Sunday, April 1, 2012

Crossing Avalon

Day two: One of my all time favorite books is Mysts of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley. My son is a sci-fi/fantasy junkie and loves all things British. Mark has always wanted to go to Stonehenge, so we had no difficulties deciding on a bus tour of mystical King Arthur's realm. We did have difficulty getting a bus to our meeting place at the British Museum. We are bus novices, so it took some time for us to find the stop we needed. The road signs aren't marked on corners like in the states, so we are constantly looking for street signs. Mark is not city literate when it comes to directions. It is odd to see, because he is so good with directions elsewhere. It also means I cannot take it for granted he knows where he is going like I do everywhere else we go. We saw the bus we wanted and chased it down, but we got on in the back of the bus and got a stern admonishment from our driver.
At the museum, we caught our touring bus with International Friends tours. There were 13 of us on the tour. What a good number! Fiona, our Blue Badge guide, gave us some information on London as we passed through the city. We passed Hyde Park and the monument to animals who served in the war. I loved the huge horse head sculpture in this park. We set out for our 2-hour drive to Stonehenge. I don't remember a whole lot about it. Despite all my efforts, I fell asleep. Jonah and I slept most of the way there, but we would catch snippets of what the guide was saying and then have crazy dreams.
We got to Stonehenge when it opened. It was pretty amazing but different than I expected. I learned a lot and felt real serenity there. That peace stayed with me all day at the sites we visited. They all seemed to a have a quiet energy. Stonehenge itself is roped off. We had to stay a reverential distance from the stones, but that felt right to me. Mystery and grandeur were two words that popped into my head. I wanted to
know so much more, but I suppose everyone has that feeling when they leave these stones. I loved hearing about the various myths and legends and hypotheses that have been formulated over the centuries.
Our next stop was Glastonbury. This was another long drive into the country, and again I slept. I just couldn't keep my eyes open, though I didn't feel tired before getting on the bus. In Glastonbury, we stopped first at a Tor with a tower on it. This is a sacred place that predates Christianity. Today it has many ties to the Druids and Pagans who celebrate holy days and do rituals at the top. It was a beautiful clear day, so we experienced some fantastic views of the surrounding farmlands. Very pastoral with all the sheep grazing nearby. I longed to do ritual here. Our tour guide was very informed, but she didn't seem interested in the soul of these places.
After we climbed down, Fiona took the group to the Chalice Well Gardens. Legend has it that the blood of Christ springs forth from the well because Joseph of Arimathea buried or washed the cup used in the Last Supper here. Also the water turns everything red. It is supposed to have healing properties. We all took a drink from the springs. I also waded in the healing springs. Refreshing! At noon, the place participates in a moment of peace. We stopped and meditated for a minute. Then we went I to the gift shop. The symbol for this well is the Vesica Piscis-- two interlocking circles. I just watched a sacred geometry video before we left and learned about this symbol. It is fascinating. What I learned was random, not in anticipation for this trip. I bought a pendant of this place. This small garden was the surprise delight of my day.
From here, we moved on to the ruins of the Glastonbury Abbey. This is the birthplace of Christianity in this country. The ruins were outstanding. It seemed as if they were guarding over the holy place, still. It was impossible to believe how big the church must have been considering what we saw was only one third the height. How did people build such big buildings with the technology available? This was a 13th century building, I believe. It is also believed to be the final resting place of Arthur and Guinevere.
From here, we went to Lunch at Cafe Galatea. Kids weren't thrilled with vegetarian food, but the vibe of the place said: peace, love, hippy, so I felt strongly about eating at a vegetarian cafe. They were placated with local ice cream. (We were in a dairy farm area of England.) For lunch I had a coconut cauliflower soup and country bread. Mark had a Brie and cranberry sandwich. Kids had deep fried potato wedges with curry mayonnaise. Mark and Maren had chocolate heaven ice cream. Jonah had the best vanilla ice cream he had ever eaten, and I had clotted cream ice cream.
After lunch the bus drove an hour to Avebury. Along the way, we passed many towns with the requisite village green, the village pond, and the village parish. How quaint and charming.
Avebury was another henge consisting of one large stone circles and two interior circles. This was larger than Stonehenge but formed with more natural rocks. Diamond shaped rocks represented the female and the pillar like rocks were the male. They think fertility rituals were performed here. The four of us huddled and had a moment's meditation for friends of ours who are undergoing fertility treatments. I bought a book on sacred geometry. That really interests me-- especially after this trip.
We drove home through Marlborough where Kate Middleton went to school. We were told she was smart and got good marks. Other things we saw a lot of during the day were examples of thatched roofs.
The tour bus dropped us off at Harrod's at 6 pm. We took the metro to Pimlico Tandoori for Indian food. The food was good but I was expecting so much more after having Indian food with my brother in Manchester nine years ago. This felt more like upscale version of the takeout that we get in Lancaster. I felt as though we should have gone to Brick Lane, the famed curry mile, instead of this place, but we were tired and had not wanted to travel that far from our hotel. The kids, however, did try new foods and liked them. For that, it was worth it. Perhaps I was jealous that I did not have a "new food" adventure.
We walked the scant mile back to our hotel from the restaurant and called it a night.

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