Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 6 UK

Today we head toward Reading. Our run of good weather appears to be coming to an end as the sky is filled with clouds and it has gotten chilly again.
First stop is Salisbury Cathedral which is a rather imposing structure. It is built in the English Gothic style and was constructed between 1220 and 1258. The Tower and Spire were added 50 years later and stands 404'. It is the tallest spire in Britain. Salisbury Cathedral also houses the best preserved of the 4 remaining copies of the original Magna Carta. It also has Europe's oldest working clock. The clock has no face but rings chimes every 15 minutes. The day we were there was their annual Flower Show. The arrangements were both creative and breathtaking. The only drawback was the crowd and the noise. Floral arrangements were hanging everywhere and it was impossible to get good photos. Embedded in the walls are memorial plaques to those who have lost their lives in battles or disasters. Given the frustration of not being able to take good photos of the interior structure, I amused myself by taking photos of the sarcophagi of ancient knights. By the time we left the cathedral, it was pouring again.

Next stop.. or drive by as the case was because of the rain was Stonehenge. I am sort of glad it was raining... Stonehenge was incredibly disappointing and there was a pretty hefty entrance fee. I have to admit that I envisioned that it encompassed a large area. My imagination conjured Druids marching around chanting. It is no where near the scale I imagined. In fact, it probably is less than half an acre.

That said, the areas around Stonehenge were far more interesting. Next trip back, I would like to spend more time exploring.

Woodhenge was far more interesting and better yet, free. It appears as though it is larger than its sister site. Here is the Link to the Wikipedia entry. From there we drove past the most interesting of the sites... in Avebury. However, time got away from us and rain hampered us. Avebury contains the largest stone circle in Europe. The megalithic stones are everywhere. The fields we drove past contained the stones, people walking around, and sheep grazing among them. We unfortunately could not find a place to park so I could take some photos. Here is the Wiki Link.

As we drove toward Reading we saw several white horses "carved" into the hillsides. These aren't the original ancient ones but they are certainly arresting and can be seen from miles away.

Tomorrow is going to be an exciting day, stay tuned!

Day 5 UK Corfe Castle

Our luck is holding. Today is a gorgeous day.. it has even warmed up a bit. Today's plan was to drive around the Isle of Purbeck which is not really an island but a peninsula. The area has been designated as "As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty". It lives up to its appellation. You get there by a short (5 minute) ferry ride. The car ferry is unusual in that it doesn't go under its own steam... there are chains that winch it back and forth. It probably holds about 80 cars. Once on the other side, you start to drive through gorgeous scenery. We did not have a plan for the day and were just going to explore. Ned saw signage for Corfe Castle so that was our going to be our main destination, however, first stop was a local farmers market where we picked up local cheese, bread, and other goodies to eat later for a picnic. Ned also got the name of a local pub that he wanted to try out. He seems to have developed a taste for local ale. The drive to Corfe castle was beautiful. Everything was in bloom and the flowers were really a feast for the eyes. The castle sits up on a mound and you can see if from miles away, beckoning as we drove through several lovely villages.... blink though, and you miss them. We never did find the highly touted pub but Ned settled for a different one that gave us a wonderful view of the castle.

The area around Corfe castle is said to have been inhabited as far back as 6000 B.C.E. There are indications that Celts settled in the area and may have had run ins with the Romans until they were chased out around 50 A.D. Corfe castle is said to have been built by William the conquerer after the the Norman invasion in 1066 and was re fortified several times until it was destroyed by treachery in 1646. The stones and wood from the castle were carried away and used by the locals for their building material. Only the skeletal remains of this once proud edifice reminds us of the scope and scale of this old Royalist stronghold. What is left is still majestic. We ate our picnic lunch in the shadows of the ruins and then walked around the local town before heading around the "island" back to Bournemouth.On our way back we poked around some of the antique shops and enjoyed the nice weather.

Remember the photos of the pony? ( Posted June 14th) We pulled into the parking area of a small antique shop and I saw what looked to be a pony with its head in the window of the small cottage behind it. I thought at first it was a statue and was someones idea of fun ( I thought it was fun).... until it moved! It certainly gave us some chuckles. Back at the hotel after a short rest, we asked for a recommendation for dinner. We asked if we needed a reservation and were told, no, it was a weeknight. So off we go down to the pier area where we have to park the car and hike back to the restaurant.... only to find that they are hosting a private party. We hike back to the car and decide to try one of the large hotels for dinner. Everyone seemed to be full up with parties but the maitre'D took pity on us and found us a table. The meal was excellent. Back at the ranch (hotel), we sat outside on our terrace for a bit and contemplated the lovely full moon. 

