February Half-Term; takes forever in arriving and has gone and done a disappearing act in what feels like a matter of seconds. This half-term has been no exception. As a teacher, there is an extremely fine line in allowing yourself time to just sit and catch your breath, and ensuring you actually do things you don’t normally get to do during term time. I am one of those people that need to have something to look forward to. Ideally, the opportunity to leave my four walls and visit some other ones! I’m talking about the famous (infamous?!) ‘Staycation’.
Thinking about it, and Sam would probably agree, the ‘staycation’ word features heavily in my vocabulary. Definitely at times of high stress and when I have spent too much time indoors drowning in paperwork, my reflex reaction is to demand a trip somewhere, anywhere.
So after much persuasion on my part this time, we booked a couple of nights away in Salisbury. Why Salisbury, I hear you ask. Well, in practical terms it is only a two hour drive away from us. Far enough away that we are in a different county and less likely to bump into any children from school. (Who am I kidding, we’ve been spotted in the Needles car park in the Isle of Wight before!)
Also, by visiting Salisbury, two main attractions that are on my UK based bucket list (I seem to have many of those in different categories), became a possibility to tick off.
Blessed with extremely good weather, we shot off with the boot loaded up (yup, I know, two nights) to begin our mini staycation adventure. Our first bucket list stop was to visit the famous Stonehenge.
Now I have seen Stonehenge lots of times. Anyone who has driven down the A303 at a suitable speed has gawked at these impressive boulders, possibly even commenting on how much you need to visit them and one day when you’re passing you will.
Well today was my (our!) day. I didn’t know there was a museum and Visitor Centre. Being National Trust members even got us in for free, and received free car parking which is always a bonus. After a potter round the museum finding out about the thousands of years of history to do with the place, we hopped on a shuttle bus to carry us ‘To The Stones’. The stones were even more impressive up close, and gave me the opportunity to be all arty-farty with iPhone and camera.
It made for a lovely short visit, however battling with various other visitors for the best angle whilst gritting teeth and holding in my teacher glare at the bored and defiant kids was Sam’s signal to get me back to the car and to continue our journey to Salisbury. Luckily this was only about twenty minutes away.
Our hotel of choice was the White Hart, perfectly positioned and just what we needed.
The room itself was lovely, with a four poster bed (my first ever, which I was extremely excited about), and very spacious. Being a couple of minutes’ walk away from the beautiful Salisbury Cathedral was a bonus as well as the shops and restaurants .
The Cathedral itself was the second bucket list item.
The reason for wanting to visit the Cathedral is probably going to sound incredibly silly – but go with me on this.
My Mum and Dad have a nice set of dinner place mats that were always brought out on occasions where there was more than just parents and my brother or we were having a ‘proper’ sit down meal altogether. On these place mats were a selection of paintings by the artist John Constable. For some unknown reason, even by me, the painting of Salisbury Cathedral was my favourite. It was always my place mat, to the point where if anyone else had laid the table and put the mat in the wrong place, I would swap it over.
I always said that one day I would visit the ‘painting’.
I was so excited that I would finally be able to step inside the painting as it were – a very Mary Poppins moment!
We walked over to the Cathedral on the Saturday morning, and it was truly a beautiful sight. My Mum had Whatsapped a photo of the place mat to me so I could try and find the same angle that Constable had painted. Obviously the layout was a bit different and now there were houses, cars etc.
Inside the Cathedral we paid to look around and visit one of four remaining copies of the Magna Carta which has in the last couple of years celebrated its 800th anniversary of being signed. Forty copies were made, and of the four that remain, the Salisbury is the most legible and intact.
The Cathedral itself is stunning. A vast array of stained glass windows and immaculate decorations were simply eye-catching. History was literally oozing out of every brick.
Guided tours of the Cathedral tower are offered on a daily basis and so we booked ourselves on and boy were we in for a treat!
The tour itself last about two hours, and allowed the perfect behind the scenes peek into the history of the Cathedral itself and the people who were involved in its construction.
During the tour we would be climbing to heights, similar to that (if not a bit higher) of the Monument in London, in very tight and cramped conditions. Definitely not for the faint-hearted or those afraid of heights.
The tour was incredible.
I scaled steps and corridors and ledges I didn’t know I could do. As we went up, we learned how the original building from the 1200s has been gradually added to, reinforced and adapted in line with the up-to-date understanding and building techniques of the time. The section of the tower shown below was originally the tallest part of the building until they decided to add a whopping spire on top. The spire caused a shift in the structure of this section, and you can see where iron and then steel reinforcements were added over the centuries to support the original stonework and wooden fixtures. Even a young architect by the name of Christopher Wren visited to give his professional opinion ahead of changes in the 1600s!
We were even in the top part of the tower as the bells chimed – Westminster chimes right before our eyes (and ears).
Stepping out through doors that reminded me of being in a dolls house, we were met with impressive sights of Salisbury laid out like a patchwork. Hints and clues to Salisbury’s history were now able to be seen more clearly.
Being such a bright and sunny day again meant we could see for miles, including the angle where John Constable had painted his picture. Unfortunately the angle in which he had chosen, was now part of the school grounds; I wasn’t able to get any access.
That said, it was an experience in itself just being there to appreciate the building and its history.
The climb down was quicker than going up and I won’t lie, I was pleased to have feet back down on the ground again (the initial fire safety and risk assessment talk at the beginning was nearly enough to put me off the entire thing).
So now I have ticked off two more bucket list items.
I don’t think Sam was all too surprised to hear some more bucket list wants on the journey back home.
With that Sunday feeling hanging heavy in the air at the moment, I really, really don’t think it will be long until I (we) will be using that staycation word again!