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TR: solo again in London and Wales - more art, history, & literature

TR: solo again in London and Wales - more art, history, & literature

Old Jul 27th, 2013, 09:58 PM
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Lateday

Yes, our climb was in Wales -- Snowdon in fact. We actually had pretty good views until the very top and then we were in the clouds.

http://ukfrey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/06/snowdon.html

We'll have to add the Bank of England Museum to the list.

For reference, you can see what we've done on our London trips if that helps:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...andparents.cfm

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-with-kids.cfm

And some day trips:

http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...ahl-museum.cfm

http://ukfrey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05...iserables.html

http://ukfrey.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02...-of-opera.html

Sorry -- back to your TR . . .
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Old Jul 28th, 2013, 06:46 AM
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Janisj, wherever you go, enjoy and let us know how it works out…

Cathinjoetown, same CD LOL – love those men's Welch choirs…
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Old Jul 28th, 2013, 02:50 PM
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THURSDAY, JULY 4: A beautiful morning for travel. As we left Caenarfon, the group serenaded our guide Brian with the STAR SPANGLED BANNER on the occasion of the FOURTH OF JULY– not an easy song to sing without accompaniment. He got a kick out of it then said, “One thing I will say about you Americans – you are always on time.” We laughed.


The scenery was lovely, gentle hills and valleys. Our first stop was the town of LLANGOLLEN, “steeped in myth and legend,” which hosts some 120,000 visitors each summer for the LLANGOLLEN INTERNATIONAL MUSIC FESTIVAL EISTEDDFOD. Not sure where they all stay. In the center of town I bought a newspaper and crossed the ancient stone DEE BRIDGE, built in 1345 which was later widened for modern traffic. The scene of the rushing waters over glistening rocks, with the hills in the background, reminded me of the famous bridge in Bassano del Grappa in northern Italy near the Austrian border. Someone in the group said, “It has an Alpine feeling, don’t you think?” Agreed.


http://www.llangollen.com/


Now over the border through the beautiful SHROPSHIRE HILLS designated as an AREA OF OUTSTANDING NATURAL BEAUTY in Britain so well described by the poet A. E. HOUSEMAN (1859-1936). On we drove through rich farmland with patchwork fields of brilliant gold rapeseed, side by side with acres of red poppies which had sprung up in fallow meadows.


Soon we passed the town of MUCH WENLOCK (could you make the name up?) Brian mentioned that the town was the birthplace of WILLIAM PENNY BROOKES, founder of the modern OLYMPIC GAMES. I happened to be in the front seat of the coach that day (for the uninitiated, passengers on these tours rotate their seats daily). I leaned forward and said, “Brian, doesn’t this town have some kind of a literary association other than Houseman’s?” So he looked it up on his IPad and replied, “Yes, Thomas Hardy and Henry James visited here often.” They are two of my favorite writers who were in the literary circle of the Gaskell family in Much Wenlock. Although we did not visit the town, its website looks interesting.


http://www.muchwenlockguide.info/


Our lunch stop was in BRIDGNORTH, a sizable country seat on the southeastern end of Shropshire. Its fine gabled and half-timbered houses indicated that we were approaching Shakespeare Country. Time for yet another hearty, creamy vegetable soup, and crusty bread at a nearby pub. I joined Tom, an amusing older fellow who said he had just passed “an important birthday ending with 0” and his daughter, about the age of my own girls.

Later, strolling by a butcher shop (I love these smaller food emporiums) we noticed a sign in the window advertising “faggots £ .45 each” which looked something like meatballs. Tom just had to ask. Not sure what the butcher said, but the Wiki definition is “a traditional dish in the UK, especially South and Mid Wales and the Midlands of England … made from meat off-cuts and offal, especially pork… traditionally made from pig's heart, or bacon minced together, with herbs … and sometimes bread crumbs.” Served with peas and mash.


http://www.bridgnorthguide.info/


The weather and the scenery cooperated and it wasn’t long before we arrived at STATFORD-UPON-AVON. Brian would drop us off near SHAKESPEARE’S BIRTHPLACE in the pedestrian zone which I had visited three years before. Stratford hosts over three million visitors each year, many of whom seemed to be there that afternoon in the heat. I passed on the Birthplace and booked into our MERCURE SHAKESPEARE HOTEL centrally located on HIGH STREET. Billed as a 4 star, much of the building was from the Bard’s time by the look of the timbered façade and the creaky wide floor boards. Quite charming. I stretched out to read the paper and relax.


