A medieval cathedral city in the southern English county of Wiltshire, 9 miles south of the iconic prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge. The city’s ornate 13th-century cathedral has a 123m spire, a working 14th-century clock and an original copy of the Magna Carta (the Great Charter), a key document from 1215 A.D. And Fudgehenge (keep reading, it’ll become clear.).
It’s also the city where the kindest thing ever happened to me as an expat.
Our hotel for the weekend.
My first Christmas in the UK was alone, but not lonely, as I had decided to decamp from London and for 10 days stayed in a Bath expat hostel full of travellers in a similar boat. I had only been in the country for 6 weeks and still didn’t really know anyone. I’d started working (meeting my husband although neither of us knew it) and had decided to explore the Wiltshire countryside as a Christmas present to myself.
Spending 10 days over Christmas/New Years in Bath was lovely – we were locked in the hostel pub on Christmas day and set up a potluck lunch, and watched fireworks from the upper lounge of the dorm rooms and opened a few too many bottles of wine. One of the day trips I arranged for myself was hopping onto the train on Christmas Eve and exploring Salisbury for the day.
As I wandered through the nave of the Cathedral, one of the elderly volunteers struck up a conversation with me. His name escapes me now, but when he found out that I was travelling on my own and from New Zealand, he called his wife over and insisted that I have dinner with them in lieu of a festive family meal, before returning to Bath that evening. Having heard way too many ‘stranger danger’ warnings as a child, I politely declined and bought them a small posy of flowers for their sweet offer, but Salisbury has forever stayed in my heart.
This utterly made our day.
Fast forward a decade, and weeks of my Mr Kiwi mysteriously muttering that our destination for a birthday weekend is one that he thought I’d visited before, but he hadn’t. Puzzled I named practically every city in the country bar the Cathedral city, but when he revealed our destination I grinned in relief.
We had two leisurely days to wander around and explore – which included a trip out to the actual destination of our weekend; the 130m high Kiwi carved into the Salisbury Plains over Bulford Army Barracks.
But for the most part, we just followed our noses from cafe to pub, from ancient building to modern shop and pottered. And yes, sometimes I feel like I’m already retired – and I’m ok with that.
Salisbury is an amalgamation of old and new – the Cathedral spire dominates the skyline, but the city has adapted around these pops of historic fabric. The rooflines are quirky, the windows are often bowed and yet you can still access all of the mod cons that you can imagine.
This is a section of wattle and daub from the 13th-century pub, an old technique for building walls.
We stopped for a cream tea in the Cathedral grounds (because we were in England – literally all of the excuse we ever need.)
To say that Salisbury Cathedral is beautiful is an understatement.
And, it has hundreds of year old graffiti.
And surprisingly large weathervanes (husband for scale)…
…and several links with King Henry VIII, not to mention an original copy of the Magna Carta which still affects UK law to this day.
Loveliest of all though, we managed to pop in for Evensong before we caught our Sunday evening train back to London. Sat in the Choir, listening to the ethereal harmonies of the Cathedral choir as twilight softly fell outside was such a special hour out of our normal lives (even if we did have to mouth the hymns.)
Salisbury was a lovely walk down memory lane, and an interesting city to wander.
What is your planning style; loose like our city break or frenetic and nailed down?