Growing up with my brother David, nicknamed the Freak, was like being a younger sibling of Damien from The Omen. This was especially true during car rides to the Jersey shore or visits with our grandparents in the Bronx or Brooklyn. Before the station wagon left our development the Freak would cause chaos in the car. My father would be forced to threaten that he’d “turn the car around”. This was a bluff since we hadn’t made it out of the condominium parking lot yet.
A decade later we both attended the University of Albany, where we finally developed a stable relationship. Another decade later my mother was floored as we planned a trip to Europe. Just the Freak and his former prey touring parts of England and Holland over Easter break.
Bags packed and repressed memories stowed, we flew to Heathrow for a quick crash with friends Heather and John in the Battersea district of South London. Touring London with no bloodshed or bickering, I felt safe enough to head to the countryside with just the Freak. Exorbitant train tickets in hand we boarded for Salisbury. Our friend Leslie awaited us with a superb historical itinerary planned.
We started at Salisbury Cathedral, which boasts the highest spire in England. This Medieval structure has been sought by worshippers for over 750 years. We wandered spacious courtyards and caught a glimpse of the original Magna Carta in their Chapter House. Heading to Trinity Chapel we gazed at stained glass windows, intimidating statues, and historic flags. The Salisbury Market lies a short distance from the cathedral. A commercial center dating back to 1219, it’s the perfect spot to try local foods and shop for souvenirs.
Stopping at the Dogs Trust we visited some of Leslie’s canine friends. Nothing pleases the Freak more than spending time with four-legged creatures. He relates better to non-humans in general. One dog was obsessed by a plastic slide, another tried to lick our faces off, and a third demonstrated an impressive vertical leap.
Our next stop, sixteen miles west was Old Wardour Castle, built in the 14th century. The castle lies mostly in ruins but you can visit different levels and explore an outdoor grotto. The grotto was a playground for wealthy children and resembles a cave. The castle was used for filming in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves in 1991. This is definitely one of my top 50 Robin Hood movies, ranking just behind Robin Hood Men in Tights and Robin Hood are there any more original ideas for films.
Stonehenge is a major draw in the area so we woke up early the following morning. The Freak and I had shared a bunk bed but he wasn’t interested in sharing my breakfast. On the way to the rocky landmark I had a pie made of steak and kidney from an unidentified animal.
Upon Leslie’s recommendation we viewed Stonehenge before the official opening. The pre-dawn tickets were more expensive but offered a chance to see the stones from the inside looking out. Most tourists see Stonehenge from the outside looking in. Barely anyone else braved the early morning. There were the three of us and a throng of interesting folks who claimed to be the descendants of the Druids and true owners of the site. They played some folky songs, caravans parked in the distance. Our journey through English history ended as the sun rose over Stonehenge.