slept over 12 hours. Saturday night we went to bed around 11pm, but I did not get up on Sunday until 11am and Steve slept until past noon. It was that type of tired that you only get from jetlag, when your body thinks it is the middle of the night, but your mind is saying it is time to get up. We finally forced ourselves awake, had showers, made breakfast and then headed out around 1pm.

Salisbury and Old Sarum (Pathfinder), 5.5 miles, 2.5 hours

The day was beautiful, warm and sunny. We did a nice hike that was listed in the tourist information we got the day before. We walked north along the River Avon for about an hour to Stratford Sub Avon and then up to Old Sarum, the original Roman and Medieval settlement of Salisbury. The path along the river is flat and you are out in the countryside after about 15 minutes. There were lots of people and dogs out on this beautiful Sunday, even a couple of kids swimming in the river.

View back along the trail with the fields of rapeseed and Salisbury Cathedral in the distance

View back along the trail with the fields of rapeseed and Salisbury Cathedral in the distance

Old Sarum is an English Heritage site, so you pay to get in and we had to pay more than usual because it was a special events day (5.50 per person). The special event was a demonstration of combat by knights on horses and a few other "life" demonstrations - not very interesting. The location of Old Sarum is its best feature; on top of a hill overlooking Salisbury. The original Salisbury Cathedral, built in the 1000s, is at Old Sarum and you can stand there are look down at the "new" cathedral, built in the 1200s. There is not much left of the buildings at Old Sarum, but you can walk around a few of the remains. The original ditch, that was a moat surrounding the castle, is clearly visible.

We walked back to town hoping to make it to Waitrose to pick up some prepared meals for dinner, but we arrived at 4:30pm and they closed at 4pm (on Sundays). So we went for a coffee at Starbucks (tall Americano, 1.59, about $3.00). All the shops were closed by 5pm; even the Starbucks closed then.

We walked around downtown, located the cinema and were thrilled to find that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opened this weekend (the same opening date as in the US). The cinema is just a block from our apartment.

We went out for dinner at a nice Indian restaurant (Asia Restaurant, Fisherton Street, 30 for dinner for two, appetizer, 2 entrees, 2 sides, beer, water), then walked back towards the Cathedral and home.

Monday May 2, Lunch and Salisbury Cathedral

Weather: Sunny and warm, with an hour of light showers. Today was a Bank Holiday.

The alarm went at 9am, but it was hard to drag ourselves out of bed. Jetlag. We got up, had some breakfast and then headed out to Waitrose again to get a few things for dinner. Since it is a Bank Holiday, the shops would be closing early. The coffee maker in the apartment is not good (all the other appliances are great), so we had a coffee at the Waitrose cafeteria. The coffee there is very good. It is a 15 minute walk each way to the Waitrose. There is a Tesco and a Sainsbury right in town, just off the Market Square, but the Waitrose is further up the river.

We met John and Lin at Harpers (www.harpersrestaurant.co.uk) on the Market Square. Originally we were going to meet at Polly's Tea Rooms, but we went there on Saturday and the lunch menu was very limited. We had a lovely lunch at Harpers - everyone had soup and the salmon. I had the soup and a nice vegetarian dish of a leek pie and savoy cabbage. John ("rnrman" on the board) is a new member on the board and is not an Italy traveler, but is a US traveler! He lives in England and writes about traveling in the US Southwest, while I live in the US Southwest and write about traveling in England!! John's website is www.canyontocanyon.com. We had a nice long chat over lunch, then all walked down to the Salisbury Cathedral. John and Lin headed home (they live south of Salisbury); Steve and I went into the Cathedral.

Salisbury Cathedral

The Salisbury Cathedral was originally located on Old Sarum (built in the 1000s), but was built in the current location in the 1200s. The spire was built a generation later and is the tallest in England; you can see the spire from miles away. The Cathedral is massive. It is surrounded by large lawns and trees which give the Cathedral the space that is needed to really see it. The outside is covered in many stone carvings. Inside it seems very long and narrow, with very high ceilings.

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

We went into the Cathedral (4 donation per person) and looked at the old tombs (a crusader from the 1200s, the Mompesson Tomb - Sir Richard and wife Katherine, died in the 1600s). The stalls in the center of the cathedral were built in the 1200s and have beautiful carvings of angels and animals. They also have a special type of seat, called a "misericord", which allows someone to look as if they are standing, but they are really leaning back on a small seat. These pull down to be the regular seats.

