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Rickmav Comes Home – Trip Report Overview (England & Italy)

Rickmav Comes Home – Trip Report Overview (England & Italy)

Jan 30th, 2007, 04:43 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,692
I like the idea of "gauzy" fog in the UK. I must remember that: "Today will be a little gauzy" - sounds much nicer.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Jan 30th, 2007, 12:57 PM
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Thanks for all your comments. Here's the next instalment.

Part II - Yorkshire - A Ride with Harry Potter

Hello again. This is taking much more time than I thought, but I'm having a lot of fun re-living our experiences.

On the way to our self-catering cottage, The Barn at Wildsmith Court in Marton, North Yorkshire, we stopped at Fountains Abbey, using our Great British Heritage Pass for the first time. We buy the Pass every time we go to England and it pays for itself in the first three or four days. It also comes with a great guidebook, that has a short description of each property, and a map that shows where the properties are located. We bought ours on-line (http://www.gbheritagepass.com/) and it was cheaper buying it from Britain than Canada (cost us $316 for two passes, including shipping, for a month).

Although we used the driving instructions we got off the AA Britain website, we found them very detailed and sometimes hard to follow, particularly if you don't actually know the name of the road you are on. We finally gave up and decided to use my finely-honed navigating skills and the AA Britain Atlas. It worked out fine.

Although there was a lot of walking at Fountains Abbey, it was the perfect place to get rid of the last of the jet lag cobwebs. The Cistercian monks developed the site around 1132 and it eventually became one of England's richest religious houses. Today it is a World Heritage site. Although there were free, guided tours available, we decided to just wander around, eat the picnic we'd brought with us from Holmfirth, and enjoy the summer sun - underneath the trees.

Although the Abbey is in ruins, you can still imagine the majesty of the buildings and we tried to fathom how people in the 12th and 13th centuries built such amazing places. Although Henry VIII came along with the Dissolution of the Monasteries and ripped the place apart, it still is impressive.

There is also a lovely old estate, Fountains Hall, on the property which is available for wedding receptions – and one was going while we were there. It was so nice to wander along the paths in the woods or sit by the water and listen to the stringed orchestra, the music coming from behind a stone and hedge wall. As we were leaving, we literally bumped into the bride and groom as they left the reception to get their pictures taken against a Rolls Royce parked in front of the Hall.

There is also a working mill in the Abbey grounds, used by the monks, where you can see the old water mill and try your hand at grinding corn. Children can follow a trail of clues through each room, left by Roger the Rat, and we almost wished we were kids because it looked like so much fun.

We very pleased with our cottage at Wildsmith Court when we arrived (http://www.cottageguide.co.uk/wildsmithcourt/). Our landlady was away for the weekend but a neighbour had left a note on the door and some freshly baked cake on the table. The fridge was also equipped with eggs and milk. There are three cottages in a row, ours was the middle one. It is on two levels with living room, wood-burning fireplace, and large kitchen/diner on the main floor. Upstairs are double and twin bedrooms and bath with shower. Very clean, cosily decorated and it cost us 250 pounds for the week. The village is small, with one pub that was quite expensive. But it wasn't far from Pickering, which was where we did all our shopping.

Had the first of many adventures with an English washing machine. Of course, we didn't read the instructions and didn't realize we were suppose to push certain buttons in a certain sequence. We ended up boiling our clothes. There was so much steam on every window on the main floor that we were worried the smoke detector was going to go off. So, we aborted the mission and when the washer finally drained we realized that all our whites were now blue-grey, thanks to a reversible sports bra I had included (white on one side, navy on the other). It was a sorry lot of clothes – already pared down to a minimum – we hung on the line to dry.

Sunday we drove into Pickering to do some grocery shopping and then to Thornton-le-Dale for Sunday lunch. This is almost a religious ritual with the English. Went to a great pub called The New Inn, Rick (my husband) had steak and ale pie with cauliflower, carrots and broccoli AND chips for 8 pounds. I had three cheese penne (not very English, but I was getting revved up for Italy). A traditional style pub with oak beams and a fireplace. Service friendly, location great – we sat in the bow window overlooking the square.

