Jordan’s Blog: Bath and Glastonbury

On Wednesday, we went to the city of Bath in Somerset, England. Why is this town called Bath? It is called  Bath because when the Romans came here they found a natural spring of endless hot water. They quickly built around it and channeled the water into pools that they bathed in. The Romans called it Aquae Sulis after the goddess, Sulis Minerva. They believed it was a gift from Minerva and that the water had special healing powers that could cure sickness. Romans from all over came to bathe here, not just to be healed, but to clean themselves and socialize with other people. They made huge hot rooms to sweat off the dirt and grime and workers would clean the bathers by hand using oil and a scraping tool called a strigil. There were so many people set about the place that the pools were often crowded. Since the Romans thought that Aquae Sulis was a gift, they built a place of worship where people could pray and thank the goddess Minerva for giving them this great supply of hot water. After our tour of the Roman baths it was time to head to our next destination.

Our drive to Glastonbury was not fun. We were lost almost half the time, so our quick 30 minute drive lasted an hour and a half. But by five thirty we finally got there. The reason we came to Glastonbury was to visit king Arthur’s grave site in a ruined Abbey and to climb a 517 foot tall Tor, or ‘big hill’. Both were interesting, and my favorite was the view on top of the Tor. Everything around me was flat and standing on this hill five hundred and seventeen feet in the air, I felt like i could see everyone and everything for miles. I would definitely like to come back to Glastonbury in the future. We had too little time there.

Jordan’s Blog: Stonehenge and Avebury

Stonehenge and Avebury are prehistoric henge monuments located in southwest England. These sites are among the most well known tourist attractions in the world because of the mystery that has stumped archeologists for years. How did these giant stones get here? And why were they brought to this place?

Scientists believe that these sites were built around 3000 B.C. to 2000

B.C. That was over 5000 years ago!  The first stones that were brought to

Stonehenge were brought from a site in Wales between 2400 B.C. and 2200 B.C. it is thought they were then somehow loaded onto large ships to be carried down river to a village some 100 miles away from Stonehenge. The stones were then most likely rolled on top of large logs to where they would be stacked on top of each other in a circular setting.

This was probably the same case for the stones gathered in Avebury for they are not too far away from each other. No easy feat when you consider that the stones weigh anywhere from 5 tons to 45 tons each! The stones that were brought there were composed in larger circular setting than Stonehenge and had a huge ditch with two smaller stone circles lining the inside.

The original purpose of these monuments is unknown. Perhaps they were places of worship? There have been many theories but evidence suggests that Stonehenge was most likely used as a burial site. But what scientists discovered about this place surprised them. Twice a year, on the solstices, the sun shines through the front stone doorway. This allows you to see which month you are in by how the sun rotates and shines through a different doorway each month.

To really appreciate Stonehenge and Avebury is to see them first-hand and get an idea of how massive the stones really are and why archeologists are so interested in these monuments. It is a nice place to go and reflect on the mystery of how humans with only the bones of animals and stone tools could accomplish such a feat.

Justin’s Blog: Stonehenge

Last Wednesday, my family and I went to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is in the County of Wiltshire, Southwest England. It is in farmland next to a busy road.

Stonehenge was started in the Stone Age between 3,000 BC and 2,000 BC. That is over 4,000 years ago! Stonehenge is made of blue stones from Wales which weigh 4 tons, and sandstone stones which weigh 40 tons. Stonehenge is a calendar for the summer and winter solstices. I thought that Stonehenge was peaceful and mysterious.

Six pounds for a museum ticket or…a giant bubble maker?

On Friday, we took a day trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon for Justin’s 10th birthday. Gigi got us tickets for the play “Twelfth Night” at the Royal Shakespeare Company Theater.  We are staying only about an hour and half away from Stratford and Gigi and I had great memories of visiting the area when we lived here 20 years ago.  Seeing the play was the main reason for going to Stratford, we really had not planned anything beyond having a picnic lunch in a park when we got there. I was dubious about the idea of taking the boys to a Shakespeare play, how would they be able to follow the dialogue? Justin especially has a history of simply going to sleep when he is in an audience. Did we really want to spend the money on something that the boys probably wouldn’t understand? Gigi reminded me that this could be one of our literature lessons for the week and we should read the play before we go. We had a copy of the play and on Wednesday started reading it aloud. Shakespeare’s dialogue is not easy reading, and we were constantly stopping to look up a word or “trying” to explain what is going on in the scene. We finally decided to skip reading the actual play (since we kept loosing the boy’s attention) and simply read a summary while quizzing the boys a few times on the characters and the general plot. They actually knew quite a bit.

When we got to Stratford, we picnicked in the park just outside the theater along the Avon river. Gigi and I were asking each other, “So, what do you want to do?” Heck, sitting in the park seemed just the thing to do. There was a jazz guitarist playing music not far away and lots of other families doing the same thing as us. The river was full of swans and geese,which Justin found quite enthralling. There was a vendor selling giant soap bubble wands and several kids were chasing bubbles through the park. We decided Justin could have another birthday present, so we bought one for him. That provided quite a lot of entertainment for Jordan and Justin. They had much more fun with that little purchase than if we had spent money on

admission to the Anne Hathaway house. One thing we did do was go boating on the Avon. We didn’t go “punting”, but hired a rowboat for an hour. The Avon does have a mild current, which made rowing a bit challenging. I had real trouble rowing straight. Jordan and Justin got to try theirhands at rowing. Gigi only got raked by low hung branches twice.

For dinner, Gigi and I had a nice Indian meal while the boys played in the big park nearby. Jordan had eaten two Cornish pasties from a shop when the store woman announced on the street “We’re closing! All pasties

for a pound!” Jordan has taken a liking to pasties and sausage rolls. Justin got his birthday dinner wish – his favorite subway sandwich: a foot-long with black forest ham, bacon, and black olives. Nothing else.


Finally, it was time for the theater. The new RSC building has only been open for two years, and it was fantastic. The seating was horseshoe style around the stage, and there were only maybe 10 rows on the floor and each of the balconies only had about 5 rows. We were 5 rows from the stage.

The performance was simply amazing. Forget that that there were huge swathes of dialogue that we could not follow, the acting was so good, the comedic cues so well executed that we were engulfed in the action, able to follow the plot, and laughed a lot. Sir Toby looked like a crazed Jeff Bridges in capri pants and a Hawaiian shirt, and he really played the drunk well. All of the actors were amazing and the nonsense was wild! The sight of a bare chested Malvolio coming out of the on-stage elevator in thigh high yellow stockings with cross-garters and nothing but a black and yellow cod-piece thong (he did turn around to moon the audience) set the entire audience into hysterics. It was so engaging that Justin did not fall asleep once during the three-hour performance. He laughed along with us and kept telling Gigi that he couldn’t believe they would allow the guy to show his behind on stage. Jordan really loved it too. When we left the theater, Justin’s comment about Shakespeare was “He makes good plays” and proceeded to re-count parts of the final scene and his thoughts on it. The next morning, he told me he wanted to see “Twelfth Night” again. Thank you RSC. You have created a new admirer of Shakespeare.