Before dinner I strolled down to the park by the river past the ROYAL SHAKESPEARE THEATER. Another lovely summer evening, with swans swimming in the Avon. Nearby the statuary and memorials are testament to the genius and enduring legacy of the poet. My mind drifted back many years to a 20th year reunion of one of my classes at an urban vocational school where I had taught English for decades. As I was chatting with my former students, I sensed one of them walking up from behind me reciting:


“There is a tide in the affairs of men.
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;
Omitted, all the voyage of their life
Is bound in shallows and in miseries.
On such a full sea are we now afloat,
And we must take the current when it serves,
Or lose our ventures.”

My favorite lines from Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR (IV, iii).

I never had a better compliment. We never know what kids remember …
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Old Jul 28th, 2013, 08:50 PM
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LDT, How wonderful that your former student remembered these lines from Julius Caesar; you obviously made an indelible mark. My students remember novels as a whole taught in my class (and one recently remembered my class because I invited a prominent film/tv actor to guest lecture about his role in Ethan Frome). However none have recited Shakespeare... or specific lines from a novel. That says much about the quality of your teaching, which I'm sure was as mesmerizing as your written reports are here.

Enjoying your take on Stratford. I'm not crazy about the place, especially since I believe the Earl of Oxford at the time wrote the plays. I have a faint memory of having a picnic in a lovely setting near the Royal Shakespeare Theater just before seeing a production of The Tempest.

Needless to say, I'm really enjoying each installment of this well-written report.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 08:21 AM
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Hi Susan001,

You are too kind! Actually I did not require that students memorize lines from Shakespeare. This kid just liked the passage and made it his own. Just love ETHAN FROME too. I believe that we spoke about this in my Paris trip report when I described passing by Edith Wharton’s palatial abode near the Rodin Museum. Sigh…

Thank you for following along. Almost done.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 10:25 AM
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>> “faggots £ .45 each” which looked something like meatballs.
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 02:26 PM
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PatrickLondon - LOL, the "spotted dick with custard" looked delicious. Thanks for the suggestion...
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Old Jul 29th, 2013, 05:52 PM
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FRIDAY, JULY 5: Our last day, a bright and sunny morning. Word got around that our tour mate Adele was sick and uncomfortable. As we drove, she was resting on the back seat of the coach. We were now approaching the COTSWOLDS, an extensive range of hills with creamy sandstone villages, dotted with lovely gardens, and “wool churches” with square spires built two centuries ago by wealthy merchants who made their fortune in cloth production and the export of wool to the Continent. It is a high rent district today whose towns have enchanting names like CHIPPING NORTON, STOW-ON-THE-WOLD, and BOURTON-ON-THE WATER.


We stopped in the village of BROADWAY, often referred to as the “JEWEL OF THE COTSWOLDS.” The town was named for its wide main street, now lined with upscale hotels and shops. Antiques are their specialty, but I was scouting lesser fare. Confession: I am not a shopper. Recently I extracted a pledge from my two close friends (my old traveling cronies, now otherwise engaged) NO GIFTS. It really relieved the pressure. True to form, I usually don’t buy much until the last day, mostly for my grandchildren. I did quite well in the Broadway shops. The village is beautiful, but very much the same as others in the region because regulations are stringent on the maintenance of every building, public and private, within the Cotswolds. Before leaving, I ran into Adele’s husband Dave – she wasn’t doing much better.


Next stop – OXFORD. I had been there many years ago one bright February day and was really looking forward to returning. The university had figured prominently in much of the fiction, biography, and history I have read through the years. One of my favorites – the novel BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh depicts the halcyon days of the narrator Charles Ryder and his friend, the loveable, troubled Sebastian Flyte in their early years at Oxford with its “spacious and quiet streets… her autumnal mists, her grey springtime, and the rare glory of summer days…” OK, but the reality was that on this summer day, the coach driver had only a few minutes to drop us off. Furthermore, Brian had to direct us to the nearby public restrooms or to those in the free Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology nearby before leading us on a cursory tour of the University.