Stopped at Cobweb Books just across the street and I was in heaven. There were tottering piles of every book I've ever wanted and I felt quite puritan-like that I only bought one – a biography of John Thaw written by his wife Sheila Hancock. Thaw, of course, is Inspector Morse, another British television mystery drama that we love.

Sat afterwards on the square just people-watching and window-shopping. Shared an ice-cream from a little shop that is supposed to make some of the best in Yorkshire. Can't remember the name, but it is right on the square. Was very good. Thornton is a pretty village with a little stream (beck) running through the middle of it and is certainly worth a detour if you are visiting North Yorkshire.

On the way home we discovered we'd missed the Sunday boot sale (like a garage sale, but where people sell things out of the trunk – boot – of their vehicles) just outside Pickering. One fellow packing up said it starts about 7am and is pretty well finished by 2 pm. Stopped at the Pickering Community Resource Centre/Library to check on our e-mails; in all the time we were in England it was the only place to charge us – 1.25 pounds for ½ hour. But it's well-lit, the staff are helpful, and the chairs are comfortable. Pickering doesn't have much charm, but has good shopping and the people are friendly.

The next morning, headed out for York. It was very hot, thought the cobblestones in the street were going to melt. We had such unbelievable weather in England, not sure if it was typical, but it was certainly perfect for us. I was so impressed with my husband, he drove right up to the city walls, although the traffic was crazy, and we found the parking lot from a map I'd printed off the Internet. There was so much to absorb – people, shops, architecture – York is an amazing place. Spending only one day there was almost criminal.

We printed a great walking tour off the Internet (http://www.salvonet.com/yorkweb/walk/)and just wandered around and explored. Loved the Shambles, the shopping area. There are some of the oldest surviving buildings in England in York, layer on layer of Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Roman. Stopped at the American Express office and cashed some travellers' cheques. I went into the York Minister while Rick traversed some of the city walls. Kind of amazing when you think about it that any city in this day and age still has walls around it.

It seemed a bit strange to pay 5 pounds to go into a church, but it was impressive. I didn't know that it is the largest medieval gothic cathedral in Northern Europe and is both a cathedral because it's the mother church of a diocese, and a 'Mynster' because that's the Anglo-Saxon name for a missionary church. Blew my mind to realize it was built in 627AD. In Canada, something 150 years old is ancient!

One of the most famous things in the Church is the Rose Window. Very pretty. The Great East window contains the world's largest area of medieval stained glass in a single window.

Took a picture of Constantine's statute outside the Minster, my optometrist is a Constantine-buff, also sent him a postcard. Maybe, it'll get me near the top of the waiting list next time I need to see him! Didn't realize that Constantine was proclaimed Roman emperor in York in 306AD.

Sat for awhile in the Museum Gardens, very pretty, stunning white roses everywhere. Wandered around the ruins of St. Mary's Abbey – the first monastic house in England.

Then we went to the Treasurer's House –used our GBH Pass again. The house originally belonged to, of course, the Treasurer for the Minster, but gradually fell into dis-repair. In 1897 it was bought by Frank Green who'd inherited a lot of money from an industrious grandfather and he restored it up to the 1930s. Although he never married, he once asked Diana Cooper, considered to be the most beautiful woman in England at the time and the Lady Diana of her era, to marry him. She refused, but there is a pretty sketch of her in his dressing room.

One of the room stewards, when she discovered we were Canadians, told us that her sister had emigrated to Edmonton many years ago and loved it. We had that happen to us a lot, it seemed everyone in England has a relative in Canada. And I was always surprised when people seemed to be pleased we were Canadians. I have to say I've always taken my country for granted, but seeing it through other people's eyes on this trip was interesting. And everyone always asked if we were from English or French Canada. A distinction that is irrelevant to us in western Canada.

The Treasurer's House is suppose to be haunted and they had this strange display about a worker who was doing something in the basement in the 1950s and all of a sudden saw a legion of Roman soldiers marching by. They videotaped the man talking about his experiences. Quite eerie.

