Waltzing in Salisbury

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United Kingdom is full of architectural places for tourists’ attraction. While London, Edinburgh, Cambridge, Oxford are the most visited ones, there are small beautiful historical sites spread all across UK. One of such places is Salisbury. Its name is pronounced as ‘sAWLz – bree’. As an Indian taught to pronounce spellings purely phonetically, I kept pronouncing it as ‘sAALEEs – burry’ for the longest time. But, slowly over time and after a lot of prompting by my husband, the actual pronunciation started to stick to my tongue. High time, considering I spent over a month at this place.

Salisbury is primarily known for its proximity to the iconic STONEHENGE, a UNESCO world heritage site, which is just half an hour’s (18 km.) bus ride from the city center. Salisbury is also home to the Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest church spire (123 m) in the whole of UK and also houses the oldest working clock along with the original manuscripts of Magna Carta (for those who don’t know about it but can still recollect the name from our history books, it’s a 12th century charter establishing every citizen including the king need to abide by the laws of the land. This exemplary charter gave insights towards framing a just constitution to many politicians at a later date.)

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Apart from the wiki facts, the thing that made me fall in love with this place was its clandestine feel. It is like a place you see in serials. Imagine yourself being the lead character with all your family and friends living close by. You can just walk to work, hangout in a coffee shop or a pub, and realise that you almost know everyone in the town. You find yourself be a part of colorful festivals organized with a great fervor where people from the whole town participate to make it a success.

Don’t panic if you find people running in groups at night with headlights fixed on their heads. It could be a city wide treasure hunt in full throttle.

Want to see artists at work, just walk into the Fisherton Mill and you could just be lucky to become a part of an exhibition or a workshop or a live music show. A café inside could satisfy your food cravings from the long walk.

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If shopping is on your mind, just head towards Old George Mall or the market area surrounding the Guildhall and Market Squares. Buy the local produce, freshly cut flowers and handcrafted items at the frequently organized Markets and Fairs. Teenage Market – my most favorite concept of all since every stall in there is manned and run by teenagers. It’s organized to inculcate business sense into kids at young age and make them understand the value of money. Pretty inspiring!!

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Don’t forget to check out the quirky li’l shop called Tiger near the Poultry Cross. It has everything from spices to cutlery to stationery, with every piece having an interesting creative design at throwaway prices.

Want a taste of how the royalty lived in a typical English countryside? Take a peek at Arundells, a 13th century retirement house of a former UK Prime Minister – Edward Heath, walls of which were adorned with paintings made and gifted to him by Winston Churchill and artefacts from all over the world. It also served as a residence for members of clergy (canon) of the Salisbury Cathedral. One such canon, Leonard Bilson, was imprisoned in 1571 for practicing sorcery and magic.

Nature trails are not too far from the city centre either. Take a half mile stroll right side of Arundells and you will find yourself admiring the Queen Elizabeth gardens. But don’t just stop there yet. A little further ahead of you is the Harnham Water Meadows adjoining the gardens. Swans, wooden bridges, streams, and meadows till your eyes can see, leading up to the footsteps of a converted Old Mill to refuel with a drink and stare at the nature going about its day.

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There are interesting spooky legends associated to the city’s name too. Fancy a drink at an exotic place? Head to ‘Haunch of Venison’ where a mummified hand, severed during an altercation at a game of cards, is displayed. Or want to know about the origin of phrase ‘Shop till you drop’, take a ghost tour telling you all about the guy who was beheaded where Debenhams is now, and how sometimes he is seen around looking for his precious little head at the site. Scared? Interesting, isn’t it. Visit Salisbury to listen to more such interesting stories.

How to Reach:

  • Train: connected via London Waterloo station. Booking can be done at GWR  or TheTrainLine.
  • Bus: connected via London Heathrow terminals and London Victoria Coach Station. Booking can be done at National Express website. Reasonably cheaper tickets can also be booked on Megabus. (Routes on megabus are limited and so are the tickets)
  • Stonehenge Bus Tour: Buses can be easily boarded and paid for at the city center near Old George mall, Milford Street.