Oxford in the summer was thronged with visitors, a smaller version of the crush in London. I am not complaining though because we were adding to the numbers. Oxford is not one university but “a federation, comprising over forty self-governing colleges and halls.” We started at BALLIOL COLLEGE which claims to be the oldest before viewing the RADCLIFFE CAMERA (“camera” means “room”), a famous science library, circular in shape, with classical columns and ornamentation. It is an exquisite building.

We then moved on to CHRIST CHURCH, one of the largest and most prestigious colleges which boasts thirteen Prime Ministers among its graduates. I was most interested in the seeing TOM QUAD, the largest lawn quadrangle in the university dominated by TOM TOWER which was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, near to the entrance to CHRIST CHURCH CATHEDRAL. In the center of the quad is a large ornamental pond with a statue of MERCURY which figures prominently in BRIDESHEAD REVISITED. After a drunken revel one night, some students from Christ Church throw the aesthete ATHONY BLANCHE into the pond. He later explains to the narrator Charles:

"I got into the fountain and, you know, it really was most refreshing, so I sported there a little and struck some attitudes, until they turned about and walked sulkily home, and I heard Boy Mulcaster saying, ‘Anyway, we did put him in Mercury’. You know, Charles, that is just what they'll be saying in thirty years' time. When they're all married to scraggy little women like hens and have cretinous porcine sons like themselves getting drunk at the same club dinner in the same coloured coats, they'll still say when my name is mentioned 'We put him in Mercury one night,' and their barnyard daughters will snigger and think their father was quite a dog in his day, and what a pity he's grown so dull. Oh, la fatigue du Nord!"
— Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh (1945)

At lunch time I wandered down to the EAGLE AND CHILD PUB, made famous by a group of Oxford dons, including C. S. LEWIS and J. R. R. TOLKIEN, who met there regularly in their private “Rabbit Room” to discuss their writings. It is quite a popular watering hole. But I couldn’t face another “pub lunch” and opted instead for a McFlurry at the Golden Arches.

On the way back to the bus, I made a pit stop at the Ashmolean Museum. In the lounge area downstairs, I saw Adele who did not look well at all. Rapunzel had stayed with her instead of taking the tour, although her nursing skills were of little use given the circumstances. As we waited for the bus, Adele came along aided by her husband and Brian. She smiled bravely but it was obvious that she was ill.

We were heading for our last stop – WINDSOR and a royal sighting…
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 04:06 AM
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Still enjoying your engaging report LDT.
On my first visit to the Cotswolds, we managed to visit the four villages you mention and a couple of others, including the two 'Slaughters', Bibury, CC and Moreton on Marsh over three days. It's a very pretty part of England and a gardeners paradise. We have a picture of my aunt in the public stocks at SOTW, and a cool tea set still in use comprised of mismatched but related pieces from a local potter in BOTW where we overnighted.

I was a teen in the early 80s when the series of Brideshead Revisited starring Jeremy Irons, Anthony Edwards, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Claire...(Bloom ? as the mother) was first shown, and remember being fascinated by aspects of British social and academic circles at Oxford that was foreign to my young mind at the time, even after 11 years in a British boarding school in the 70s. We also studied the book as part of our English Literature program in HS and remember the many trials of love and faith the characters undergo in that story. Plovers eggs shared by the students with the Dean in his office for supper also sticks in my mind for some reason, lol.

I imagine Rapunzel must be working herself into a tizzy at the prospect of sighting (and entering ?) Windsor castle.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 09:11 AM
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I can only think well of Rapunzel for staying behind to help Adele. Very kind. I continue to enjoy your report. I'm looking forward to visiting the Cotswolds next year.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 10:32 AM
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I am following along happily! I stayed in Bourton-on-the Water last year - it was so pretty. As a sidenote, it is Emily Bronte's birthday today.
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 11:31 AM
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Hi Mathieu,

Oh, I forgot about the “Slaughters” among the place name in the Cotswolds – good ones.

