Portsmouth is central to England’s maritime past and has been a naval port for centuries. It has been home to historic vessels such as Henry VIII’s Mary Rose and Lord Nelson’s HMS Victory. It’s history shows that it has been settled since before the days of the Roman Empire. This swooping sail-like sculpture welcomes you to Portsmouth Harbor.
Today our adventures take us from Portsmouth to Stonehenge, a place I have always wanted to see. Unfortunately we have been saddled with Lorna, the worst guide of the trip. She stands in the front of the bus pointing out things that she sees on either side such as ooh, here is a garden center, or look to the left and you will see a landfill. Sometimes she tells us what we can’t see like, there is a charming village to your right but you can’t see it from the bus. Thanks for the non-info, Lorna. One of the things we do manage to see and that Sarah has snagged a picture of is the spire of the Salisbury Cathedral. Would have been nice to have a closer look.
Finally we get to Stonehenge. You cannot see the stones from the museum area. The museum has a 360 degree presentation of the site as a trip through time. Our guide keeps calling it a 365 degree presentation. Sigh. There is a large part of the museum in which relics from the site reside.
Stonehenge itself is a prehistoric temple which began being built about 4500 years ago. The stones are carefully arranged to line up with the movement of the sun. About 5000 years ago a circular enclosure was built but the enormous sarsen stones were raised 500 years later. Smaller bluestones were placed between the large stones and were later rearranged. Some of the stones have fallen and others have been removed. A restoration project started in 1919 and continued off and on for 45 years.
According to folklore, Stonehenge was created by Merlin, the wizard of Arthurian legend, who magically transported the massive stones from Ireland. The most popular belief is that it was constructed by Druids. Through carbon dating scientists have discovered that it was completed a thousand years before the Celts ever inhabited the region which eliminates the Druids. It is now thought that the people who built came from three different tribes at three different times. They are from the earliest the Windmill Hill people around 3000 BC. then the Beaker Folk around 2000 BC, and finally the Wessex Peoples around 1500 BC. The Wessex Peoples were well-organized traders and used greater precision in their calculations and construction.
I forgot to include a picture of the watchbird of Stonehenge when I first posted this.
We spend a goodly amount of time at Stonehenge before reboarding the bus for the trip back to Portsmouth. Along the way back we go through the New Forest area. As it turns out the New Forest is actually not much of a forest but rather a large tract of unenclosed pasture land. It used to be a Royal Forest but was changed to an area of common rights in 1698. In our drive by we see horses, donkeys, sheep and other animals grazing. Finally we see another statue that looks like sails and we are close to Portsmouth.
We have lots to do before dinner tonight! Tonight is the first night of Passover and we have been squirreling away foods that we need all week, a hard boiled egg from breakfast, lettuces, an apple, and walnuts from lunch. and John asked one of the workers from the kitchen if he could have some horseradish and got half of a cup! Our cabin steward, Ricky, has procured a bottle of wine for us. From home I brought two tea lights (no candles allowed), three pieces of matzoh which did not survive the trip very well, our Haggadahs and John’s yarmulka. We have a fun reading at our atypical Seder and then progress down to Manfredi’s, the Italian restaurant, where we all order their excellent lamb chops. It has been a long and memorable day.