Stopped on the way home at the Blacksmith's Arms in Swinton. Nice pub, returned later in the week. Rick had meat pie and I had mushroom and onion soup and we shared some chips and vegetables. We each had a pint, which is deadly on a hot day, had to go home and have a nap afterwards. Cost us 12 pounds.

Enjoyed watching all our favourite murder mysteries on the television. So far have seen Midsomer Murders, Dalziel & Pascoe, and Wire in the Blood. And they are running the Heartbeats – the show that is filmed in and around Goathland – our next stop – from the beginning, which is a treat considering where we are headed next.

The next day headed back to Pickering to take the Hogwart's Express – actually the North York Moors Steam Railway – from Pickering to Grosmount. It is the train that you see in the train sequences in Harry Potter. Our grand-daughter was thrilled we were going to ride on it. Had a lot of fun.

Was about a 2½ hr. round trip and it cost us 14 pounds each. (Plus three pounds to park the car for the day.) Again, I had that feeling that I was on my way to Lord Grosmount's stately home for the weekend in the 1930s, it was something about the wood and faux-velvet interiors, the smell of coal and the rolling movement of the train. Of course, we had to have the windows open to enjoy the beautiful moors and both of us ended up with soot in our hair. A trolley came through with coffee and coldish drinks, which seemed quite civilized.

Although the train goes through Goathland – 'Aidensfield' in the Heartbeat television series – we were going there later in the week, so didn't get off but stayed on until Grosmount. Had lunch at the Station Tavern Inn. Sat outside under an umbrella, gorgeous day. I had wild mushroom soup served in a round loaf. Rick had tuna sandwiches and chips. Very tasty. I can't believe how much pub food has improved in the 20 years we have been travelling here.

Walked around the small village, checked out the second-hand bookstore and bought a couple of Wycliffe mysteries by W.C. Burley. Then got back on the train for the return journey.

Part III - Stay tuned for Eden Camp and Castle Howard...
rickmav is offline  
Jan 30th, 2007, 06:07 PM
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Part III – Yorkshire – Eden Camp and Castle Howard

Another beautiful day, although a bit muggy. It rained during the night and was a bit 'gauzy' this morning. Don't experience much humidity in Alberta, so always am a bit 'drippy' with it in England.

Started out at Eden Camp, one of England's top visitor attractions, located just outside Pickering. It's a museum dedicated to World War II, housed within a prisoner of war camp built in 1942. If I were going again - and I would - I wouldn't go so early in the morning and I would take the 'optional' start, which is less busy. There were buses of school kids waiting with us for the place to open and wherever you went they were underfoot. But that was a small thing. The place itself is quite remarkable and I can't imagine anyone not enjoying themselves.

At first, we tried to read everything that was written – and there is a lot of information – on the walls and in the display cabinets, but decided that it would probably take a couple of lifetimes to make it through it all. So, we just focused on the amazing displays and getting the feel for 1940s England.

Some of our favourite displays included Britain Prepares. I laughed when I saw a poster that asked people to 'Be Cheerful'. I wonder what other country in the world would even think of asking that of their citizens. The Street At War was also good – focuses on fashion during the 40s. I have to say the panties they wore looked more frightening, but a lot more comfortable!

The Blitz is a reconstruction of the bombing of London with fire and smoke and alarm bells – kind of like the experience in the Imperial War Museum. And Prisoners of War presented a barrack room – with associated smells (how do they do that?) – showing how the prisoners lived and many of the things they crafted from whatever was available. They also had a display on the Great Escape of Allied prisoners from a German POW camp, which inspired the movie. I didn't realize that only three men made it back to England, 50 others were recaptured and shot. The inventiveness of the prisoners was amazing.

We spent about three hours at Eden Camp, and I think we could have spent a couple more. There's a canteen on site, so there are refreshments and little benches to sit on outside.

We stopped at the Royal Oak in Nunnington for lunch. Expensive, but tasty. The place was full of 'wrinklies' as one lady next to me said, and everyone, but us, seemed to be eating seafood. Some of the tables were made out of old sewing machines.