I agree that the film version of BRIDESHEAD REVISITED with Jeremy Irons is the most authentic. You wrote that you “remember being fascinated by aspects of British social and academic circles at Oxford that was foreign to my young mind at the time, even after 11 years in a British boarding school in the 70s.” May I ask which one?

Of course, at Windsor, I had to check out Eton – the history, the traditions, the privilege yada, yada.

Right, Rapunzel loved Windsor…
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Old Jul 30th, 2013, 04:55 PM
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Susan001,

Yes, it was very kind of Rapunzel to stay with Adele in Oxford. She was a great gal.

I am sure you will enjoy the Cotswolds next summer. Really lovely gardens too. If I had more time there, I would like to have visited BLENHEIM PALACE, ancestral home of Winston Churchill near the town of Woodstock.

Thanks for following so faithfully…

Kelsey22,

Glad you enjoyed the Cotswolds, a very special place. Thanks for mentioning EMILY BRONTE’S birthday. I would like to visit the Parsonage in Hathworth some time. Ah, the Yorkshire moors. More sighs…

I appreciate your interest in my journey – almost done!
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 02:25 AM
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Hi Indy_Dad,

Thanks you for re-posting your trip reports about your adventures with the family in London. Much was familiar including that tiger at the V & A, and even the London Walks tour guide Brian.

I always enjoy your TPs. So what else do you hope to explore while you are still in the UK?

Thanks again….
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 09:06 AM
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we have 2.5 trips booked -- Gran Canaria in a couple of weeks and Andulica in October. We also plan to have a long weekend in Northern Ireland.

We might try to squeeze in a few more sites on a weekend that are a little closer to home base -- we'll see. Thanks for asking.
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Old Jul 31st, 2013, 05:17 PM
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…. (Later that afternoon). It was near to three o’clock when we reached WINDSOR, the royal borough some twenty miles west of London. Again, traffic was heavy. The coach dropped us off at the hotel on High Street. Then Brian shepherded us quickly up the hill to WINDSOR CASTLE – isn’t every castle on a hill? This enormous fortification, originally built by the Normans in the 11th century, is the “longest- occupied palace in Europe,” enlarged and adorned through the ages by a number of royal families.


Our tickets were included in the tour, but I did notice the price - Adult: £17.75 Child: £10.60. Well worth it. You could spend a whole day there. Although the staff is friendly and relaxed, expect heavy airport-like security. Brian suggested that since our time was short, we should start at SAINT GEORGE’S CHAPEL, “one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in England … noted for its magnificent stone fan vaulting,” completed in 1528 during the reign of HENRY VIII. This chapel is truly a gem with a huge 15th century stained glass window. Hung with heraldic insignia, swords, and banners, “it is the spiritual home of the ORDER OF THE GARTER, the senior order of British Chivalry established in 1348 by Edward III.” In a word, it’s IMPRESSIVE. Ten monarchs are buried there including HENRY VIII, along with his wife (3rd?) JANE SEYMOUR, and the Queen’s sister PRINCESS MARGARET who died in 2002.



Suffice it to say that the grounds of Windsor Castle are enormous, not unlike those of the Tower of London with so many options to view. The property is meticulously maintained with gorgeous plantings and gardens. Trudging yet further uphill, I viewed QUEEN MARY’S DOLL HOUSE COLLECTION and STATE APARTMENTS, liberally hung with priceless art, where the Queen entertains on formal occasions. Adding to the color are the guardsmen, in red coats and outsized black fur hats, who march by in threes like Christmas nutcrackers on their way to and from their posts.


A question which I would like to have asked – JUST WHERE DOES THE QUEEN LIVE IN THIS COMPLEX? Windsor draws huge crowds of tourists throughout the year so that when looking out her window, it must seem that strangers are in her back yard. From what we read, the royal family spends a great deal of time there. Recently when little PRINCE GEORGE was about to make his debut into the world at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, the Queen rushed from Windsor to Buckingham Palace. By any measure, Windsor Castle is impressive.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUDDsZ2I_gk


Our hotel was only two minutes from the Castle exit. Very modern.


http://www.macdonaldhotels.co.uk/our...windsor-hotel/


Time to kick back for a bit in my rather luxurious room before heading out to explore the town. Around six o’clock, I strolled up High Street, then descended some stone stairs into a beautiful public park, with flowers and fountains, in the lower part of the town near the Thames. Across the river were the proverbial “playing fields of Eton” on which the battle of Waterloo was won, according to the Duke of Wellington.


