Thursday, July 22, 2010

The 4th of July in the English Countryside

Oxford, Windsor, Stonehenge, and the White Horses

Oxford on the first day there - forgot to include these yesterday.

Christ Church of Oxford

Life on the I miss college

Hey...why didn't Gainesville have a nice stream running through it?

Tiny hot-air balloon

After a tasty, English breakfast, we began the day with all American music on the radio in celebration of American Independence Day.  That was fun.  A visit to Windsor Castle was first on the agenda, just about an hour's drive from Oxford.  Chris still drove like an Englishman (on the left) without incident and we even passed a sign for Marlow on the way, a family name.

I hadn't stopped to consider that Windsor is an actual town, so we were a little surprised to find this cute town, complete with narrow streets full of shops, restaurants, hotels, and pubs surrounding the famous royal residence. After close to an hour in line we entered the premises, snapping pictures and reading here and there about the history of England in the various museums set up within the walls.  It was a nice day to be out, so we soaked it up while we could, expecting much rain for this trip.  Of course after visiting the castle we ha to stop into one of said pubs for refreshment in th form of a cider :)

After Windsor, we were off another hour to see the mysterious Stonehenge.  Even though the site is now surrounded by fencing to let you know where to stop, we were still able to get close enough to photograph every angle around it.  I was disappointed that the blue and sunny sky had slipped behind expanding grey clouds, but was still super excited to get to be there at all, as seeing anything in England would have been a moot point had we opted to fly rather than drive.

I didn't feel the deep sense of mystery I expected when I first laid eyes on these ancient rocks, but I was moved by the fact that I was standing beside them in those fields, looking at something that has baffled historians for years.  It had been so sunny only an hour away, but the sky darkened and filled with thick clouds a we neared our next stop.  I don't know, a bright sunny sky kind of seems to clash with the sight of these stones to me for some reason.

In the gift shop we saw information about the White Horses of this part of England and grabbed a map detailing the locations of eight in the area.  We decided to seek out the oldest and most famous, the Uffington White Horse.  These White Horses are areas on hillsides where deep trenches have been dug out and filled with crushed white chalk, and have been done so in patterns that reveal enormous horses.  The Uffington White Horse has been studied and analyzed and dated to be from the Bronze Age, some 3,000 years old, although coins were found from the Iron Age with an image of this Horse on them.  We found it, parked and walked out to see it, but at our angle it looked like little more than some white streaks on the hillside.  The best view of this one is an aerial view, so we took what we could in the ways of pictures and headed back to Oxford.  Here's an image I borrowed from Wikipedia to give you an idea:

Now here's my attempt:

Here's another one, not nearly as old, we caught on the way:

But we got to see two prehistoric wonders this day, so it was a good day, nonetheless!

Back in Oxford we headed downtown to find something to eat, loving the feel of this university town.  On the way we passed a highly drunk man, who called out to us (thankfully from across the street), "I need to masturbate profusely!"  I gave a thumbs up, but Chris told me not to encourage the drunks, and I suppose he was right.  We made it downtown without incident.  It was late and we were starving, but somehow even though this is a university town full of students and bars, nobody was serving food past 9pm! We were flabbergasted, and highly disappointed that our only option was fast food.

So McDonald's it was, a fine meal to end our first day in the UK.  Happy 4th of July!

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