Friday, September 22, 2006

Our next blog will take a few weeks to compile while we are mostly visiting friends and relatives in the Netherlands at the moment.

Stonehenge on the left and a view of the cathedral of Salisbury on the right.

We were quite lucky with the weather, generally dry and mostly sunny, still cool. Salisbury has heaps of history and I must say that the gothic cathedral is a visual treat; it is still the highest in England with some 123 m height and can be seen from far. The running costs are close to 1 million pounds per year and the current restauration is a 20-year project with costs estimated at 20 million pounds, absolutely staggering! But the result will be huge number of tourists for many years to come. The city of Salisbury is very attractive and full of people, with parking provided on the outskirts and an efficient bus service.

Only 20 minutes' drive to the north we found Stonehenge, originally a timber walled circle (see the ditch in front) but later these huge boulders weighing up to 40 tons each were added. The more details are found, the more questions arise. There is clearly a connection with astronomy but how these boulders were transported over more than 200 km and why they were erected at this particular spot and in this formation, is unclear. There are major changes on the way with a new tourist centre about 1 mile away, one road will be closed and another one will become a tunnel. A tourist train will transport people to the actual site. We assume that they want to stop lots of people (who are not paying the entry fee) taking pictures through the fence and also to have better control of vandalism.

Our next visit was further north again, close to Bristol, the old Roman city of Bath. It is the only spot in England where hot springs come to the surface, cleverly tapped by the Romans to create a soothing cure for many ills. Bath has also one of only three bridges in the world that were designed to have small shops as part of the design (the other two are in Venice and in Florence). One interesting feature of Bath was the total absence of graffiti. Any explanations? anyone?

Short of a quick change of planes, Tanneke and I had never visited England before and we were positively impressed with the history, the beautiful landscape (provided the sun shines!) and the politeness of the population. Warren and Kyla's wedding was an absolute highlight.
People were generally very friendly and helpful although confusion reigned about our Dutch numberplate combined with our Australian passports. After a few days I added an "AUS" sign next to the numberplate of the campervan. Driving on the wrong side of the road was strange, especially while I was steering on the left side as well and having to guess where the right side of the van (with Tanneke) was aiming on the narrow roads.

Wild camping is allowed in England and we found some beautiful and peaceful spots; we would alternate this with clean and spacious campgrounds. Generally England was very expensive, almost in pounds for what we would buy in Australia with the same amount of dollars. Metrification is still a mystery in England with road signs in 1/4 miles (no decimals) while at the petrol pumps the gallons have made way for liters. How they work out their miles per gallon is a puzzle which I have not yet solved. It is also one of the few countries where diesel is more expensive than petrol (the other one is Australia...)

For the technically minded: we had to tape a section of the headlight glasses to avoid blinding the oncoming traffic at night; the British have to do this when they drive on the mainland of Europe.

BEAUTIFUL! I really want to see Stonehenge :) Please drive carefully!! hehe.
What do you do when you meet someone on those narrow roads? Have them go backwards?
Re the headlight taping...that must because of the headlight adjustment for the camber adjustment/lighting of the side of the road :P
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