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A Merry marvelousmouse, and (likely more than one) cup of good cheer!

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Dec 8th, 2017, 03:55 PM
  #1
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A Merry marvelousmouse, and (likely more than one) cup of good cheer!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times...wait, sorry, wrong Dickens work.

“Marley was dead to begin” is unfortunately apt. My day started out as merely annoying. Somehow, in the span of a week, I’ve managed to misplace both my thermos and my carry on liquid bag...with all liquids inside because I packed it last Friday. Really not a way I wanted to spend my money. The money’s not really the problem; the problem is that I really can’t remember. Just completely blanked it out. So I spent the night before my flight shopping for boring necessities in downtown Seattle. And then the universe stepped in and put all my “problems” in perspective- my father called to tell me they took my cousin, his nephew, off life support. The doctor thought yesterday they could save his heart from the bacterial infection they discovered, but unfortunately not. We weren’t close- I have been fine with not dealing with him for over a decade- but what an awful, awful thing for that side of the family. We lost Gran a few years ago at the same time of year too. But he was not even 30 yet, and this was very sudden. Not going to be so jolly back home for a while.

But. I am endeavoring to get into the holiday spirit. The excellent glass of wine and octopus at Seattle’s Lola did help; I hadn’t eaten since breakfast. I picked a blind hotel on Priceline, which turned out to be the Radisson. Not bad at all for the price. And I was raring to go after swimming in the pool, but of course they delayed the flight. Norwegian claims it’s a mystery to them, but I think a lot of flights were delayed due to visibility. On the bright side, I got through security in 5 minutes- shoes on, liquids and electronics in my bags. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before!

And so, off I go to the U.K. First stop Bath; very excited to finally see the Roman Baths.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 04:05 PM
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Sorry to hear of your loss. Enjoy your time in the UK.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 04:53 PM
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Sorry for your loss. Hope you do still enjoy your time.
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Dec 8th, 2017, 08:31 PM
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Signing on. Sorry about your loss. I'm sure you'll be impressed with the baths.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 06:50 AM
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mms
 
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I look forward to hearing about the trip DD tried to catch a flight yesterday out of SEA and it was a complete mess. She is still trying to get out, and she said security was horrendous last night ,and then this morning she said it was the worst she has ever seen. So glad to hear you weren't there last night or today! So sorry about the cousin. That really is awful for such a young age.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 12:41 PM
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Signing on as well. Yours is a good spirit, and I look forward to your tales.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 02:23 PM
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So sorry for your loss. I know it all too well.

Looking forward to your TR.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 03:08 PM
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oh dear, Mmouse, I am so sorry for your loss; even though you weren't that close it is still a shock especially with someone so young.

But good for you for getting into the holiday spirit. Bath will be lovely I think. I hope that you arrive safely both in London [LHR?] and Bath.

Looking forward very much to reading the continuation of your adventures.
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Dec 9th, 2017, 03:28 PM
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Looking forward to your report -- I think you're missing the really cold weather the past couple of days (I had wonderful weather last week -- didn't open my umbrella once)
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Dec 11th, 2017, 09:57 AM
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Thanks for the condolences, everyone.

MMS- your poor daughter! We must have switched luck that day. I’ve gotten grief on TA for telling people to get to SeaTac early, but it’s because I have the worst luck with security. If it can go wrong, it will go wrong when I’m in line.

Janis- I don’t know about that. Yesterday was sunny and cold; today I got very wet. Should have gone with my initial instinct and packed my rain coat. Water resistant is not doing the job.

I flew into Gatwick in the morning and took the thameslink to St. Pancras. I’d originally planned a full day of sightseeing but I had maybe one hour of sleep on the flight. I bought the cheap Norwegian ticket which includes very little. As it turns out, it doesn’t even appear to include a complimentary beverage, and their ala carte menu is odd. So imo you might as well spend a bit more and get the regular fare,especially, if like me, you care about choosing a seat. I don’t care much for airline food but 9 hours turns out to be too long for a mouse to go hungry.