Just as impressive as the Cathedral is the Chapter House, built in the late 1200s. It is a round chapel and has a row of stone carvings around the chapel, about 15 feet above floor level, below the windows. There are 56 carvings showing Bible stories from Genesis and some from Exodus. There is a person in the room who can answer your questions and she gave us a list to use to look at these carvings, so we were able to walk around the room and look at each carving in order to "read" the stories.

The Cloisters, just outside the Chapter House, are hauntingly beautiful. These were also built in the 1200s and enclose a small graveyard.

We stopped in the gift shop (a Salisbury tea towel for Colleen and replica Elizabethan lace dollies for Nancy, plus magnets of all the Kings/Queens of England for me) and then had tea in the cafeteria.

Back to the apartment, which is very conveniently located in the very center of town, and then out to a 6:00pm movie. We were very excited about the new "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" movie - but it was not very good. They took a brilliant script (originally a BBC radio play, written by Douglas Adams, who died recently) and either mumbled the best lines or changed the best parts. They turned it into a love story. Pretty disappointing. Cost of movie ticket: 6.80 per person.

Dinner at home; prepared meals from Waitrose again (okay, we are eating too many of these). Then we watched the TV program "Ask Tony Blair". There were elections coming up that week (Blair won). I spent an hour on the message board instead of working on my photos and posting to my blog (I always miss reading the board if I have been away from it for a few days).

We love Salisbury! I think both of us would happily move here tomorrow. It is a lovely town, there are lots of walking trails right from town, good restaurants, a couple of good bookshops. The River Avon that runs through the town is beautiful. As we walked along today, someone pointed out to us a duck building his nest right in the middle of the river (he had built it there last year too and it got washed away). The trees along the river are filled with birds. Many things are in bloom now. As we walk the streets around the Cathedral, the apple blossoms fall down like confetti. Everything is peaceful and beautiful.

Tuesday May 3, Picked Up Our Rental Car, Drove to Shaftesbury

Weather: Overcast, cold (needed a jacket) and a bit of rain. It was sunny only for 10 minutes right when we were leaving the apartment and I decided I did not need a jacket (bad decision).

Today we picked up our rental car. We walked to the Europcar Office (about 20 minutes walk). We would have missed the office, because we did not know it was at the train station and the sign was very small, but luckily I stopped a guy on the street to ask him and he pointed behind us. We had walked right by it.

They did not have the car we had reserved. Steve started to launch into the Seinfeld bit about "Obviously you don't know what a reservation is ." but then thought better of it. They offered us a "people mover," a HUGE minivan type of car. No way. It was the only automatic they had. We decided to take a smaller car, a Renault Megane 5-seater, standard drive. They said they would have an automatic sedan in the next day or two and would call us. I figured I would be calling AutoEurope to complain, but by the end of the working day, Europcar called and the next morning they brought a VW Passat to us and took the Renault back.

It is always an exciting moment picking up the rental car, especially in England as the driver launchs out into the traffic sitting where the passenger usually sits, but we managed. Steve figures that in the past year, he has driven more in England than at home (I always drive at home, but we don't quite trust me for driving here). We were heading for Amesbury, but we missed the turn, so we went to Shaftesbury instead (spontaneous travel? or just not wanting to do a U-turn?). We wanted a short outing to get used to the driving.

When we started out it was sunny and warm, but that lasted about 10 minutes and then I regretted not bringing my polartec jacket today (and not packing a wool sweater from home).

Day Trip to Shaftesbury in Dorset

Last September I had almost booked a vacation rental house in Shaftesbury for the two months. I would have booked it, but as we were negotiating price (the owner was offering only a 10% discount for a two month booking), the owner actually raised the price saying her website was out of date (interestingly the place had only been a vacation rental for six months, so it was most likely the prices were current and she was raising them because I was interested). I did not rent it and we ended up in the Cotswolds (where we got a good price and a dreadful cottage) for one month and then went to France for a couple of weeks.

But I was still curious about Shaftesbury, so we drove there (30 minute drive). That first 15 minutes driving in England is always a shock. The roads are narrow, cars are parked on your side of the road, facing you, so you think you are on the wrong side, you have to pull over so far to the side that the passenger (me) thinks we are about to smash into the parked cars (we did hit a few plants with our side mirror). But, we got used to it and we got to Shaftesbury, drove right into town, found the "Pay & Display" parking lot and parked.

