(December 1, 2009) Stonehenge and Oxford
We should start early for seeing something of Salisbury at
daylight and going to Stonehenge, close to there. Visit to Stonehenge
should be short and, after covering the 110 Km to Oxford in around one
hour and a half, we would explore that city following an itinerary
through the center and lunching there.
After that, we would drive to Croydon for another
and a half ride to leave the baggage at our hotel. Then I would go to
deliver the car, not far from there, to be ready for spending the next
days to London city.
The spots marked at map are the highlights of our
route for this day:
We manage quite well our mission of getting ready
for leaving early. After a great breakfast and check out, we’re in the
car a few minutes past nine. I’m afraid of the car, but I believe it
can be better with my orientation mess at daylight.
A believing which breaks so soon because, although
we can see the Cathedral’s spire from almost everywhere we find
ourselves out of the city. We come back to Salisbury and end getting
into the first parking I see in the city center because, although I
wanted to park close to the Cathedral, I think we’re going to save a
lot of time by walking around. We’ve wasted more than 30 minutes with
this. It’s going to be a long day!
We get the street in a sort of shopping mall.
There are modern shops in a classic environment. We take the street to
go directly to the Cathedral helped by a map I’ve got at hotel. We pass
by ancient walls and under stone arches between houses with old
architecture. All of these houses are showing proudly its colorful coat
of arms. When these disappear and a vast area of grass is at both of
our sides instead we can feel the Cathedral is near. Soon, the tall
spire we could see above the roofs shows its magnificent base. This
Cathedral is huge and it’s different to the gothic ones we’ve seen
before. It’s a pity one of its sides is in improvements works and
covered by a scaffold, because we would want to see all of it. We walk
all around it and got amazed by its West façade, looking as a big and
beautiful display of stone statues. It’s really impressive.
We then go inside. As it is huge it’s full of halls. We enjoy
our pictures on its big cloister, with the green courtyard in the
middle. It’s spectacular and we would wish having enough time as per
exploring it deeply.
When coming back from our tour we comment the
feeling we already had yesterday about Salisbury: it deserves to be
visited by itself, regardless Stonehenge is close or not.
We still walk around the city before taking the
car, exploring Market Square area, which is looking different than
yesterday, when it was dark and the market filling all the space. It’s
going to be 12 PM, so we must leave.
At this point, it’s not a surprise I get lost for leaving
Salisbury, at least, for leaving it by the right road, and we reach
Stonehenge 45 minutes later for a way should be less than 30 minutes.
We’re assuming it is like this and this island without a GPS is
genocide of time. At least, in our way by the wrong road we could see
Old Sarum ruins from the car, an archaeological site of an ancient city
of which we could see a model in the Cathedral about how it looked like.
I think I’ve got quite clear the way we must follow to Oxford
so let’s enjoy Stonehenge. The parking area is at one side of the road
and the ruins are in the other side, although the entrance is in the
parking side. After paying 6.60£ for the tickets we must choose the
language for the audio guide and pass through a tunnel under the road
to reach Stonehenge.
The much known picture is now in front of us, in
live. I’m in a Windows background!
You can be there as much as you want, but this is a short
visit as there is nothing else to do here but following the loop path
around the monument which returns to the entrance, which is also the
exit. The path gets closer and further from the stones on its different
points and Stonehenge can look really different around its 365º view.
The stones are bigger than I expected and the structure has something
special. One could think it’s not more than a pile of stones set in
circle, but the size of them, the look, with the lichens giving them a
history certification, and, above all, the environment, composed by a
vast flat green land, without a single rock in the whole area until the
horizon, give this magical aura this place has got.
I take the road very concentrated in order of
avoiding more mistakes and, therefore, wasting more time. It’s 12:20 PM
and it means the daylight time we’re going to have in Oxford is quite
short now. Less would be almost the same than not going.
I’ve done it right when we reach Oxford, just
before 2 PM. I’d came here with the idea of driving to the center and
looking where to leave the car once there, but in Oxford outskirts we
already meet the signs to the park&ride, we use it. It is a
system of cheap parking far from the city center, when we’re taken by
regular buses. Due to the experience driving by English cities I think
we’re going to save some time.
Once out of the car we use the toilets
and provide with maps and vouchers about Oxford while waiting the bus
to come. These buses are green and double decked and they leave us in
the center by 2:30 PM. Rate is 2£ for the round trip.
Now we’re in the streets of the city center we’ve
got a problem: it’s lunch time but there are less than 2 hours of
daylight for today so, if we spend them in the meal, we’re already done
with Oxford. But my wife sees a KFC and says she would like to eat in
there and that’s really a solution as lunching in KFC is really fast.
These streets are full of young people and we’re crazy about exploring
this place, so we’re out again and eaten in 30 minutes. It’s 3 PM and
we’re to start the itinerary I’ve got prepared for this beautiful city.
This itinerary starts in Carfax Tower, where we can see its
old clock (below at left), and follows High Street until taking Cattle
St, at left, passing between All Souls College and Radcliffe Square,
with its remarkable camera.
We must say, apart from the marked spots, all the buildings
around has a spectacular architecture with some centuries on them. We
turn at right and find the Bridge of Sights which, as already happened
with Salisbury Cathedral, is in improvement works in one of its sides.