Anyway, I stored my luggage with the luggage service. I hadn’t realized until last week that luggage storage means manned luggage storage, not lockers. At St. P’s, you check in your luggage and the clerk X-rays it. Better than nothing, I guess, but I found it a bit expensive and there was a wait. Ate lunch at the pub above the Harry Potter bits; it’s a pleasant place to hang out although the food is not worth it. I was amused to find a line for both the photo op and the 9 3/4s gift shop; the HP craze is still going strong!

Bath is lovely. Really lovely. I expected it to be the kind of place I’d be happy to go to once but I would enjoy returning in the summer to enjoy some longer walks. I stayed at the YMCA which is what you’d expect. It’s clean, serviceable, but sparse. I had a private room which was nice, but if you’re a light sleeper, you may want to upgrade to a hotel (although that will cost a pretty penny in Bath) because the walls are very thin. You can hear all of the outside noise and all the inside noise. But the price makes it worth it, especially on busy weekends like Christmas Market, and the location is great. If you stay there, the directions Hostelworld are not great. It says that it’s across from the Hilton, but really the entrance is in a little courtyard off the street above the Hilton. If you follow the directions as is, you’ll be climbing a steep set of stairs. If you are traveling with a large case, go one street over and access the Y through an alleyway (either way, note the Y isn’t accessible).

I went to bed the first night and headed out the next morning at 7 am. It was raining and this wasn’t the best decision; oddly, coffee shops did not open til 7:30, and I couldn’t really find breakfast until 9. Well, at least I thought it was odd until I realized it was Sunday. Anyway, this gave me a chance to walk around and window shop. At 9 I stopped at Roman Baths Kitchen for a full English breakfast. Delicious. At 1030, I went on the Mayor’s free walking tour. It’s about 2 hours long and no tips are accepted. It’s definitely worth the time; the guide gave us a bit of everything, from Roman history to Jane Austen’s Bath, to modern development. The rain turned to snow and I came very close to dropping out. Once I get cold and damp, I don’t really warm up again. Luckily, the tour ended just in time in front of the fashion museum. I went in for a cup of tea, and then went through the museum. If you have a chance to go, the current exhibition on lace is terrific. The museum has a good assortment of clothing, but I think where they excel are their collections of accessories. Wonderful fans, and gloves. I had not seen tiger claw jewelry before and I’m trying to imagine the outfit a 19th century lady would wear with it without much success. The exhibits are less technical oriented; the museum is more aimed at giving the guest insight into how the garments were worn and how that fits with their era. My favorite exhibit was a dress made partially from blackout curtains. During the second WW, garment cloth was rationed but blackout cloth was not, and so it became a way to add to or reinvent a garment. Very neat.

I headed to the Pump Room for the Somerset High Tea. The building is beautiful and the food- particularly the scotch egg and jasmine tea- was delicious. I went to the Roman Baths afterward and certainly this was the highlight of my visit. Just fantastic. I recommend going at night because it’s very atmospheric. It’s an in-depth, and modern museum. I would go again, and next time, I’m going to read up on the excavations in more detail. I really enjoyed the emphasis on the use of the site. The museum does an excellent job of bringing the Ancient Romans alive. My favorite exhibit was the one about curse tablets. One tablet is inscribed in British Celtic and it’s the only such example that we have! That’s always something that fascinates me about archaeology; not what we have discovered but rather what we haven’t. It’s often just chance that preserves human remains and artifacts. A certain climate, a natural disaster, a kind of soil. Anyway, my main takeaway was that I would need to return when they open the extension, and additionally, it gave me a better idea of how far flung the Roman Empire was. I think in school students generally learn about the Romans as one people, but it was an enormous Empire made up of many peoples and cultures. And I never fail to be amazed by the Roman’s engineering feats.

I checked out the Abbey next. It’s by suggested donation and they have set hours that you can visit. The ceiling is obviously the main draw, but I enjoyed the memorial inscriptions as well as an art installation of butterflies. They hang in a swarm opposite of the organ, and each Butterfly was designed to be unique. The artist wanted people to think about migration; how we generally speak of refugees in groups but they’re in fact individuals. A powerful idea, especially given the recent turmoil.

