Choir Pilgrimage to the West of England
August 4-13, 2019
Greetings from the United Kingdom! Monday, we landed at about 10:30 (BST, British Summer Time). Once most of us landed, we met up with the rest of our group who was already in London. That included Dr. Gallagher, who played two concerts in Germany last week. He said they were received very well!
As soon as all the tourists, singers, and director were together in Heathrow, we boarded our coach with tour directors, Clive and Ann, for Stonehenge.
Stonehenge fit right in with the sophistication of its time, rivaling the people of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations. This prehistoric site is thought to have been a ceremonial meeting place. People came from local areas, but the site was also a popular pilgrimage destination. Why did they all come? Some historians think it was a temple to the Sun, while others believe that the pilgrims thought the blue stones (the smaller stones in the inner circle) that come from Wales, had a healing nature. Of course, both theories are from pagan-natured myths. Another pagan myth is that this site was a worship center for the druids. Archaeologists have now debunked this popular belief. Apparently, the druids existed about 2000 after the construction of Stonehenge and therefore could not have used Stonehenge as their pagan temple. The most popular, and accurate, theory is that the site is a vast astronomical calendar and the prehistoric people who built it were advanced enough to have understood the movements of the sun and the seasons of the year – which is quite impressive.
After a nice walk to the stones and back, we had a very nice lunch (many sandwiches and a whole lot of coffee and tea!) and departed for Bath. We will be staying at the Francis Hotel until next Tuesday. Here’s a photo of the hotel, taken from Queen’s Square (park), across the street.
Tuesday, we woke up early and had a full English breakfast at the hotel before departing for a tour of the Roman Baths! (Don’t worry…we are actually here to sing and will get to that eventually.) There are two levels to the Baths. Here are two photos, one of the top level and one of the bottom level:
The water is a beautiful greenish blue color, as you can see, and inside the adjacent building there is a faucet with the spring water running continuously. Some of us were adventurous enough to drink it! I drank a little cup – it was a bit salty! Definitely full of minerals, yum.
The Baths are the only natural hot springs in the U.K. This was a miracle to the Romans and they associated the heated water with what they thought was the work of a goddess they named Minerva. A more scientific hypothesis is that it was originally rain water, turned hot by percolating under thousands of layers of limestone beneath the earth, finishing its 10,000 year journey by being driven back up in this site as hot water.
The second full day ended with a three course dinner in Francis Hotel. Then, off to bed for a full night of rest before the next day of touring! Headed to Wells and Glastonbury before our first evensong concert on Thursday!