After leaving Scotland, we entered Northeastern England. This is an industrial and coal mining region, and is the setting for the movie, Billy Elliot. (No, I didn't see any dancing kids in the streets.)
I won't go into the history of England, although it is fascinating, with a rich heritage of political intrigue, assassinations and beheadings. Suffice to say that the Celts were here too, as were the Romans, Vikings and Normans. But Rome had much more of a presence in England than in Scotland or Wales, and that presence helped shape the country's history. England was also invaded by Angle and Saxon tribes from Germany, during the fifth and sixth centuries, who introduced the language we call "Old English" to the country . (The term "Anglo-Saxon" comes from that era). I suppose the Norman invaders from France left the greatest impact, though. England, over time, developed a strong monarchy, which enabled her to pretty well impose the King's will on the less organized Scots, Welsh and Irish. Those people never developed strong central governments. Of course, The settlers of The United States' 13 original colonies were mostly English, so we have inherited much English culture.
Our first tourist stop was at Hadrian's Wall, one of the wonders of the ancient world. The Roman emperor, Hadrian, had the wall built in the First Century to define the outer limit of the area in England that Rome had conquered. It was designed to hold back the barbarians, and was quite an undertaking. This stone wall stretched 72 miles across Northern England, from Carlisle to Newcastle. It was 15 feet tall and 6 feet thick, with guard towers every mile. On both sides were large mounds of earth, with a ditch between them. But in the Third Century, Rome had other problems to face, and abandoned England. Afterwards, the wall was slowly dismantled to build stone houses and churches. Unfortunately, although there are impressive remains elsewhere, there was little left to see at the spot where our bus stopped. I could not understand why people were snapping pictures of a pile of stone not a foot high. It looked like some farmer's abandoned stone fence.
We proceeded on to York, England's most complete medieval city, where we spent the night at Jarvis International Hotel. I believe it was here that we temporarily lost a member of our group. But she was eventually found. (This was the second lost soul I encountered on a tour. The first was in Budapest, which was more serious because of the size of that city. The lady we lost there had to find her own way back to our hotel, a scary experience.)
York has Northern Europe's largest Gothic Cathedral. Here are photos of the cathedral and of a typical "quaint" street.
The next morning, we headed South, past Sherwood Forest, and on to Stratford-upon-Avon. This is Shakespeare's birthplace, and is a really pretty town. I decided it was impressive enough to take pictures - lot's of pictures (for me, anyway). The first photo is of Ann Hathaway's cottage, near Stratford. Then, various views of the house where Shakespeare was born, and the gardens behind the house.
Here are some pictures of Stratford-upon Avon itself. (The first photo is still in the garden.)
That afternoon, our tour proceeded on to the Georgian city of Bath. Famous for its hot springs, the city was transformed by the Romans into a religious complex built around the baths, with hotels for visitors from across the Empire. Some of the Roman structures have been uncovered and they are fascinating to visit today. Bath has the reputation of being the "best built city in England." It was almost completely rebuilt 200 years ago, during the "Georgian" period, and its light sandstone buildings are of that distinctive architecture. Here we can see Bath Abbey, England's last great medieval church.
The photos below show parts of the Roman baths, the Abby, and another church. (I didn't get the name of this one.)
We spent the night at the Hilton Bath hotel. The next morning we went to see one of the most famous (and mysterious) sights in the world - Stonehenge. I'm not going into all of the theories that have been advanced as to who built it. We do know now that Stonehenge has been here for at least 1500 years, which means it was erected long before the Druids came to the area. So much for that theory. Parts of the structure are thought to be 3000 years old. What is amazing is that the smaller bluestones, weighing up to 5 tons each, that made up the inner ring, are only found in Wales - 240 miles distant! The larger outer ring stones weigh up to 50 tons each, and the nearest quarry where they could have been found is 20 miles away! Sadly, much of the original is gone now. But what remains is truly impressive.
From Stonehenge, we traveled to Salisbury, renowned for its Early English Gothic cathedral. An original copy of The Magna Carta is kept here. (Four copies were drawn up and signed by the king and the lords.) Here are a few photos I took in Salisbury. The elaborate cupola marks the center of the original market area. Most old English towns had some sort of marker erected, often a stone, to denote the main trading area. Update: I had forgotten what the last picture is about, but a fellow tour member who looked at this page clued me in. Juliet Wood tells me It is a memorial statue to Prince Albert. It was commissioned by Queen Victoria. I did some research and discovered that the memorial is in London, so I'm getting a bit ahead of myself.
So now, we head into London town. Click here for my London page.