I then walked through the Christmas Market and Guildhall Market. Generally speaking, when researching for the trip, I’d gotten the impression that the market wasn’t really worth going out of your way. And it’s not- it’s more craft than Christmas, but a fun way to spend a few hours. Headed back to collapse and sleep.

The next morning was clear and bright. I ate breakfast at Same-Same but different; they do a good vegetarian Full English with Halloumi cheese. I stopped at Topping Books for a mystery novel- one of the things that I really enjoy about the UK is the plethora of independent bookstores.

I spent a few hours at Thermae Spa. My impressions are mixed. I am a water baby, and I did really enjoy warming up after the previous day. They make the most of their location with the roof top pool and large windows. Some wonderful views of Bath and its environs. The Georgian steam room was the perfect temperature. But parts of the wellness suIte felt a bit hokey (galactic relaxation room, I am looking at you), and I thought it could be kept up a bit better considering the price. Then again, the price is probably not that bad when you consider what it probably cost to develop that location. Note that they’ll give you a 15% off coupon for luggage storage because they won’t store large cases, so if you bring one, you’ll be dragging it back to the train station like the ladies in line ahead of me.

Afterwards I walked to Grand Parade gardens, which turns out to be the viewing spot to see the Putney bridge. I’d love to see the gardens in bloom; they do some interesting things with topiary.

I grabbed a red Thai chicken pasty (pastie?) at the Cornwall bakehouse and then went to Sally Lunn’s for a sweet bun. It’s the oldest house in Bath but “museum” is optimistically named, so I’d only stop in if you were already wanting a snack. The buns live up to their reputation and I was a bit sorry I’d had the tasty pasty. Their trencher dishes sounded delicious.

All in all, I’m glad I didn’t get to do Bath as a day trip last year. It’s certainly worth 2 nights. It has enough history, food, shopping, and parks that a week could be filled, at least in better weather.

On to York!
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Dec 11th, 2017, 12:58 PM
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My favorite exhibit was a dress made partially from blackout curtains. During the second WW, garment cloth was rationed but blackout cloth was not, and so it became a way to add to or reinvent a garment. Very neat.>>

MM - My very strong childhood recollection of blackout fabric is the curtains in my grandparents' house which they never changed after the end of WW2 - they were there till they left the house in the early 70s. Is that a definition of pessimism? or parsimony? Though in truth they were neither mean or pessimistic, but they never saw a need to change.

as for Bath, I think that I went to the Abbey with my parents at about the same time and I don't really remember going again. Strange as we didn't live far away. But then we only lived about 90 mins drive from Ironbridge and never went there either, despite my dad being an engineer.

<>

it's a pasty but not as we know it, Jim.
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Dec 11th, 2017, 01:14 PM
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Waste not, want not, maybe? Grandma’s family had a hard time of it during the Depression and I could see her doing the same. As you said, never saw the need for change. And an alien food form for sure. I tried it mostly because I was curious about the flavor; had a nice burn to it. But it was Thai as much as it was Cornish, which is to say...no resemblance at all.
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Dec 12th, 2017, 07:18 AM
  #13
mms
 
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MM--DD did get out, after yet another 4 hour delay. So yes, keep posting your SEA warnings We flew Norwegian, but from Copenhagen to Oslo, so just a short jaunt. Good to know how it is if we chose to go from here, so thank you. The fashion museum sounds interesting!
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Dec 12th, 2017, 07:33 AM
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great write so far.
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Dec 13th, 2017, 01:55 AM
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"I headed to the Pump Room for the Somerset High Tea."
Was it really "high" tea (a late afternoon/evening meal) or afternoon tea, was it just call high tea to entice Americans that have watched an old 30's/40's British film......Or Downton Abbey.
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Dec 13th, 2017, 02:26 AM
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In this case- My evening meal. Tea usually is for me Actually, that’s the name of the package though they serve it all afternoon. Cider, scotch egg, sausage roll, apple cake.
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Dec 13th, 2017, 06:01 AM
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Turns out the Pump Room offers both high tea and afternoon tea:

