we started our morning very early in order to catch a bus out to stonehenge (it's about 1.5 hours from london, near the town of salisbury). we decided it was worth our money to book a special access tour where we could actually walk among the stones since regular admission only gets you a spot behind a rope several feet away from the stones (stonehenge was one of my top must-sees for our trip). the bus that picked us up had "london celebrity homes tour" written on the side, and we got looks all day from people who thought we were shallow enough to come to london to see celebrity homes.
my dad has this thing about not ever needing to travel overseas to see any sights because he can look at them in a book. i've tried to explain to him that there is nothing like standing in front of that sight, allowing the beauty and history of it all to hit you. my first glimpse of stonehenge was incredible. we came up over a hill and there it was in the distance. it's funny, i guess some people roll by stonehenge everyday on their way to work because there's a pretty major road nearby. but to me, it felt like i was surrounded by the lush, english countryside, completely alone with the stones.
i had to take a picture of this sign i noticed while we were waiting for our tour guide. yes, i know a 12-year-old boy would also have taken a picture of this, but we got a good chuckle out of it.
and there are the stones, up close and personal. they're a lot bigger and taller than i thought they'd be. i'm so amazed that God gave men 4500 years ago the artistic and intellectual ability to build something as beautiful and functional as stonehenge.
we had an excellent tour guide. he's participated in several of the digs at stonehenge and surrounding sites. though we had a good grasp of stonehenge's history from general knowledge and watching a national geographic special (twice), our guide had a lot to say that we didn't know. he was also extremely sensitive to jamie's blindness and took him around the whole site, letting him feel the stones (!) so he could get a sense of the layout.
see how little we are?
our special access tour also included free admission to the salisbury cathedral. i loved the town of salisbury and would honestly move there tomorrow. jamie had another full english breakfast at a local pub, and i continued to be amazed at all the brits drinking beer at 10 in the morning. the salisbury cathedral has the highest church spire in england and also one of the best preserved copies of the magna carta.
we got back to london mid-afternoon and continued our whirlwind of a day by visiting the tower of london. i'm so bummed i didn't get any better pictures of the tower, but we walked so much that day before even making it to the tower, i was too tired to walk back around to the front of the tower after our tour to get more pictures. so below is one of jamie inside. the crowd of people in the background are waiting to see the crown jewels, which are pretty impressive. we also saw lots of torture devices, carvings on the walls left by prisoners of the tower, and the lawn where anne boyelyn (second wife of henry viii) was beheaded. unfortunately, we somehow missed the room with all the armor.
after we left the tower, we took a river boat cruise up the thames. we saw tower bridge (below), london bridge, the replica of shakespeare's globe theater, st. paul's cathedral, plus skyscrapers and other less historic buildings.
we docked back at the big ben/parliament/westminster abbey area. i love the second picture below because you can see big ben and the abbey side by side. we went to another pub for dinner and had lasagna, which was simultaneously extremely rich and mediocre. i was very glad to have had low expectations for british food.