Sunday morning. After breakfast at the hotel, I was off to Stonehenge.
“See you soon!” we all said as we hugged good-bye. It was nice to be “over there” for an extended period of time. Saying good-bye meant au revoir—until we meet again. When I’m texting “good-bye!” to friends in Britain as I board a plane back to the States, I always wonder if I’ll ever come back to Britain again, if I’ll ever see them again.
Of course, it works the other way around, too. When I’m in Britain I miss my friends and family in the States, and when I’m here I miss my friends there.
My ticket for Stonehenge was for 15:00—3:00 pm. The tickets actually said something like, “Please be on time or we cannot guarantee you admission.”
All I had to do to get there was take the tube from Barbican station to King’s Cross, then to Victoria, then find the Victoria Coach Station, then catch a coach at 11:00 for Amesbury, find the Econolodge and dump my bag, then figure out how to get to Stonehenge, which was some ways out of town. How hard could it be?
As usual I had planned like I was on a military special operation. I got to the coach station easily. It’s on Buckingham Palace Road, which is a laugh because like all bus stations it’s seedy and run down and full of lurkers—but also nice middle aged couples probably going to visit their children at college.
My phone connected to the wifi in the station, albeit very slowly. It wouldn’t connect at all during the three-hour coach ride, but it snapped up the wireless signal in the Econolodge. All over Britain, I found that wireless would work on one bus but not the next, on the train one day but not the next, and so on. Was it my phone? Was it the wireless? I tried to be zen about it, whatever that means. I was in the front row of the coach, where adverts prominently declared, “Free WIFI!” “Now it’s so easy to stay connected!” “Download our free app!” When I did finally connect at the Econolodge, there were a slew of emails from the coach company thanking me for my custom, urging me to sign up for special deals, asking me to complete a survey, and reminding me to download their f-cking app.
I pulled out my printed map and checked the route for the 10th time.
Gulp. The bus stopped south of the motorway, but the Econolodge was on the north side. How would I get across? Was there a bridge, or would I have to climb over a fence and dart across six lanes of speeding traffic like a deer?
As we pulled into town, I was elated to see a pedestrian underpass. I jumped off the bus and hurried toward it, forgetting to ask the driver where the return bus departed. In minutes I was north of the motorway but there was no Econolodge. I walked back under the motorway, accompanied by some scruffy henge groupies, then back north again. Then it dawned on me that this was all set up for people in cars.
Think like a car, I said to myself, and after walking through the bushes along the motorway off ramp, I found the motel.
I asked for a walking map to Stonehenge at the front desk and the woman did that British thing where they pull back their lips, clench their teeth, and suck in their breath, while looking down and away from you. This means, “Oooh, that’s a very bad idea but I’m not going to say so.” She handed me a map and advised, “Watch out for the bulls.”
“It’s two miles,” she said.
Two miles? Easy peasy. I walked briskly. The views were fantastic. The fields appear dry, I think, partly because we were in a heat wave with 90F+ temperatures.
Two miles … three … I saw the henge in the distance.
“Wow!” I exclaimed aloud. If I had known this was the best view I would get all day, I would have savored it, but it was already 3:15.