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Spring 2005 - Southern England - One Week in Salisbury, part 2

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

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

Wednesday May 4 - Jane Austen!!

Weather: Overcast, cold, a few showers.

I learned my lesson yesterday; today I dressed WARM! Europcar brought our new car (the one we had reserved - automatic) and took away the old one. We now have a very smoke-smelling, but other than that, nice, VW Passat Diesel. It was overcast and very cold this morning, so we decided against a hike. We went to the post office to mail off luggage tags for message board members in the UK and Italy.

While I was in the Post Office, I asked about long distance phone cards and they do sell them (we had not been able to find them anywhere else). I bought one for 5.00; calls to the US are 3.5p per minute (about 6 cents).

We had a coffee at Starbucks, then headed out just after noon. Our Tom-Tom GPS packed it in today, but we think we might get it working again. We drove east to Chawton, to see the house where Jane Austen lived. It is now a museum. It took about 1hr 15min to get there. The tea rooms in Chawton were closed, so we went into Alton (after getting lost first, not easy considering it is only a couple of miles away), but spent 30 minutes walking around and finding nothing interesting. We finally bought sandwiches in a shop with no seating and ate them in the car (they were very good). The downside of being a tourist; sometimes you don't find a good lunch.

Back to Chawton and to the museum. The museum is great. I put all the details on my Slow Travel Page on Jane Austen and uploaded photos from today.

After Chawton, we drove to Winchester, parked and went to see the Cathedral and Jane Austen's grave. Winchester seems like a more upscale town than Salisbury (and I liked it for that), but I think the Salisbury Cathedral is more interesting and in a nicer setting.

It is great traveling when the days are long. After stopping for tea and cake, we left Winchester around 5:30pm. The town was closing up as we left. We picked up some prepared meals from the Marks and Spenser (I have only cooked one dinner so far) and then drove home.

John's wife Lin told me the view of Salisbury from the Southampton Road was exceptional and she was right; the town sits in a beautiful valley and the Cathedral can be seen from miles away.

The election is tomorrow. I am writing this at midnight - where did the evening go? I watched "Relocation, Relocation", the new version of "Location, Location, Location," a couple was buying a house near here for 500,000! What must people earn in this country to afford a $1,000,000 house that was not even that exceptional?

Thursday May 5, Getting Lost in the (New) Forest

Weather: Sunny and warmer. Still sweatshirt weather. No rain.

We did not get an early start - slept past the alarm, then decided we are coffee-deprived (that is why we are so tired!!), so I walked out to Starbucks for takeout while Steve shaved. Got some very average croissants from the bakery (well, it isn't France). Hit the road around 11:30am.

Today was a visit to the New Forest - which is not new and is not all forest. It is a large area south of Salisbury and west of Southampton. It was set aside over 1000 years ago as an area where animals can roam free. Animals are still roaming free. We drove from Salisbury to Lyndhurst, in the center of the area. We dropped into the Tourist Office, but the only walking information they had was for a few short "forest walks"; the kind with paved paths and labeled trees.

Busketts Lawn Inclosure (Pathfinder), 3.75 miles, 2 hours

We drove on to Ashurst, to do the Busketts Lawn Inclosure hike. The directions to the start of the hike were very limited and we were lucky we found the turnoff and parking area. But then our luck ran out. We could not find the trail. This hiking guide was written in 1993, but it says it was updated in 2003. We found the start of the trail but could not find the first landmark, a fence. I think it might have been removed. The forest was criss-crossed with trails and there were no signposts or markings. So we walked around for about 30 minutes, then went back to the car. Disappointing, but it was a beautiful woods surrounded by open fields. Lots of birds and squirrels.

The Forest in Busketts Lawn Inclosure - where we failed to find the trail

The Forest in Busketts Lawn Inclosure - where we failed to find the trail

We drove back to Lyndhurst for lunch; well, we intended to drive back, but we took a wrong turn and ended up going the opposite way for awhile. We did figure it out and made it back there. Had a pretty average lunch in a tea room. The coffee was dreadful. We had to go to another tea room after to get a better coffee. Many places now have espresso machines; I think we should stick to ordering espresso because you know it is fresh.

