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ENGLAND NOV 5 - 16 2014

Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:18 PM
  #21  
 
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I'll get back to reading your report later this evening - looks like it will be fun . . .

But I aced your list (assuming you meant sackbut . . . I had no idea what a sackbot is). Do I get a prize?? O
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:20 PM
  #22  
 
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oh -- I see you offered pizza . . . I'd rather have a Pimm's
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:55 PM
  #23  
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janisj wins the pizza! Yes, sackbot is a typo, should be sackbut. But of course we have to have the Official Verification of Answers to the Quiz on Wednesday. Then amazon.com will drone a pizza of your choice your way.
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 03:56 PM
  #24  
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janisj....hmmm, did you REALLY get glakit without looking at wikipedia?
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 04:49 PM
  #25  
 
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Hi again EYWANTBTV,

I really enjoyed reading about your visit to Blenheim. Glad you had such a knowledgeable guide. I always recommend reading THE CHURCHILLS IN LOVE AND WAR by Mary S. Lovell for Churchill aficionados - contains some hot tales about the goings on in the palace over the years.

Then "I was on an Auden search, looking for the cottage where he lived the last few years of his life..."

I admire Auden although I haven't read him in many years - AGE OF ANXIETY and so forth. I love trip reports with "literary" dimensions. And where better than at Oxford? My favorite is Evelyn Waugh who captured Oxford so well in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED.

"We met up with the Christ Church Cathedral tour guide for a long, comprehensive tour of the cathedral." Lucky you. What a beautiful place! So I guess I got the "Royal Peculiar" right on your quiz - only one I knew.

Three years ago I had a private tour of Parliament with the family of a PM from northern Wales whose niece was a student of mine near Boston. He showed us St. Mary's Undercroft which he described as a "Royal Peculiar."

Again, a wonderful report....
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 05:36 PM
  #26  
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Wait, wait! I forgot the Ashmolean Museum. We squeezed it in late Friday afternoon, only having little more than an hour before closing time. What a marvelous museum, and so well presented (in contrast to the media-hyped over-designed Churchill museum in the Cabinet War Rooms in London, where the presentation greatly distracts from the substance). Such a wealth of things: Saxon treasures, all kinds of ancient coins, the Albert jewel, Viking swords, a huge 10 foot by 20 foot medieval tapestry showing all the roads and villages in Oxfordshire...all presented carefully and beautifully. A large modern addition to the core building is just right: no outlandish Gehry/Bilbao swoops and swerves, but an elegant, unobtrusive home for these wonderful collections.

And to top it all off, the little postcard in the museum shop, with G. K. Chesterton's poem and his cartoon of Napoleon in his funny hat:

"It was not Napoleon
Who founded the Ashmolean.
He hardly had a chance
Living mostly in France”
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 06:57 PM
  #27  
 
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>>janisj....hmmm, did you REALLY get glakit without looking at wikipedia?
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 07:58 PM
  #28  
 
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Time so sit down and read the full report . . . Really enjoying it.

just a little correction . . . >> London, Premier Inn Council Hall: $794 for 3 nights .
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Old Nov 17th, 2014, 10:14 PM
  #29  
 
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Wonderful report. I'm especially enjoying the Oxford bits after having lived there for a year and returning on most of my visits. Pierre Victoire's is one of the better restaurants in a Oxford, certainly my favorite. I'm not at all sure that I'd put Blenheim in the same league as Versailles, but both are certainly excellent examples of ostentation...the idea that spending money is an achievement. Sorry I missed Chesterton's post card in the Ashmolean worth purchasing and, indeed, the Ashmolean is wonderful. I liked it prior to the renovations, but admit it's even better now.

Caveat...always be aware that sometimes tour guides do not know what they are talking about. Most do but some assume tourists haven't much of a clue so they can ad lib, and the poor tourist won't ever know the truth.

Nice to come across another Auden fan.
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 01:59 AM
  #30  
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janisj: okay, you are back in the running for the pizza, and I am sure you have never been called glakit. And, yes, it should be Premier Inn County Hall in London. It served our needs very well and it was just across the river from Big Ben and right next to the Eye. Not cozy, not sumptuous. I'll talk about it shortly when we arrive in London.