More on Day 4

Poole is a large coastal town and resort on the English Channel in county Dorset in the south of England. It has gone through several incarnations over the centuries as its fortune has risen and fallen with the times. Between the 16th and early 19th centuries it was one of the most important shipping centers in the UK, having more trading ships to North America than any other English port. After the War of 1812 it saw a decline in trade and could not accommodate the new newer ships that required a deeper harbor. The beaches and beautiful landscapes of the south Dorset coast started to attract tourists in the mid 19th century. The villages to the east grew and merged and the result was the seaside resort of Bournemouth. During World War II, Poole was the 3rd largest embarkation point for D-Day landings and became an important base for supplies for Allied troops in Europe.

We actually stayed in Bournemouth at what was once probably a 5 star resort but is now a notch lower. They obviously redid the place but it was an adventure getting from our room to the lobby. It was like walking through a maze with lots of twists and turns. The hallways were very narrow and probably would never pass code here in the states. I wanted to leave a trail of crumbs so I could find my way back to our room! The room was nice with a wonderful balcony looking out to sea. The bathroom was very modern and even had a skylight.

We had a reservation for dinner with one of Ned's associates and his lovely wife at one of the other local resorts right on the water. We got there only to find out that there had been a fire in the kitchen and the electricity was off... somehow, our host never got the message. Alternate plan worked out well.

We are hoping for continued good weather tomorrow.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 4 Drive down to Poole

Woohoo! We had some sunshine this morning for our drive south to Poole where Ned had a meeting. We were also going to have dinner with an associate and his wife.

The countryside looks so much better with clear skies! The field of poppies was so cheerful.

We stopped in Lower Slaughter.. no it has nothing to do with animals. The old English word Slough or Slothre means muddy place, but that seems to have been cleared up. The village is quite small but incredibly lovely. The main attraction is an old mill with a working water wheel. The mill has been converted into a gift shop with cafe. The bathrooms are in an outhouse BUT these outhouses are more luxurious than some of the facilities in restaurants! I unfortunately left the camera with Ned so no pics of these. We walked around a bit taking advantage of the lack of rain and had a snack.

This is sheep country!

Next stop Poole.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 3 UK

Sunday morning...and it is pouring out. Weather forecast is pretty grim for today. The rain is coming down so hard that even the locals are in shock. The UK has been experiencing a drought for the past several months and we seem to have broken that spell. Lucky us. Everything is lush and green around us so I am not sure of their definition of drought, however, the farmers are ecstatic. Left to my own devices, I would be curled up with a good book, but hubby has dragged me out of bed. Maybe the sun will come out later?

No such luck today. It poured pretty much non stop today. We did do a lot of driving around but only got out of the car a few times. I am told that they had more rain today than they usually get in a month. Not an exciting day for sure. The Cotswolds are lovely. I really wish we could have walked around some of the villages. They were charming... but I am not one to get soaked. We did manage to pop into a few antique shops while dodging the rain in Chipping Norton and Morton-in-Marsh. Don't you just love these names? The thatched roof cottages are so adorable.

Many of the restaurants are closed tonight (Sunday) so we grabbed a "meal" at a local pub. The picture should tell it's own story. I had grave reservations as we pulled into the parking lot. They were validated -:(.

We are driving south to Poole tomorrow. Let's hope the weather improves.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 2 UK

Tintern Abbey
We awoke to sunshine this morning, but we were both so tired that we got a late start. We were going to take a  nice drive through the countryside and decided on Tintern Abbey.

 "Tintern  Abbey was founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow, on 9 May 1131. It is situated in the village of Tintern, on the Welsh bank of the River Wye in Monmouthshire. It was only the second Cistercian foundation in Britain, and the first in Wales. It is one of the most spectacular ruins in the country and inspired the William Wordsworth poem "Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbey".
 The monks for Tintern came from a daughter house of Cîteaux, L'Aumône, in the diocese of Blois in France. The Cistercian monks (or White Monks) who lived at Tintern followed the Rule of St. Benedict. The Carta Caritatis (Charter of Love) laid out their basic principles, of obedience, poverty, chastity, silence, prayer, and work. With this austere way of life, the Cistercians were one of the most successful orders in the 12th and 13th centuries. The lands of the Abbey were divided into agricultural units or granges, on which local people worked and provided services such as smithies to the Abbey. Many endowments of land on both sides of the Wye were made to the Abbey.