First we went to the Tourist Office; they are always great in England. They have all kinds of good brochures and maps. I always ask for the accommodations brochure, so I can look up vacation rentals, and the local walks brochure. We walked along the High Street and explored the town a bit. I was freezing. Steve had on a heavy sweatshirt and he was still cold. We found the local organic restaurant but it looked dreary and empty and someone we stopped on the street for directions recommended a nice tea room for lunch; The Salt Cellar at the top of Gold Hill. We went and they were full, but the waitress took our name and said if we came back in 10 minutes there would be a table.

Gold Hill is the famous road in Shaftesbury. It is lined with lovely old cottages and goes down a steep hill from the center of town. You get a lovely view over the countryside. We walked to the bottom, then back up and then our table was ready.

We had a nice tea room lunch: I had a grilled vegetable pannini, Steve had a salmon and potato pie, with a jacket potato. We had tea. A young American woman at the next table asked us where we were from and said she thought we were Americans. She is from the US, but now lives near Shaftesbury and loves it. She was with her father (like us, obviously from the US) and was so pregnant it looked like she was due that afternoon. Lunch was 11.50 and we had to remind ourselves not to leave money on the table, but to take it to the cash register. We have been leaving 10% tips, but can't remember if we should or not! I must read my UK Restaurants notes! (Some restaurants will add 10% to your bill, so check before paying. It is customary to tip 10%, but it is not required.)

We walked around a bit more, along the Park Walk with beautiful views over the countryside.

View of countryside from Shaftesbury

View of countryside from Shaftesbury

By the late afternoon, it was getting even colder and starting to rain, so we went back to the car and drove home. We stopped at Waitrose for our now daily visit.

To the Waitrose (again)

We used our new GPS Tom-Tom system today and it worked really well. It even tells you which exit to take on the roundabout ("enter the roundabout and take the third exit"). I did not have it programmed for the Waitrose, but figured we would drive right by it and we did. We returned a traveler's plug we bought the day before (for some reason we could not get our US plug to go into it), bought a few groceries for dinner tonight (fresh asparagus), and had a coffee and scones in the cafe. I wrote it down this time - 1.25 for a cup of coffee.

The cafe in this store is just off the prepared foods area. Everyone leaves their carts, filled with their groceries, just outside the cafe. On the weekend, there was someone organizing the cars. It is a total mess of carts about six across and four deep. When you come out you have to move carts out of the way to get at yours. This parking area for shopping carts struck us a pretty funny.

Carts outside the Waitrose cafe

Carts outside the Waitrose cafe

We got home successfully and parked in our spot successfully. Our apartment entrance is off the parking lot behind the store. We have a spot but we had to "mark" it by pulling up a post and using a lock to keep it in place. This reserves our spot and we take the post down when we park there. We met the owner of the apartment as we were carrying in things. His store employees had checked us in on Saturday.

An easy evening. I read the Guardian, Steve worked, I had a nap, Steve worked, I made dinner, Steve worked, then I used the computer the computer to write my blog and Steve listened to French news on his MP3 player. I wrote a small page about UK Household Appliances. I find it is easier to write these pages while traveling, so I can remember how things work and can take photos.

We are suffering from jetlag; more than we expected after having such a good first day. Maybe our method of just sleeping for most of our two first days is best for us because after that we are fine. The last couple of nights we have both been waking up in the middle of the night and then finding it hard to get up in the morning. We are such wimps, but I really hate jetlag and being tired in the morning.

We only have three full days left in Salisbury. Tomorrow is supposed to be bad weather and then it is supposed to turn sunny again. London temperatures were 25 on the weekend and 13 today!! I have no idea what that is in a measurement that I understand, but 25 was hot and 13 is not.

>> continued - the rest of the week in Salisbury


Slow Travel Photos: Our week in Salisbury, Salisbury Cathedral, town, St. Thomas, walk to Sarum

Review 1407: My review of Hideaways, Brown Street Apartment

Salisbury Travel Notes: My notes on things to do in Salisbury

www.visitsalisbury.com: Salisbury Tourism

www.harpersrestaurant.co.uk: Harpers Restaurant in Salisbury

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