First of all: Riding a train in England is pure fun!
The trains are punctual to the minute (that’s the way it works, dear Deutsche Bahn!), you have plenty of legroom, everything is clean and the fully packed snack wagons invite you to have a snack and remind you a little of Harry Potter’s old witch in the Hogwarts Express – but there was no Kesselkuchen.
Since we arrived on 20.06. in Salisbury we mutually remembered to think tomorrow only of calling my brother Thomas who has on 21.06. birthday. 21.06…I could always remember well because of the summer solstice. Wait a minute, wait a minute. Summer solstice? Wasn’t there a connection with Stone Age cult and…Stonehenge?
The taxi driver at the station confirmed this to us…
Yes, tomorrow there’s a big celebration at Stonehenge. I don’t think they’re open today because of the preparations, but i’m not completely sure about that
Damn you! Damn you! Now what?
Directly behind the train station we found a cosy little pub called The Cat Tavern which also rented rooms. We didn’t want a room, but we wanted to get rid of our suitcases and we could do that there. Over a cup of tea and scones, we drew up a battle plan. We wanted to take a taxi to Stonehenge to see if it was open, because there was nothing on the internet and the landlord had no idea – instead of me just calling? Well, sometimes you’re like nailed up. Furthermore there is the Salisbury Cathedral in Salisbury which is home to the best preserved of the four remaining specimens of the Magna Carta from 1215, which we also wanted to have a look at.
So we went back to the station free of our luggage and made a really fair fixed price with “our” taxi driver and he drove us to Stonehenge. As we feared Stonehenge was closed due to the preparations for the summer solstice and we were quite disappointed sitting in a taxi, a round trip to England without Stonehenge…that just doesn’t work! Our taxi driver drove us then on a distance at Stonehenge past from which one could see the columns reasonably well and he drove extra slowly so that we could take photos.
Afterwards we drove directly back to Salisbury to have a closer look at the city and the cathedral. Salisbury is beautifully situated and offers plenty of green areas and even more half-timbered houses, all rounded off by the river Avon which meanders leisurely through the city.
After we had explored the city and the cathedral extensively, we planned on, because Salisbury didn’t offer us enough destinations for another day. After brooding over Google Maps and our travel guide we decided to visit Bristol, a city about 90 km northwest of Salisbury. So we looked for a train connection and jerked back to the station – 3 people, 3 suitcases – got in and drove off.Apropros Train: We already got a BritRail Euro GB Pass from Germany before the trip, you can't buy it in Great Britain but only order it from abroad and with the exorbitant prices for train journeys in Great Britain you have the price of a little more than 100€ after 2-3 journeys out again - worth it!
Arrived in Bristol we rolled with the suitcases once across the city around us the key for our studio apartment to pick up, the landlord was then so nice to us with the car to the apartment to drive there the again at the other end of the city lay. But the exertions were worth it because the apartment was a blast! Spacious, cosy and at the same time inexpensive. Directly opposite a café where you could have a wonderful breakfast, but which is now closed as my research showed. The apartment was located in the Upper Easton neighborhood, so it was pretty central. We bought food, drinks and snacks, put our feet up in the apartment to chill. The TV was on and we read and planned what we wanted to do.
The next day we decided to visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the Clifton Observatory and the harbour.
The Clifton Suspension Bridge really excited me! At first I thought that a bridge as a landmark of a city can't really make much difference, but I thought that wrong. It is a chain bridge that spans the river Avon - which we already know from Salisbury - in the Avon Gorge. The Avon in the centre of Bristol is tide dependent, the tide is a remarkable 13 meters - an interesting detail for me as a hamburger with a tidal harbour and a tidal moor in the vicinity.
On the Clifton side of the bridge is located on a hill the Clifton Observatory. Built in 1766 as a grain mill and later used as a mill for snuff, the building now houses a Camera Obscura and several telescopes. The building owes this use since 1828 to William West, an artist who used the Camera Obscura and telescopes to paint the surrounding landscape and the Avon Gorge by students of the Bristol School of artists - of which he himself was a member. Many of these paintings can be found today in the Bristol City Museum and Art Gallery.
The Camera Obscura is located in the spire of the former mill, the deflection mirror can be rotated from the darkened tower room below and the panoramic image of the surroundings is projected onto a round table with a diameter of 1.5 metres.
Amazing at the Avon Gorge, where both sights are located, is the overwhelming nature you will encounter in the middle of the city. The cut between city and wonderful rock and forest is so drastic that it seems almost surreal.
The Clifton Observatory also houses the entrance to St Vincent's Cave. The cave, actually not accessible from above, was made accessible by William West by digging a 62 metre deep tunnel which took two years to complete. The view from St. Vincent's Cave is indescribable! So indescribable that I actually forgot to photograph.
After enjoying nature to the full, we made our way to the port of Bristol. When we arrived at the Cascade Steps, a fountain staircase into the harbour basin where many children play, we immediately noticed the Quick Crepes stand where we had a snack and a cup of coffee or tea.
As a hamburger you know the omnipresence of pigeons when you are somewhere outside where you get something to eat. In Bristol it seems to be more the seagulls, hundreds of them were there and were not afraid of people.
We strolled around in the harbour for a while, but soon we went back to our apartment, because the next morning we took the train to Abergavenny and from there to Talybont on usk in beautiful Wales.
On the next page you can read why the journey was so exciting and how we liked Wales