Saturday, July 29, 2017

Merry Ol' England Part 2

Picking up where we left off. . .

Though we stayed the entire time in London, we spent a day in Oxford and a day in Cambridge, which we got to by train.  That was all we saw of the English countryside (which simply means we will have to make a return trip!).  We enjoyed both days immensely and I'm so glad we we visited these two towns.

We ducked into the Ashmolean briefly, but since we had already been to a lot of museums in London, we were more interested in seeing Oxford itself.  The prominent Martyrs' Memorial is worth seeing and mulling over (what faith! what dedication to principle!), but I was more moved by the actual site of Cranmer, Ridley, and Latimer's martydom, marked by a cobblestone cross in the middle of Broad Street.  It is well worth knowing the inspiring story of these Oxford Martyrs.


Walking around in Oxford was a lot of fun.  We saw the Bodleian, various famous colleges and churches, Carfax Tower, Christ Church Cathedral (though only from a distance--we weren't allowed to get any closer--boo!), and we visited Blackwell's, which actually is now a series of specialized bookshops.


Just walking around and looking at the architecture was a treat.

Oxford's Oldest Saxon Tower


A highlight of Oxford was eating at the Eagle and Child, the hangout of the Inklings!

By the way, we ate mostly at pubs and, despite the reputation of English food, we thought the food was very good. Steak and ale pie, fish and chips, bangers and mash, Cornish pasties, the full English breakfast--none of it was a disappointment.  In fact, the worst food we had was as at an "American/Italian" restaurant, where Dave says he was served the world's worst calzone!


Coming up next--Cambridge!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Merry Ol' England Part 1

Hello, again.  I didn't mention this before because, well, I couldn't announce to the entire internet that we would be out of the country for two weeks, but Dave and I took a long dreamed-about trip to England.  We will be married thirty years in August and we thought a trip like this was a worthy gift to ourselves.

I won't even try to show you everything we did and every place we went.  We squeezed as much into each day as we could and made the most of our time there.  We decided to stay in London the entire time rather than spend our time moving from hotel to hotel, and I'm glad we did.  Even with two whole weeks, there were still places we didn't get to.

One of my very favorite aspects of England was the continually happening upon historic sites and monuments that were not part of our planned itinerary.  Everywhere you turn there is something to see, some plaque marking the spot of a historic event or a memorial to someone or something.

We used public transportation the entire time, mastering the Underground and becoming familiar with the bus and rail systems.  We rode on the top of a double-decker bus and now we know where J.K. Rowling got her inspiration for the Knight Bus!  (By the way, did you know there really are night buses in London?)  We took trains in order to spend a day each in Oxford and Cambridge.  It was so much fun to see the places mentioned in favorite books such as To Say Nothing of the Dog and Doomsday Book (Oxford) and to go punting on the River Cam (Cambridge).

I'll share some highlights, and they really are just highlights.  This post would be too long to share everything we did!

Westminster Abbey is truly awe-inspiring.  Rich with history and beauty, it is one of the most glorious buildings I have ever been in.  We attended two services there because we were going to church somewhere, so why not?


In the foreground is a 2000+ year old Roman wall, part of the original wall that defended London for centuries.  Most of it is gone now, but this large section can still be seen, touched, and marveled at.

In the background is the famed and fabled Tower of London.  All I can say is wow.  The history of a place like this is astounding.  We saw the place where the scaffold was erected for private executions (there's now a memorial fountain there), the royal chapel where King Henry III was reportedly murdered, the room where Sir Walter Raleigh was imprisoned, the steps where the furture Queen Elizabeth I sat when she refused to go into the Tower.  It is a cliche, but a place like this really does bring history to life.


Dave in front of the British Museum.  We actually went there twice and we still didn't get to see everything we would have liked to.  Actually, we could have spent the entire two weeks in this museum alone and not seen everything.  We focused on early British history, classical antiquity, and the Enlightenment.  Items we viewed include the Rosetta Stone, the remains of the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Sutton Hoo treasures, Roman statues and mosaics, Lindow man, and so much more.


Platform 9 3/4 in King's Cross Station was a must-see for two Harry Potter fans.  The store was absolutely crammed with people, but we did pick up a few gifts.  What really surprised us is that the station looks nothing (and I mean nothing!) like the station in the movie.  Apparently, Rowling got the station mixed up with another in her memory.  The real King's Cross is modern-- all glass and chrome and shine.  See?

The area between Platforms 9 and 10

The store is off to the side near Platforms 9 and 10

We also visited St. Paul's Cathedral and then went back for a service.  Though very different than Westminster Abbey, it was also breathtakingly beautiful and awe-full.  Christopher Wren was a marvel.  Everywhere we looked were his buildings, but St. Paul's is his crowning achievement.  The inscription on the floor under the dome bids visitors not to look for a memorial to Wren within the building; his memorial is all around us in the building itself.


We didn't tour the Houses of Parliament, but we did walk or ride past them many times.  The iconic clock tower which houses the famous bell, Big Ben, is an easy landmark.  


On our last day in London we hunted up Twining's Tea Shop, which is the oldest retail store in London.  It has been located in the same building since it first opened in 1706.  We often drink Twining's at home, so it was fun to visit the original store.  It was tiny!  Look how it's sandwiched between two relative giants!  We almost didn't see it!


This has gotten long enough, so I'll share some more another day.  Thanks for tagging along!

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