https://www.romanbaths.co.uk/sites/r...a%20menu_1.pdf

We should remember this menu for the next time someone asks about high tea when they actually want afternoon tea.
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Dec 13th, 2017, 08:12 PM
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UK bookstores are amazing aren't they? I get lost in them for hours...so many interesting titles on all those tables...Daunts is a favourite of mine...looking forward to a good read here @marvelousmouse
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Dec 13th, 2017, 10:34 PM
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Just found this TR marvelousmouse and wish you many cups of good cheer after a sad beginning. We hope to be in England with DH's family for Christmas next year so I am very interested in your travels. Love Bath and loved York many years ago so looking forward to more.
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Jan 3rd, 2018, 02:18 PM
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The adventure continues....

4 Nights in York

“He went to the church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and for, and patted the children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of homes, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed of any walk, that anything, could give him so much happiness.” Dickens


York really is fantastic. Just one of the places that I get a lot of joy from walking around and taking in the town, which is dominated by the Minster. You can see it from just about anywhere you are, so even I can’t get lost! I had originally planned for 2 nights but I ended up scrapping Salisbury just before my trip, and the easiest solution was to add a few nights to York. I’m glad I did. Around every corner is some kind of interesting remnant of history. There’s an excellent coffee shop in a 14th century river tower- the Peacock- and that right there would endear York to to me.

I stayed at the YHA. There’s always something I manage to neglect while planning, and this time, I just completely forgot to google map it from the train station. It’s about a mile from old town, in a sprawling complex of buildings near the river. I arrived late and took a taxi there. The first night was hard; it was so cold that I was in bed googling alternative lodgings! Made worse by the fact that apparently YHA orders those awful mattresses I encountered in London in bulk. But I kept thinking the Hostel is so cheap, best give it a day.

It improved the next day; the Hostel dorms have ensuite showers and the shower was hot with terrific pressure.

As it turns out, there are three ways to get to the Hostel:
-walk along the river on a path. It sounded a little grim but actually it’s peaceful for the first half and then it turns into a gorgeous approach of old town. Lots of locals out with their dogs.
-walk through the neighborhoods. Well lit, and actually a mix of shops and houses for most of it. The Hostel feels a lot more isolated than it is in reality. Takes longer.
-bus runs every 10 minutes but it ends service fairly early. 1 pound 80. But it is the best way if it’s icy out.

And the Hostel is a bright and cheerful place with friendly staff. It’s definitely family oriented; both older folks and school groups in the commons. I really wished their cafe served food. They have the space and there really isn’t much nearby. But that appears to be uncommon in Britain- wonder if it’s due to food handling laws (it is in the states) or if it’s just not profitable. Normally not a problem for me, but the icy sidewalks encouraged me to hop on the bus early a few nights.

Anyway....

Day one: Castle Museum, the Castle across from it, and Fairfax House.

Castle Museum is the kind of museum you visit at least once as a kid. The collection was started by a Victorian Doctor. For the folks who couldn’t pay his rates, he “kindly” took their old family heirlooms instead. He then offered it to the museum on the condition that they display it according to his wishes. His wishes, of course, was to build a museum in the old prisons that looks like an 19th century Main Street. Everything in the shop windows, the organ, the wagons- all real, all from his collection, and it was built on top of the prison using 19th architecture remnants like windows. Anyway- a lot of times this kind of thing suffers from neglect over the decades. But the folks that run the Castle Museum love their collection. They’ve revamped it to make it more educational. There is at least one active store- sells sweets. They’ve added at one end a slum district to give visitors an idea of how the other half would live. They offer themed tours year round, and the docent that lead ours was fully decked out in Victorian gentleman’s clothing, and clearly enjoyed his job. I was very impressed. Do take a tour- it’s not readily apparent of what parts of the prison lie beneath the overlay and you’d miss a lot if you skipped it.

Next is the prisons. Probably the best prison exhibit I’ve seen. There are projections on the wall that tell you their stories as you walk in the room. Not dumbed down or prettied up at all.