historytraveler: Yes, agree about double-checking guide "facts". In the winter when we are in Key West I am a guide at the Truman Little White House museum. Our boss, bless him, regularly checks our talks for accuracy. It's so easy for anecdotes to grow into tall tales. Lots of true tales about Mr. Truman, so not too much need to embroider. But I digress. Back to the Angles....
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 02:15 AM
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Correction: it's not the "Albert jewel" in the Ashmolean, it's the "Alfred jewel" -- to make amends for this error, I will quote from the museum's description of the thing: "[the jewel bears] the inscription: AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN - 'Alfred ordered me to be made'. No one has ever doubted that the sponsor of the piece was King Alfred the Great. He died in 899 after turning the tide of battle against the Scandinavian warriors who threatened the continuing existence of Anglo-Saxon control over much of England." [see Ashmolean web site]
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 03:49 AM
  #32  
 
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well i don't qualify for the prize as i didn't get them all but I bet I'm one of the few here who's actually picked samphire. [but wild horses won't induce you to tell you where - we want to save it for ourselves!]

i'm enjoying this TR very much, EYWandBTV not least for the "craic" with the other posters.

please keep it coming.
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 04:02 AM
  #33  
 
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samphire, eaten it and sat on it but never picked it
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 04:09 AM
  #34  
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annhig: Good to hear from you again. What is "craic"? Should we add it to the Quiz?
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 04:11 AM
  #35  
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Saturday November 8
BATH:
We caught the train from Oxford to Bath, changing trains after a few minutes at the Didcot Parkway stop and then straight on to Bath. A drizzly walk from the Bath train station about 15 minutes to Harington’s Hotel on Queen Street, right in the center of town, across from The Raven pub. We liked this hotel very much, nice décor, comfortable, and great staff.

So we had left behind the deep history of Oxford to take a look at a single chapter in Bath (well, two chapters really, can't forget the Romans), but what a chapter. Most of the town’s buildings were constructed in one sweep during the Georgian period, 18th century – early 19th century. The streets are beautiful in early morning or at dusk, the pale buttery local stone almost glowing. Even the sections near the train station, bombed out during the war, have been rebuilt thoughtfully and blend in well with the old center.

Our bones were cold and achey when we checked in at the hotel. We took advantage of the hotel’s hot tub in the little garden and soaked for an hour, drinking the complimentary mineral water (but this was not the spa water). Then a good walk up to the Circus and the Royal Crescent and down again.

We had purchased tickets weeks before, online, for Mozart’s Requiem in Bath Abbey at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, part of the Bath MozartFest. Ten days before our departure I received an email from the concert people saying that the Bath Rotary Club had decided to schedule their fireworks display at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, so the festival organizers added a couple of short organ pieces before the Requiem, hoping to counter the booms of the fireworks.

At first we thought this was very unfortunate but it actually worked out rather well. We were seated in a side aisle of the Abbey and both the fireworks and the organ concert began promptly at 7:30 p.m. The organ certainly overpowered most of the noise of the fireworks. We could hear muffled booms and see the bursts of the fireworks through the stained glass windows at the far end of the aisle while the organ music rumbled through the abbey church. Certainly a unique musical experience, one which I don’t think I’ll ever experience again.

The Requiem was magnificent and the Abbey itself, well, what to say? The most beautiful church so far, complex fan vaulting, luminous interior. I need to watch my adjectives here, the prose is getting purple. But it’s hard to avoid superlatives when confronted with a building so beautiful.

Concert over. 9:30 p.m. Finally time for dinner. The bartender at The Raven had suggested Garrick’s Head, a couple of blocks away, behind the Theatre Royal (part of the theatre complex is the Ustinov Studio, named after Peter Ustinov, the main force behind its creation). The restaurant is named after David Garrick, Shakespearean actor and theatre manager, born in Hereford—we’re going there, see below--lived most of his life in Bath and London. Little did we know that we were about to have one of the best dinners we’ve ever had.

To the right of the entry way, the pub; to left, an unpretentious restaurant room. Jason, our very energetic waiter, got our drinks and gave us a good talk about the menu. Starters: a plate of different types of heritage tomatoes, truffled goat cheese, and pine nuts; mains: grilled hake, mussels and razor clams in a sauce of chorizo, corn, and broth ( = extraordinary); sirloin steak and chips ( = merely outstanding). Dessert: burnt caramel tart. It was getting late in the evening, many of the diners had left. As we were finishing dessert, Jason brought another dish to our table, a gift. It was the last specimen in the kitchen: a creamy white chocolate blob with passionfruit and a kiwi granita and crumbled house-made granola on top. Off the chart superb. A tad of Armagnac to finish and we waddled back to the hotel.

Sunday November 9
We slept in, had a light breakfast because we were prepping for the Sunday roast dinner. I had reserved days before at the Salamander. We had a totally orthodox, totally delicious luncheon: roast beef, roasted carrots and parsnips, kale (? is this traditional?), roasted potatoes, and a gigantic Yorkshire pudding. No dessert thank you very much.

