Bath and Stonehenge

by Rachel on October 3, 2009

The Royal Crescent Hotel, Bath

My husband and I took two days away from the offspring and made our way to Bath for a weekend of R & R. I assert that anyone who would name his or her town Bath isn’t wildly creative about place names. Within Bath, it should be noted, I found Quiet Street, Cheap Street, and Labor in Vain Hill. I was happy to discover that our hotel was not on Wretched Place, nor Lost Luggage Lane. We stayed at The Royal Crescent, which is a proper British Spa Resort, complete with butlers in top hats and tails, severe waiters who always seemed a little suspect about whether we belonged on the premises, and over-priced uninspired 20th Century British food. I’m certain anyone who has been reading this blog is having trouble feeling sorry for me about any part of my splendiferous summer travel experience, but I must say, I had the worst pedicure on the planet from a poor, anxious, British girl who was certainly as well trained to clip and paint my toe nails as the average eight year-old. The poor wreck fairly quivered throughout the tedious, painful, 90-minute “treatment.” Unfortunately it is absolutely impossible to give a pedicure while undergoing some sort of anxiety disorder complete with hand shaking and constant worried questioning of the treatment recipient. In the end, it would have been better if I had paid my son to do the task. He’s much better company, charges far less, and the quality of the paint job would have been identical.

Stone Henge

Much like my confusion about Covent Garden, I was equally off the mark with Stonehenge. For whatever misguided reason I thought that the name referred to a Henge made out of Stone. Part of it was the fact that I actually believed the Eddie Izzard comedy bit in which he discusses the precursor henges that were made of sticks and straw and were, of course, blown down by the Big Bad Wolf. Let me set the matter straight, Stonehenge is not in fact a Stone Henge, but rather a Henge with Some Stones in the Middle Bit. This name was used at first but the Druids felt it didn’t quite have the ring they needed in order to draw large crowds. A henge, you see, has got nothing at all to do with stones. Rather, it is a large embankment with a massive ditch below. No really, it is. I swear it. Now, once they’d built the big embankment they did in fact put some mighty fine stones in the middle section of the flat ditch area. The stones line up in this amazing way such that they function as a really advanced calendar. And the stones themselves came from far, far away, necessitating a lot of pushing and shoving on the part of poorly paid hengemen, to be sure. But you see, it isn’t really a stone henge at all.

Avebury

After we visited Stones-set-quite-close to-an-adjacent-Henge we went to Avebury, which it turns out is another Henge, only larger, also with quite a lot of nearby stones. The stones are not in a circle and do not function as a calendar, but the place still has a lot of the ooh-ooh-wee-oh freaky, “just what were they doing with so many really big rocks?” sort of energy as Stonehenge. Because it doesn’t have the really hip, albeit slightly misleading name that Stonehenge has (it was already taken) it hasn’t developed quite the must-see tourist energy of its nearby Henge brethren. As a consequence you can still walk right up to the really big rocks and touch them, or pause and engage in some odd chanting ritual that I witnessed on not one but two occasions. I’m not rock obsessed like the loonies making weird vibrating whooshing sounds, but I must admit, those were some seriously splendid, mighty gigantic stones. Next time I’ll skip the crowds at Stones-at-a-Henge and head straight to Avebury. It rocked.

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