Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My Amesbury Crush, You had me at Mirabeau!

Amesbury is this little rocking town in Wiltshire I found myself wandering through in the early blue light of morning looking for anything resembling a cup of coffee or some freshly baked bread. AND yes… I totally fell in love. Why, you ask… well, how could I not?
First off, Amesbury is located about eight miles from Salisbury, which is home to STONEHENGE … (oh my, total disappointment) and is upon the River Avon… (Shakespeare's hometown Cometh). Even though it’s population is under 9 thousand, she’s got awesome claims to fame.
The first is that Eleanor of Provence (why don’t we give people more names like this…?) who was Queen of England in 1291, died and was buried there in Amesbury Abbey. (I know, you’re totally jealous)
The second is Druids. What’s a Druid? Nobody knows. Seriously, they might have just been bad tourists from the Neolithic period… but they did build Stonehenge… which sits up the hill through the grass. How’d they get it there…? Dragons!
The name Amesbury comes from Ambrosius Aurelianus, leader of the Romano British resistance to Saxon invasion in the 5th century… I know, totally bad ass!
Want more…? Amesbury is also associated with the Arthurian legend… (yes, that Arthur… Sword and the Stone Arthur … Knights of the Round Table Arthur … Camelot and clomping coconut shells Monty Python Holy Grail Arthur… ) because the convent here is where Guinevere retired after she left Mr. High and Mighty for Johnny Come Lately Lancelot.
Still not satisfied? Okay, my good friend Ralph Waldo Emerson stayed here at the St. George Hotel on his way to penning English Traits… this awesome little collection of essays on his travels to England which totally captivated my reading mind for a two day period where I could do nothing but grin and grimace at Emerson’s intellectual grandstandings… “I found Carlyle to be… an absolute man of the world… we talked of books. Plato he does not read, and he disparaged Socrates; and, when pressed, persisted in making Mirabeau a hero. Gibbon he called the splendid bridge from the old world to the new. His own reading had been multifarious. Tristram Shandy was one of his first books after Robinson Crusoe, and Robertson's America an early favorite. Rousseau's Confessions had discovered to him that he was not a dunce; and it was now ten years since he had learned German, by the advice of a man who told him he would find in that language what he wanted."

(Totally, man… you had me at Mirabeau!)
Finally, in 1965, the Beatles stayed at the Antrobus Arms Hotel during the filming of HELP! This is also the place used in the filming of the BBC’s Miss Marple Mystery. Rocking!
So I must admit, I stumbled into this town on fumes. I walked the dark night streets in total silence. I sat in the little graveyard and listened to crows, I watched the blue light of dawn break and the lights in windows flicker on and then I passed through an open door in the St. George Hotel and found this lovely indecipherable woman who, bless her, mixed me up the most vile and unpleasant scalding black water coffee I’ve ever tasted. I listened as she told me about the aviation museum and the British Flying Aces of World War II until her even more indecipherable bar manager strode in and settled himself behind the bar at 6 a.m. and told me about the “Water of Life,” the importance of “chamber pots,” and what the Pub Rules were. Yes, he was impressed I knew what a “fakir” was.
Then after walking in Emerson and the Beatles footsteps… I came around the corner and found a little bakery that had opened and stopped for some fresh pastries, almost passing out from the glorious smell of baked bread in the morning. Yeah, I have a little crush on you Amesbury… You’re my kind of town.

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