Then we visited Nunnington Hall – used our GBH Pass again. It's a small manor house on the River Rye and was built by Elizabeth I's physician, Dr. Robert Huicks (he's apparently the guy who bravely told her she would never have children). It was lovely to wander through the rooms, I particularly liked the drawing room, which reminded me of the one in Gosford Park where everyone goes after dinner. The Maids' Bedroom upstairs could also have come from the movie.

There were some beautiful watercolours in some of the bedrooms, many of Venice. Made my heart quicken. The nursery was decorated with hundreds of Victorian toys, you could easily imagine the children and Nanny having toasted muffins before the fire. A very Christopher Robin kind of room. Outside, the setting along the river was quite pretty.

The next day we visited Castle Howard. We had watched the many instalments of Brideshead Revisited before we left Canada, so were looking forward to seeing the place where it was filmed. For the size of the house, you don't actually get to see many rooms, although the grounds are impressive. I especially liked the market garden where lush rows of vegetables are planted amid all kinds of flowers. Also, the Atlas Fountain in back (front?), on a sun-sparkled day, is breathtaking.

Inside, I liked the entrance hall (with dome) and the room where Charles painted his first watercolours. There was also a room dedicated to the filming of the series with Jeremy Irons' and Anthony Andrews' make-up tables and costumes on display. They had it look as if they'd both just walked away, with a half-eaten bacon sandwich and a cup of tea on the table, as well as Sebastian's teddy and boater. We took advantage of the tractor-pulled taxi to go down to the lake and loved the farm shop, which we visited on the way out. We bought some delicious Yorkshire cheese and red pepper relish made on the estate.

On Friday, had a 'lie-in', as the English say. Eventually got moving and drove to Hutton-le-Hole, which is supposed to be the most picturesque village in Yorkshire. I don't know if that's true, but it was very pretty with sheep merrily eating grass on the village green. The air was wonderful and the views magnificent. Stopped to examine the wares at the flea market in the village hall, a lot of jellied things and embroidered handkerchiefs. The Craft Cooperative was interesting with fresh fudge, candles, watercolours, etc.

Then drove on to Helmsley to do some banking – breathed a sigh of relief when our ATM cards worked perfectly. Had a late lunch at the Royal Oak (a strange 'country veg' soup, hard to know exactly what had been pureed). The pub seemed quite popular and was loaded with flowers outside. Wandered about and window-shopped. Lively town, market was going on in the square.

Stopped at Kirkbymoorside to check it out – not that spectacular. Rick decided he was going to get his hair cut. Cost him seven pounds at the barber on High St. Looked a bit like 'Ricky Marine' when he was done.

Of course, had to take his picture. This has been the first trip that I've really used my digital camera – nothing fancy, a Sony Cyber Shot. But what a difference it makes – not having to lug around bricks of film and being able, in the evening, to go through the day's pictures and decide what's a keeper or not.

Since we're leaving the cottage tomorrow, took another run at the washing machine and tidied up a bit. While I was being somewhat domestic, I listened to the radio and heard, for the first time, a tenor called Alfie Boe. What a wonderful voice. He was a car mechanic who used to sing along with the classical radio station playing in the garage where he worked. One day some music impresario comes in to pick up his car, hears Alfie and bob's your uncle – a recording contract. Also, quite a bit of chatter about 'The Queen', which has just been released. The movie is considered 'thought-provoking'.

Had dinner at The Blacksmiths' Arms again. Delicious and very reasonable.

Next...Heartbeat, Dracula and the Mother of all Boot Sales
rickmav is offline  
Jan 30th, 2007, 06:31 PM
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rickmav - the boiled gray clothes had me in stitches. Four months! This will be a wonderful diversion for all of us.
rosetravels is offline  
Jan 30th, 2007, 06:44 PM
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Love the details, rickmav! I know it is a lot of work, but isn't it fun reliving the trip this way?

Looking forward to more . . .
LCBoniti is offline  
Jan 30th, 2007, 11:50 PM
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Rickmav, I loved the info about Eden Camp. Last summer we went to the Dachau concentration camp memorial and it would be very interesting to now visit Eden Camp on our trip to England - I'll have to see if we can squeeze that in somehow.