3 more exhibitions:
1. History of chocolate in York. York is basically the home of the penitentiary and the chocolate industry. It’s an interesting mix.
2. Toys and early local life. Typical of a museum of this kind. Again though- the museum is loved, and a lot of effort has been put into it.
3. Broader U.K. history. This section makes the museum truly impressive. The first section is how WW1 irrevocably change life and culture in the U.K. gave me the shivers. Especially interesting if you are American- WW1 is often kind of glossed over in schools. Second section was over the 60s. I actually didn’t realize rationing lasted as late as ‘54, although I did know that UK had been heavily damaged by the war. The prosperity boom that happens in in the US does not hit U.K. for another decade- so the ‘60s is an era of consumerism and cultural revolutions in the U.K.

Afternoon tea at Betty’s. It’s a lovely tea room, and if you see a line in town, it’s for Betty’s. But save yourself some money and go only for the scone, clotted cream and jam, as it’s really the only thing that lives up to the reputation.

Fairfax House was built by a man desperate to marry his daughter off. Unfortunately, she was very Catholic and she had very cold feet, or she deliberately and maliciously drove her fortune hunting swains off. (I’m betting on the latter. She doesn’t sound like the sort that would be happy with Daddy building a house as bait). The ceilings are Italian and the house is stunning. And what makes it more interesting is that it’s escaped a common issue with house museums. All of the restoration money went into scraping vermillion paint from the ceiling; 4 years of hard labor. No money for furnishings. Along comes Terry the Chocolate baron with a fabulous collection of Georgian furniture he doesn’t trust his children with. A perfect match. Terry had a weakness for rare and precious clocks and secretaries, which are two of my favorite antiques- so this was a very enjoyable museum for me.

Day 2:
Lunch at a French place (Rustique?) Had proper French onion soup, so good. Then it occurred to me that I really didn’t want to be out in the rain again and I went back to the Hostel to nap and do laundry.

Day 3:
I found out the railway museum was free, so changed my plans. I was happy to do so- had some really great pieces. There was a docent tour of the royal trains, which was fascinating. Queen Victoria didn’t trust the newfangled technology so all of the improvements that the rail company built into her carriage- lights, heat, etc.- were disabled, probably much to the despair of the companies. But the royalty was the best possible advertising for them, so they bent over backwards to please the various monarchs. There was also an ambulance train display and I learned a lot about its role
In WW1. Just really fascinating. The railroads were nationalized after WW2- supposedly for British efficiency- but I wondered if it was like the NHS, which the display also mentioned. I took a medical/disease history seminar in college that heavily featured British NHS, and I gathered from that the economy was in such dire straits after the war that the government had little choice. I knew very little about the privatization in the 90s, so that was interesting as well.

The museum also had the only Japanese bullet train outside Japan and their afternoon tea is served in a little train car in the courtyard, so I was sorry to have eaten before. Anyway, strongly recommend this museum, and do go for one of the docent tours- our docent actually opened a few of the trains up so we could check out the interiors.

Dinner at Yorkpud; I don’t recommend this. Needed to wash it down with a Tom Collins at a bar nearby, and if your loved ones try to convince you to go for a Yorkpud wrap, you’ll enjoy it a lot more if you drink 2 or 3 (or 4) beers before hand!

I went to York Minster for the Undercroft Museum and then later in the evening, I went to the Christmas concert. The Undercroft museum is really well done, so definitely spend the money to do that. It turns out that the Minster was built on some old Roman foundations; York has been an important site for a very long time. The foundations mean that it wasn’t terribly stable and they had to do a lot of repair work a few decades ago. At that time, they brought in archaeologists to excavate as much as possible. As for the Christmas concert, this is a place where research pays off. The website had emphasized that it was the most popular event of the year and it is! I reserved the ticket the first day sales opened, and by noon of that day, probably half of the tickets were gone. Completely sold out by December, so this is definitely something that you need to buy in advance. It’s a great event- a wonderful choir and the songs are interspersed with a variety of readings.

Also of note is the York Cocoa House if you like hot Chocolate of all kinds. The Christmas Market is better than Bath, but still not terrific. But York is a great place to just wander around, and it’s somewhere I’d very much like to return to. I could have easily done everything in three nights, but you won’t be sorry if you stay for longer than that.

On to Barnard Castle next!
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