The present-day remains of Tintern are a mixture of building works covering a 400-year .period between 1136 and 1536. Very little remains of the first buildings; a few sections of walling are incorporated into later buildings and the two recessed cupboards for books on the east of the cloisters are from this period. The church of that time was smaller than the present building and was slightly to the north.
During the 13th century, the Abbey was virtually rebuilt; first the cloisters and the domestic ranges, then finally the great church between 1269 and 1301. The first mass in the rebuilt presbytery was recorded to have taken place in 1288, and the building was consecrated in 1301, although building work continued for several decades. Roger Bigod, 5th Earl of Norfolk, the then lord of Chepstow, was a generous benefactor; his monumental undertaking was the rebuilding of the church. The Abbey put his coat of arms in the glass of its east window in gratitude to him.
It is this great church that we see today. It has a cruciform plan with an aisled nave; two chapels in each transept and a square ended aisled chancel. The Gothic church represents the architectural developments of its day in the contemporary Decorated style. The buildings are constructed in Old Red Sandstone, of colours varying from purple to buff and grey. The main church building is 72 metres long.
In 1326 King Edward II visited Tintern and spent two nights there. The Black Death swept the country in 1349 and it became impossible to attract new recruits for the lay brotherhood. Changes to the way the granges were tenanted out rather than worked by lay brothers show the difficulty Tintern was experiencing with labour shortages. In the early 15th century, Tintern was experiencing financial difficulties, due in part to the effects of the Welsh uprising under Owain Glyndŵr against the English kings, and Abbey properties were destroyed by the Welsh rebels. The closest battle to the Abbey was at Craig y Dorth near Monmouth, between Trellech and Mitchel Troy.

In the reign of King Henry VIII, traditional monastic life in England and Wales was brought to an abrupt end by his policy of establishing total control over the church, partly to take advantage of the considerable wealth of the monasteries. On September 3, 1536, Abbot Wyche surrendered Tintern Abbey to the King's visitors and ended a way of life which had lasted 400 years. The valuable articles from the Abbey were sent to the King's treasury, and Abbot Wyche was pensioned off. The building was granted to the then-lord of Chepstow, Henry Somerset, 2nd Earl of Worcester. Lead from the roof was sold, and the decay of the shell of the buildings began." Wikipedia.

The ruins are very dramatic. It always amazes me that the engineering skills it took to design and build these were available in the 12th century.   We saw a sign posted that there would be Morris dancers in the afternoon so we decided to have some tea ( for me) and ale (for Ned). No sooner had the dancers arrived in period costume, the skies opened up. Oh well.

The rest of the afternoon was spent driving through the rain to Cheltenham, our next destination. I wanted to spend some time in the Cotswolds. Little did I expect to be seeing most of it through the car windows.

Untamed and beautiful

Another adventure

This seems to be my time to travel. I got home from the excitement of my new grandson just in time to get a haircut and pack to leave the following day for a trip with hubby to the UK. This was pretty much last minute as he had to see some clients in the UK and asked if I wanted to tag along...such a silly question. The perks of his traveling so much is the accumulation of miles so I can go free. We couldn't get the same flights but that was OK. He arrived first and managed a nap then returned to pick me up. I hadn't been to the UK in 42 years...I now remember why. The weather has been lousy. Day 1 Ned had a meeting in South Wales. We met a coworker for lunch then I checked into the hotel and crashed. When Ned got back we drove to Usk and walked around. It stays light pretty late now so we had lots of time to explore. It is a lovely and quaint town with charming little cottages and gorgeous gardens. I love the wildness of the English gardens. Ned was looking for an old pub he used to haunt but it turns out it was recently bought and under has been turned into a private residence. We found a nice restaurant and dinner was most excellent. Sometime in the past 42 years the English have learned to cook. We shared a chicken and liver pate that may have been the best I have ever eaten...I could have made it my main course. I had sliced duck breast cooked to perfection but I couldn't finish it. The portions were huge. I had a wonderful hard cider instead of wine. Everything is so lush and green but the Brits claim they have been having a drought. We seemed to have brought the rain with us!

P.S. I am adding more pictures.. I could only upload 1 from ipad... there must be an app that allows more than one... I am also starting a gallery of pictures from the trip. LINK


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday, June 4, 2011

More Will pics

The best thing I have going right now is my gorgeous grandson, Will. Hope you will all put up with me for a while as I kvell. Probably won't be any new projects till July.