For anyone interested, the movie "The Great Escape" is really good, even though they fudged around with some of the details. It is interesting that only 20 years after the war ended, this film was made on German soil. The DVD has a bunch of extras on it, including interviews with surviving prisoners. Apparently the escapees knew they didn't have a good chance of making it, but they felt it was their duty to keep the Germans occupied looking for escaped prisoners. The bravery and creativity of the men was astounding, and it is heartbreaking to think that only 3 survived the escape. As I recall, those responsible for the executions were eventually brought to justice.
hausfrau is offline  
Jan 31st, 2007, 04:02 AM
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Haufrau, This is my favorite movie of all times. This is a movie that keeps you locked to the screen,because it has everything a great movie should have. Not just Steve McQueen,although his performance is brilliant,but also James Garner,James Coburn,Richard Attenborough,Charles Bronson and in this film,one of the greatest roles Donald Pleasance,playing the forger. It isn't historically accurate,please read the book by Paul Brickhill.

Are you jewish? Here is a great primer on camps with virtual reality movies.

Jan 31st, 2007, 03:43 PM
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Hausfrau - I will have to look for the DVD with the interview with the survivors of the Great Escape. It will mean something different having now seen a demonstration of what they had to do. Here's the next instalment - may break up further segments - worried that the information may get buried. Still thinking about it.

Part IV - Heartbeat, Dracula and the Mother of all Boot Sales

I felt as if I wanted to cry the first time I saw Goathland. And I am not someone who gushes at every snowflake. Cynics would say the town is just a glorified set for an English television drama. But they would be wrong. Certainly Goathland, which becomes Aidensfield in Yorkshire Television's 'Heartbeat, does not disguise its fame. And there are the tacky souvenirs and locals all too eager to tell you what episode they've appeared in as an extra. But Goathland/Aidensfield is a lovely village, tucked into the top end of the North York Moors, surrounded by jaw-dropping countryside, and crossed by unexpected streams.

We'd booked two nights at the Glendale B&B (www.glendalehouse.co.uk/, right in the centre of town (for Heartbeat aficionados, the B&B starred as Dr. Ferenby's surgery in the early shows). Keith and Sandra Simmonds run the popular B&B as a full-time business and it obvious. Our room was small, but prettily decorated, with a large bathroom and windows overlooking the village green. There's no TV in the rooms, but there is a resident's lounge downstairs complete with comfortable couches and satellite television. There's a conservatory where you have breakfast and a lovely garden where you can sit, as I did, and write in your journal. Cost 60 pounds per night.

We settled in, then went to explore the town and see how many Heartbeat locations we could recognize. There were quite a few tourists milling about, but after 4pm they all seemed to disappear and we had the village to ourselves. Outside Aidensfield Stores, you can see the little blue police car they use in the series, and as you wander up the main street, you will recognize many of the buildings from the show. Across from Mostyn's Garage (which is Scripps Funeral Parlour in the show), you can have a pint, as we did later, at the Goathland Hotel (aka Aidensfield Arms).

Drove to Beck Hole for a late lunch. It's about ¾ of a mile away and all downhill – and one lane. But it was worth it. Very peaceful, you are surrounded by the lush moors and there is a pretty beck running right by the pub, The Birch Hall Inn, where we ate. Tiny place, we had pork pies with pickles, tasty but nothing fancy. We ate outside and it was heavenly. Apparently, the area is quite popular with hikers and anglers.

Back to Goathland to wander about. Had a pint in the Hotel, very surreal to sit where you've seen so many scenes take place.

On our way to Whitby the next morning, we were forced – by the clamouring of Hidden Treasure Radar – to stop at the largest boot sale we'd ever seen. I wouldn't be surprised if it covered 10 acres, (my husband says five – anyway, it was big). Loaded up on books, English decorating magazines and an English Trivia game. Should be fun.

As we arrived at Whitby on a beautiful, cloudless morning, we were accompanied by, it seemed, half of North Yorkshire. Every person had in hand a pram, two dogs, one elderly grandparent in a wheelchair and another with two canes or a walker.