Returning to the hotel, I ran into Dave – he was taking Adele to the hospital and looked concerned. Time for the farewell dinner with everyone in good humor. Rapunzel and Mum were ecstatic – they actually had a CAMILLA SIGHTING that afternoon on the grounds of WINDSOR!!! I missed it, but they and the gals from Chicago had noticed Camilla leaving a building across from the Chapel and entering a chauffeured SUV. She was informally dressed and holding a straw hat in her hand. They got pictures from a distance, but no doubt, it is Camilla. Who else would be being picked up there, eh? Rapunzel texted them to me immediately. That and the grandeur of Windsor made their trip complete. Hugs, email addresses, “I so enjoyed meeting you,” and “Safe home” all around.


The next morning I luxuriated a bit because I had until 11:30 before my transfer the airport. After re-packing, I headed for the bridge across the River to explore the exclusive grounds of ETON COLLEGE on the other side. Clarification – Eton is not a “college” as we understand the term in the States, but a select “public school” (which means “private/independent” to us), considered one of the most elite in the world. Among its recent graduates are Princes William and Harry, along with Prime Minister David Cameron. Because it was so early in the morning and classes were not in session, the campus was eerily quiet. But I enjoyed window shopping in their specialty shops which featured straw boaters, braces (suspenders?), nifty bow ties, and striped blazers among other Eton offerings.


Back to the hotel. Again I saw Dave. Adele was in a London hospital with peritonitis and was going to have surgery for a perforated colon that morning. Most of those on the tour had departed including Rapunzel and Mum. I then had my last “full English breakfast,” but declined the eggs and sausages. Our guide Brian was joining me on the cab ride to HEATHROW, part of the tour package. It had been a great trip, but I did feel sorry for Adele and her husband because it could have happened to any one of us. I broke my wrist three years ago a few days into a tour and had to fly home from Edinburgh. It wasn’t pretty, but nothing like Adele’s condition – having serious surgery away from home.


Brian and I had to meet the cab at the rear entrance on the hotel. The sun felt warm as I chatted with a local gal who was also waiting for a cab after a shopping excursion in Windsor. Then Adele’s daughter and her family drove up in a van – they had expected to meet her mother and Dave that morning to drive to Southampton to start their cruise through the fiords of Norway. I certainly did not expect to be privy to this denouement, but there I was. Dave broke the news gently. Of course, the daughter (who happened to be an MD) was upset but immediately decided to stay in London while her husband and two sons left for the cruise. When I got home, I emailed Rapunzel and Mum to tell them what happened which they appreciated. I also gave them Dave’s email address so they might enquire later.

Soon our cab arrived. Brian was also taking VIRGIN AIR home to Edinburgh and saw me off into the terminal, a gentleman to the end. At Boston’s International Terminal 5 at Logan Airport, we just go through the security and then wait at the gate with dining and shopping amenities at hand. I had forgotten that at Heathrow, we had to wait to be assigned a gate a short time before boarding. But no matter, the flight home was smooth.


Arriving at Logan, my IPhone was working again. I had expected to get a cab because family was at Cape Cod. No problem. Then I received a text from one of my erstwhile travel buddies, Linda, who was waiting for me in the terminal. Although it was eleven o’clock by British time, it was only six o’clock at home and still light out. Of course, my friend wanted a debriefing about the trip over dinner and cocktails on the way home. So why not? It was good to be back in the US.


A few REFLECTIONS to follow about London and Wales if you are still with me…
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Old Aug 1st, 2013, 05:12 AM
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Still with you!
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Old Aug 1st, 2013, 07:27 AM
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ditto to irishface!
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Old Aug 1st, 2013, 09:19 AM
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Irishface & Scotlib, thanks - I appreciate your interest.
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Old Aug 1st, 2013, 09:34 AM
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yep - I'm still on the ride . . .
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