It was a short night's sleep, but a sound one after an incredibly busy day on Thursday! I was awakened by my alarm, but also by a flock of seagulls who apparently have been living on the ledge of our hotel room for some time now. After talking with others is our group, it was good to know I wasn't the only one!!
I caught a quick nap on our way to Stonehenge, a prehistoric, mysterious circle of upright stones in southern England. Good thing, because I wanted to be wide awake to learn about one of the most famous sites in the world!
Archeologists believe the enormous sarsen (a type of hard sandstone) stones were raised in a horseshoe and a circle 4,500 years ago, with smaller bluestones placed in between them. There were originally 30 upright stones - 17 still stand. There is no evidence as to how these 30+ ton stones got there; although they came from an area 19 miles to the north. The bluestones came from the south of Wales, nearly 200 miles away!
It is believed that Stonehenge served as a type of temple with important emphasis placed on the position of the sun. It also served as a burial ground with over 100 burial mounds surrounding the stones.
The first known excavation of Stonehenge was done in the 17th century. By the 20th century, Stonehenge began to be seen as a place of religious significance, and the monument became protected. in 1918 a national restoration of the structure began, and in 1978 direct access to the stones became restricted to prevent vandalism and other damage. Excavations continue; the mystery is still unraveling.
Our next stop brings us to the town of Salisbury, filled with Early English Gothic architecture and home to the best preserved original Magna Carta inside the Salisbury Cathedral!
Construction of the Salisbury Cathedral began in 1220. It was built in 38 years using 70-thousand tons of stone, 28-hundred tons of oak and 420 tons of lead. The spire is Britain's tallest and weighs 65-hundred tons!
It also houses the world's oldest working mechanical clock, built in 1386!
The Magna Carta on display in the cathedral's Chapter House is the best preserved of the 4 originals, dating back to 1215. Written in Latin with a quill pen on treated animal skin, the charter was forced on King John by barons who were unhappy with the way he was ruling England.
No photography is allowed in the room for the protection of this fragile document, but here's a look heading into the room, to give you an idea!
Our final stop for the night, the seaside resort town of Brighton, along the English Channel. A 2 hour bus ride turned into nearly 3 as we got stuck in - wait for it - rush hour traffic!!
As we approached the town and pulled up to our hotel, the shoreline, complete with a pier and ferris wheel reminded me briefly of our beautiful skyline and Navy Pier.
When we checked in and I saw the view from our room, I knew I was still a continent away, continuing our adventure through historic England!