Wandered about following a walking tour I'd printed off the Internet (I can't find the URL, but will keep looking). Tried to recognize sites from the movie 'Possession' with Gwyneth Paltrow, a favourite of mine. Enjoyed exploring the 'ghats', the alleyways that lead down towards the River Esk. Looks like a lot of shady dealings could have happened in those dark places – thoughts of pressgangs and such. From almost every vantage point, the ruins of Whitby Abbey, Dracula's first stop in England, can be seen.

But once we got away from the shopping areas and went to the park on the West Cliff, above town, the crowds thinned out and we sat and enjoyed the ocean views and a ghoulish giggle over the Whalebone Arch. (The arch was where the women of Whitby would watch their husbands and sons leave for the icy North on whaling expeditions.)

Had a lunch take-away from the Magpie Cafe, which is supposed to make the best fish and chips in the world. Rick had to wait 45 minutes in line. But it was very good. My first fish and chips, believe it or not! I'm not a big fan of seafood, but how could I pass up the best in the world? And they give you giant portions (for five pounds).

Checked out Whitby Abbey before we left (also included in the GBH Pass). I could imagine on a foggy night, or under a full moon, it would be quite creepy. In the book 'Dracula', Whitby is the destination for the doomed ship Demeter, which carries the vampire to England. In the Abbey's graveyard is where Lucy, the doomed heroine, first meets the Count.

Then drove down the coast to Ravenscar. You have to park at the top and walk, carefully, into the small town - not great for the sciatica - but, again, the amazing views make it worthwhile. With a heat fog surrounding us, it was easy to imagine the village crawling with smugglers and pirates.

Shared a bottle of wine in the B&B garden when we returned to Goathland and had a nice chat with one of the owners. He's quite a fan of America and Americans; there is a U.S. air base nearby and many of the contractors associated with the radar system have stayed at the B&B over the years.

Had dinner at the Goathland Hotel, not recommended. Microwave meals. Finished off with some Jeeves & Wooster and Hercule Poirot in the TV room.

Packed up again – will leave in the morning for Hannah's Cottage in Adderbury, Oxfordshire.

Next...Sunstroke, Long Itchington and an Art Deco Bathroom
rickmav is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 04:17 PM
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After this report, I've decided to break up the rest of the four-month trip into sections. I'm not sure if anyone is still reading; I haven't received any feedback in awhile, but will carry on. If there's something I'm not covering or doing right, please let me know.

Part V – Sunstroke, Long Itchington and an Art Deco Bathroom
Since we had four days before we had to be at our self-catering cottage in Suffolk, decided to head to a part of Oxfordshire we like – and we were able to book Hannah's Cottage in Adderbury: http://www.holiday-rentals.com/Engla...hire/p5957.htm
by the day, rather than by the week.

On the way south, we stopped at the Two Boats in Long Itchington for lunch. For some reason, I couldn't stop saying 'Long Itchington', until I'd thoroughly annoyed my introvert husband. The town is in fact named after the River Itchin (lower, lower), which is where the pub, the Two Boats, is located. Longboats are pulled up alongside and it was lovely to sit outside and enjoy our ploughman's and bowl of tomato & basil soup.

All the walking and the variety of beds have been playing 'havoc with my sciatica' (sounds like a punk rock band), and since it was a long drive from Goathland to just south of Banbury, I made my husband stop to buy a package of frozen peas to sit on. (Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, huh?).

The shop in the little village where we stopped didn't have frozen peas, so after earnest discussion with a group of ladies who were in there getting their groceries, my husband decided on frozen brussels sprouts. Not elegant, but what relief. (Later that afternoon, after we had checked in to our cottage and been shown around by our landlady, I realized that the sprouts had partially melted and leaked through a hole in the bag causing a strange-looking stain on the seat of my pants - I didn't actually sense it until my butt cheek thawed out. I can't imagine what dear Mrs. Holmes must have thought.)

The cottage is lovely, on two floors, with the kitchen, largish bathroom and laundry room – a luxury in England – on the main floor and the large living room, bedroom and small toilet on the second story. There are French doors at one end of the living room that open onto a small balcony that overlooks the small garden shared with the Holmes' next door. The couches are super-comfortable and large enough to spread out on, there are DVDs and books, and the bed is like sinking into feathers. Mrs. Holmes has thoughtfully provided us with a basket of eggs, orange juice, milk, marmalade, cereal and a freshly made loaf of bread.

