Centenary World Cruise Day 9: Stonehenge!

“What happened to Day 8?” I hear you cry. Nothing. Nothing happened to Day 8 because nothing happened on Day 8. Let’s move on!

We made port in Southampton, and while the passengers from the last cruise left (good-bye to all those hacking coughers!) and the passengers for this next leg came on, we boarded a bus for Stonehenge.

On the way, we took a little detour through the New Forest, where “new,” in typical British style, means that it was planted 600 years ago. So much of the wooded areas reminded me powerfully of home, and I felt my first real wave of homesickness that didn’t involve my family.

As we crossed the Avon river, I learned that there are lots of rivers in England called Avon. Here’s why:
Foreigner: Hello! We’ve come to colonize your land! What’s the name of this river?
Native: I can’t understand a word you’re saying. Speak Celtic, for crying out loud!
Foreigner (speaking their own language more loudly and slowly with large hand gestures): THIS RIVER HERE…WHAT DO YOU CALL IT?
Native (with a dismissive look): It’s a river?
Foreigner: Then in recognition of your culture which I will do my best to obliterate along with much of your population, I will call it “River”!
“Avon” is the Celtic word for “river.”  

On to Stonehenge! The first time I saw the Mona Lisa, I was let down because it’s only about the size of a sheet of notebook paper. I prepared myself for Stonehenge to be similarly disappointing.

In the visitor’s center, I learned that “henge” doesn’t refer to the stones, but to the circle of ditch surrounding the stones. There are lots of other henges (Woodhenge is nearby), but all they have in common is that ditch. Next, I learned that the average height of the people who built is was just over four feet, which explains much about my mother and grandmother.

Lise reclining on a bed of woven wood
This is a bed made of something like woven willow branches. It’s every bit as uncomfortable as it looks.

We then went out to Stonehenge itself. It’s exactly as advertised, except for one thing: while the stones are every bit as tall as they look, they are much closer together than I was imagining. I thought there would be room for thirty or forty people within the remaining circle of stones, but it appears that there is room for more like 5-8.

My husband and me in a photo that just looks like we’re standing in front of a poster.

Stonehenge is on a hill in the middle of a vast plain, which means that the wind there can rip your hair off. It also rains a lot, leading to this particular bin.

The last thing I learned is that crows in England are incredibly vain, and also not well-off financially. Take this specimen. You can see, as it grooms itself, that its white roots are showing. Deduction tells us both that this crow dyes its feathers, and that it hasn’t done so recently, but desires to keep up appearances.

A truly shocking number of people (including us) had their backs to Stonehenge, one of the most famous monuments in the world, in order to take pictures of this bird.

Once back on board (where we discovered that, with the new crop of passengers, the average age of the population had shot up by 20 years), we were treated to the Imperial Military Band which, despite its pompous name and the fact that it was exclusively men, gave a very impressive concert. A lovely end to a lovely day.

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