The Journal of a Journey,
UK and Ireland 1999
Day 11Monday, October 11 continued
We ended our visit to Bath in the extensive gift shop adjacent to the Pump House, making last-minute souvenir purchases. It was about noon when we gathered our luggage and headed back to the train station to depart for our last sightseeing destination, Salisbury, the next sizeable town down the line from Bath.
Salisbury is an ancient and mystical plane in England's mid-south, often believed to be the place where Britain (the more ancient incarnation of this land than "England") got its start. It is the modern remake of Sarum, home of the oldest cathedrals of Christendom in Britain, as well as Stonehenge and other prehistoric places of worship. I had been to Stonehenge on my first visit here, and as Tom had no pressing desire to see it, we opted to let the opportunity pass this time. However, Salisbury is the place to get regularly scheduled tourbusses to Stonehenge.
Our immediate problem on arriving was what to do with our luggage. There was no "left luggage" facility at the train depot (supposedly removed for security reasons several years ago), so we were advised to take our luggage to the bus depot in the center of town and leave it there. We got a taxi, ironically, from one depot to the other, found "left luggage" and checked our bags. Then it was off for a brief walking tour of this magnificent town on a beautiful day.
Salisbury had been one of the highlights of my first British tour, but coming in via the train and bus stations put it in such a new perspective that I hardly recognized it. Not till we reached the glorious cathedral did I feel reassured this was the same place I had toured five years ago. We got photos of the cathedral inside and out, although were disappointed that a private school on the cathedral grounds prevents walking all the way around it, and we were never able to get far enough away to get shots showing the whole building with its beautiful landscaping, so the accompanying photos show the two items from two angles. Also, since my first visit, they've started requiring an admission price to visit the cathedral, which we paid somewhat reluctantly. It is worth it, and Salisbury more than any other cathedral I've been to impresses me as being "about" Christianity, whereas cathedrals like St. Paul's and Westminster Abbey in London seem more about history and tourism.
We made our way back out past the ancient gate to the city through the wall (unfortunately it isn't intact like Chester's, so that it can be walked on) and down a busy shopping street past a large Woolworth's store. On seeing that it had a cafeteria, we decided to try it for old-time's sake. Though the menu featured scones and pots of tea, beef and kidney pie and other English dishes, it was the same five and dime dining experience we remembered from our youth, when eating at Woolworth's was a treat. The prices were also still considerably lower than pub food or restaurant ones.
In all, Salisbury is a groovy experience, a pleasant big town with both bustle and ambiance. We made our way back to the bus station and collected our luggage. Then, being unsure how to get a taxi from this location (though I did use telephones on this journey for the first time anywhere outside the North American system, I still wasn't comfortable with them) I asked some bus drivers how to catch a bus to the train depot. They directed us a couple of blocks away, where all busses that stop go by way of the train depot. We had decided, both because of our bad experience at the London guesthouse and in view of the fact that the Paddington Station was inaccessible because of the horrendous accident there the previous week, to attempt to stay in Reading and go from there rather than return to London. Reading is a large town that we had seen from the train on our first trip out, to Oxford and Stratford. A spokesperson in the Salisbury station assured us this was a good idea. There were frequent busses to Heathrow Airport from the Reading Train Station, and it was a convenient location on the way.
There was a transfer of trains between Salisbury and Reading, but otherwise getting there was no problem. We arrived in our third city of the day well before dark.
Next station: Reading, then Heathrow
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