Two Pre-Historic Peas in a Pod.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Recently, I had a free day and was feeling a bit stir crazy. I have a long laundry list of places I want to visit and figured I'd knock off one or two nearby jaunts. Although I've lived in the UK for nearly two months now (how did that happen?) and I've visited several times in the past, I had never made it out to Stonehenge. Nested between a few country roads in the Wiltshire hills not too far from a military practice area, it's not the easiest spot to get to sans-vehicle.

Thanks to the internet and some brilliant reviews, I booked a last-minute spot on a full day Mad Max Tour that stopped there as well as several nearby villages. Organized tour groups can be a hit or miss, but this one was a massive hit – highly recommend booking a trip with them if you are interested in touring the Cotswolds or Wiltshire area. Their buses are small, making it a non-queasy ride and sit a maximum of 16 people, so even at capacity it's a manageable number of people. There was a grand total of 6 of us not including our hilarious and knowledgeable tour guide/bus driver, Tim – a Bath native. 

Our second and last stop of the day, could not be more similar and more different at the same time.

Avebury is home to a village and a neolithic (that's 2500 BC y'all) stone circle consisting of the same blue stone that makes up its little friend Stonehenge.

Jumbled right smack dab in the middle of the stone circle is a main road with a few scatted pubs and shops, a manor house, a church with a cemetery, a barn, and nothing commercial. Tim gave us a walkthrough the area before letting us loose and included some interesting commentary and history. You could tell he really loved the area, mentioning how a few years ago it was named the second most impressive historical site on earth just behind the Great Pyramids and he was terrified that it would be taken over by tourists and gift shops, but thankfully it's remained a relaxed and peaceful place to visit. 

Unlike Stonehenge, there is no admission price, audio guides, eagle-eye employees, or general hoo-ha. You are allowed to move as freely amongst the stones as you wish – I saw one guy even sitting on one while he finished his morning coffee. 

Watch your step, the local grass caretakers leave a little bit of a mess...

Our last stop of the day was Stonehenge. Normally it's the first stop on the tour, but being November, the crowds die down and it's less of a mad dash to get there at opening hour. Better yet, our arrival time made for some really lovely pictures as the sky had run out of rain for the day and the sun was positioned accordingly. Don't 'cha just love it when mother nature cooperates with your Instagram needs? I'm not going to fill you in too much on the history of Stonehenge because, well – I think you probably know the basics:

Rocks. Old. Very old. Mystical. Big. Heavy. No one knows how or why they got there. 

Although it's a touristy spot, I really enjoyed finally getting to lay eyes on Stonehenge. I was surprised at how close you could actually get to the stones – I've always been under the impression that you were shuffled behind a large intimidating gate keeping crowds far way. In reality, there's a tiny chain link fence around the perimeter of the stones so your walk following the audio guide cues allows you to take it all in from a distance as well as stand a few feet away. The welcome area/entrance has a gift shop (of course), a cafe, bathrooms, Wifi, and transport up the road to the actual site as you can't simply drive up to the stones like you could back in the day.

These types of comparisons always amaze me; how two things can be from the same era, the same mysterious origins, a hop skip and a jump away from each other, yet one skyrockets in popularity. It's like the Mona Lisa: everyone knows what it is regardless of their artistic background, the Mona-mosh-pit at the Louvre is overwhelming, cameras and phones and people pushing their way to the front just because. The museum hosts some of the most incredible art in the entire world, but everyone flocks to that one painting. 

Humans are funny.

Stay tuned this week to read about the villages we stopped in, honestly my favorite bits about the tour! If you are a Harry Potter fan (or just a fan of the most picturesque English villages imaginable), trust me when I say you won't want to miss this.

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