“Hey, who pinched her pannini?” the fry cook shouts impatiently. We have been shivering in the wind outside Stonehenge’s one tiny concession booth for about twenty minutes, our bus back to London will leave without us any minute, and it appears that someone has stolen my sandwich.
What are we doing out here with this ancient pile of rocks anyway? In my quest to visit anything and everything related to the Winter Solstice and December 21, 2012, I simply couldn’t skip this:
The round boulder to the left of me in the henge’s foreground is my very own birthday stone – the “Winter Solstice Stone.” According to one tour company, December 21 is the most important day of the year at Stonehenge because the monument and my special stone will be “carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset.”
But today isn’t the Solstice.
It’s just a cold October afternoon with busloads of tourists jostling each other out of the way because even though no one understands the original purpose of the 7000-year-old structure, everyone thinks it’s a great photo opp:
And despite the many tourists here and my stolen lunch, I must admit I do feel a special energy here. Could it be true, as archeologist Philip Coppens speculates, that Stonehenge might be part of a larger ancient civilization modeled on the lost city of Atlantis?
Where is Harry Potter when you need him?
As cynical as I sometimes sound on this blog, I’m in the mood for some MAGIC. Stonehenge would be a lot more interesting if the British guides didn’t insist on immediately debunking all the mythology. How was it built? They can’t say, but it definitely wasn’t erected by aliens. How did the Druids manage to lift and transport all these multi-ton boulders hundreds of miles without roads? They don’t know that either, and in fact, the very existence of Druids is questionable too; all we have about them are some spotty records written hundreds of years after the fact. Ok, what’s wrong with the aliens theory then? You say you’re from California?
Basically, Brits seem to think everything is a pile of rubbish.
Except for George Michael:
He’s Brilliant. (I know this because we asked random Brits emerging from his concert last week in Earl’s Court and they ALL used the same adjective to describe him.)
But it seems everything and everyone who is not George Michael are not to be trusted. Crop circles are manmade. According to one British journalist I chatted with about some of the other New Age topics I’ve written about on this site, even dolphins and horses are suspect. “They only make you feel healed because they’re cute. Plus there’s the whole anthropomorphism problem.” (Ok, but I’ve always been curious about the reverse: What do you call it when animals assume we humans have some basic sense of intuition, and can instantly detect good and evil the way they do?)
But I digress. Here are a few quick travel tips from our U.K. trip last week:
- Traffic flows about a hundred times better in London than in L.A., probably because everyone takes the tube. (But do not smile on the tube, unless you want everyone to know you’re American.)
- Brits don’t wear sunglasses (even though it was actually sunny one day).
- Unless you’re George Michael. (See above … he’s brilliant.)
- If you wear sunglasses AND smile, people will take pictures of you.
- If you go to a pub alone and smile, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- In fact, it’s best if you don’t smile at all. Especially if you want to be mistaken for James Bond:
He’s the one in the middle. (No wait … that’s Hubby.) A few more tips:
- Westminster Abbey looks much more impressive on TV than in person. (I wonder if the same is true of Kate Middleton?)
- Do NOT stay in Earl’s Court unless you are a backpacker. (Possibly the worst Marriott ever? They try to hide this by advertising it as “Kensington” but don’t be fooled, it’s totally Earl’s Court: Cold showers, injury inflicting doors, plus a bad key card … not that I’m high maintenance or anything.)
At least this trip is better than when I really was a backpacker here in 1993. On that trip, my sole purpose was to unload $5,000 worth of papyrus some shady Egyptian guy in Cairo told me I’d be able to “double my investment” with by selling it in London (at a non-existent shop):
As Hubby claims, of course I will buy that bridge from you. (And no, Hubby, I will not be naming any of those stars after you that I bought title to last year ...) What else?
- Harrod’s closes at 8:00. The London Eye will likely be closed no matter when you go.
- They won’t let you in to the Parliament Building (especially if you’re smiling and wearing sunglasses).
- London Tower has nothing to do with London Bridge. (But at least there’s a decent pub near the latter.)
- Do not smile if you go into that pub alone. (Am I repeating myself here?)
Amazingly, pub food and Wisconsin food have the exact same nutritional value:
- If you want good food in London, go for Italian.
But I must admit that dark pubs and heavy food fit the environment here perfectly. They offer so much comfort. So, after getting lost near the London Bridge (which has nothing to do with London Tower, where the crown jewels are kept), I duck out of the rain and into this place:
I sit alone at a small table and a somewhat inebriated Brit immediately asks: “Are you meeting someone?” I reach for my sunglasses and emphatically answer, “YES.” He plops down next to me and smiles, “Could it be ME?”
And I can’t help but laugh, because even the cheesiest pickup lines are somehow more charming with a British accent.
But whatever happened to my pannini at Stonehenge?
“Sorry, some other blonde picked it up ten minutes ago.”
I bet she was wearing sunglasses.