And so, the “Two go to Dorset’ trip begins. A target of wheels rolling by 9am to get petrol on route was missed by one minute which was much better than normal. We had barely left Norwich when Karen remembered she had forgotten the replacement batteries for her toothbrush amongst other things.
The weather for the week was predicted to be hot all the way and it was already proving to be so. The air con was being flicked on and off by Karen who was alternatively too hot and too cold every couple of minutes.
We had decided to make a detour to our Hotel in Southbourne by going via Stonehenge which was to add another 40 miles to the journey. We knew we couldn’t get into our room until after 3pm and thought we would take advantage of our English Heritage Membership whilst we had it. Admission would have cost £43 for the pair of us without it.
The first part of the journey was straightforward. I decided to us the app ‘Waze’ on my phone as the Sat Nav for the first time. I connected it through Apple Play and it seemed fine. It routed us down the M11 towards the M25 which I thought was strange but only presumably because of holdups elsewhere. I had expected to go via the A505 (just realised how boring this must be to the reader – so sorry!)
Anyhow by the time we reached the Epping I needed a toilet break and so we pulled off and stopped at MacDonald’s. We were just in time to still order a late breakfast, so we did just that. We were encouraged that all staff and 95% of customers were still wearing masks.
The M25 was then a slow hot drive but we made it eventually to the M3 onwards to Stonehenge. As we were approaching, we worked out that it was almost 41 years to the day since we last visited on route between spending a week in Bournemouth and a few days with Auntie Gracie in Chippenham. This was the week of the Royal Wedding (Charles & Diana) and was the year before our wedding.
I recalled we had parked quite close and approached the stones via an underpass. Nowadays though the visitors centre is 1.25 miles away from which there is no sight of the stones at all, just the rolling plains of Salisbury. We were pleased that our English Heritage membership gave us access to an exclusive car park which was a nice perk. The 31c heat that hit us as we got out of the car was not such a perk.
We headed to the visitor’s centre which is an impressive looking building. The exhibition it contained was not worthy of it. Boring would be my summary and we whizzed through it in a few minutes. After a quick refreshment break, we decided to head to Stones. There was a free shuttle to take you there, but Karen wanted to walk in the heat. I thought it was quite brave but soon realised it was because of her reticence to get on a half full bus that had all the windows open. I was quite happy to walk, but boy was it hot and uphill nearly all the way.
The Stones themselves were looking pretty much the same as the last time we were here. I recalled that as a child being able to climb on them. My friend Ed told me that in Victorian times visitors took hammers with them to chisel off parts as souvenirs.
I’m not sure how I feel about them. I think it’s absolutely right they are preserved. I would however have liked to have been able to get us much closer to them but not sure how that could be controlled. I would also suggest that near the visitors centre they put a full-scale reconstruction of how the whole site would have looked complete with perhaps the ones that are still in position coloured differently. A ride possibly would be a step too far?
Being a bit of a philistine in many ways I also wonder if the interpretation of what the stones were and represented may be over thought through. Surely the fact it is a circle mean that you can put an argument that it lines up with whatever you want it to? Could it be another ‘Kings New Clothes’ and I am the only one who thinks that?
Anyhow it was blisteringly hot at the Stones itself and we were rapidly melting in the heat. I thought it might persuade Karen to get the bus back, but again she politely refused and so we trudged back very slowly. We needed another drink back at the Visitors Centre before continuing onto Southbourne.
Our route took us through the centre of Salisbury. I booed when we saw the Cathedral and said that it didn’t look anywhere near as tall as Norwich’s and certainly nowhere near as impressive. I demand they measure them both again and make sure they include the cockerel on top of ours.
As ever my nerves started to kick in as we approached our Hotel (Cliff House Hotel - Southbourne), as I knew Karen was determined to not like it. This was due to her seeing a couple of negative recent reviews on Trip Advisor (for its restaurant). I was reasonably certain it would be good. It wasn’t 'cheap' but you can never tell.
Parking was poor which got us off to a bad start. The entrance itself wasn’t great and by the time we were taken to our room Karen had her ‘face’ on her. The room itself was good and actually far better than that. She was set upon finding faults and settled upon moaning about the lack of a bath and lack of a fridge. But it was large, airey, had 3 aspects windows and lots of really nice touches. I was confident it would grow on her, as it did.
To keep the peace, I suggested rather than eating in, that we head to the High Street instead which was about 0.5 mile walk away. What a lovely surprise the High Street was. It was full of independent shops, cafes and restaurant, with just a small smattering of High Street names (Tesco & Sainsbury local stores). We passed at least 4 restaurants we liked the look of before heading into the one I had selected called The Brewhouse and Kitchen. This was part of a southern England chain. It was huge and seemed empty inside as we discovered most people were sitting put back on a large outdoor terrace. It had its own brewery and Karen tried its Raspberry Beer whilst I had a Grapefruit G&T both of which were good. The boys would have been very happy with this choice especially as it had Chicken cooked with a can on the menu.
I had a Black and Blue Burger which was not bad, whilst Karen combined a crab cake starter with some fries. It was almost like being on holiday sitting outside like that. Again, it all felt very safe with all staff still wearing masks.
We had a nice wander back along the High Street before retiring for the night. The room was quite hot and opened all 4 windows that we could to let some much needed air in.