The village is very small but, of course, comes with the requisite two pubs and a church.

By the evening, with a fierce temperature and headache, I think I may be suffering delayed sunstroke - from traversing the streets of Whitby the day before. By the next morning, my ailments turn into a nasty cold, which I try to ignore, merrily spreading germs over half of Oxfordshire over the next few days.

In trying to cook dinner, we take on the stove, which reminds me of my battles with the English washing machine. First, we didn't realize that the power to the appliance had been turned off, which we found out later is often done in England after you finish cooking. Took us about ½ hour to figure that out (we are not kitchen divas). Then we realized that the top part of the 'cooker', as it is called, is gas, but the oven is electric. The gas part has a little ignition switch that you must activate, which provides the spark that lights the burner. That took us 20 more minutes to figure out. Then, for some strange reason, the timer had to be on in order for the fan to work, because if the fan isn't going, the oven won't work. We were thankful for Mrs. Holmes' bread, which we gnawed at as we struggled to get dinner ready.

The next morning, I tackle the washing machine. An entirely different set of buttons from the one in Yorkshire, but I persevere and actually get a load washed and dried (in the same machine!).

Drove into Chipping Norton to deliver a retirement gift to a friend of my sister's at Heythrop Kennels. We'd met Anthony in 1995 when the landlord of the cottage we were staying in at the time took us to the kennels to see the hounds, a similar breed to the one my brother-in-law raises in Canada. Discovered that Anthony had already left, so forwarded the package to his new digs in Exmoor.

Drove on to Bourton on the Water. I'd stayed there once with my sister, but my husband had never seen it, and it is such a pretty place. Walked along the river, then bought a savoury each from a small bakery and sat on a bench and fed the ducks our crumbs.

Then on to Upton House (used the GBH Pass again). An amazing and exhausting place. It was more like an art museum that a country estate. The treasures were collected by the first and second Viscount Bearsteds, from the late 1800s to the 1920s. The 1st Viscount started the company that would eventually become Royal Dutch Shell and there is an exhibit of Shell poster art in a room of the house. But the paintings and porcelain collections are really what you come to see. Plus, Lady Bearsted's Art Deco bathroom.

It has just been restored and is certainly unlike anything I've ever seen before. It was created by a man named Morley Horder in the late 1920s and is, apparently, inspired by the auditorium of the Savoy Theatre in London. The room was discovered in 2001 under layers of beige paint – and the entire thing is covered in aluminium leaf and red paint. Dazzling. The house also has pretty gardens; the monks used the terraces for fishponds in the 12th c.

Two favourite paintings here – The Death of the Virgin by Pieter Bruegel the Elder from around 1525 - haunting. And The Disrobing of Christ by El Greco around 1577 – colours are amazing. Apparently, the Viscount collected so many paintings that he used to hide them under his bed so his wife didn't know how many he'd bought (he was one of the richest men in Europe at the time!).

Slower start the next morning because of the 'don't-think-about-it-and-it-will-go-away' cold. But soon were organized and headed off to Stratford to buy our tickets to see Judi Dench in the 'Merry Wives of Windsor'. Even though we aren't seeing the play until December, our landlady advised us to buy now. We splurged on seats in the front row of the balcony. I can't wait.

Lunch at Pizza Hut. Can't believe it, but we were missing something and this was it. They have a special deal at lunch, 3.99 for all you can eat pizza from a buffet. It was hilarious to see my husband trying to edge in to the trough with all these wide-shouldered and very hungry students.

Then drove to Wilmcote to check out the cottage we will be staying at after we get back from Italy. Looks lovely. Mary Arden's house, one of the Shakespeare properties, is located here.

Then on to Warwick Castle. Have seen it many times, but it was near the end of the day and the crowds had gone so we could savour each room on our own. (Another GBH Pass freebie.) In the Great Hall, they had a display of original costumes from some of the plays performed at Stratford. Very interesting.

A sad story on the radio today. A young man on his way to court, who was driving without insurance or a license, rammed into a woman's car killing her instantly. They read the letter her mother had read in court. Broke my heart.