Naked Man and Wilverley Inclosure (Pathfinder), 2.75 miles, 2 hours

We headed out for another hike - Naked Man and Wilverley Inclosure. The book had no instructions for finding the start of the hike, but I got the Tourist Office people to show me how to get there. We still got lost, but we ended up driving through some beautiful areas of the New Forest.

The New Forest has many wooded areas and many open heath-like fields. There are lots of narrow roads (paved) through these areas. And there are lots of villages. I had read about vacation rentals in the New Forest but thought they would be very remote - I was wrong. The villages are lovely and many have lots of tea rooms, pubs, etc. It would be a good area to stay in. When you are driving along (40 mph maximum speed), you see horses, donkeys and cows grazing along the side of the road, and wandering out into the road. Several times we saw cars stop because a cow had decided to amble across the road. Many of the horses had young foals.

Horses on the road in the New Forest; not much forest here

Horses on the road in the New Forest; not much forest here

After 15 minutes of driving through this beautiful area, I realized we were driving away from the place I thought we were driving too, so we managed to get turned around and we found it.

Again, the trails in the woods bore no relation to those in the book. Maybe we started at the wrong end of the parking lot. Maybe things have changed. If you are going to walk in this area, get an Ordnance Survey map so you can find the trails. We found a well marked trail on a dirt road and did a good walk for about 1.5 hours, but it was not the walk we thought we were doing.

The Tom-Tom GPS seems to be working again and we set it to drive us home. It was a quick 40 minutes straight up the Avon River Valley. We had a chat with the apartment owner as he was closing up his shop and heading out to play golf. He informed us that "all Brits" think "all Americans" are thick (stupid). We pointed out that we were born in Canada, so perhaps were less thick.

We went out to a local Chinese restaurant for dinner (recommended in the notes left in the apartment - Jade, on Exeter across from the Cathedral - very good for seafood, so-so for vegetarian). Had a nice dinner, then walked by the Cathedral in the dark. The Cathedral is beautiful, large, peaceful - magical to see all the time. They light it up at night. The streets around the Cathedral are beautiful and peaceful. We left the Cathedral area and walked by a pub with fabulous live music blasting out to the street.

Today was the election. The results started broadcasting at 10:00pm, after the polls closed. One day left in Salisbury. I have about 10 days worth of activities to planned.

Friday May 6, St. Thomas, Stonehenge, Evensong at Salisbury Cathedral

Weather: Sunny and warmer, but with an undercurrent of cold. Today I gave in and bought a warm jacket.

Our last day in Salisbury - just when we were settling in and getting comfortable. I will be happy to leave the apartment, but not the town. We both love Salisbury.

Today we went out for breakfast to the Polly Tea Rooms. These are the best tea rooms in town. John and Lin told us about them; they have a branch in Marlborough too. They are very good for breakfast and for afternoon tea. They also serve lunch, but we thought there was not much choice. For breakfast, they have pastries and egg dishes. The coffee is good, not great. For great coffee here, go to Starbucks.

St. Thomas

Next we toured the church beside Polly Tea Rooms, St. Thomas'. This church was built in the 1200s for the workers who were building the Cathedral (isn't that strange, to build a church for people building a church? Where does it end?). It has a wonderful "doom" fresco (day of judgment) painted in 1475. The ceiling is full of carved angels.

Doom painting at St. Thomas (1475), Salisbury

Doom painting at St. Thomas (1475), Salisbury

A group of people were cleaning the church when we were there and a couple of them stopped their dusting and polishing to talk to us. They are volunteers who clean once every six weeks (they rotate through the groups). This church is not mentioned in the tourist booklet for Salisbury, but it is well worth a visit.

Shopping in Salisbury

Then we did a bit of shopping. I had read that there is a Neal's Yard Remedies shop here, but we could not find it earlier in the week. I phoned them and they told me exactly how to find it (it is tucked away in a corner near the Market Square). We came across their products when living in England in 1988 and were able to get them in the US for several years, but have not found them lately. We stocked up on face cleansers, soaps, shaving soap. Then to a kitchen store to buy a timer, because I left mine at home (and vacation rentals never have them). Then to Debenhams, a department store, to buy me a jacket. We found a simple jacket in the sales rack (getting rid of the winter clothes) and got it. Now I feel fine about the chill in the air.

We managed to lose one of our apartment keys, so had to get one cut. 4.00 to cut a key!