Back up to the Circus and the sun was coming out strong, very blue skies. We walked round and round the circular park, almost hypnotized by the Georgian townhouse complexes surrounding the park, with three streets radiating from the park. A masterpiece by John Wood the Elder (we shall meet his son shortly). Decorating the cornices are two or three hundred carved symbols, no two alike, all Masonic apparently.

Up the street to the Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood the Younger. An enormous half-circle of townhouses overlooking a park, separated from the fields below (originally a meadow for grazing cattle) by a “ha-ha”, a ditch and four-foot wall, designed to keep the cattle from straying up to the parkland. The afternoon weather was perfect and many photos were taken. Wood designed and built the façade. Buyers would purchase a segment of the façade and the slice of land behind it and then pay a builder to construct their townhouse to their specifications. Seen from the air or from Google, you’ll see the irregular shapes of the back of the Royal Crescent, since homeowners could design their houses as they pleased.

We went to the museum at One Royal Crescent. This townhouse was the residence of Henry Sandford for many years, beginning in 1776 (a busy year, that). The museum is furnished with period pieces, though not the actual furnishings of Sandford. Guides in each room give very good explanations. The era was a time of elegance and filth (for us moderns). E.g., chamber pots behind a screen in the dining room so gentlemen could get up and relieve themselves in the middle of dinner. A “lice scratcher” made of ivory, so ladies could carefully scratch their heads, piled high in elaborate hairdos held together with wax and paste and a magnet for vermin. Oof. This is a great little museum, with a small modern section carefully added to the structure in the last decade.

Next: the Roman Baths. I was a little reluctant to spend time here since we have gone to Italy several times in the last four years and walked up and down and round and round many Roman ruins. But I did and was mightily impressed.

Bath was a civilized outpost on the western fringe of Roman Britain. The baths and the temple were completed by 75 A.D. A large part of the entire imperial army, about one-eighth, was stationed in Roman Britain in the next couple of centuries, about 40,000 men. But by 407 A.D., all Roman troops had been recalled to Italy to defend Rome against the Visigoths. In a few more decades, Roman civilization in Britain would vanish. This period is covered in a very fine book by Robin Fleming, “Britain After Rome: The Fall and Rise, 400 to 1070”.

I had no idea that the Roman ruins of Bath were so extensive. The museum itself, encompassing the ruins, is very large and well organized, with an excellent audio guided tour. I usually hate to use these things, preferring to wander by myself and absorb information the way I want to. But this was very well done. We finished touring as the sky was getting dark. We ended our visit at the main pool of the baths. It is surrounded by columns and is lit by lanterns with open flames, a dramatic sight in early evening, with the Abbey tower looming in the background.

Dinnertime. What to do? Back to Garrick’s Head, of course. This time we had a very light supper. Ale (me) and cosmos (partner) and fried whitebait for starters. I had never heard of whitebait before. These were delicious, like small skinny fishy potato chips. Mains: fish and chips, salad, peppery winter squash soup. No dessert, thank you again.

Time to go to bed, get rested for our train trip Monday morning to meet Cousin Sheila in Worcester.
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 04:22 AM
  #36  
 
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craic is Irish for both the dialogue and the atmosphere of an Irish pub as it reaches the hights of drunkeness and comedy that makes for a good night out.
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 04:30 AM
  #37  
 
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oh, bilbo, what a shame, it could have been my one contribution to the quiz!

or are you trying to rob jj of her prize pizza?
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 05:44 AM
  #38  
 
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EYW, still relishing your report.

Re: Bath Abbey "...The most beautiful church so far, complex fan vaulting, luminous interior. I need to watch my adjectives here, the prose is getting purple. But it’s hard to avoid superlatives when confronted with a building so beautiful."

Totally agree, it is magnificent - and to hear a concert and fireworks while admiring the architecture must have been very special.

Your meals at Garrick's Head sound divine. The actor Garrick was also a sidekick and former pupil of Dr. Johnson. They enjoyed a lifelong friendship in London - just had to throw that in.

So glad you described One Royal Crescent - I believe it was under renovation when I first visited Bath. Love your details - wonderfully written account...
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 07:49 AM
  #39  
 
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EYWandBTV, really enjoying your TR. Especially appreciate all the historical detail you include. We've visited some of the same places, but didn't know some of the facts you included, especially about Bath. We'll continue to follow your adventure.
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Old Nov 18th, 2014, 08:49 AM
  #40  
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Thank you all, and I also appreciate your pointing out any errors, typos, etc.
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