Really suffering the next morning so wrapped myself up in blankets on the couch and hacked my lungs out. Rick explored the village. Later on, we were entertained by the bell ringers, who were having a practice at the Adderbury church. I know I've read a great mystery that involves bell ringers, can't remember who wrote it (Ngaio Marsh/Dorothy Sayers?). We opened the French doors, put out the lights and just sat and listened to them. Later on, we heard people at the pub, two or three doors down, playing some kind of game in the garden. A lot of 'oohing' and 'aahing' was going on. My husband was dying to go over, but decided to stay with his fevered wife instead.

Next...A Week in Suffolk – will post as a separate post and will put a link here. Please, if there any questions I'd be very glad to answer them.
rickmav is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 04:35 PM
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Dorothy Sayers wrote a Peter Whimsey mystery around bell ringers. Don't know about Ngaio Marsh.

I laughed at the ice pack made of Brussels sprouts. Wasn't it sort of lumpy?
teacher33 is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 04:41 PM
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Keep going! Looking forward to the Italy section and also enjoying your view of England (I'm a Brit).
highflyer is offline  
Feb 1st, 2007, 05:49 PM
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Thanks teacher - it would have bugged me all night trying to think who wrote that mystery about the bellringers. I'll have to see if I can find it to re-read. Yes, the brussel sprouts were lumpy, but at that point as long as they were frozen and I could manoeuvre them around a bit, I wasn't fussy. I can't imagine what the ladies in the shop said after we left.
Thanks highflyer for the feedback - I love your country. Doesn't mean that I don't see the warts, or that I want it to stay like the picture on a box of biscuits, I just really feel at home there.
rickmav is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 01:28 AM
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Please keep gong - I'm finding your report most interesting as I'm hoping to go to some of those places in October (though I'm more likely to be focusing on Bronte and Austen locations
eigasuki is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 03:22 AM
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Bookmarking. Love your adventures!
enewell is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 04:50 AM
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Reading every word! -- didn't want to post lots of extra comments since they can make these great trip reports get very long.

(the book is The Nine Tailors)
janisj is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 07:36 AM
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Oh, this is SO good! You write very well, and really make me feel that I am on the trip with you - I wish!!! 4 months - wow. Well, anyway, it makes me excited for my upcoming 9 night return to the UK in March.
noe847 is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 07:54 AM
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loving the trip report - you have a great writing style. It's so interesting to hear how other travellers view our country. Your struggles with the British appliances (washing machine and cooker) made me laugh! (sorry!). More please!!
optimystic is offline  
Feb 2nd, 2007, 08:55 AM
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Don't stop writing! We're all enjoying this tremendously, and don't change a thing. More please????
kamahinaohoku is offline  
Feb 4th, 2007, 03:25 PM
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Hello everyone - was away for the weekend, so wasn't able to check this site. Thanks for your comments. Felt a bit needy to ask for feedback - but, as always, you guys come through.

eigasuki and noe847 - hope you have great holidays in England. Re: Bronte & Austen - we visited Haworth a number of years ago, on a wet, windy day and it was strange how much it heightened my appreciation of the Bronte novels. And Bath, of course, particularly the Pump Rooms and the Costume Museum, bring Austen's work even more to life.

Thanks enewell, janisj and kamahinaohoku for keeping me going.

optimystic - it would be interesting to read a Brit's view of Canada (or maybe it wouldn't be!) Reminds me of something Paul Theroux said about his friends in Britain in dedicating his book 'The Kingdom By the Sea'. That he knew they could bear the truth when it was told good-humouredly and in a kind spirit. Not sure if my ramblings would stand as 'truth' but they are good-intentioned.

For those who want to follow our misadventures, this is the next instalment on Suffolk: http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34941319
rickmav is offline  
Feb 4th, 2007, 05:36 PM
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rickmav - Just found this thread. It is wonderful.

Not planning a 4 month holiday soon but would love to hear what you took in the two cases as you said you kept a list.

Also did I miss the bit about Christmas in England or is that coming on the other thread?

SandyBrit is offline  

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