Day Trip to Stonehenge

We went back for the car and drove to Amesbury. I had picked out this town to have lunch and do a short walk. But the town was lame!! Very small, no interesting tea rooms or other restaurants. Parking was easy. We walked around the town and then continued on.

We drove north across the Salisbury Plain. There are lots of signs warning you of tanks crossing the road. There are military bases in this area. A few miles north of Amesbury, we saw a sign for a pub with food (The Swan Inn, Enford) and turned off to find it. We had been on a narrow, but busy, road and once we turned off it was back to the idyllic English countryside. A beautiful old church, the River Avon, birds, thatch cottages, and the Swan Inn.

It is fun having lunch in a pub. You go up to the bar and grab a menu. Then sit down. Then back to the bar to place your order. Steve had cod with new potatoes and vegetables. I had a Brie and tomato sandwich, with a side of new potatoes and vegetables. Plus a half pint of a local Stonehenge beer. The pub was crowded and we had a lovely meal.

The Swan Inn, Enford

The Swan Inn, Enford

Now for Stonehenge. We waffled back and forth on whether or not to go see it. We were last there in 1988. We decided to go and I am really glad we did. You can see it from the highway as you approach and it is HUGE! All of a sudden, there it is sitting in front of you looking ancient, mysterious and enormous. We parked and paid our admission (5.50 each - English Heritage). The area is surrounded by chain link fence, so you can see in if you don't pay. When you go in, you take a tunnel under the road and come up in the field where Stonehenge is. They have made a path around the stones, with a low rope fence (about a foot high) and staff walking around to be sure no one goes over the fence. The path goes very near the stones (about 30 feet away at one point). You can walk all the way around.

It was not very crowded when we were there and you felt like you were close enough to really experience the stones. We have hunted out stone circles and standing stones all over England. It is a wonderful experience to find a stone circle in a farmer's field or to go to Avebury and see a village surrounded by a stone circle, but nothing beats Stonehenge. It is magnificent.

Stonehenge, ancient stone circle on the Salisbury Plain

Stonehenge, ancient stone circle on the Salisbury Plain

Salisbury Cathedral Evensong

Back to Salisbury and out to Starbucks. Coffee. We are coffee and caffeine deprived. The Starbucks is no smoking and is a hangout for the local teenagers, so it is fun to go there. One time the guy at the cash register was so excited to learn I was from the US because he plans to go there to go hiking and see eagles (a nice contrast from our current landlord with his "all Americans are thick" theory).

We went to the Cathedral for the 5:30pm Evensong. One of the women in St. Thomas told us about it. She said it is done every night and is just a choir signing. I pictured something like the monks chanting for seven minutes at Sant'Antimo in Tuscany.

We went into the Cathedral and sat with about 20 other people in the choir area. We got to sit on the original wooden seats with all the carvings. The choir came in (mostly young boys, with a few men) and the Evensong began. Turns out Evensong is a full one hour service (I bet most people know this). We were a touched freaked at how religious it all was, but what did we expect, in a church? The singing was wonderful. Those young boys elbowing each other and picking their noses one minute, turned into singing angels the next minute. Some bits were boring (endless Psalms), but most of it was fabulous, with one group of boys singing soprano, the other alto. There was one part where they sang the "anthem" in Latin that was unbelievably beautiful. Their voices were strong and loud and the acoustics in the church were perfect. We were sitting right beside part of the choir. The service part was pretty simple, with two short readings (one Old Testament, one New) and a few prayers for the Queen and the newly elected members of government.

Last Evening in Salisbury

The Evensong ended at 6:30pm and we walked along the River Avon near the Cathedral. Salisbury has lovely parks throughout the city. We walked through a large park along the river and then on a path through marshlands beside the river. On one side was a field with the Cathedral in the distance; on the other side a field of sheep with lots of new lambs.

Looking from the River Avon towards the Salisbury Cathedral

Looking from the River Avon towards the Salisbury Cathedral

Out for Thai food at a nice restaurant on the Market Square. We ordered lightly and after dinner each got a cone of chips at the Chip Shop (fabulous chips). Home and now we are packed up and ready to move on tomorrow.

No regrets about picking Salisbury for our "place to land" on this trip. We will probably stay here again.

>> continued - a week in Somerset


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

Slow Travel Photos: Wiltshire pub lunch

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