What do Shopkins have to do with Stonehenge?


“Look, Mama!  Shopkins Stonehenge!”

I glance over at my 6-year old son who has taken all of his Shopkins and strategically placed them in a circle formation with Uno cards underneath to represent the cap stones.

I’m filled with pride, a giggle and find myself a little misty-eyed at the sight.

We had arrived home from our spring break in the United Kingdom just 18 hours earlier.

Our Stonehenge adventure was something special.  My husband and I had both been to London a number of times, but had never been out to see the ancient site.  With mixed reviews from friends and family who had been, I wondered about putting it on our itinerary at all. “Yeah… it’s just a bunch of big rocks… kind of anticlimactic.”

But, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an icon, and it may not be around forever, so I thought we’d make the most of our trip to South Central England by doing a guided, private tour that let us INSIDE the inner circle – private access only granted to 16 people per day.

I did quite a bit of research on blogs and other sites before landing on www.stonehengetours.com – and deciding what our trip would entail. We decided on Stonehenge at sunrise with a tour of Salisbury Cathedral on the side.  The trip was around seven hours, but they also offer longer tours to Bath, Winsor Castle, etc.  I was worried that anything longer would be hard for the boys.

George, our guide, picked us up bright and early at 4:30 a.m. so that we could drive the 90+ minutes out to Amesbury town to catch sunrise at Stonehenge.  We pulled up to the parking lot and were one of a just a few cars.  George then handed us off to a true archeologist who had studied Stonehenge for decades.

The sun came up right through the middle of two monoliths as if on cue, creating a sight to behold.  And they weren’t kidding about being in the INNER circle – we could walk in between the stones and all around, learning the geology, history, mystery and even about famous authors who had visited (John Keats carved his name in a stone!).  Pretty magnificent and not something everyone has done.

It was freezing and Alex wasn’t too keen on staying for long, so Nick was a trooper and took him to warm up in the bus, but Nate and I were riveted by his knowledge of the giant stones, telling us about the potential vortex and magnetic forces at work, as Nate held a copper wire that had a mind of its own – moving back and forth even with Nate’s grip on it.  He was a masterful educator, holding the attentions of a 9-year old and 44-year old.

Some of the stones are from as close as 20 miles away, but others are from rock only found in Wales, which is 225 miles away – regardless of the distance – how they got there is still a bit of a mystery

Away from the site is a visitor’s center and some outdoor exhibits that show how the prehistoric people who built Stonehenge may have lived.  Unfortunately, the visitor’s center and gift shop didn’t open early, so we missed them as we had to move along on our tour.

After a nice breakfast at a pub in Amesbury, we headed to Salisbury Cathedral, stopping along the way at its original site, and getting a magnificent view of the current church.  Even though Salisbury is gorgeous and historic 700-year old church – it boasts many other titles: the tallest spire in all England, the oldest working mechanical clock and it is the home of one of the four copies of the Magna Carta.

On many of our trips in Asia, Nick and I would hire a guide and driver – well worth the reasonable cost to avoid the crowds, buses and have a personalized itinerary.

Our private tour wasn’t cheap, but compared to the bus tours we could have done, I think it was well worth the expense.  With two small kids, we were able to keep moving, spend as much or as little time as we wanted at each location, and get to know a local who loved his country’s history and showed it off well.

And. It clearly made an impression on Alex, and that’s the best part of all.  This week he told me, “Mama, I want to go everywhere.”

Lori Leroy

Lori Green LeRoy is a mom to two young boys, and currently indoctrinating them into the wonder and awe of exploring the world, so far 27 states and 11 countries. She writes travel pieces for several websites as well as her own blog: www.mapsmemoriesandmotherhood.com

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