We walk through the lonely and beautiful streets intuitively
for a while until being back in High St., close to Magdalen College and
its remarkable square and six-picked tower. We’re shocked by the amount
of bicycles in the street. We reach a Botanical garden across the
street and we can see, at the bottom, uniformed children playing rugby
in a big pitch. Somehow, I’ve got a clear plan at this point and, after
checking the way in the map, we follow Merton St. to reach the entrance
to Christ Church College. But we cannot go in, at least from here. A
guard points to a sign showing how to go to the visitors’ entrance.
We’re at Canterbury Gate and must go to Meadow Gate, just in the
We walk all that way, which goes along the rugby field we saw
before, which seems to belong to the Christ Church, and the entire
children pass over us running to the building as the match seems to be
over. We follow them at our speed to walk in by the same dor, where
there is a ticket box with a good discount for seniors which my parents
can take advantage of. It’s 6£ for us and 4.50£ for them.
We explore the halls and gardens inside where we
pose with a beautiful Christmas tree. An uniformed caretaker is kind
enough as per taking a picture of the group in the big courtyard and
then we go upstairs to visit the place really made me come here: the
hall which the Hogwart’s Great Hall is inspired of. But as the real
Hogwarts doesn’t exist we see this one, which is a main visit in the
Harry Potter tour performed in this country.
The hall is carefully set as the big Christmas’
eve dinner would be this night. The walls are full of paintings showing
old portraits, and there are a lot of them, because as the ceiling is
so high, there is a lot of wall to fill.
This hall is in Look-but-don’t-touch mode, although you can go
deeper inside, between the tables for a closer look. You can feel
indeed the smell of Hogwarts here.
With this we’re done of our highlights in Oxford. Now it’s time
to return to the car and driving to our hotel, then I would drive alone
to delivering the car. I’m feeling panic about that last part.
Step by step. It’s already dark and we walk until seeing the Oxford
castle looking for a bus stop I saw from the bus itself when coming,
but as we cannot find it, we walk to the stop we were delivered at and,
when this green bus arrives, we get into it. It’s 4:30 PM and the car
can be delivered until 9 PM. We will manage it in either way.
We feel the bus ride quite long and we go outside, although it is a big
parking space I can feel something is wrong. It’s like while we were
out small changes were made here. I share this feeling with the driver
and he immediately brings an answer. He asks me for my parking ticket
and says: “See?, this is for Redbridge and we’re in Pear tree”. Damn,
we’ve taken the wrong bus!
Well, not exactly, as
this has the same number on display than the one we came with, but
we’ve taken the one going to the opposite direction we want. It has
sense: if we go to the same bus stop we were delivered and go up to the
bus following the same way, we will go on until the end of the route,
not backwards. In this case, we parked in the area in Southern Oxford
and now we are in the Northern area – and even furthest-. Solution is
clear: we must seat in this same bus as it goes back to Oxford city
center and then goes on to the Southern par&ride. So finally, we’ve
wasted a couple of hours with this silliness from my part just for
making things interesting.
We get the car pretty
tired with still a long ride in front and still we get into a traffic
jam for leaving Oxford.
Once in M40 we reach Croydon with no more issues. Finally!. It’s
around 8 PM and I’m crazy for leaving the car forever. Somehow, after
some minutes in Croydon I know the nightmare is not over. I’ve followed
the broad avenue expecting to find some reference point in the map from
the hotel area I’ve brought, but I haven’t found any so, again, I’m
We ask, a lot, to reach Purley Way, the avenue where the hotel is
located, which I’ve got entirely printed here from Google Maps. We’re
very happy because this was getting harder. But, incomprehensibly,
nightmare is still on. I’m driving along the avenue but cannot find the
hotel. Not even the airport it has in front! When we reach the PCWorld
I understand we’ve passed the hotel over and turn around, but nothing.
I cannot understand what is happening. I’m in the right street, I’ve
got some references but I’m not capable of finding the place. I want to
cry. Finally stop in a petrol station and share all these thoughts to
the man at desk desperately. And then, one of those magical moments
happens: that man gives me all the light I need without even saying a
word, he just take my map, turn it around and give it back to me.
Everything is explained now.
So I was driving
Purley Way in the upper side of the map, and when I finally drive
beyond PC World everything appears: the airport, the hotel, the
shopping mall... I’ve got tear of happiness. I still don’t understand
how we’ve ended at North coming from the South but we’ve been driving a
lot of time around this city and everything is possible.
Hotel Hilton has free parking and it is very welcome as the car is going to sleep there.
It’s some minutes to 10 PM and we only want to take a quick dinner and
rest. The rooms are nice and it seems we’ve got a good choice here.
Before going downstairs for some sandwiches I call to
the rental company and they tell me if I deliver the car early tomorrow
there is no extra charge. I promise going first time in the morning and
ask about all the details I could need for reaching the place.
The plan for tomorrow is I’ll leave very early, around 6 AM, and they
can go downstairs for taking their breakfast. I’ll appear sooner or
later. But now I only have one picture in my mind and it is precisely
the one at right.