P.S. – Remember due to dynamic pricing the ticket price goes up nearing the travel date. Though, Stonehenge bus tour is fixed at 29 GBP per adult.

Where to stay:

  1. Red Lion – Best Western Hotel: A quintessential rustic coaching inn from 13th century which was used as a short duration halting point for horse drawn carriages carrying rich aristocrats to far off places. Price- starting from Rs. 8000/night at booking.com
  2. White Hart – Mercure Hotel: 4 star 400 years old Georgian style inn. Price – starting from Rs. 8000/night at booking.com
  3. King’s Head Inn – JD Wetherspoon Hotel: 15th century inn rebuilt in its current form by wine merchants in 1880s. Price – starting from Rs. 6000/night at booking.com

“Itineraries are changeable, Missed opportunities aren’t”. So, add this on your list if planning a UK holiday and you will find reasons to believe it was all worth it.

Dawn at the valley – French Alps

It was an overcast aprilish day in 2013 when we reached Geneva and intermittent rains welcomed us. First time I had just booked the 4 days return flight trip from Geneva and not booked any hotels/stay before landing there. Me and my friends went to the AVIS counter asking to rent a small and cheap car to roam around. To our surprise we were handed over keys of a BMW. Quite a deal at 300 euros for 4 days with insurance. And here my dear friend, Sujay, being an excellent driver took over the wheels in an jiffy before AVIS staff could change their minds. Off we went, through the city towards the mountains calling. The city was a hub of major swiss luxury watch brands from Rolex to Chopard. Imagining luxury living and seeing those names, resonated with the feeling of riding a BMW like a boss, if only for just a few days.

As we crossed the city, we saw the mountains replacing high rises and the vicinity turning into more of a rural landscape. People horse riding on the roads, horse ranches and huts gave us a preview of what to expect.

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The first halt we took was in a quaint li’l town called Sallanches. We landed there chasing a gigantic waterfall. The sound of water crashing on the rocks, turning into a small quiet stream showcased the adaptability of nature. Closeby was also a lake with a man-made beach for inland people’s leisure.

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After lunch we headed out further along the lake Geneva towards Chamonix. By the time we made it, it was already dark and we needed a place to crash for the night. We started searching budget hotels on booking.com nearby. The site readily detected our location and gave us innumerous options starting at 30 euros a night. We chose Le Fontenay and started driving towards it in total darkness along the hairpin curves climbing up a mountain. This place’s caretaker quickly provided us with a 3bhk apartment and after a day long of exploring we dropped like bowling pins on our beds.

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Then came the dawn and one glance through our window made our hearts jump with joy, surprise and admiration. We were looking directly at the french alps surrounding a valley of civilization, Chamonix. The sun rays were glistening on the snow capped mountains and playing shadows with the clouds. Most stunning sight I ever saw in my life. After a sumptuous scrambled eggs breakfast made by the caretaker himself, we were advised to drive further up the road we had taken earlier. And as we did we had the rendezvous with The Mont Blanc. And yes it is the same name which inspired the brand Mont Blanc to make men’s accessories sophisticated, luxurious and classic. And you could visualize why.

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This perfect li’l café La Bougnetterie at perfect location catered us for couple of hours till it was time to leave to pick up another friend from Geneva airport but which none of us wanted to.

“So here comes the truth that we kept a secret for a while now from you, Innu. We wouldn’t have been late if our hearts and minds were not blown away that day with the breathtaking sight of the highest peak in europe, The Mont Blanc and its fellow alps. Forgive us, won’t you :)”.

 

The Silent Observer – Mont Blanc

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As I  jumped, frolicked, ate, drank and laughed, someone watched over me silently.

The only time it responded was when I shouted ” I love you” and it said ” I love you” several times back,
Reaffirming me of my thoughts.
That instance still uplifts me in my down times
Echo by Mont Blanc – The Silent Observer!

There is always some force in this world that loves you, so never stop believing in it.